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2015 Coaches Caravan Day IV - Philadelphia & Langhorne

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PHILADELPHIA - Leg two of the 2015 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday with a pair of stops before two great crowds in the Philadelphia area.

The Penn State Fullington Trailways rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot just after 6:45 a.m. en route to downtown Philadelphia for stop No. 7 of the Caravan inside the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of the six-event second week of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 7 - Philadelphia (Hyatt at the Bellevue)
Week two of the Coaches Caravan is set to be a treat for the fans in attendance. The coaching lineup is a who's who of leaders in Happy Valley, featuring Patrick Chambers (men's basketball), James Franklin (football), Russ Rose (women's volleyball) and Cael Sanderson (wrestling). It's rare to have four of the highest profile head coaches sitting in the same room and speaking to a crowd of passionate Penn Staters.

Nearly 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and for Chambers and Franklin the stops in Philly are a homecoming. Hailing from Newtown Square, Chambers is always fired up to spend time talking in front of his hometown crowd.

"It's a lot of fun to have a bunch of Philly guys with us here today," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said during the program's introduction.

Chambers kicked off the coach speeches on Tuesday with some humor.

"They chose me because I have the most hair of all the coaches," Chambers joked.

The room roared as he continued to poke fun at the other coaches on stage. Chambers has a great deal of positivity to convey about the direction of the Nittany Lion basketball program. From the team's finish at the Big Ten Tournament to the program's incoming recruiting class that ranks as the program's all-time best, the men's hoops program is on its way to a place Chambers is excited about.

"We are taking the right steps," Chambers said. "We are headed in the right direction. We are getting there. It is a process."

caravan2015_philly_1.jpgRose followed Chambers with remarks about a University he has called home for the past 36 years. The women's volleyball program's accolades speak for themselves, as do Rose's individual accomplishments. But what makes Rose so unique is that he does not care about the individual awards and honors, he cares more about the well being of Penn State as a whole.

"When Penn State wins a championship in any of our sports, we all win," Rose said. "It's not about individuals or individual teams. When one team wins, we all win."

Continuing with that theme, Sanderson has set the benchmark for success in college athletics, but never draws attention to individual accomplishments. The process of reaching the peak of success is all about approach to Coach Sanderson.

"Whatever you tell your student-athletes, you tell yourself the same thing," Sanderson. "These guys (up here on stage) live what they preach."

Franklin is a living example of what Sanderson talked about. He has spent the first 16 months on campus laying the foundation of the Penn State football program. Franklin believes in the process, and he is embracing the work that goes into being a successful program on the field and in the classroom.

"One of things we love so much about Penn State is the standard (everyone sets)," Franklin said as he looked at his fellow coaches on stage.

All four coaches on the Caravan are tremendous ambassadors for the University, largely because of their passion for the jobs they do. They all love the school and know what it means to be a Penn Stater long after the time when individuals receive their diplomas, much like the crowd in the room.

"It's part of a family and a relationship that carries on for much longer than the four years (people are on campus). That's why it is so special," said Sanderson.

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VIDEO: Philadelphia Press Conference




Stop No. 8 - Langhorne (Sheraton Bucks County Hotel)
Following lunch on Broad Street in Center City, the Caravan bus moved to Langhorne for the week's first evening reception. Just four miles from the childhood home of Coach Franklin, a crowd of more than 250 loyal fans attended the program inside the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel.

Several friends and family members of Coach Franklin, including his sister Debbie, spent the evening with the Coaches Caravan in Langhorne. It was a special day all around for Franklin. Visitor after visitor said hello to the leader of the Nittany Lions during both stops throughout a day in his hometown. At the lunch stop, Franklin's second grade school teacher waited in the photo booth line before surprising Franklin.

"It's really cool to be back here today," Franklin said. "This has been a big part of my life, and it's really cool to be back.

The Langhorne crowd was among the best thus far during the two weeks of the Caravan. The group was engaged and lively from start to finish during the program. Barbour opened the evening by explaining to the room how important the "why" is for the growth and development of the department.

"It all begins with the why," Barbour said. "Our purpose at Penn State is about delivering a world class student-athlete experience for more than 800 student-athletes.

You can't begin to think of four better representatives of Penn State's "why" than Chambers, Rose, Sanderson and Franklin.

