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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 10 Penn State football (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) returns to Beaver Stadium for its regular season home finale, hosting Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) Saturday at 4 p.m.
Amidst a stripe out crowd set to blanket Beaver Stadium in blue and white, for Franklin and staff, Saturday marks a final farewell for 23 defining Nittany Lions.
"A lot of these guys were either committed to Penn State when I got the job or we brought with, and a lot of these guys played as true freshmen or redshirt freshmen or whatever it may be and have had a significant impact," Franklin said.
There are stories of patience, stories of persistence and adversity among the group. Above all though, it's a senior class responsible for a now impermeable standard set for not only those who return in 2017, but for the legacy of the program.
"You think about their time here, those guys could write a book," Franklin said. "They've seen it all and done it all and experienced the lows and the highs and everything in between. The thing that I'm most proud of, they're going to leave here to go be great fathers and husbands and businessmen and leaders of society."
It's an extraordinary mix of individuals who will leave behind everything from re-printed records to a host of "remember when" moments spanning generations of fans.
Perhaps the real story of the senior class is more than the moments, the Big Ten Championship, the Rose Bowl or any of the many honors and awards. Rather, it's about a group that opted to buy in rather than bail out.
"We had guys who had four or five different head coaches and then guys coming in just knowing coach Franklin's staff and that's all they knew," senior cornerback Grant Haley said. "Over the last two years, it seems like coach Franklin's method, there's a method to the madness and everything that he preaches and what he has done over the years, it works. Guys like me, guys like Jason [Cabinda], DaeSean [Hamilton], these upperclassmen really bought into that and being leaders on the team, we reiterate that to the younger guys on the team and it's really made us progress in these last two years, but it's been overall a four-year process."
Come Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take to the field with one final chance to send the senior class out with a victory. It's also fitting of course that the 2017 senior class has just one Big Ten opponent left to defeat, giving Penn State a win against all 14 conference teams across Franklin's tenure.
In a meeting placing a pair of programs among a group of only 10 schools with at least 800 all-time wins, Penn State and Nebraska square off for the first time since 2013.
"I wouldn't have wanted to go through this experience with anyone else," senior defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. "It's kind of sad that it's coming to an end but it's a start of a new era and we're just trying to go out on top in our last game at Beaver Stadium."
What to Watch For -
1. Running back Saquon Barkley enters Saturday's matchup just 101 yards shy of becoming just the second Nittany Lion in program history with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Among several program records he's currently scaling, Barkley also needs just two more career rushing touchdowns to match Lydell Mitchell's nearly 50-year-old record.
As postseason national awards are narrowing their lists to the semifinalists, Barkley was most recently named a semifinalist for both the Doak Walker Award (nation's premier running back) and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award this week. In the weekly stats standings, Barkley's also slated second in FBS and first in the conference averaging 184.60 all-purpose yards per game.
2. When asked about areas of improvement headed into the final two games of the season, quarterback Trace McSorley noted a few things the Nittany Lions are working on offensively.
"Our running game is something that we really want to get going, really trying to create more balance for our offense," McSorley said.
Franklin preceded McSorley with the same mention in his weekly press conference, especially when it comes to balance.
"I don't know if we're ever going to be a team that lines up and runs the ball down your throat for 300 yards, but we don't need to be," Franklin said. "We do need to be able when we get the right look, we need to be able to run the ball consistently and into the right look and into the right situation, and we need to win our one-on-one battles from a protection standpoint in the passing game and in the running game in terms of creating space."
3. Penn State's defense is ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 18th in FBS in total defense, allowing opponents fewer than 14 points on the year, which ranks second in the conference and fourth in FBS. In three of four wins for the Huskers this year, Nebraska has outrushed its opponent, despite being significantly out-gained in a the most recent loss at Nebraska.
What To Watch For - Nebraska
1. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley noted earlier this week that quarterback Tanner Lee is in concussion protocol, but the Nittany Lions aren't counting him out.
Outside of Lee, Smith noted that Husker quarterback Patrick O'Brien might not have the same experience as Lee, but is still a threat in the pocket with the ability to deliver throws.
"He was 12-for-18 last week which means he's efficient," Smith said. "The difference is, I think he doesn't have the experience of playing as many snaps, which caused him to take a couple extra sacks last week."
2. Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman has emerged for the Huskers in his redshirt freshman season, currently needing fewer than 70 yards to reach the 800 receiving yards mark this year. With two 100-yard receiving games on the year, he made nine catches for 141 yards on the road at Minnesota last week, having also set a single-game record with 200 receiving yards against Ohio State.
