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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 14 Penn State football (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) returns home from the road, set to host Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten) Saturday in a noon outing at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions will welcome home alumni for homecoming, in addition to 7,500 service members in attendance courtesy of Penn State's Seats for Servicemembers program. In honor of Veterans Day, Penn State will honor all active duty and veteran service members and their families in a Military Appreciation game.
"Going to be some challenges [for us] with balancing homecoming, military appreciation day, which is always a great opportunity for us to make sure that the people that serve our country know how much we appreciate it, and Penn State does an unbelievable job with that," Penn State head coach James Franklin said.
The Nittany Lions enter Saturday's matchup coming off a pair of tough losses on the road by a combination of four total points.
While returning to the comforts of the home crowd offers a sigh of relief, Penn State is by no means taking even a mere second to exhale.
"I'm a huge believer in, you take care of today and that will take care of tomorrow," Franklin said. "We are going to make sure that we get back to the formula that got us here in the first place and I believe so strongly in that."
Poised to get back to basics, not much change was needed for the Nittany Lions this week, beginning with film corrections on Sunday.
"I would say mostly just understanding what mistakes we've done, why they happened, how can we capitalize on them and eliminate them going forward," wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins said. "After that, just erasing it. It's already done. Nothing you can do about it and just attack the next week, one week at a time."
With the past in the past, Penn State has turned its full focus toward the Scarlet Knights, who arrive in Happy Valley with wins in three of their last four conference games, most recently topping Maryland, 31-24 at home.
"Offensively they're a pro style offensive that mixes some spread concepts in there a little bit," Franklin said. "We have a lot of respect for Jerry Kill, as Matt Limegrover and Jerry were together for 17 years, and we have a lot of respect for him. Defensively, they've moved to odd- front defense, which is different. We don't see that very often. It changes how you have to game plan."
Led by second-year head coach Chris Ash, Rutgers will also begin a two-game road stretch beginning with the Nittany Lions, having already matched its team-high mark for Big Ten wins in just the last few weeks.
What to Watch For -
1. Earlier this week, Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann noted the matchup problem that someone like tight end Mike Gesicki creates. Noting both size and length, Niemann said mixing coverages would be key to limiting Gesicki's impact.
Coming off a career-high outing at Michigan State (8 catches for 89 yards), he's second on the team with 38 receptions on the year. With four receiving touchdowns this year, he's also tied for 12th in the Big Ten, also owning the team's longest active reception stretch with one catch in 23 consecutive games.
2. Physicality up front was a major takeaway Franklin expressed postgame at Michigan State. For Franklin though, it's not something that happens overnight, as it's an issue spanning more than just the last two weeks, and more of a mentality than it is an action item in practice.
"We have been saying internally and externally, that we want to be a more physical team up front," Franklin said. "When I say that I'm not just talking about the offensive line. I'm talking about tight ends. I'm talking about all of it. I think it's something that we can do a better job of and need to do a better job of to take that next step as a program."
3. Penn State is plus-12 in the turnover margin, which is tied for fifth in FBS. Having forced at least one turnover in the last 10 consecutive games, the Nittany Lions have hardly struggled when it comes to creating opportunities off of turnovers. On the other side of things though, Franklin made specific note of the impact the three turnovers the Nittany Lions committed at Michigan State made. It's not all a total negative though.
"One of the areas that I thought we've been struggling on defense this year with sudden change and I thought our defense handled the three turnovers extremely well," Franklin said. "Those three turnovers came out to be two punts and one take away. So that was a real positive. We want to build on that."
What to Watch For -
1. During his weekly press conference, Franklin pointed out the Rutgers odd-front defense, something that will dictate Penn State's blocking schemes in the running game and in the passing game from a protection standpoint.
For someone like tight end Jonathan Holland, it's a challenge the Nittany Lions are looking forward to.
"I feel like playing college football I've seen a lot of teams with a lot of different defenses," Holland said. "Their defense is definitely very different from ones that we've seen but I feel like it's just a great matchup and I feel like our entire team, position by position, is really eager for the matchup that's coming up this weekend. I feel like we're all going to be very prepared for it. It comes down to us being able to execute."
2. The Scarlet Knights have three running backs averaging at least 4.9 career yards per carry. Among the unit, Franklin made specific note of Gus Edwards, a fifth-year senior transfer from Miami.
"I think the big this is the back," Franklin said. "The running back who transferred from Miami is a really good player. He's 235 pounds and he's a downhill guy and I think he's a redshirt senior so he's kind of been there and has that experience, gets behind the offensive line and they run the inside zone and it's almost like wedge play. They just kind of cram it in there."
Edwards leads the team with 630 rushing yards and 732 all-purpose yards, ranking 10th in the Big Ten with seven total touchdowns on the year. He's also coming off a season-high outing against Maryland with 109 rushing yards to record his first 100-yard rushing game in a Rutgers uniform.