Chambers has a way of making everyone in the room feeling so positive about Penn State. He led a rousing chant at the beginning of his speech that brought the room to a roar.

He yelled, "it's a great day to be a...." before the fans in the audience finished the remark, "to be a Nittany Lion." Chambers brings so much enthusiasm to a room that is infectious. And when it happens in Philly, his hometown fans love it.


Rose followed Chambers with a speech on why Penn State is truly unique as an athletic department. Every team matters to him. Why? It's because Penn State means everything to Rose, and that's why he has been so prideful as a leader for 36 years.

"I want to thank you for all of the things you do and the dreams and passion you bring to the University," Rose told the crowd.

Sanderson had the crowd in stiches with his one-liners and humor on Tuesday evening, but like the other coaches on stage, his message and passion are clear.

"Penn State is unique, and it's unique because of people like you," said Sanderson.

The Caravan heads to New York City and New Jersey on Wednesday.
    

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VIDEO: Langhorne Press Conference Video




Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Day IV - 220 miles

Caravan Total - 935 miles


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


Nittany Lions Look Back on Historic Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing its first season in the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew this year would be filled with challenges and triumphs. The team battled hard, winning 16 games for the first time since 1989 and making the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in four years.

Nevertheless, the team's greatest feat came in the form of a first for the program and its conference. Despite the competition, the Nittany Lions were crowned the first-ever Big Ten Champions. With all of these accomplishments, it is clear that this program is destined to excel.

"It was a really fun year," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I think from day one it was a really good energy on the team. When we started, we had to shift a couple players due to injury and asked a lot of some young players. I think they really did their job stepping up, and thankfully we had some really great wins this year. We're Big Ten Champs, and I certainly think we have a lot to be proud of."

The growth and dominance of the team's defense is one aspect Doherty and the rest of the Nittany Lions are especially proud of because at the start of the season, it was not a strong point. Injuries required a lot of shuffling, and when all was said and done the team's core defenders were made up of a number of former attackers.

Sophomore Natalie Schmitt shifted to defense, as did Abby Smucker. The two really bolstered the Lions on the back end and had to make numerous adjustments as they gained a greater understanding for the position throughout the season.

Smucker, who seemed to captain the young defense, really stood out as her performances solidified the team. She was even named the Big Ten Tournament MVP for her play, showing just how hard she and the rest of the defense worked to improve.

This strong play from the D, in addition to the team's balance offense, played a key role in the team's success, especially in the newly formed Big Ten Conference.

"I think that we're really a tough conference, and I think we're continuing to grow with all the exposure that we get through the Big Ten Network," said Doherty. "It just really feels like our sport is taking off across the country, which is awesome. So, we had some great exposure. I thought the tournament was exciting, and our season finale against Maryland was really exciting. I think everyone can see that we're a really competitive conference."

With teams like Northwestern and Maryland as conference rivals, winning the Big Ten Tournament was all the more special for the Nittany Lions. Penn State had to work hard and play its best games possible to come out on top, and that is exactly what it did.

The Nittany Lions will forever be the first Big Ten Champions, and that is an accomplishment that can never be taken away from them.

"I would probably say winning the Big Ten Tournament," said Doherty of the team's biggest accomplishment in the 2015 season. "It was the first year for our conference and we went in with really great teams. We beat Northwestern twice, which was a really amazing feat given their history and how good they are. I think that was a big step for us, and then getting a tough draw for NCAAs and making it through the Virginia weekend was just another really good weekend for us."

These big wins and strong play would not have been possible without the dominant Nittany Lion offense. Captain Maggie McCormick led the way with 67 points, becoming Penn State's all-time leader in assists with 137 in her four-year career. She registered 43 this season alone.

McCormick was not the team's only offensive weapon, as it had nine players reach at least 10 goals. Tatum Coffey, Steph Lazo and Madison Cyr each had 43, 41 and 38 goals respectively. When one player was shut down, Penn State always had another attacker ready.

The Lions were dangerous all season long. They played a number of close games, were ranked nationally on a consistent basis and were the first Big Ten Champions. The team will lose nine seniors next year but returns a majority of its starters. The future of Penn State lacrosse is as bright as ever.

