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2014 Opponent Previews - Illinois

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10549939.jpegIllinois | Memorial Stadium | 12 p.m. | ESPN2
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State heads to Champaign on Saturday for a matchup with the Fighting Illini. Get to know Illinois in this week's scouting report.

Tim Beckman is in his third year as head coach at Illinois, with a record of 10-24 at Illinois and 31-40 overall.  The Illini finished 2013 with a 4-8 mark, including 1-7 in the Big Ten. They returned 47 lettermen and 18 starters from last year.

Last Saturday, Illinois dropped to 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big Ten, falling 30-14 against Iowa.  The Illini gained 235 yards, including 147 passing.  Quarterback Wes Lunt completed 14-of-25 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Reilly O'Toole also saw time at quarterback, completing 3-of-6 passes for 45 yards and a score, while also rushing for 29 yards.  Josh Ferguson gained 29 rushing yards on nine carries, while Donovonn Young had 25 yards on five attempts.  Mike Dudek caught six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

The Illini defense allowed 587 yards, with 304 coming on the ground.  Linebacker Mason Monheim was one of three Illinois players to have double-digit tackles, leading the team with 15 stops.  Safety Zane Petty recorded 13 tackles, including 0.5 TFL. Fellow safety Taylor Barton had 12 tackles and forced a fumble.  Cornerback V'Angelo Bentley and tackle Jarrod Clements each had a sack.

Illinois averages 25.6 points per game, ranking ninth in the Big Ten.  The Illini average 360.2 yards of total offense, ranking eighth.  They gain 255.6 yards passing and 104.6 yards rushing, ranking second and 13th in the conference, respectively.    

Lunt, a sophomore, and O'Toole, a senior, have split starts at quarterback this year. Lunt has started six games, completing 65 percent of his throws for 1,671 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.  O'Toole has started the other four games, connecting on 55 percent of his pass attempts for 745 yards, five scores and six interceptions.  O'Toole also has 106 rushing yards and a touchdown.

In the backfield, Ferguson, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior, averages nearly five yards per carry, with 581 yards and six touchdowns.  Ferguson is also second on the team in receptions with 39, adding 318 yards and two scores.  Young, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior, has contributed 248 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging 3.8 yards per carry.  He also has 16 receptions for 82 yards. 

Dudek, a 5-foot-11 freshman, leads the Illini with 51 catches for 787 yards and five touchdowns.  Geronimo Allison, 6-foot-4, has 515 yards and five touchdowns on 34 receptions.  Junior Justin Hardee, 6-foot-1, has contributed 18 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown, while senior Martize Barr, 6-foot, has added 17 receptions for 234 yards and two scores. Senior tight end Jon Davis, 6-foot-3, has 12 catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

The Illinois offensive line includes two seniors, two sophomores and a redshirt freshman.  They have combined for 79 career starts.   

The Illini defense allows 36 points per game, ranking 14th in the Big Ten and 111th in the nation. They also allow 493.5 yards per game, also 14th in the conference and 114th in the NCAA.  Opponents average 266.9 yards rushing and 226.6 yards passing, ranking 14th and 11th in the conference, respectively. Illinois has forced 12 turnovers.

Tackle Austin Teitsma leads the defensive line with 41 tackles, including 7.5 for loss and two sacks.  End Jihad Ward has made 37 stops, with four for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.  Fellow end Dejazz Woods has 25 tackles, three for loss and two sacks.

Monheim, a junior, ranks second in the Big Ten in total tackles per game, averaging 9.8.  He has 97 tackles, 37 solo, 6.5 for loss and a sack. Monheim also has three forced fumbles and an interception.  T.J. Neal Jr. has 77 tackles, 5.5 for loss, an interception and a forced fumble.  Earnest Thomas III, playing the star position, has recorded 47 stops, 27 solo, 8.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

In the secondary, Petty leads the unit with 90 tackles, including 39 solo and 1.5 for loss. Petty has broken up seven passes.  Barton has 88 tackles, 41 solo, two forced fumbles and an interception, which he returned 77 yards for a touchdown against Western Kentucky.  Bentley has 43 tackles and returned an interception 45 yards for a score against Texas State.  Bentley also has a 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Minnesota.  Fellow cornerback Eaton Spence has 46 tackles and five pass breakups.

