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2014 Opponent Previews - Rutgers

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10295908.jpegRutgers | High Points Solutions Stadium | 8 p.m. | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to New Jersey on Saturday to take on Rutgers in the Big Ten opener for both teams and the first ever Big Ten conference game for Rutgers. Get to know the Scarlet Knights in this week's scouting report.

Kyle Flood, who is in his third year leading the Knights, has a record of 17-11 at Rutgers. The Knights went 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference last year. They lost 29-16 to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Rutgers returns 44 letterwinners and 16 starters from a year ago.

Rutgers is 2-0 after last week's 38-25 win over Howard. The Scarlet Knights gained 397 yards of offense, including 288 through the air. Quarterback Gary Nova completed 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Paul James ran for 43 yards, a touchdown and caught two passes, both for touchdowns, including a 69-yard reception. Leonte Carroo and John Tsimis each caught a touchdown.

The Scarlet Knight defense allowed 427 yards, including 259 on the ground. Linebacker Steve Longa led the defense with eight tackles (five solo). Defensive end David Milewski recorded six tackles, two for loss, and forced a fumble. Milewski was one of five Knights to record at least half of a sack on the day. Cornerback Gareef Glashen intercepted a pass.

Through two games, Nova, a senior, has completed 67 percent of his passes for 563 yards, with six touchdowns and an interception. Nova leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency.

James, a redshirt junior, has 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.1 yards per rush. The six-foot, 205-pound James leads the Big Ten in scoring, with six total touchdowns. Desmon Peoples will also see time in the backfield. Peoples has 91 yards with a 4.8 yards per rush average.

Carroo leads the Rutgers receivers with eight catches for 195 yards and two scores. The 6-1 Carroo is fifth in the conference in receiving yards. Joining Carroo are 5-foot-11 sophomore Janarion Grant, who has seven receptions, and Tsimis, who has six receptions and two touchdowns. Grant also returns kicks and punts for the Knights.

The Scarlet Knight offensive line includes three seniors, led by Kaleb Johnson, a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection by Phil Steele.

So far in 2014, Rutgers has allowed 31.5 points and 482.5 yards per game, including 350 yards passing per contest. They rank 13th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 14th in total defense.

The Rutgers defensive line features a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors. Milewski leads the unit with seven tackles. He also has three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Kemoko Turay has 3.5 sacks.

Longa was named First Team All-Big Ten in the preseason by Phil Steele. The redshirt sophomore leads the team with 15 tackles, nine solo. Fellow linebacker Kevin Snyder has 12 stops and a forced fumble.

Glashen, a senior, leads the secondary with 13 tackles, 10 solo, and an interception. Safety Delon Stephenson has recorded 11 stops, while Justin Goodwin has a pick.

Kicker Kyle Federico has connected on three-of-four field goals, with a long of 42. Punter Joey Roth averages 38 yards per punt.

Penn State is 22-2 all-time against Rutgers. The schools last met in 1995, when the Nittany Lions earned a 59-34 win at Giants Stadium.

What Kyle Flood is saying about Penn State:

"It's still early in the year and I haven't seen all the quarterbacks around the country, but I find it hard to believe that there's a better quarterback in the country that we'll face as an opponent. Hackenberg is the prototype NFL quarterback, he has the prototype arm, and he has weapons all over the field to use. He's an excellent player. You can tell he's been coached very well."

"They are very good on defense and they're very good on the defensive front. They are difficult to run the ball against. They are very active. They do an excellent job pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run."

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

One Team, One Family

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While most Penn State fans were basking in a football victory last weekend, the men's ice hockey team had someone more special to celebrate, Colton Buckley. Buckley, the team's THON child, not only turned eight this past Saturday, but he also got to see his "big brothers" for the first time since officially beating cancer.

Tucked back behind Jeffery Field, the team hosted a post-game birthday and cancer-free tailgate for the 8-year-old, complete with cake, singing, presents and party masks.