"I think after this year specifically, we've begun to establish ourselves as a top team nationally," said Doherty. "I think sometimes it's hard to keep pushing open doors and keep turning corners, but I think this year, especially with our Big Ten win and our wins over some really great teams, really helped establish our program as a team that's going to compete for those top spots. The girls know the energy we put into this season and how hard we worked. They're ready to do that again."

VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Interview with Bob Shoop

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop talked with GoPSUsports.com during the Coaches Caravan stop in Pittsburgh to provide an update on recruiting and review spring practice from the defensive side of the ball. Take a look.





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

Nittany Lions Prepare for NCAA Quarterfinal Matchup Against UNC

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes the unknown is frightening, but other times it is exhilarating. The unfamiliar in sports can offer new challenges, new levels of competition and new levels of play. As the Penn State women's lacrosse team travels to take on North Carolina for the first time since 2009, it is ready and excited for the opportunity. The Nittany Lions will bring their best.

To get to this position, the Lions have had to take down Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Both games were intense, close matchups. Nevertheless, with Penn State's (16-4) play as of late, winning 11 of its last 12, it is prepared for any challenge, especially a challenge like the Tar Heels (16-3).

"We're really excited," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's been a great year for us so far, a lot of really exciting games. I think with the Big Ten Tournament Championship and playing Hopkins and Virginia in the first two rounds of NCAAs, we've really been tested here with some really tough games. It makes us more excited for the next game to see what we're going to bring, and certainly playing North Carolina, who we haven't played yet before, is going to be a fresh new test for us this weekend."

Key to the Nittany Lions' success this season has been its deep offense and reliable goalie, Emi Smith. In the team's second round game alone, Smith made 14 saves. Her efforts have continued to keep the team in close games.

Scouting UNC, the Tar Heels have a similar offense to that of the Nittany Lions. Like Penn State, they do not rely on one scorer and have 10 athletes with double-digit goals. While that fact may seem daunting to some, the team's defense will be more than ready. It gets to practice against its own offense, which has nine scorers who have accumulated at least 10 goals this season. 

"I think defensively we really need to focus on the cutters and the one-v-one defense," Smith said. "Watching their film is really a big factor for it, and having such a good attack on our side is a huge contribution because they can help us prepare for a team like UNC. Our attack is just as good as UNC's attack, and that's huge for our defense because we can practice all week long and prepare for their attack. So, I definitely think going into this weekend is just watching film, running through their plays, running through the shots that they take and overall just playing our aggressive defense."

For this game, the team is not relying on just what its coaches say about UNC. Doherty has instructed each of the Lions to prepare their own scouting report of the Tar Heels, forcing them to get a closer look at their opponent prior to the game.

"Our coaches sent us a template, and we're all creating our own scout for the team, which we haven't done before," said junior Madison Cyr. "It's giving all of us the opportunity to learn the style of each player that we're getting ready to play against."

In this Elite Eight matchup, Penn State will rely heavily on its midfielders. The team has seen tremendous effort from them, both offensively and defensively, all season long. They particularly stepped up after the team lost captain Kelly Lechner to injury, and Doherty has been particularly pleased with all of them.

Five of the team's top scorers are midfielders and each has reached the 30-goal mark. Tatum Coffey leads the way with 42, followed by Steph Lazo who has 41, Cyr who has 36 and Katie O'Donnell and Jenna Mosketti who each have scored 30.

"It's a huge advantage because if one player gets shut down, we have so many more to work with," said Cyr of the scoring depth. "We're not just counting on one player to win the game or score the goal. We have so many people and so many different styles of attacking, whether it's a feed or one-v-one."

This group does not only score. Their defensive play has also been huge this season, and they will look to once again bring their best on Saturday. Coffey has the most caused turnovers on the team with 23, while Mosketti and Cyr lead the way in ground balls. These players bring balance to the team, which has been a big asset to the Nittany Lions.

Even with its skill, Penn State enters this Elite Eight game as the underdog. The No. 7 Nittany Lions know this game against No. 2 North Carolina will be a battle, but they are not letting rankings effect their preparation or how they play. This team has each other's backs. They just need to continue communicating and relying on one another.