Taylor Zalewski and David Reisner have split time at kicker, with each converting on 1-of-3 attempts.  Punter Justin DuVernois averages 44.9 yards per kick, ranking 11th in the nation. Bentley handles the kick return and punt return duties.  He averages 22.1 yards per kick return, with a long of 67 yards, and 10.2 yards per punt return.   

Penn State leads the all-time series 17-4, on the field. The Nittany Lions won last year's game, 24-17, in overtime, at Beaver Stadium.


What Tim Beckman is saying about Penn State:


"In all phases of the game, they play extremely hard and with great effort. They are very well coached. On defense, you can see a lot of guys that have been involved in that program and college football and play at a Big Ten level."

"[Hackenberg], as he's gone through this conference as a freshman and sophomore has been extremely successful. You see a football team that has played well and understands how to win. It will be a tough game for us, a four-quarter battle."


Contributions on all of the 2014 Opponent Previews provided by GoPSUsports.com Student Writer Paul Marboe.

Keys to a Strong Offense

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10549605.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- There's much to be said about a team ranked first in the Big Ten in hitting percentage. How does a young squad like Penn State attack at a .355 percentage? There are many key components that drive the Nittany Lions' offensive success.

Scouting
Before the first ball is served in a match, the Nittany Lions will study their opponents to see what their blocking schemes are like. That way, the team can run an effective offense for that particular opponent. Depending on who they're playing, the Nittany Lions will make adjustments to the offense before the match so they can be as successful as possible.

The team also pays close attention to matchups. Outside hitter Aiyana Whitney said determining the offense for each match comes from who each player is matched up with at the net.

"If we have a favorable match-up and there is someone who is taller on our team, who can hit over one of their smaller blocks, then we capitalize [on that]," Whitney said.

Passing
Although it's on the defensive side of the ball, passing greatly affects the offense.

"When you pass well it gives you a better handle on your first-swing offense. We've been a good first-swing offense to date," head coach Russ Rose said.

Senior middle hitter Nia Grant agreed. She said passing is a very important part of the offense.

"[Getting a good pass] is huge. If we can get a good pass, you can do anything," Grant said.

Connecting and Communicating

Once the ball is passed, it's in the hands of setter Micha Hancock. Rose said the team's hitting percentage is an indicator that Hancock is making good decisions getting the ball to different people at different times.

Grant said the key to the team's offensive success right now is the connection that the hitters have with Hancock.

Whitney said communication with Hancock while on the court is a key factor in the Penn State offense. During the match, hitters can tell Hancock where to put the ball so that they can hit the most effective shot.

Executing
Both Whitney and Grant said the team's quick offense has proven to be very successful for the Nittany Lions.

"Because we have players that can hit different shots and different speeds, we can run a quicker offense. And that catches people off guard," Whitney said.

Grant said there are many players who can hit "quick balls", or balls that take little time to go from Hancock's hands to the hitter's. This has given the Nittany Lions the opportunity to run a faster offense.

"[The quick offense and having different hitting options] is what trips teams up because they don't know what to expect or where it's going," Grant said.

The top three individual hitting percentages in the Big Ten come from Penn State's roster. Haleigh Washington leads the conference with a .491 hitting percentage. Following shortly behind is Grant, hitting at a .476 percentage and Whitney, with a .395 hitting percentage.

Grant said it helps the offense to have three hitters in the front row together who are able to hit in any given play. This gives Hancock the option to set the ball to any number of players with confidence that it will be a strong hit.

"It's nice because Aiyana, since she's an outside, she can be with me and Haleigh in the front row," Grant said.

Having the top three hitters in the Big Ten is a testament to Penn State's strong offense. But Grant said they aren't paying attention to who comes first on that list. 

"We're not really worried about who is doing [the scoring] this year, we just want to get it done," Grant said.