3. Last year Rutgers went 0-9 in Big Ten conference play. At 3-3, a fourth conference win would be the most for the Scarlet Knights since securing five wins as a member of the Big East conference in 2012. With three wins following a winless conference season, Rutgers is one only six of the past 30 Big Ten teams since 1960 to win at least three league games the following year.
"Obviously they're coming off a hot streak," offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez said. "It's always going to be tough and they're going to come in and try to knock us off. They're going to come in with a lot of momentum, so we just have to be prepared for it."
The Final Word -
Penn State has claimed a win in 10 of its last 12 homecoming outings. With a 70-22-5 record in nearly 100 outings in front of the alumni crowd, the Nittany Lions have won their last two consecutive homecoming games. Homecoming success aside, Penn State has won its 12 straight games inside Beaver Stadium, in arguably the best atmosphere in all of college football.
"We have a distinct advantage here at our stadium and we want to continue that, and we need our fan support come Saturday, and to find a way to be successful," Franklin said. "It's going to take all of us. I said that in my opening press conference and I believe that more today. It's going to take all of us together to go to the stadium, and make it a very challenging environment for people to be successful."
By Patrick Anglin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - They say that success is built from the top down. Penn State women's hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal would agree with that statement, and that's why he has hand-picked a staff of assistant coaches that he is confident will put his team in the right position to succeed. One of these assistant coaches is none other than Allison Coomey, a longtime lover of the game, a former player who has transitioned from being a student of hockey, to a mindful mentor for a new generation
"There's a lot to like about Allison," Kampersal said when asked about his assistant. "She's just a really good person with a great hockey knowledge and great hockey background. She's been in good places and learned a lot, which she brings to the table now."
Kampersal couldn't be happier with his assistant coach, and believes she's already exceeded his expectations.
"She's someone who is incredibly genuine, kind and smart," Kampersal said. "She's a really good person, I've known her for a long time. I coached against her when she was a player at Niagara, and occasionally against her at BU. She's mature, responsible, and somebody you can count on. She can relate to the players and speak to them honestly with integrity."
Coomey may be new to Penn State, but she's been a part of the sport of hockey for quite a long time. She hails from Baldwinsville, New York, a small town approximately twenty minutes north of Syracuse. In 1998, she traveled westward to attend Niagara University, where she was a dual-sport athlete. On the ice, she served as an alternate captain her senior year and helped push her team to a NCAA Frozen Four appearance. Off the ice, she was chosen as the lacrosse team's rookie of the year in 1999.
Coomey is a firm believer that her athletic experiences have helped mold her into the coach that she is today.
"It helps me understand the players and gives me the empathy to work with them," Coomey said. "I let them each know how important their role is and how they make the team better."
The biggest endorsers for Coomey would have to be her players, the individuals that she dedicates her time and energy to. They appreciate everything she does for the team, and all point out that her knowledge of hockey has helped them grow as players, and continues to do so every day.
"We love coach Coomey," said Katie McMillan, a sophomore defenseman. "After every shift if we made a mistake or there is something we can tweak, she'll point it out to us and give us some good feedback."
"She's an awesome positive reinforcement," said Abby Welch, a sophomore forward. "She always pushes us, she's been an awesome coach."
Coomey loves to coach her players up on the ice, specifically on the defensive side, but she also wants them to become the best they can be in other aspects of life as well. She understands that there is a future for these young women beyond college hockey.
"There is a professional league, but we aren't getting paid what the guys are. So [education] is huge, we put it above everything else here," she said. "We want our kids to get degrees, and to be better people and be better student-athletes."
Commey spent the last nine years of her career as an assistant coach with Boston University before joining Kampersal in Happy Valley this year. She is just finally starting to get comfortable at Penn State, an area that she has never experienced anything like before.
"So far it's great," Coomey said. "Obviously it's a bit different coming from Boston, leaving a city and coming to place where everything that revolves around the university. It makes for a really cool environment, not just the students but for all of us who work here. It's been a great transition."
Coomey has lived a storied life so far, making sure to enjoy it every step of the way. When she's not working with the team, she tries to stay fit and read. When it comes to life, she has a very a simple philosophy.
"The biggest thing is love what you do. I went to school for education, and now I get to teach what I love. We work to make them the best hockey player they can be, but off the ice we want to prepare them for the future. Hockey teaches you so many things, like how to work with others, and I think that's the true goal for this program."
Coomey hopes to push herself to grow as a coach, and to push her players to be the best they can be, on and off the ice. When asked about what the future holds in store for her and if there is a possibility of head coaching in her future, she was all smiles.
"Every year I go back and forth," Coomey said. "All I can say is that I like what I'm doing now."