"I think our team is great," said Doherty. "They get along really well. The camaraderie has been amazing. The team kind of mojo has been just fantastic all season. With these big games, as a coach, you really hope your team takes over and the players take over, and they've made my job so much easier with their drive and their work ethic and their leadership this year."

With the opponent aside, making the Elite Eight for the third time in four years is an accomplishment these Nittany Lions are proud of. This year, they don't want to end at this level. They want to continue playing together, continue winning and continue their season.

"It's kind of surreal," said Smith. "I mean my freshman year we went to the Elite Eight, and last year was kind of an upset because we lost first round NCAAs. But, I think this year we're definitely excited because we're going. That's a huge thing for us because I have a feeling we don't want to stop, and going into UNC that's a huge aspect because we want to make it to the Final Four."

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VIDEO: Remembering a Penn State Legend

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion community will not be the same without a man whose passion for Penn State bridged generations.

Fran Fisher, legendary voice of Penn State Football, leaves a legacy unlike most folks who have been connected to the University and its athletic department. Few individuals have been ambassadors for Penn State like Fisher was. His love for the University was unmatched. And his endearing persona made everyone feel inclusive.

A fixture in the first row of the back seats in the Beaver Stadium media room at weekly press conferences for head coaches Joe Paterno, Bill O'Brien and James Franklin, Fisher had an infectious presence about him that prompted anyone in the room to say hello.

The reporters, be it students or 20-year veterans on the football beat, all approached Fisher feeling as though they had known him for decades. Because that's how he made other individuals feel after a singular conversation.

The same was true on the practice fields adjacent to the Lasch Building. Fisher visited practice almost every day, never looking for attention, rather to check in on the people and program he loved. In the latter four years, the program's newest leaders, O'Brien and Franklin, made a beeline to see Fisher during practice. The same can be said for most of the student-athletes. Bare in mind that the current players on the team were born 40-plus years after Fisher began his broadcasting career in Greensburg (Pa.) in 1952, but Fisher's presence meant something to anyone on the practice field.

Often telling stories about games or reliving Coach Paterno tales, Fisher had a way of engaging a listener to make you feel part of the original event.

Certainly, Fisher's most famous calls, namely the final seconds of Penn State's first national title inside the Superdome against Georgia in 1983, will resonate with Penn State fans forever. But it's the type of person and ambassador Fisher was that will never be replaced.

The iconic voice of Penn State lived with the type of enthusiasm every day that everyone should aspire to attain.

Fran Fisher was a man who loved Penn State through and through.

The Penn State community's feelings for Fisher were one in the same.




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

Lions Down Virginia and Hopkins to Stay Alive in NCAA Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nine seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team missed their graduation ceremonies this weekend in favor of playing in the NCAA Tournament. After the results of both the first and second-round games, they and the rest of the team could not be happier about that decision.

Instead of walking in caps and gowns the seniors competed with their teammates, helping the Nittany Lions (16-4) defeat both Johns Hopkins (14-4) and Virginia (12-7). With the two victories, this team is officially part of the 2015 Elite Eight.

"I love spending time with my team," said goalie Emi Smith. "I love playing with this team. It's an exhilarating experience to be able to go this far in the NCAAs, and I would not be more excited or happy without these girls. They are pretty much the contributors for us going this far."

Once the Blue and White knocked out the Blue Jays, the team had its sights set on a rematch with the Cavaliers. When the two programs met earlier in the season, Virginia secured the victory with a go-ahead goal four seconds before the conclusion of the game.

With that loss in the back of their minds, the Nittany Lions were determined to have a different outcome in Sunday's match. It was not going to be another heartbreaker.

Defensively, Penn State had one of its best performances of the season. Virginia outshot the Lions, 34-21, won more ground balls, had half the number of turnovers and were far more successful in its clear attempts. Nevertheless, the defense consistently did its job, turning in key plays when it mattered most.

"Our defense was great all game," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We really had a huge clearing problem in this game. We got a lot of balls on the ground. Our D came up with the ball, and then we didn't take care of it as much as we should. So, it's a credit to them for getting the ball back to us time after time."

Really leading the way on the back end, however, was Smith. The junior made 14 saves throughout the entirety of the game, solidifying the win and allowing the Lions a chance to move on in the tournament. The performance was one save shy of her season best, which came in March against Vanderbilt.