The No. 4-ranked Lions hope to continue their offensive success at Michigan on Wednesday.

VIDEO: Illinois Week Player Q&As - Angelo Mangiro & C.J. Olaniyan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with junior offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro and senior defensive end C.J. Olaniyan leading up to the Illinois game.

Week 11 Press Conference Roundup - Illinois Week

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10547614.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Nov. 18

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (6-4, 2-4) head on the road for the final time during the Big Ten season on Saturday with a trip to Illinois (4-6, 1-5) for a noon kick on ESPN2.

Head coach James Franklin reviewed Saturday's victory over Temple and previewed the matchup against the Fighting Illini on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

Behind a big day on the ground and another dominant effort from the Nittany Lion defense, Penn State powered past Temple on Saturday (30-13). The running back duo of Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton accounted for 222 rushing yards and two touchdowns behind a strong outing from the offensive line.

"I think the offense goes the way the O-line goes. I think the defense goes the way the D-line goes," said Franklin. "So I'm happy with Akeel (Lynch), and I think Akeel has done some nice things. But we didn't go from Bill (Belton) almost having a hundred yards and Akeel having over a hundred yards in a game because they're doing something different or that Coach Galt got them in the weight room and they're stronger and faster than they were four weeks ago. It's the development and the confidence of the offensive line and getting some of those veteran guys back."

Defensively, the Nittany Lions forced five turnovers and held Temple to 248 total yards. The list of turnovers included a pick-six from freshman cornerback Grant Haley. The defense has been lights out for 10 weeks.
Penn State is ranked in the top five in three of the four major defensive categories. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (83.1 ypg.), No. 3 in the nation in total defense (265.6 ypg) and No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 ppg).

"It's an awesome thing. We're very proud of the accomplishments that they've made," Franklin said. "But ultimately, it's about wins. If we could finish this season going undefeated one week at a time and trade some rankings on defense, we'd do that. We'd do that. I know our defensive players would do that and our defensive coaches would do that. I think for us to do that, we're going to need our defense playing well. So those things go hand in hand. If the statistics work out that way, at the end of the year we'll be excited."

Fielding the second youngest team in the nation, Penn State has had contributions from a host of young talent in 2014. Through 10 games, nine true freshmen have contributed for the Nittany Lions. That includes five on defense, three on offense and one on special teams. Against Temple, there were snaps on defense with three true freshmen lined up in the secondary. And not only have true freshmen played, the group has been instrumental in the team's success on both sides of the ball and on special teams.

Last Saturday's victory marked a special occasion for the Nittany Lion players who were on the roster in July of 2012. Especially for the group of 12 seniors, the sixth win and eligibility to extend the season with a bowl game is a boost. However, the Lions are solely focused on the task at hand this week. The program lives by the motto of one game at a time, and this week as no exception. The focus is on Illinois.

"We're focused on playing Illinois this week at the end of the year," said Franklin. "If people tell us we have an opportunity to go somewhere, we'll be excited about going there. But we're focused on Illinois, and that's how you make sure that you're able to come out and play as consistent as you possibly can week-in and week-out, by taking it one game at a time."

The Nittany Lions and Illini will meet for the 22nd time on Saturday.

Press Conference Notes
- Head coach James Franklin announced at the beginning of the weekly press conference that senior Ryan Keiser is out of the hospital and on his way back to State College on Tuesday.

- Franklin on the Illinois offense:
"No-huddle, spread offense. I think they've slowed it down a little bit compared to what we saw last year. I think they've slowed it down. They're a balanced attack. They're No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing offense. They're No. 4 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency. They're No. 3 in the Big Ten in completion percentage. Quarterback, Wes Lunt, we've known him for a long time. Actually recruited him. Him getting hurt I think set them back a little bit. He's back now, completing 65 percent of his passes. Excellent thrower."

- Franklin on the Illinois defense:
"They're a 4-3 defense. They'll press you on the outsides. They'll bring inside pressures. They're No. 6 in the Big Ten in fumbles recovered, No. 1 in the Big Ten in defensive touchdowns at three.

