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James Franklin Transcript - Nov. 25
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (6-5, 2-5) returns home for the final regular season game of 2014 on Saturday against No. 8 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1). The Lions and Spartans are set to collide in a Senior Day showdown at 3:30 p.m. (ABC).
Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against the Spartans on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.
Saturday will be a special day for 17 seniors on the roster. A group that has been through seemingly everything during its time on campus will be honored prior to kickoff. A senior class that stuck with the program during some of its toughest times deserves a tremendous ovation from the Nittany Lion fans.
"I think what we've been through the last three years and what these guys have meant, how they've stuck with this university and the football program and the community as well have been tremendous leaders, have been tremendous ambassadors both on and off the field and in the classroom," Franklin said. "It's significant. I think everybody in our program, all the players kind of look up to them, which is typically the case in most programs. But I think it's magnified, obviously, from what they've been through."
Six of Penn State's seven captains for 2014 are seniors. The lone exception is sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Coach Franklin said that the captains met with him in his office on Saturday evening following the Illinois game. It's a group of senior players that is incredibly passionate about the program in every sense of the program.
"We sat there for probably at least an hour talking about a lot of different things," Franklin said. "They've been awesome. I think it's probably like this in a lot of professions, but you get frustrated or disappointed and you're going through some challenges or adversity. As long as you're surrounded with really good people that care and are committed, you can talk through it, you feel better. I know they made me feel better. Gave me some perspective on some things, really valuable. I think these seniors have been unbelievable. I know myself as well as the rest of the staff and the young guys look up to him and are very, very thankful."
Mike Hull will be one of the 17 players honored on Saturday. With every fiber of his body, Hull embodies what this class and Penn State Football stands for. A tremendous individual off the field, Hull has put together one of the best seasons by any linebacker in school history. Hull enters the final week of the regular season with 121 tackles (11.0 tpg), which ranks seventh in the nation.
Hull is excited for the challenge to compete against a superb offense in his final game at Beaver Stadium.
"Yeah, it's definitely going to be a fun atmosphere. It's going to be a great challenge," Hull said. "That's what we like especially defensively. Want to keep our team in this game and give us every chance of winning. We're just going to have to step up and it's going to be a really fun time."
While every game on the schedule is treated the same when it comes to the squad's preparation, this week's Senior Day buildup adds an extra element of anticipation for Franklin and the underclassmen. The Nittany Lions want to send the group of 17 on a high.
"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 Spartans will meet for the 29th time on Saturday.
Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Michigan State offense:
"Great experience, seven starters, multiple pro offense, very balanced. Again, one of the things that jumps out to you, their quarterback is having a great year, but he's playing behind a really, really strong, physical, massive offensive line that does a great run game and also does a great job protecting them as well. That allows them to be balanced. No. 6 in the nation in scoring offense, No. 7 in the nation in total offense, No. 11 in fewest turnovers. No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing offense. Connor Cook is having a great year. Running back Jeremy Langford is having a really, really good year, and then you've got wide receiver, No. 14, Tony Lippett is having a great year as well."
- Franklin on the Michigan State defense:
"They're a 4-3 team. Quarters in the secondary with two run support safeties and they press you on the outside. You're pretty much one-on-one because those safeties are run players. Probably the most similar defense that I've seen to Alabama in terms of body-type and model. Their offense, defense, and special teams are very specific about what they're looking for, long, athletic guys. D-line is really long, linebackers are long. You look at the DBs and almost everybody is over six-foot. They run to the ball extremely well. They're very physical. They're No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin, number three in the nation in turnover gains recovered. No. 8 in the nation in rushing defense, and No. 15 in sacks. No. 1 in the Big Ten in defensive touchdowns. They've forced 61 three-and-outs. This is a good defense we're facing."
- Franklin on the Michigan State special teams:
"Special teams in Coach Tressel. They're number 8 in the Big Ten in punting. Long, rangy, consistent with their schemes. Been very, very impressed with what they do as well."
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion wrestling team moved to 3-0 over
the weekend with road victories at Pittsburgh and Clarion. GoPSUsports.com
caught up with sophomore Jimmy Gulibon for a weekly update on the Lions.
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Penn State bounced back from a heartbreaking 106-97 double overtime setback against Charleston last Thursday with a pair of victories. D.J. Newbill's game-winner at the buzzer sealed a 72-71 win over Cornell on Friday. Penn State finished off the trip to Charleston with a gritty 63-61 win against USC.