"I think Emi stood on her head today making unbelievable saves," Doherty said following the game. "Every game is a little different. Sometimes our offense takes over, our defense takes over, and today, Emi kind of took over. So, it was a great effort by her and a great effort by our team to come up with some huge goals at big times."

In terms of offense, the Nittany Lions once again saw scoring from across the board. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell both collected five points in the game with a hat trick and two assists each. Steph Lazo also notched three goals against the Cavaliers, while Tatum Coffey and Kristin Brent both added two.

With Lazo's three goals and Coffey's six throughout the weekend games, both passed the 40-goal mark on the season. O'Donnell's performance pushed her to 30 goals scored, meaning five Nittany Lions have now reached that accomplishment.

"I thought overall today we really saw each other well," said O'Donnell following the Virginia game. "When everyone is working well together and we're seeing the open goal, it just goes well for everyone. Fortunately, I was on the upper end of that today. But, we were moving the ball, seeing each other, and there was a lot of communication out there today, which is key."

Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will need to defeat North Carolina to stay alive in the tournament. The game will certainly be a challenge, but this team is ready for anything. It wants to keep competing, keep winning and keep playing together. Penn State is not finished yet.

Season Draws to a Close for Nittany Lions

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11072564.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The end goal was so close, they could almost taste it.

Penn State's roller coaster season came to a difficult close Thursday night after the Nittany Lions (21-10) fell to the top-seeded Lewis Flyers (27-3) in four sets (20-25, 25-22, 16-25, 20-25) at Maples Pavilion on the campus of Stanford University.

"I think we created opportunities, and I thought we got some good swings, but we could not score points easily against [Lewis]," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I thought we had some good swings against them, but that I thought was the difference."

Since this was as a tight a group of players Pavlik has ever coached, emotions were running high for the Nittany Lions following the match.

For the four seniors, it was difficult to say goodbye to a program that has meant so much to them.

Mythical Mike
If you do not know Mike Hobson, he was an integral part of the program the past two years as a student manager. His efforts are difficult to quantify into words, so here is how his head coach and teammates will remember him.

"He's the most undervalued person on our team," redshirt senior libero Connor Curry said. "He gets absolutely no recognition for what he does, but the amount of hours that he's logged throughout the season and the ways that he's helped us - he's completely sold out for the team this year and last year, too - we owe a lot to him as a team."

"He's always willing to do whatever our team needs," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell said. "That's what you want in anyone on a team.... I had a lot of fun having him as part of this team."

"I will go on record to tell anybody if they want a young up-and-coming coach, he's going to be getting his graduate degree from Northwest Missouri State, and he's going to be helping their women's team out," Pavlik said. "Keep an eye on him, he's worth it.

Groovy Goodell
"He's a fun guy to play with," Curry said. "He's hot and cold a lot of the time, up and down personality wise, but that's what makes it fun. He's been my roommate for the last three years, so I've gotten to know him pretty well. It's been fun."

A 2015 Second Team All-EIVA honoree, Goodell persevered through injury to finish his last rodeo on a high note. The redshirt senior tallied 30 kills and 11 digs in this year's NCAA Tournament, while placing ninth in the EIVA during the regular season with 3.54 points/set.

Clap for Curry
"It's been an unbelievable experience," Curry said. "Coming from California, I didn't come to Penn State for the weather. I came here for the experience. I came for the people mostly, the people on the team and the coaching staff. That's what I've been around for the past five years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

With seven digs against Lewis, Curry completes his Penn State career with 1,043 digs. That is good enough for second place in program history behind only Dennis Del Valle, who notched 1,260 digs from 2008-11.

Applause for Aaron
"I've had so much fun playing for this program," Russell said. "When I was being recruited by a bunch of different colleges across the country, I was told that if I went out east that I wouldn't become a good player, or I wouldn't be as good of a player if I went out west. What [the coaching staff] did, I've learned so much through the program. I think that without them I wouldn't be where I am today. I just thank them so much. I owe everything that I am right now to Penn State."

A two-time First-Team All-American AVCA honoree, Russell ends his stellar Nittany Lion career second in program history with 198 service aces. Only Max Holt, who donned the Blue and White from 2006-09, recorded more punch-outs with 207.