- Franklin on the Illinois special teams:

"
They do a wide range of things trying to cause deception. Their coverage units do a really good job, and they're No. 8 in the nation in net punting. So, again, that goes back to us talking about field position."



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- There's not much you can throw at the Penn State men's soccer team that it hasn't seen before.

After all, with every starter on the team at least a sophomore and five seniors seeing regular time in the lineup, the Nittany Lions have the experience to handle any situation. 

This season alone, they've enjoyed plenty highs, fought through a few challenges, and with the NCAA Tournament kicking off this Thursday at home against Hartwick, they feel they have the necessary experience to make a serious run.

"It's going to be great," senior goaltender Andrew Wolverton said. "A lot of guys have been through this before and we know how to prepare, we know what it's going to be like. It's going to be hopefully a great atmosphere here on Thursday."

Last year, the Nittany Lions won twice in the NCAA Tournament en route to a trip to the Sweet 16. They return six starters from that group (Mason Klerks, Drew Klingenberg, Owen Griffith, Connor Maloney, Mike Robinson and Wolverton) as well as Eli Dennis and Kyle MacDonald, who have started for much of the season.

With so many players having not just played in the tournament but also having success there, there won't be much anxiety for the Blue and White leading up to Thursday. For the most part, it will simply be business as usual.

"I think we have enough experience in the NCAA tournament," Maloney said. "We've got a lot of older guys and a few new guys and I think we'll be ready and that'll get us through."

Out of all the players seeing regular time for the Nittany Lions, the only ones without NCAA Tournament experience are sophomore Brett Gravatt and junior Michael Gonzalez, who have both recently seen time in the starting lineup.

When asked what he advice he has given his less experienced teammates, Wolverton kept it simple. You've got to go about your business as usual, even if there is more at stake.

"Treat it as any other game honesty," Wolverton said. "Obviously, it's got that hype and everyone's going to be pumped up but you can't let it affect how you're going to play you've just got to be focused."

At the same time, Wolverton and his teammates know that Thursday's matchup against the Hawks is more important than a regular season game. If the Lions are going to keep playing into November, there can't be any margin for error.

Having been off since Nov. 9, Penn State will also enter the tournament extremely fresh and rested. With no games last week, the Lions spent the time relaxing and participating in light exercises to keep their fitness up. 

After ramping up the intensity of their workouts over the weekend, the plan is spend the next few days going over the scouting report and watching video. 

"This weekend, we had a couple of really tough practices, scrimmaged a lot, put a lot of running on their legs," head coach Bob Warming said. "[This week] we'll do our normal pregame routine that we do. Our guys are still in recovery mode, still got some guys nursing injures so we can't do too much right now. We're not going to lose fitness."

That extra preparation is one thing that Lions have over the Hawks, who played last Sunday when they defeated Georgia Southern 1-0 to win the Sun Belt Conference.

With the Hawks only having three days of rest in between games, the Lions will clearly have the advantage in both recovery and training.

"A lot of rest was key for right now," Maloney said. "We're pretty good right now, we're coming off a lot of rest and I think we'll be ready with practice this week, it'll be pretty light and we'll be ready.

"We've kind of had dinner and just been around each other in the locker room [last week], That just about it. A little bit of mental regeneration last week getting primed for this week."

The other difference between the Lions and the Hawks is the way the two squads made the tournament.

For the Hawks, qualifying required overcoming a 0-6-4 start by finishing the season 6-3 and winning their last three games. 

Penn State on the other hand, has been a force throughout the season and enters the game with a 12-5-1 record. Now that the postseason is finally upon them, the Lions are looking forward to giving their fans a little more to cheer about.

"It never gets old, man, it never gets old," Warming said. "I had a lot of anticipation [waiting for the bracket to be announced]. I'm really happy for our guys, I'm happy for the body of work they've put together this year. 

"The reason they're in is the body of work they've put together this year. Some teams got hot at the end of the year, this team got in because of what they've done throughout the year. I know they are primed to make great run at this thing."