"Obviously, we wanted to win that first game so we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole, but I thought we competed against Charlotte," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "I think Charlotte is a really good team. We competed. We played hard. We left everything out on that court...We've got to just continue to develop and continue to get better."
Newbill was tremendous for the Nittany Lions in Charleston. The senior guard set a tournament record with 83 total points in three games (27.7 ppg). That mark included a 35-point effort against Charlotte. The scoring numbers speak for themselves, but Newbill played with great efficiency. He shot 50 percent from 3-point range, 47 percent from the field and 85 percent from the foul line over the weekend.
While the senior guard was tremendous, Chambers noted on Monday that he is looking for more consistency from the post players as the Lions prep for two games this week.
Akron enters Tuesday's game after knocking off South Carolina to finish its trip to Charleston. The Zips defeated USC (66-46) before a setback to Miami (79-51) sent them to the third-place game in the consolation draw. Freshman Noah Robotham leads the Zips in scoring at 12.0 ppg.
Penn State and Akron have met six times prior to Tuesday's matchup (4-2, PSU). Tip is slated for 7:30 p.m. following the Lady Lions' matchup against St. Bonaventure at 5:30 p.m.
"It was great in Charleston, but there is no place like home," Newbill said.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The Nittany Lion football student-athletes have a lot to be thankful for as the
calendar approaches the Thanksgiving holiday.
An opportunity to attend a world-renowned institution like Penn State and compete on the gridiron at the highest level is something the group takes very seriously. As figures in the community, the student-athletes understand the importance of giving back to the loyal supporters and those less fortunate whenever the schedule permits.
With the academic calendar on Thanksgiving break for the week, Monday's off day was a terrific opportunity for the Nittany Lions to serve the community. More than 60 members of the football team spent time in the community on Monday at three different locations around Centre County.
"It's very important for us to get out and be with the community, especially since it is Thanksgiving week," linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "People here care so much about our football team. To be able to give back and thank those people for what they do every day is really great. We just want to thank them and let them know how much we appreciate them."
Two buses of players traveled to the State College Food Bank in the morning hours on Monday to help move more than 1,000 pounds of food. In 2013, alone, the State College Food Bank helped nearly 800 unique households receive approximately 3,300 food distributions.
An additional group of players visited The Village State College during the middle part of Monday, as well. The Nittany Lions helped serve food, take photos, eat lunch and visit with the elderly.
"It was really cool," Cabinda said. "They were just so joyous to see us. They have been fans of the program for so long. I feel really great that our games can be like a mini family reunion for so many people. Everyone comes together, and this group is a really cool part of that."
A collection of student-athletes also traveled to Bellefonte on Monday afternoon to spend time at the Bellefonte Youth Center. The Lions served food and visited with the children at the Centre County Youth Bureau's Bellefonte Youth Service Center. The Center provides meals to approximately 25-30 children daily.
"Spending time with kids helps us relax and have some fun," said Chasz Wright. "The kids look at us as role models; they want to be like us. That's eye opening and humbling."
The team will resume football duties on Tuesday with meetings and practice in preparation for the Michigan State game.
Nittany Lion Defense Remains Among Nation's Best
The Nittany Lion defense remains among the top units in the nation. Penn State is the only FBS team in the top five in rushing defense, total defense, pass efficiency defense and scoring defense. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (81.7 ypg.), No. 3 in the nation in total defense (267.2 ypg) and No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 ppg) and No. 3 in pass efficiency defense (94.78)
Additionally, Penn State is second in third down conversion percentage defense (27.6 percent), is third in the nation in first downs defense (156 total), is 15th in passes intercepted (15) and is No. 17 in passing yards allowed (185.5 ypg).
Penn State is also one of just two teams in the nation to have not allowed a rushing play of 30 or more yards (Syracuse). The Lions also lead the nation with fewest plays of 30 or more yards allowed this season (7).
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 (2,411) and passing yards per game (219.2 ypg). The sophomore is second in the conference in completions per game (19.55).
WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 23rd nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receptions per game (6.3). He ranks fifth in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 72.1.
LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten and is ninth in the nation in tackles (11.0 per game). He is second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in solo tackles per game at 6.0.
K Sam Ficken - Ficken is third in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00. He is also 11th nationally in field goal percentage (84.6 percent).
Early Look at the Spartans
The 11th-ranked Michigan State Spartans enter the final week of the regular season on a two-game winning streak. Michigan State's only losses this season came at the hands of then-No. 3 Oregon on the road (46-27) and then-No. 14 Ohio State (49-37).
The Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in total offense (514.5 ypg) and the No. 3 in the Big Ten in total defense (299.0 ypg). Rated as the Big Ten's top passing offense, Michigan State has scored 27 or more points in every game on the schedule this season.
Quarterback Connor Cook is the Big Ten's leading passer (2,720 yards). Running back Jeremy Langford is ranked seventh in the nation in rushing touchdowns (17). Receiver Tony Lippett is 10th in the country in receiving touchdowns (10).
Penn State and Michigan State will collide for the 29th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions lead the series, 14-13-1. The two schools met annually on the final week of the regular season from 1993-2010.
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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014-15 women's multi-event and jumps group is looking more confident and ambitious than ever. In the final piece of Penn State track and field season previews, GoPSUSports.com hears from Coach Fritz Spence and his group of women on their difficult preseason and their record-breaking goals for the year.
Senior Sarah Palmer is the stand-alone senior of the group and is taking this year to embrace the role of a leader as she hopes to earn some medals and break personal records.
"I definitely feel a big responsibility being the only senior in the jumps group, but I kind of enjoy it, being older." said Palmer. "[My goals are] to make it to Regionals again, outdoor. I'd really like to get on the medal stand at [the Big Ten Championship] again."
Junior Ahmenah Richardson hopes to break some personal records and surprise fans as she plans to "no doubt about it" break the six-foot mark in the high jump.
"I came in at 5 feet, 7 inches now I'm at 5-9 and for sure this year I'll be jumping six feet, no doubt about it," said Richardson.
Sophomores Tal Ben-Artzi and Dannielle Gibson hope to make their names memorable as they aspire for collegiate record-breaking performances.
Ben-Artzi took home a sixth-place finish in the indoor pentathlon in 2014 with 3,861 points, the fourth-best all-time score at Penn State. In 2015, she is more than prepared mentally and physically, she said, to surpass those performances.
"I'm very excited about being fourth-place in the record book right now. I'm definitely looking forward to breaking the school record [in both the] pentathlon and heptathlon outdoor," said Ben-Artzi. "I've been working towards it...and I really want to improve in each of the events."
For Gibson, the sky is the limit as she is 'most definitely' looking to see her name up high in the record book. She will be going after the Penn State records in the triple jump and the long jump as she currently hold sixth (42-2) and 10th-place (20-1), respectively.
"Those records are meant to be broken and someone's name will be there and hopefully, it's mine," said Gibson.
Freshman Megan McCloskey is looking to have a break out, smooth freshman year.
"First off, I want to make my transition smooth. Everyone always talks about your freshman year in college just kind of adjusting to the weightlifting, the different running...I definitely don't want to go backwards in my jumping, I want to go forward," said McCloskey. "I really want to be jumping at [the Big Ten Championship] and on the medal stand."
Coach Spence is excited about the progress and talent the group has this year.
"We have a group of great student-athletes that are very talented," said Spence. "I keep saying everyone is going to do good and if we can all do good we will have a good year."
For more information on Penn State track and field visit www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.
With the triumph, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and the second time in the past three seasons.
"Obviously it is a fantastic feeling (to get back to the quarters)," head coach Erica Walsh said. "That was a very good Virginia Tech team, well-coached...Obviously they gave us everything we could handle today. It certainly felt like we had to bend at times, but we never broke."
Weber will be credited with the game-winner. And senior Raquel Rodriguez's goal in the 40th minute was a crucial momentum boost for the Nittany Lions late in the first half, but the day belonged to the defense. Penn State's effort against Virginia Tech's relentless attack was exceptional.
"That unit has been very good all season," Walsh said. "But the great thing about them is that they have been getting stronger as the season has gone on and becoming more of a unit, and led by Britt Eckerstrom, who was great today. You look at Kori Chapic and you look at Whit Church. They have freshmen on either side, who are no longer playing like freshmen. They believe they are as good as they are because of the leadership."
Chapic and Church spearheaded a tremendous 90-minute performance against a Virginia Tech squad that came into the game averaging 2.90 goals per game.
"It was definitely a tough task that we had today," Church said. "They were bringing it to us. Like Coach said, we would bend at times and kind of give them things away at times, but we never broke and we stayed strong. It was really great."
The Nittany Lion back line was outstanding with the ball in the air during Sunday's victory. Virginia Tech delivered a number of balls into the box during both halves, but the Lions yielded just one scoring play from the Hokies. Defending in the box, along with the midfield's work rate and ability to track down balls were Walsh's keys to Penn State advancing into the round of eight.