"He got cancer free recently, which is huge," said sophomore forward Ricky DeRosa. "Everybody was so excited for him and everything. He was actually the THON child at the football game today, so we figured they were coming up here, which gave us a great opportunity to have a little birthday party tailgate for him."

Buckley's nomination to serve as an honorary captain for a football game this year put the tailgate plan into motion. His mother, Nicole, originally tried to schedule the appearance for the annual THON football game, but after all spots were filled, she quickly realized the home opener would be a great second option.

At the game, Buckley was brought down to the field of Beaver Stadium, rushed around from place to place, introduced to countless people and even featured on the video boards. The overall experience was something new for him, but throughout the entirety of the day, Buckley knew he had his post-game party with the team, his extended family, to be even more excited about.

"Colton is our THON child," said newly appointed captain Patrick Koudys. "Some of the guys who were here before me know him a little bit better than I do, but he's a great kid. We love his family. He's always around the rink. He's got his own stall in the locker room. I mean, he puts a smile on all of our faces whenever we see him, so it's great to have him and great to be able to celebrate his birthday with him."

After quickly unwrapping and assembling his present from the hockey team, a new Nerf gun, Buckley got to work, using sophomore Dylan Richard as a human target. The scene of the 8-year-old laughing and playing with 27 of his favorite people highlighted the importance of his bond with the team and of his journey to beating pediatric cancer.

"I look at it as relief because he's not going to the hospital every single month anymore," explained Denny Buckley, Colton's father. "You try to believe the doctors that he's cancer free, and it's not going to come back. When he was on treatment and in treatment, there was such a high risk.

"Anything can really be bad like a virus or any kind of illness because he had no immune system when he was on treatment. That was our biggest worry, and now he's back to pretty much himself again, being crazy like he is."

"It's more stress now, too," added Nicole Buckley. "You don't have that blanket, that cushion anymore. I mean, we still go to the doctors every month, but you don't have that treatment. You know, the chemotherapy keeps it away. Now that's all gone, and his whole body is basically starting over. It's relief, but it's stress as well."

The connection between the Buckley family and the hockey team is incredibly special to both parties. They are family now and will continue to be there for each other throughout each and every step of Colton's journey.

As the festivities wrapped up, Buckley's father asked him to name his favorite hockey team. The answer was simple and came to the birthday boy in a matter of seconds. Penn State.

"I honestly cannot even put it in words," said Denny Buckley of his family's relationship with the hockey team. "It means way too much to try and put it into words. They could have just looked at Colton as their THON kid and done things with him here and there, but they've been so much more than that.

"We consider them family and vice versa. When we come up here, we say we're coming up to see family. We feel at home when we're here, and he absolutely loves these guys. That in itself says everything. They're family to us."

VIDEO: Rutgers Week Player Q&As - Angelo Mangiro & Geno Lewis

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with junior center Angelo Mangiro and sophomore receiver Geno Lewis leading up to the Rutgers game.

Week Three Press Conference Roundup - Rutgers Week

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10294110.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 9

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions head back on the road this week for the Big Ten opener at Rutgers on Saturday (8 p.m. on BTN).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the week three matchup against the Scarlet Knights on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Saturday will mark Franklin's first Big Ten game as a head coach. Franklin is looking for the team to continue making strides on both sides of the ball and on special teams following the victory over Akron.

"We have got to continue to improve each day and each week which is something that I think this staff historically has done a good job of," Franklin said. "...Offensively, we are going to have to develop a more consistent running game. I'm not telling you guys anything you don't know. We are going to have to keep doing that and we are going to keep investing in that every single day. That will happen... Defensively, continue to not give up big plays, stopping the run has been huge for us in making teams one‑dimensional. We want to continue to do that. And then on 'wefense', we need a little bit more consistency in our kicking. When I talk about kicking, I'm talking about our kickoff and our kickoff coverage, making sure the ball location is where we want it so our defense can start out with a better field position."