Spielman has also been effective for the Huskers on third and fourth down opportunities, with a combined 27 receptions on third and fourth down, tied for first nationally.
3. Franklin noted earlier this week that there's a clear benefit in the familiarity of Nebraska's 3-4 style of defense that the Nittany Lions saw last week against Rutgers.
Among the Nebraska defense, senior linebacker and team captain Chris Weber is leading the team with 82 tackles. With four double-digit tackle outings this year, Weber also leads the team with 8.0 tackles for loss and five pass breakups.
The Final Word -
As Franklin pointed out earlier this week, Nebraska leads the all-time series at 9-7, with wins in all three outings against the Nittany Lions since the Huskers joined the conference in 2011. Outside of the all-time series with Nebraska, the Nittany Lions enter Saturday's matchup with 13 consecutive wins at home, marking its longest home winning streak since a 14-game stretch from 1990-92.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Throughout a four-year college career, athletes tend to evolve and mature both as players and as people. Whether that be adding something new to their game, or just improving at a weakness, this is a goal of almost every basketball player.
In one offseason, sophomore Jaida Travascio-Green has transformed from a spot up sharp shooter to a legitimate scoring threat from everywhere on the floor.
"This summer I definitely got a lot stronger just physically. It started last year but just having a full year of strength and conditioning and just actually playing at the college level," Travascio-Green said. "Then increasing that this sophomore summer and coming back and feeling more confident and being able to step into a bigger role has helped me."
Adding to her outstanding touch from three, she now also employs a strong dribble drive allowing her to get to the basket and finish through contact.
In Penn State's matchup against Drexel on Sunday, Travascio-Green showed off her development with a career day. She finished with 31 points and seven 3-point field goals, both of which were career-highs.
"As a freshman playing on a senior and veteran laden team, she had a smaller role doing a great job of spreading the defense. That was one thing we talked about working on over the summer, adding some different elements to her game," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Being able to put the ball on the floor, and get to the free throw line. Last year I don't even know if she shot 10 free throws for the season and we talked about adding that to her game."
In the game against Drexel, Travascio-Green went to the line four times and went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. It is not just additional scoring that has become a part of Travascio-Green's new role on the Lady Lions. She has become a leader for the team especially with some of the captains struggling with injuries.
"With Teniya (Page) being out and when Amari (Carter) hurt her finger, she was out of practice for a week and a half, Jaida has done a really good job in that time of stepping up into that leadership role," Washington said. "I think she has warmed up to the idea of having a little bit more of a leadership role on the team than we probably expected coming into the season."
Carter and Travascio-Green are both sophomores who have big roles on this team. They have been able to earn respect from their teammates not just from their special play on the floor, but in the way they carry themselves off the court.
"They (Travascio-Green and Carter) are really positive people, they built great relationships with their teammates and their teammates trust them," Washington said. "I think that allows them to be good leaders and the consistency and relationships with their teammates."
The sophomore duo has stepped forward in Page's absence on the court as well. Carter's control of the action has been critical, and Travascio-Green's scoring has powered the Lady Lions to a 3-0 record.
"I think I just try my hardest to give energy where I can and talk as much as I can. I try to support our captains as much as I can too," Travascio-Green said.
In the most recent game for Penn State they defeated Marshall 80-65 behind 20 points from freshman Kamaria McDaniel sparking the Penn State offense. McDaniel is one of many Lady Lions who have felt impact of the strong leadership on this squad.
"We have great leaders, with Amari, Sarah (McMurtrie) and Teniya our team captains are always helping me if I am confused they help clear things up. And even off the court I can trust them and I think that transfers on the court because we know we have each other's best interests," McDaniel said. "Jaida is the same, if I need anything I know she will do the best she can and helps on the court. With shooting threes and scoring, she has a lot she in her game that I want to put into mine."
As Penn State moves forward, this newfound role for Travascio-Green will only help the Lady Lions add scoring depth. Whether she is spreading the floor during a Carter drive, or creating her own shot, there is a new aggressiveness to her game.
"She is shooting the ball with tremendous confidence and knowing that she can put the ball on the floor has given her another dimension that makes her even more difficult to defend," Washington said.
Penn State will continue to rely on Travascio-Green's scoring and presence moving forward this season. While she changed some aspects of her game, she insists the key for her team is to stay the course.