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A promise made on Memorial Day in 2008 is what motivated Stephon Morris. That promise is what helped him gain clarity in the wake of chaos during the 2012 offseason. It is what pushes him to continue the pursuit of his NFL dreams and ultimately what drove him to complete his bachelor's degree Telecommunications.

Upon committing to Penn State on that fateful day in 2008, Morris stood in Joe Paterno's office and shook his hand after vowing to not only play for the Nittany Lions, but uphold the tradition of leaving Happy Valley with his degree. He completed that promise in 2015 by finishing his coursework through the Penn State World Campus and is scheduled to graduate on Saturday.

"I remember standing in his [Paterno's] office with Coach [Larry] Johnson and Eric Shrive," said Morris. "It was my first time meeting Coach Paterno and I committed that day...I told him that I wouldn't leave without my degree."

Morris quickly made an impact on the field for the Nittany Lions, earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors from Sporting News. He was the only Penn State rookie to garner the honor and he admitted that his instant success on the field might have gone to his head.

He appeared in all 13 games, logged 30 stops, hauled in one interception and made his first career start in the regular season finale at Michigan State. His interception came at Illinois, a 70-yard return that closed the half and preserved a 7-3 PSU edge heading into the locker room. He also piled up five stops in three of his last four games, including five solo stops in a 19-17 Capital One Bowl victory over LSU.

"I had success as a true freshman and it is hard to tell an 18-year old kid that he needs to focus on his school work when he is having so much fun playing football," said Morris. "You tell yourself that you're not going to be the guy that lets success go to his head, but I did. I can remember Paterno talking to me about my grades. That success is not something that I handled the best."

Morris refocused after his freshman season and remembered the promise he had made, not only to his coach, but to himself and his family. He found success in his studies and on the field during the next two seasons, but during the summer of 2012 he faced another challenge when the program was handed sanctions by the NCAA.

"The entire team was gathered in the players lounge after a workout and I can remember the sanctions coming down. There were a lot of emotions; at some points you could hear a pin drop and at other points guys were yelling. I knew I had to keep my emotions in check because I needed to be a leader... I couldn't show weakness."

Morris told his father that he was staying at Penn State almost immediately and he believes that is the best decision he has made in his 24-years on this earth.

"I called my dad and said, 'I am staying. I told coach Paterno I would get my degree from this school and I am going to do it.'"

For Morris it was about honoring that commitment, but it was what happened a little later that season that really pushed him. As he sat in the squad room for what was Paterno's final team meeting, the long-time head coach spoke about taking advantage of every day you are given. He told his players to take care of one another and his message was something that struck a chord with Morris.

"Something that Coach Paterno made very clear in his last team meeting was that he wanted us to take care of each other...He was talking about the guys who came before us - the alumni - and the players that would come after us. That might have been the first time I realized how special being a part of the Penn State family was. It really put the 'Success with Honor' motto in perspective."

Those three simple words have led him to where he is today to the moment that "means the world" to him; graduation day. His on field accolades and leadership when the program needed him the most were not enough. What really mattered to Morris was being a part of the 87-percent.

"I wanted to be a part of 'Success with Honor' and the tradition of Penn State football players getting their degrees. I wanted to walk across that stage. I want to be a part of that 87-percent graduation rate. I wanted to show the younger guys in the program now that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

Morris, a native of the metropolitan Washington D.C., had planned to make the trek from his hometown of Greenbelt, Md. to State College with nine members of his family. The journey would have taken about three hours, but instead he will continue chasing his dream of NFL success. The family trip took a detour when he was invited to Tampa Bay for an open tryout.

I am sure there are other Penn State graduates that will be missing graduation for job interviews, as well, and like them, Morris will surely make his way back to campus in the future. In fact, he plans to make Happy Valley a destination a lot in the future.

"It is amazing the brotherhood that this program has," said Morris. "To be able to walk into the Letterman's Club and see all of these guys who played in the 60s and 70s, all the way to us younger guys is amazing. You would think that some of the older guys wouldn't really know who you are, but they know you better than anyone. They are up there telling stories, handing out business cards and that makes the Letterman's Club such a special group to be a part of."