With the Akron game in the rearview mirror, Franklin and the team are focused solely on preparation for Rutgers. This is a big week for team. Every week is a big week for the Nittany Lions. Franklin noted that all 12 weeks on schedule are treated the same. The approach remains constant from the start of the year to the end. The next game on the schedule is the biggest game on the schedule, and one game is no bigger than the next.

"Our approach to this game is going to be exactly the same as it was for Central Florida, exactly the same way it was for Akron. It will not change," Franklin said. "We are just as motivated in this game as we were for Akron and we are just as motivated for this game as we were for Central Florida. Our approach will not change."

With it being a primetime kick on Saturday, Franklin said the team would stick to its normal routine on gameday. The group will sleep in Saturday morning before meetings and a walkthrough. Because of an extended day, Franklin said there would be two team meals instead of one.

While the Nittany Lion football program received very good news on Monday when the NCAA and Big Ten announced that Penn State is eligible to compete for a spot in a bowl game and the Big Ten Championship, the focus is solely on the task at hand this week. The team spent very little time talking about Monday's news before shifting immediately back into Rutgers game prep. The team is focused on one team this week.

"I do think this game from a regional perspective is good for Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "I do think it's good for New Jersey and I think it's good for the Big Ten and I think it's good for both institutions. I think it's going to be a fun game and we're looking forward to playing it. But we have got tremendous respect for Rutgers, for what they have done on the football field and what they have done in the classroom."

Saturday's game will mark the 25th time Rutgers will play at Penn State. The Lions are 22-2 against the Scarlet Knights. The squads last met in 1995 with the Nittany Lions knocking off Rutgers by a score of 59-34. Saturday's game is just the fourth time Penn State has played on campus at Rutgers.

Press Conference Notes
- Following the news on Monday of the sanctions modification, Coach Franklin called a team meeting inside the Lasch Building. After Franklin outlined the announcement, he called the players and staff members who stuck with the program through the entire duration of the sanctions to the front of the room. Franklin recognized the group for their dedication and efforts during the period.

- Coach Franklin announced that Geno Lewis (offense), Mike Hull (defense) and Chris Gulla (special teams) were the internal players of the week for the Akron game.

- Franklin on the Rutgers offense:
"Their coordinator Ralph Friedgen, in his 42nd year of coaching. He's made a noticeable difference in their offense and their confidence and consistency. They run a pro‑style offense, eight returning starters, five offensive touchdowns of 30 yards or more averaging seven yards a play, and they are No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring."

- Franklin on the Rutgers defense:
"Their defensive coordinator, Joe Rossi, has done a really, really good job for them. He's a guy that's been on the staff, left and has comeback. They have seven starters, five senior starters and they play a 4‑3 base defense. Quarter, quarter half in the secondary, very good movement up front, very disruptive, very aggressive, blue collar, hard‑nosed defense."

- Franklin on the Rutgers special teams:

"Their kick returner, No. 1, Janarion Grant we need to be aware of. I think last year as a true freshman, first time he touched a ball, he took it back for a touchdown and has done some really nice things. Then he's their kick return and punt return guy, so we are going to have to be aware of him and make sure he doesn't have too big of a factor in the game."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monday Notebook: Lions Set to Kick Off Big Ten Play

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10289937.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will have the honor of taking part in the first conference game of the 2014 season on Saturday when they travel to High Point Solutions Stadium to meet Rutgers (8 p.m. on BTN).

Penn State and Rutgers have played one another 24 times prior to this week's clash (22-2, PSU), but never before as members of the Big Ten. Saturday's sold out game will mark the first Big Ten contest for the Scarlet Knights. The rest of the conference season will begin on Sept. 27.

Following a superb performance from the Penn State defense, the Nittany Lions marched past Akron on Saturday in the home opener. The Lions held the Zips to 277 yards in a 21-3 victory. Through two weeks, the Penn State defense is ranked fifth in the NCAA in total defense at 261.5 yards per game.