"I think we have to keep doing what we've been doing. We've been working a lot in practice on our defense. Just being disciplined and being really competitive on defense," Travascio-Green said. "I think for me and everyone else it's just about sticking to what we've been doing because it's paid off."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Growing up just down the road from the New York Islanders practice facility in Syosset, New York, Penn State freshman Sam Sternschein was introduced to hockey at a very young age. Skating lessons for him started at an early age and from there, learning to play hockey wasn't too far behind.
Since his early days on the ice, Sternshein has grown into a 6-foot-1-inch aggressive offensive option for the Nittany Lions. Originally verbally committed to Cornell in 2013, once he stepped on campus, Sternschein knew Hockey Valley was where he belonged.
"You come here you go to a game you see the fan base and the Roar Zone," Sternschein said. "From the coaching staff to the academic opportunities, it's exactly where I wanted to be."
The power forward does bring success with him from his past years in the USHL. The righty shooter ended his four season USHL career with the Lincoln Stars, after being traded from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
In his 45 games with the Stars, he registered 20 goals and 12 assists for 32 points, good for fourth best on the team. Even though the transition from juniors to college might seem like a big leap, Sternschein doesn't see it that way.
"A lot of those guys [in the USHL] played here, so the adjustment isn't too big," Sternschein said. "The biggest thing is guys are bigger and stronger."
The freshman forward is joining some successful Lincoln Stars alumni now playing for the Blue and White in senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton and sophomore goalie Peyton Jones.
Although he is a freshman, Sternschein is already contributing to the team. He earned both his first point and assist in his collegiate debut Friday night against Meryhurst. He was originally credited with the goal, before it was overturned to fellow freshman Alex Limoges, who was in front of the net to knock in the rebound.
"My first few shifts I was a little nervous, but playing in front of all the fans here and just playing my first college hockey game was really special," Sternschein said. "Those are two games I'll always remember."
After seeing Sternschein in action for the first time, coach Guy Gadowsky did note he liked the size and release of his shot, something he has been working on.
"I like his presence," Gadowsky said. "Size doesn't do anything to me unless your aggressive and he is, he seems to get in there."
For Strenschein, he'll continue to work toward growing his role on the team moving forward with the season.
"I'm here to play, I want to play," Sternschein
said. "I'm just going to take advantage of my chance."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There's certainly no denying Penn State's Jason Nolf has already made a name for himself among Penn State fans. Just two dual meets into the 2017-18 campaign though, the redshirt junior remains as hungry for more as ever.
"He's just a student of the game," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He's improving in all areas. You see him wrestling he's always trying new things."
Nolf has consistently treated the Nittany Lion faithful to a variety of unique and different moves.
That even includes a "secret move" Nolf broke out last Thursday to start his season out with a win by fall in the opener against Army. He followed with the same outcome in Sunday's win against Bucknell, totaling seven takedowns before pinning Christian Bassolino at the 3:33 mark to crack into the Penn State top 10 in all-time falls with 31 in his career.
Sanderson is nothing short of impressed with what he's seen from Nolf through the years.
"Some of the stuff that he's doing are the kind of moves that you don't really do until you're done wrestling and you're playing around as a coach," Sanderson said. "He's fearless enough that he'll master it and throw it out there and he enjoys that."
In his freshman season, Nolf came one win shy from winning a national championship, but last season took home the title at 157 pounds on a truly memorable night in St. Louis.
While fans may love to see the bonus point victories, it's all about improving for Nolf.
"Nolf's just a guy when you talk about expectations people just expect to come and watch him score a ton of points," Sanderson said. "And if he doesn't you're wondering well what's wrong with him. You can see he's constantly working and playing with the sport and that's why he's better now than he was a year ago. Next year he'll be better than he is this year."
After his NCAA national championship in 2017, Nolf then turned to Team USA wrestling over the summer, placing third in US World Team trials and fourth in the US Open.
"I'm doing about the same stuff I've always been doing," Nolf said. "Just learning a lot of different things and working with my coaches on strength and on techniques. Just learning about new stuff."
While dedicated to his craft day in and day out, it's a combination of things that make someone like top-ranked Nolf so unique.
"Nolf's special," Sanderson said. "We'll probably never see anybody ever like him again. He's just unique and special and we're glad he's on our team."
Although out to a 2-0 start along with his team, for Nolf, it is individual success that motivates the group.
"I think we motivate each other as a team and as teammates," Nolf said. "The more one person does well, the more everyone else wants to do well. Our coaches are really good at getting us focused on what we need to be focused on. I think we all know what we want to do and that's what it comes down to."The top-ranked Nittany Lions return to action Friday, on the road taking on Binghamton at 7 p.m.
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