The stories Morris has from his career will stack up against many of those that populate the Letterman's Lounge throughout the fall, including his favorite Penn State anecdote: a 2012 overtime victory over Wisconsin that punctuated what brotherhood can accomplish.

Soon enough, however, Morris will have his own business cards to hand out and on them he can now proudly display: Penn State Class of 2015.

Inside the Pitching Style of Jack Anderson

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

Jack Anderson credits his division one baseball scholarship to Penn State and his success in three seasons in Happy Valley to one thing: his delivery. 

If you've ever seen head coach Rob Cooper's right-handed closer pitch, you know exactly why.

Anderson's pitching style places him in a unique group of pitchers, a group that in today's game is very small. They call it "submarine" pitching, but Anderson just calls it normal after deciding to make the pitching style his own during high school.

"My dad always told me my arm slot was dropping every year progressing through little league and then it was my freshman summer of high school playing against another team in the summer and an opposing coach came up to me after the game and said he could make me into a great pitcher," Anderson said. "He had me drop down completely and everything came natural after that since I had been throwing sidearm for so long." 

Anderson's natural arm slot has always been a low three-quarters, even when he was a young little leaguer. 

When he warms up before practices or games, his arm slot is at that three-quarters release point, but when he steps on the mound it's as low as he can get to the ground before he releases the ball. 

"I really want to start high and get lower," he said of his delivery. "I don't want to go down then up then down. I want to keep it one fluid motion and follow through and get behind the baseball."

With a delivery so unique, muscle memory and repetition is the key to consistency. Although, he said he doesn't do many drills that are different from pitchers that throw at a more conventional release point, he does put extra focus on where he releases the ball and which release point works best.

During his time in college, he has been able to find that release point and a place of comfort on the mound.

"Consistency is the biggest key to having the success and being able to repeat that delivery," Anderson said. "Sometimes I think about moving it up a little bit to get more spin but there's never a drastic difference. I'm trying to keep the same arm slot to keep deception with the hitter and then I'm snapping it off at the end to get movement across the zone."

He has experienced with challenging himself with how low he can go before releasing the ball, including during a game early in his career when he dropped down a little too far.

"One time during my freshman year against Iowa I actually scraped my hand on the ground on a pitch and it was bloody and it wasn't pretty," the junior said. "It kind of got in my head a little bit and I couldn't go any lower after that." 

Now in his junior season, he has reached a stellar point of consistency as Penn State's closer and most reliable option out of the bullpen. With two Big Ten series left, Anderson boasts a 4-3 record with a 2.59 ERA, 25 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .217 when he's on the mound.

He has appeared in a variety of ways this season, whether it's the conventional three-out save or a long appearance of two to four innings. Cooper said Anderson's confidence is a big reason why he appears in any situation for Penn State.

"From the day I got here he has not been afraid to pitch and hasn't been afraid to take the ball," Cooper said. "Every time he has had the ball the game means something, so when he makes a mistake it's magnified."

Mistakes haven't come often for Anderson and Cooper acknowledged the righty's ability to finish off ball games.

"Mariano Rivera said it perfect it's not that it takes a special guy to get three outs, it takes a special guy to get the last three outs and Jack has done a really good job of that," Cooper said. 

For Anderson, though, his success all goes back to his delivery. He doesn't think he would be the closer at Penn State, let alone a division one pitcher without the submarine approach.

"Absolutely not," Anderson said of whether or not he would be a division one pitcher if he threw conventionally.

Furthermore, he can't even imagine pitching a baseball any other way.

"I don't even know if I could," Anderson said. "I've just been throwing submarine for so long I don't even know what throwing differently would look like at this point."

2015 Coaches Caravan Day III - Altoona & Pittsburgh

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Photo Gallery - Altoona | Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster | Day II Recap - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore


MARS, Pa. - The first week of the 2015 Coaches Caravan wrapped up in the western half of Pennsylvania on Thursday with a lunch stop in Altoona and an evening reception in northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

The Penn State Fullington Trailways bus drove nearly three hours to the northwest from Baltimore on Thursday morning in preparation for lunch at Lakemont Park Casino. Take a look through highlights from the final two stops of a six-event leg of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 5 - Altoona (Lakemont Park Casino)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the closest stop to the University Park campus on Thursday morning. The ballroom at Lakemont Casino Park hosted the fifth event on the Coaches Caravan before some of the fan base's deepest roots.