Offensively, Christian Hackenberg leads the Big Ten in passing at 386.5 yards per game. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for 773 yards during the first two weeks, which broke the Penn State two-game mark. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton leads the conference in receptions with 18.

Saturday's game marks Penn State's first of three primetime games during the 2014 campaign. The Lions will also play under lights at Michigan (Oct. 11) and in Beaver Stadium against Ohio State (Oct. 25).

Big Ten Openers
Penn State will begin its 22nd season as a member of the Big Ten on Saturday night in New Jersey. The Nittany Lions are 9-12 on-field during Big Ten openers. Penn State's first season in the Big Ten came in 1993 when the Lions knocked off Minnesota in the season-opener by a score of 38-20.

No Strangers to the Road
Since joining the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have been road warriors in the opening game of the conference slate. Penn State has played away 13 times and home eight times during Big Ten opener. The Lions have been on the road to open Big Ten play during nine of the last 11 seasons, including each of the last five. Penn State opens the Big Ten season at home against Rutgers in 2015.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the home opener against Akron.

97,354 - Saturday's attendance mark was the highest total for a home opener since the 2010 season.

773 - Christian Hackenberg has thrown for 773 yards in two games. No other Penn State quarterback has thrown for more yards during a two-game span.

94 - More than 50 members of the undefeated 1994 team were honored during halftime of Saturday's game. The group held a reunion on Friday evening and had a chance to meet with some of the current team members during Friday's walkthrough practice.

93 - Penn State's defense has allowed a total of 93 rushing yards during the first two weeks of the season. The Nittany Lions rank fourth national in rushing defense.

40 - Junior tight end Jesse James has three touchdown catch and runs of 40 or more yards in the last nine games in Beaver Stadium. All three touchdown catches have been down the East sideling towards the South end zone in front of the Penn State students.

22 - Senior linebacker Mike Hull is second in the Big Ten in tackling with 22 stops this season. Hull has six career games with 10 tackles or more, including two-straight to open the season.

18 - DaeSean Hamilton leads the Big Ten with 18 receptions during the first two weeks. He tallied 11 catches against UCF. Hamilton notched seven receptions against Akron.

4.3 - The Penn State defense has limited its first two opponents to just 4.3 yards per play.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet Rutgers.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lion Defense Off to Strong Start in 2014

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blogstory_akron.jpgVIDEO: James Franklin Postgame - Akron | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Relentless pursuit has been the name of the game for the Penn State defense since the start of spring practice in March.

Head coach James Franklin, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the rest of the Penn State defensive coaching staff have preached aggressiveness. Through two weeks, the Nittany Lion defense has been a group attacking its opponent from the moment the team steps off the bus.

On the heels of a 21-3 victory over Akron in Saturday's home opener, the Lions sit among the nation's top 15 in two major defensive stat categories. Penn State is 15th in total defense, allowing its first two opponents just 261.5 yards per game. The Nittany Lions rank fourth nationally in rushing defense after allowing a total of 93 yards on 54 carries in the first two games (1.7 ypc).

"We played pretty well. I know we held (Akron) to around 270 yards," cornerback Jordan Lucas said. "We made some mistakes but the great thing about it is it's early in the season. We get to go watch film, have practice and go over corrections and we'll build from that."

The strong defensive start and stout play against the run begins in the trenches.  Penn State's front four has been the catalyst.

"Our defensive line will come after you and fight off the ball," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. "With an aggressive defense with play calling, I feel like we all benefit off it. I couldn't be happier playing with all the guys on the defense and Coach Shoop making great calls and having confidence in him."

Defensively, the Nittany Lions have allowed just one rush of more than 15 yards in the opening two games. Additionally, the group has made 14 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Mike Hull leads the unit with 22 tackles, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

"We are always in attack mode every play from beginning to end. We are fired up and aggressive," said linebacker Brandon Bell.

The aggressive nature is something the players have become accustomed to on the practice field. And it's something they enjoy on Saturdays.