By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's hockey concluded the weekend on a high note with a 3-2 overtime win over RIT on Saturday. Head Coach Josh Brandwene continues to commend the freshmen class on their consistency on the ice.

"They just continue to grow every single day," said Brandwene. "The effort is always there. The poise continues to get better with great jobs at both ends of the ice, and a tremendous performance by Hannah [Ehresmann] in net."

Caitlin Reilly, CHA Rookie of the Week, boosted the Nittany Lions with two goals on Saturday including the game-winner in overtime. Reilly's first goal came in the first period with assists from Amy Petersen and fellow freshman Remi Martin. However, Reilly's game-winning goal was a total team effort.

"Great pressure at the offensive blue line by Amy Petersen," said Brandwene on how the play started. "Just a really smart hockey play with a nice chip and support from Laura Bowman. And, a great heads up play by Laura to feed Caitlin in the slot. Caitlin stuck with it and on her second opportunity threw it on net, and when you put pucks on net great things happen."

Making the necessary adjustments from a loss to skate to victory the next day speaks volumes to the type of program Brandwene and his players are creating.

"It says everything about the team family environment that we have," said Brandwene. "They are a great group. They bring tremendous enthusiasm and a great effort to the rink. We have a great group of leaders and veteran players who are tremendous veteran leaders for them."

Not only have the freshmen shined but also special teams.

Penn State's penalty kill was perfect against the Tigers, holding them scoreless on six opportunities. According to Brandwene, Bowman, Petersen, Emily Laurenzi, Micayla Catanzariti, Hannah Bramm, and Sarah Nielsen continue to positively progress on the disadvantage.

"A great week of practice from the penalty kill this week and an excellent effort on Friday and nice adjustments as well on Saturday," said Brandwene. "Great effort. Great poise. Great adjustments."

After going 0-for-3 on the power play in Friday's loss, the Blue and White scored on the player-advantage in Saturday's win. Freshman defenseman Bella Sutton netted the game-tying goal while on the power play with 5:06 in regulation.

"They remain patient and poised," said Brandwene on his power play. "We had good looks all weekend, and they made some just nice, simple adjustments to find some open space and open lanes, and I'm really proud of their effort, as well."

After nearly a month away from home, Penn State finally returns to Pegula Ice Arena this upcoming weekend for a two-game conference series against Lindenwood.



 

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field jumpers are looking to make a big impact this year as one of the staple point-scoring groups of the program. In part four of season previews, GoPSUSports.com caught up with Coach Kevin Kelly and his group of student-athletes on their improvements during the preseason, their goals, and this year's outlook.

Senior captain Steve Waithe had a phenomenal 2014 season on both the Big Ten and National stages. Waithe took home the Big Ten title in his 52-feet triple jump and placed fourth in the long jump (24-0.25). At Nationals, he triple jumped for 52-11.5 feet, the fourth best jump in Penn State history.

This year he returns leading the Nittany Lions and ready to break more records.

"Winning Big Tens definitely gave me some confidence...just to execute on the big levels is what I wanted to do," said Waithe. "This year my goals are obviously to break some records.

Sophomore Lexi Masterson joined the program last year and immediately got to work. At the 2014 outdoor Big Ten Championships, she pole-vaulted 13-3.5 meters, the Penn State all-time record. In 2015, she's looking to improve her performance and be a big contributor to the team.

"My goals for the team definitely include keeping up the winning streak at both Big Tens, indoor and outdoor," said Masterson. "Personally, I really want to make it to the NCAA Championships and I'm going to work really hard to achieve those goals."

Senior Dylan Bilka and sophomore Robert Cardina return this year for the Nittany Lions, as well. Both student-athletes hold Penn State records and are looking to raise the bar.

"Well, this year I'm looking to improve. Obviously, I'm going for the indoor record, which is only a couple inches higher than my [personal record]," said Bilka. "And just to see the rest of the group do really well."

Bilka finished fifth at the outdoor Big Ten Championships in 2014 with a 16-8 ¾ meter pole vault and moved to fifth in the Penn State all-time record book.

Cardina has had tremendous success in the decathlon and heptathlon in all levels.