The visiting Hokies nearly struck first in an entertaining opening half. Virginia Tech's scoring leader, Murielle Tiernan (14 on the season), delivered a shot towards Penn State keeper Britt Eckerstrom in a one-on-one opportunity in the 27th minute. Eckerstrom managed to get a hand on the drive, but it was sophomore midfielder Salina Williford's foot that directed the ball away from the net as it rolled freely into the 6-yard box towards the goal line.
Penn State broke the scoreless tie on a blast from Rodriguez at the 39:59 mark. A great feed from Katy Keen set Rodriguez up with a breakaway opportunity. The Nittany Lion midfielder dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box before ripping a shot that careened off of the post into the back of the net.
But the Hokies were far from done. Virginia Tech threatened on two occasions in the opening eight minutes of the second half before midfielder Ashley Meier tapped a ball home to set the score at 1-1 as the clock read 52:42.
Nevertheless, Penn State went right back to work on both ends of the field. The Lions earned a free kick in the 71st minute of action from 30 yards out. Midfielder Emily Ogle delivered a flawless set piece into the box where Weber elevated for the eventual game-winning header.
"We work on them in practice day in and day out," Weber said. "(Ogle) played a great ball in and the goal came out. I just need to get a touch on it."
The Jeffrey Field crowd willed the Lions on from there as the Hokies looked for the equalizer. Limiting Virginia Tech to just two shot attempts in the final 10 minutes of play, the Lions held strong en route to raising their all-time postseason record at Jeffrey Field to 33-6-1.
"The crowd was super pumped and energetic out there today," Church said. "It makes that much of a difference. Hearing the crowd behind us, that gets us going and helps us a tremendous amount. That was a very special day out there to hear all of them behind us."
Focus now shifts towards a quarterfinal matchup against No. 1-seeded Texas A&M (21-2-2). The Nittany Lions will play the Aggies in College Station on Saturday with a spot in the College Cup semifinals on the line.
"I think this is a very good soccer playing team this year, but even more importantly, they've got a ton of courage," Walsh said. "We've talked a lot about that it is our family, and we live to fight another day and play another day together."
By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been 14 years since the Lady Lions and the Seton Hall Pirates have battled it out on the court. In the 10th meeting of the series on Saturday evening in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions came up on the short end of a seesaw 75-70 decision.
The Lady Lions are a young team. With only one returning starter, Penn State is starting a sophomore-heavy team, a reality that head coach Coquese Washington believes was clear in Saturday's game.
"I think our youth showed tonight," Washington said. "We need to get more confident and comfortable playing with one another at this pace."
Despite the loss, there are some major takeaways from this game that the Lady Lions can use to their advantage heading into their matchup against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.
The Lady Lions got off to a slow start, with their first bucket coming three minutes into the game after the Pirates put nine on the board. Penn State cut into the deficit, but the Pirates pulled away with a 21-8 lead with 10 minutes before the half.
"I feel like it got away from us from the jump," junior Candice Agee said. "We fought hard to stay in the game and get back in it, but at the end Seton Hall got the better of us. We have to give it up to them for that."
Agee was superb for the Lady Lions, leading the team with 21 points in Saturday's contest, along with five rebounds and two blocks. Agee took command inside the paint for the 17 minutes she was on the court, helping the Lady Lions stay in the game until the very end.
"I just want to play hard," Agee said. "I want to be able to do what needs to be done for my team and what is asked of me. If some nights it looks like a 20 point game, then that is alright with me."
Sophomore Sierra Moore posted a career-high game, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block. Moore was a major asset during the game playing for 37 minutes, the most on the team.
"Whatever is asked of us, we do." Moore said. "We all take turns in practice (playing point guard); that's what practice is for."
Regardless of the slow start, it is obvious that this young Lady Lion team is hungry. Coach Washington took her team to the locker room at half time trailing the Pirates 37-29.
"We talked about playing a little bit faster and moving the ball (in the second half)," Washington said. "We had a lot more energy in the second than the first."
The Lady Lions turned on the offensive strategy taking the lead, 40-39, five minutes into the second half. The Lions closed to within one at 71-70, but that is as close as they would get down the stretch. Fouls and turnovers in the last 30 seconds hindered the Lions in the 75-70 loss, an issue coach Washington believes will work itself out.
"We have to do a better job at the free throw line," Washington said. "I think that if we can fix a few small things, we aren't that far away. We are three games in and I am still getting to know this team. We rallied back and put ourselves in a position to tie it, even possibly force overtime. This is the learning curve, the growing pains of a young team."
The Lady Lions take on St. Bonaventure on Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Following Tuesday's contest, they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 28-30.