Here's hoping that Coomey stays with Penn State for a long time, and continues to instil her values upon the young women and push the program forward.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bonus point victories are a strength yet again for the Penn State wrestling team. The top-ranked Nittany Lions collected five pins and a tech fall in addition to a major decision and two decisions to beat the Army West Point Black Knights 45-3 in the 2017-18 opener.
"We're just happy to be rolling," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We're happy to get out there and see where we're at and what we can work on and how we can improve. I think it's going to be a great year.
After Devin Schnupp dropped a close 6-4 decision to Army's Trey Chalifoux at 125 pounds, Central Michigan transfer Corey Keener tilted the match in the Nittany Lions favor with a pin to begin his Penn State career. The Pennsylvania native collected the fall with just 10 seconds left in the first period.
"Corey went out with the big headlock," Sanderson said. "We've been working on that all week. I thought that was a great to see."
Keener enjoyed recording the fall, but knows there are adjustments to be made.
"Going out with a fall was pretty nice," Keener said. "But, I definitely think I could've opened up a little more and tried scoring more points early in the first period. Ultimately, I was able to get the fall with the headlock."
Making his Rec Hall debut in front of 6,320 fans, the crowd was just like his teammates described to him before he hit the mat.
"It was nice to have that reaction from the crowd," Keener said. "Coming out, it was exciting. It was kind of different, I didn't really have any nerves and it was almost too calm I thought."
Jered Cortez got out to a winning start after jumping to 141 pounds with a 12-6 decision over Austin Harry.
Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, Bo Nickal and Nick Nevills did what they do best - all five won via fall. While Bo Nickal's was the fastest coming in just 26 seconds, it was Jason Nolf who stole the show.
Nolf won in 1:07, utilizing a "secret move." While it was not the same secret move we saw Nickal unleash to beat Rutgers' Nicholas Gravina last year, it was instead a move in which Nolf utilized his legs to take control of Luke Weiland to set up the fall.
"It might've been my first time (ever using it)," Nolf said. "It (comes from) a lot of play wrestling in the room and learning different things."
Cael Sanderson approved as well.
"I enjoyed watching it," Sanderson said. "He knows what he's doing. You may see that again, just guessing, throughout the year. He's getting pretty good at it."
After being unable to wrestle for two years, Anthony Cassar made his Nittany Lion debut at 197 pounds and didn't disappoint with a 10-3 decision over a tough Rocco Caywood.
"I was just excited," Cassar said. "It has been so long of just hard training and getting ready for competition that I really just tried to enjoy it as much as I could."
On media day, heavyweight wrestler Nick Nevills said he wantsedto be a top point scorer for the Nittany Lions this year. He got right on track defeating Bobby Heald via fall in six minutes and 10 seconds.
"We need him," Sanderson said. "He's capable of scoring bonus points, he's very good on top and he can scramble. "We want those guys competing in a friendly way with each other as teammates."
The Nittany Lions next host Bucknell at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Rec Hall.
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2017-18 basketball season is upon us, and the Bryce Jordan Center will be alive with excitement Friday as both the men's and women's basketball teams will play their home openers.
To say that the Lady Lions are a young team would be an understatement, as they are one of only five teams in Division I to not have a senior on the roster. While this could be seen as an obstacle for some teams without a strong leader, the Lady Lions don't view it that way at all.
""We have so many young players and new players out on the floor. Just the practice of being out there and playing was important for us," Washington said.
For Washington, developing a relationship as a team is the most important goal this weekend.
"There's a lot of things we're focusing on, and the main thing is building a tighter chemistry and camaraderie. That really only comes with experience, and you can't rush that," Washington said. "We're starting four sophomores and a junior, so the thing we have to do is develop that chemistry the more we play together."
The Lady Lions will need to rely on some of their young stars for scoring at least early in the season, as the team is without both of its leading scorers from 2016-17. Leading scorer Teniya Page is out with an injury, while Lindsey Spann was lost to transfer.
Page will be back eventually, and when she returns, the Lady Lions will get back 19.9 points per game and a back-to-back preseason All-Big Ten selection. Even though she can't be on the floor, she is still making her voice heard.
"Even though she wasn't out there playing, we would still hear her yelling from the bench," Jaida Travascio-Green said. "From an overall leadership standpoint, it still felt like she was out there with us."
In the meantime, this has opened the door for true sophomore Travascio-Green and redshirt sophomore Amari Carter to take up leadership on the team, and they have been more than ready to assume those roles so far.
Travascio-Green especially has learned to adjust her game and add more moves to her arsenal. She is looking to impose her will as a scorer after being mostly a perimeter player a year ago.
"This summer, I got stronger and I figured out how to take different shots other than 3's," Travascio-Green said. "I know that my teammates look at me to score the ball. It's nice to know that my teammates trust me to take those critical shots, and I take it upon myself to make them."