At the indoor Big Ten Championships, he broke the Penn State record in the heptathlon with 5,511 points. His second-place finish and score of 7,666 ranks second in the All-Time Penn State books.

"That sets the bar," said Cardina. "I have the school record now and I just want to keep setting it and setting it [higher]."

Coach Kelly is excited about the group's progress and depth noting their great preseason performances and their ambitions to bring home as many Big Ten titles as possible.

For more information of Penn State track and field visit
www.GoPSUSports.com and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

Monday Notebook: 2014 Defense Stacking Up Against Program's Best

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10543984.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Through 10 games in 2014, the Nittany Lion defense has played with tremendous consistency and has established itself as one of the top units in the nation.

Statistically speaking, Penn State is ranked in the top five in three of the four major defensive categories. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (83.1 ypg.), No. 3 in the nation in total defense (265.6 ypg) and No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 ppg).

Additionally, Penn State leads the nation in team pass efficiency defense (96.89), is sixth in third down conversion percentage defense (29.2 percent), is second in the nation in first downs defense (140 total), is 10th in passes intercepted (15) and is No. 16 in passing yards allowed (182.5 ypg).

Penn State is also one of just three teams in the nation to have not allowed a rushing play of 30 or more yards (Duke & Syracuse). The Lions also lead the nation with fewest plays of 30 or more yards allowed this season (7).

"You just never know who is going to make the big play with this group," senior Mike Hull said. "Coach Shoop puts us in great positions to make big plays all the time and we are just swarming to the ball every single play."

Visually, the Nittany Lions have been even more impressive. Playing with relentless pursuit and never-ending pressure, the Lions have forced their opponents to become one-dimensional on a weekly basis. The Nittany Lions have held their opponents to an average of 15.4 points and 139.9 yards below their season average coming into the games. In the last three games, Penn State foes are 7-of-47 on third down (14.9 percent).

"We bring the intensity every single time we step onto the field," junior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel said. "We love playing with that intensity and that has been a big key to our success."

Granted, there are still two regular season games to play, but the 2014 defense finds itself in elite company when it comes to some of Penn State's all-time best defensive units. The highlights include:

Rushing defense - 83.1 ypg in 2014 is the lowest since the 1986 national title team's 69.4 ypg average.

Total defense - 265.6 ypg in 2014 is the best since the 1978 team's 203.9 ypg average.

Scoring defense - 16.2 ppg in 2014 is the lowest mark since the 2009 team's 12.2 ppg average.

Yards per play allowed - 4.1 ypp in 2014 is the best since 1990 when the Lions allowed 4.0 ypp.


Just four times in Penn State history since 1966 have the Nittany Lions held their opponents to fewer than 85.0 rushing yards per game in a season. Only eight Penn State defenses have limited opponents to fewer than 270 offensive yards per game in a season.

Individually, Mike Hull is ranked No. 9 in the nation in total tackles (111). Hull is averaging 11.1 tackles per game. Only four players in Penn State history (Since 1970) have averaged 11.0 or more tackles per game during a season. Dan Connor is the most recent Nittany Lion to do so (11.1 tpg in 2007).

Penn State travels to Illinois in the final road game of the 2014 regular season on Saturday at noon (ESPN2).

"We are just playing as a complete defense right now," sophomore Austin Johnson said. "We feel good about the way we are playing, but we can't wait for the next game."


Lions in the Stat Rankings
Several Nittany Lions remain among the leaders in national and conference statistical categories. Here is a weekly breakdown of Penn State players in the stat rankings:

QB Christian Hackenberg - Hackenberg is third in the Big Ten in passing yards (2,318) and passing yards per game (231.8 ypg). The sophomore is second in the conference in completions per game (20.70).

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 15th nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receptions per game (6.8). He ranks third in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 78.7.

LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten and is eighth in the nation in tackles (11.1 per game). He is second in the Big Ten and 20th nationally in solo tackles per game at 5.9.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is leading in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.20.