Just 45 minutes down the road from State College, Altoona is in the core of Nittany Nation. Fan after fan in the room on Thursday told the coaches and Barbour about either events they had recently attended or games they had circled on their calendars in the fall and winter.

"The heartbeat of Penn State is in Altoona," said Franklin.

One of the big pieces to the fan base in the center portion of the state is the following of the men's hockey program. Gadowsky has mentioned on a number of occasions during his three-day stint on the Caravan about what the growth of youth hockey in Pennsylvania can do for the overall growth of Penn State Hockey.

"Ideally, you want the recruiting footprint to shrink," Gadowsky said. "The more individuals who are involved with youth hockey in the state of Pennsylvania, the better off the entire state will be."

The growth of Nittany Lion hockey, along with the increased interest in youth hockey, tends to go hand in hand. It's a process Gadowsky knows will take time, but it's something he's very excited about. Locations like Altoona are big piece to the puzzle with a growing interest in youth hockey. The region's hockey footprint will grow even further with the announcement that Johnstown (just 50 miles from Altoona) will play host to the NHL's "Hockeyville" game in September.

"I've been so impressed with the interest and reception from the community on the hockey program," said Barbour. "Pegula Ice Arena is a huge piece to that, and the sky is the limit (for the program)."

The Altoona stop marked the final one for St. Pierre. The leader of the women's golf program spent the week educating the fans on the process of being a collegiate golf coach during an extended fall and spring season. She enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fans and loved to share insight about the program.

"It's been a great ride to hang out with these fantastic people has been a great treat," said St. Pierre. "A lot of people have thanked me for being part of the Caravan, but really it has been my benefit."

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VIDEO: Altoona Press Conference



Stop No. 6 - Pittsburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars, Pa.)
The Caravan visited a spot near and dear to Coach Franklin en route to the evening reception in Cranberry Township on Thursday. The bus weaved through the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar section of Pittsburgh (northeast of downtown along the Allegheny River) where Franklin spent a lot of time as a kid. The group met up with childhood friend Keith Gardner (known as "Mighty" from his pickup sports days) near Franklin's Aunt Janet's home on Lemington Ave. The group toured a park where Franklin and "Mighty" played a lot of pickup football and basketball growing up.

"It was really cool. I hadn't been there in probably 30 years," said Franklin. "I come back to Pittsburgh all the time and even did for family functions before Penn State, but to actually go to some of those places today that I haven't been in a long time was really cool."

caravan_pittsburgh_3.jpg The more than 260 attendees inside the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars were thrilled to welcome Franklin, Gadowsky and Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer Phil Esten, along with football assistants and Pittsburgh natives Bob Shoop (Oakmont) and Terry M. Smith (Monroeville).

The talk of the room from the fans focused on a number of topics, but there is a general excitement surrounding the hockey program's regular visits to Pittsburgh and the football team's four-year series with Pittsburgh, which begins at Heinz Field on Sept. 10 in 2016. The supporters in Pittsburgh are fired up about Penn State teams playing in their backyard.

"I think people are excited about it, especially in this region," said Franklin. "We are playing in '16, '17, '18 and '19...There is a lot of history and tradition with it. Generally, I'm in support of keeping the dollars in the state and supporting high school football and programs in the state. And in a lot of ways, there are some really good arguments you could make why it makes sense."

The Nittany Lions and Panthers last met inside Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. The series is slated for four-straight seasons, but Franklin indicated in the press conference prior to the event that both sides are open to discussions about the potential for more games in the future.

As for the hockey program, since Penn State has been a Division I program, the Lions have played in Pittsburgh each season. Every game has been well attended by Nittany Nation. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal followers.

With the conclusion of a superb event in the Pittsburgh area, the first leg of the Coaches Caravan is wrapped up. The circuit will pick back up on May 19 in Philadelphia. A big thank you goes out to the fans who attended all six stops during week one.

"That's what these caravans are all about and that's what makes this so special," Franklin said. "We don't get to do this often, and we just want you to know how truly important you are to what we do...The thing that will always make Penn State special is the people."
    

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VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video


Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles

Caravan Total - 715 miles


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