Travascio-Green stressed the importance of getting an exhibition game under the belt as well, allowing the Lady Lions to put into action what they worked on in practice, even though they strayed away from execution at times. But that's all part of playing in an exhibition to her, and she looks forward to playing at a high level on a more consistent basis over the two games this weekend.
"We worked on being more disciplined and doing what we know," Travascio-Green said. "A lot of the exhibition was us getting out of what we had practiced. Getting back to that was really what we practiced all week."
While Carter is also young for playing standards, she understands the importance she has on the team as the starting point guard and the impact she will have especially on the freshmen.
"I feel young too, it's my second season playing," Carter said. "There's a lot of things I still have to learn, I have to learn to direct the floor and get my teammates involved and be more vocal."
The Lady Lions take on Siena and Drexel this weekend. They have seen both of these teams in the past, most recently taking on Drexel early last season, but these games are a completely new challenge according to Washington.
"Both of those teams are drastically different than they were last year," Washington said. "Siena, most of their star players were seniors, and they've got a number of new players. It's tough when you kind of have new players and a new look."
Tip off against Siena is set for 7 p.m. on Friday while the matchup with Drexel will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions didn't finish the regular season the way they wanted to, winning just one of their final four matches to drop to fifth place in the Big Ten before postseason play.
This was unheard of, as no Penn State team had ever finished worse than third in the conference since the program was born in 1994.
It wasn't as if the team was playing poorly, though.
The Blue and White allowed just three goals in those final four games and outshot its opponents 65-23 during that stretch. What was occurring on the field was as close to dominance as Penn State had shown all season.
There was just something missing.
The 2015 National Championship team had that something. Of course, that team had a stellar season from start to finish, but it seemed to flick a switch once the postseason arrived.
In the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments combined, the 2015 Nittany Lions scored 26 goals and surrendered just one in nine games. During that unconscious run, Penn State simply knew it was better than anyone who stepped on the field and proved it in dominating fashion.
That team found the late-season swagger necessary to pull off a magical NCAA tournament run.
Of the 27 women on that roster, 17 are still here, and just like the 2015 squad, this year's team has found its swagger just in time.
"What's most important is where you are at the end," head coach Erica Dambach said. "Right now I feel like we're peaking at the right time. I look back three weeks ago and I think that we were working towards this point but hadn't gotten over that threshold, and now I feel like this is a team with a winning mentality."
Dambach said she sees a lot of similarities with this year's team and the 2015 team, which projects well for the NCAA tournament beginning Friday.
"I think this team has come out with more grit honestly than that 2015 team," she said. "This team has more depth. I think that they've taken the virtual backpacks off with all the expectations and they're ready to go."
The first round game against Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament was the turning point for Penn State this year. After a rough finish to the regular season, the Nittany Lions played inspired soccer again and downed the Scarlet Knights in penalty kicks.
Redshirt junior Maddie Elliston said she felt a momentum shift within the team that game. She said it just felt different.
"We just came out 28 strong," Elliston said. "Our bench was crazy. The team was crazy on the field. We've changed some things up, changed our blueprint."
Penn State fed off that momentum to knock off top-seeded Ohio State then rally from one goal down to beat Northwestern 2-1 in the conference championship game.
The Nittany Lions went through two rain delays and a field change from outdoors to indoor turf to grind out the comeback win. That was a win the Penn State of three weeks ago might not have been able to pull off.
"Being down a goal and being in a weather delay--all of that just kind of shows how much grit our team has and how up for [the challenge] we are. I definitely think this weekend is going to help us going forward," senior Elizabeth Ball said.
Ball was one of the starters on the 2015 championship team. She's been through everything imaginable in her four years, and she said the mindset of the team right now is exactly where it needs to be.
"It's just an all-in mentality right now," Ball said. "The ups and downs are hard for any team but for us I think they've really just propelled us forward. You can just see it--the energy that we have on the bench and on the field. It's a whole different team honestly."
The team's mental confidence and cohesiveness on the field may be at its highest point of the entire season, but that's not the only reason for Penn State's newfound swagger.
The team is simply closer and more focused than ever. Elliston said the girls always strive to build a family environment off the field.
"I think the closest teams--those who really stay connected and believe in each other and care for each other--fight for each other on the field," she said. "We fight for our families. We fight for our coaches. We fight for Penn State, and it absolutely translates to the field."
Penn State gets to test its newfound swagger again Friday against Stony Brook for the first round of the NCAA tournament. The game will be played on Jeffrey Field at 7:30 p.m.
Dambach said the team is excited to get back on its home field and feed off the Happy Valley faithful.
She said the team has switched its mindset from the hunted to the hunter over the course of the season. Coming in to the season ranked No. 1 by TopDrawerSoccer, Penn State sputtered in the limelight. Now, with teams viewing them as an underdog, the Nittany Lions are on the prowl.
"We're anxious to start hunting together," Dambach said.
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