Early Look at the Illini
The Fighting Illini will look to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday after back-to-back losses to No. 16 Ohio State (55-14) and Iowa (30-14). Illinois enters the week 11 matchup with a 4-6 overall record and a 1-5 mark in the Big Ten. The Illini defeated Minnesota on Oct. 25 (28-24) for their first Big Ten victory of the season.

Quarterback Wes Lunt missed three games due to injury, but was among the Big Ten's leaders in several statistical categories before getting hurt. Lunt returned to the starting lineup against Iowa last week. He has completed 65 percent of his passes in 2014 and thrown for 1,671 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Defensively, linebacker Mason Menheim has been productive throughout the 2014 season. Averaging 9.8 tackles per game, Monheim ranks second in the Big Ten in tackling.

Penn State and Illinois will meet for 22nd time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 17-4 all-time against the Illini.

Extended Game Highlights from the Temple Game




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McAdam Leads Lions to Weekend Split

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10543180.jpeg

By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the loss of Friday's game still fresh in their minds, the Nittany Lions took the ice on Saturday for a rematch with No. 4 UMass Lowell determined to make changes and play a stronger brand of hockey.

As time in the third period expired, the Lions successfully accomplished what many believed to be an impossible task for the young program. They dominated against and beat a top-five team on the road, taking down the River Hawks, 4-1, to complete a weekend split.

"I'm really proud of the way they did it because it shows that they certainly can focus and commit to playing a much better hockey game and give more of themselves," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "I think that's exactly what happened. I think every single guy really worked extremely hard throughout the whole game, and when everybody does that you give yourself a chance."

Following Friday's 5-3 loss, Gadowsky decided to make a few changes in an attempt to give his team some life. One of those decisions was giving sophomore goalie Eamon McAdam the nod for the first time this season.

McAdam's play on Saturday was a defining point of the game, and his 24 saves against the top-scoring team in the NCAA allowed the Lions to stay competitive against the River Hawks.

"First of all, I think Eamon has really made some commitments to himself and how he was going to approach this year," Gadowsky said. "Both in his own work ethic and throughout the start of the year the way he's approached practices and the team has been excellent. We do a lot of evaluations and statistical evaluations at practice as well, and he really has been excellent. He's absolutely deserved to get the chance if we needed him to come in."

"Friday night we weren't playing very well, and we certainly were giving up some huge opportunities. By no means is this a knock on [Matthew] Skoff, but we happened to give up a lot of Grade A opportunities and four of them went in. The timing seemed right to have Eamon go in, and he actually faced a lot of very difficult shots and played extremely well. Starting him on Saturday was really a no-brainer."

While the win was momentous for the Lions, it also marked a special occasion in McAdam's collegiate career. With the performance, he earned his first win as a Nittany Lion.

"It was a pretty big relief and a monkey off the back kind of feeling," said McAdam. "It's always good to get your first win. Last year, I was close a bunch of times, but I couldn't pull together a win. Like I said, it was a big relief. My parents were there, which is cool because I got to enjoy that with them."

Through the first 10 games this season, both McAdam and Skoff have combined for a .924 save percentage and an average of 2.16 goals allowed per game.

Both goalies are playing consistently for Penn State, giving the team its best chance night in and night out.

"I think it's big to have two great goalies," said junior Casey Bailey, who had two goals in Saturday's victory. "Skoff has been playing amazing for us, and we kind of left him out to dry Friday. Coach gave Eamon a chance on Saturday, and it shows a lot. He played really well Saturday and at the end of Friday's game, and I think to have two goalies playing this well is definitely good for the team."

Despite the positive outcome this weekend, Gadowsky is far more satisfied with the way his team played and the effort he saw. In his mind the win itself is not the key to believing in the team and its abilities.

"I think where we're going to gain our confidence is the fact that we played a very good hockey game," Gadowsky said. "Win or lose, I think that because they're such a well-coached team UMass is so consistent in their habits and so difficult to play against that we sort of proved that we can perform at a high level against a very, very difficult team."

The Lions now have a 6-2-2 record on the season, which stands as a testament to their growth as a program. With this historic win under their belts, the remainder of the year looks very bright for Penn State.

"Compared to last year, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were," McAdam said. "I think as a team, and also you can just look at it on paper, you can see the steps we've taken have really started to turn into results. I think that's sparking a ton of confidence with the whole team. It's only going to make us want to work harder and try even harder for bigger and better things."

Nittany Lions Lock Down Fordham with Strong Defensive Effort

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10543030.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Relentless.

That has been the approach that Patrick Chambers has preached to his players throughout his tenure as head coach of the Penn State men's basketball team.

On Sunday against Fordham, the Nittany Lions defense embodied that word, shutting down the Rams for much of the evening in a convincing 73-54 win.

The Nittany Lions held the Rams to just 29 percent shooting from the field, marking the first time Penn State held a team under 30 percent since a 72-45 win over New Hampshire on Dec. 23, 2012. The Lions also forced 17 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 40 to 37.

"Just five guys playing as one," senior guard D.J. Newbill said. "Talking and communicating and just playing hard. We were out there helping each other and our rotations were on point."

While they limited the Rams throughout the game, the Blue and White's defense was particularly sharp in the first half, as they hold Fordham to a mere 20 percent shooting performance (6 for 30).

As eye-popping as that stat is, the number that really exemplified the Lions' effort on that end of the court is 10:30. That's the amount of time Penn State held the Rams without a field goal during the middle of the first half.

It was that stretch that changed the course of the game. When Chris Sengfelder scored at the 16:22 mark, the Rams were leading 10-5. By the time Manny Suarez finally ended the drought with a 3-pointer with 5:52 remaining, the Lions had a 25-16 lead and a hold on the game.

For Chambers, the highlight of those ten minutes wasn't simply getting stops. It was seeing his players actively communicating with one another.

"When you see us talking early and often, man we're really good on the defensive end," Chambers said. "We're really solid.

"There was a situation out there, we were playing zone, Ross Travis, Julian Moore, I think all five guys were talking. If we can get to that level, now you're back to being the best defensive team in the league. I'm talking about the Big Ten and that's what we're striving for."

One player that especially represents that mindset is sophomore guard Geno Thorpe.

While not one of the team's top scorers (he finished the game with four points), Thorpe is as tenacious and dogged as they come. In 16 minutes of playing time Sunday, he registered two steals, grabbed three rebounds and picked up an assist on what was arguably the play of the game.

With Penn State leading 22-11 eight minutes in, the 6-foot-3 guard dove for a steal near midcourt, then flipped the ball to Newbill who slammed home an emphatic dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

"Geno might not have been big on the score sheet but he does so many things that helps us out," Newbill said. "He's always in passing lanes, he's always guarding the best [scorers].

"And that steal just kind of raised the momentum. The crowd went crazy, the team was pumped up. Now everybody's like, 'let's go,' and getting the energy back. That's what Geno does for us."

Thorpe was one of three players on Penn State to finish with multiple steals, as Travis and guard John Johnson each had two as well. On the offensive end, four Nittany Lions, Newbill (18), Shep Garner (12), Johnson (11) and Brandon Taylor (11) reached double-figures.

Still, it was their work when the Rams had the ball that impressed Fordham head coach Tom Pecura.

While his players came out with energy and even led for the first 5:11 of the game, Pecura said that the Lions were ultimately too much for his young squad to handle.

"I think that their intensity and physicality, you know all of a sudden [we're] shooting a little quicker or we're hesitant because they've closed down hard the possession before," Pecura said. "They did a great job rotating...they're well drilled in that and I think that had a lot to do with it."

Penn State has now held opponents to just 30 percent shooting and 51 points per game in its first two contests. Despite this, Chambers knows they can be even better.

Although they've started off well, there is still plenty of basketball to play and a number of challenging Big Ten opponents to face. With five upcoming games between Nov. 20 and Nov. 28, the Lions will begin to find out how far along they are.

"We're still a work in progress, we can be a whole lot better," Chambers said. "But a ton of positives. I thought we were consistent throughout. Overall, for 40 minutes I thought we played consistent."