"I love it. Our defense makes us pin our ears back and get after it," Bell said.

"We're playing fast this year. We're getting to the ball. We're swarming," said defensive end Deion Barnes.

Keeping Akron out of the end zone was a big goal of the Nittany Lions. The Zips threatened with three trips inside the red zone, but the Lions held strong and limited Akron to just three points.

"With Coach Shoop, that's one of his big things is keeping the offense out of the end zone," Lucas said. "If we can hold the team out from getting in the end zone, we must do that."

Two weeks in, the Lions are playing with great confidence on the defensive side of the ball. The players relish in the opportunity to attack and play with aggression on every snap. Now, the unit is looking to take the next step.

"I think they're playing well. Probably the focus I have is to create more three-and-outs and we have to create more turnovers. We have to do those two things," said Coach Franklin.

Penn State has forced just one turnover during the first two games. That's a figure Coach Shoop and the Lions will be looking to build on this week as the team prepares for the Big Ten opener at Rutgers. Nonetheless, the defense has a lot to build on after two stout performances to open 2014.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

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VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 21-3 victory over Akron in the home opener.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Interview with Coach Franklin - Akron

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with following Saturday's 21-3 victory over Akron in the home-opener. Penn State moves to 2-0 on the season with the win.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State men's soccer team has always been a second-half squad.

That has especially been true this season. In the Nittany Lions first two games of 2014, all four of their goals came after halftime.

On Friday against Temple, it seemed like that would have to be the case again, as the clock approached the one-minute mark of the first half with the score tied at 0.

Oh, but how quickly things can change in a minute. All it took was for Mark Wadid to loft a corner kick into the box and Owen Griffith to head it into the back of the net with 59 seconds remaining to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"Coach said to make some runs into the box because he felt like I was dominating the aerial game," Griffith said. "It was good to get in there and try to get on the end of some services and luckily I got on the end of one.

"It's great [to have a lead at halftime]. We're definitely a second-half team and to have a goal in the first half was a huge confidence boost for us."

A mainstay on defense for the Nittany Lions, Griffith's header marked just the fourth goal of his career and his first since he netted the game-winner last year against Michigan on October 11.

Wadid's corner kick gave him his fourth assist in just three games this season. After a freshman season in which he scored three goals but never registered any helpers, the Ontario native is turning into one of Penn State's most reliable playmakers.

"Oh man, [the corner kick] was great," head coach Bob warming said. "Mark's good in front of the goal but he's our best server. Owen's role is to just go hunt the ball and it was a great goal."

The goal came after 44 minutes in which the Nittany Lions consistently kept the ball in Temple's zone but were unable to score. Penn State got off six shots, including a one-on-one chance between forward Connor Maloney and Owls goalie Dan Scheck that came up just short for the Blue and White.

Even with a halftime lead, the Nittany Lions continued their reputation as a second-half team. Twice in the second half they put the ball in the back of the net only to have Mikey Minutillo and Randy Falk both ruled offside respectively.

With less than a minute left, Wadid nearly gave the Nittany Lions a bigger cushion but a bullet off the sophomore's foot ricocheted off the crossbar.

"You still always win the game in the second half," Warming said. "Hitting the crossbar and hitting both was a pretty good night in this temperature and this humidity."

Once again, the Nittany Lions defense came up big. When Andrew Wolverton stopped a shot from Stefan Mueller just over five minutes into the second-half, it was the first time in 208 minutes and 57 seconds that the star goalie had had to face a shot.

"Our three other backs, Eli, Mike [Robinson] and Mason [Klerks] have been tremendous," Griffith said. "Any long ball over my head they seem to scoop up. We can also keep the ball and build out of the back which is something our teams have had trouble doing in the past."

Still, the Owls did manage to pressure the Blue and White in the final twenty minutes. Eli Dennis made an excellent clear to stop a Temple attack with 15:31 remaining and two minutes later Wolverton made a terrific save on a rocket that Jared Martinelli sent to the corner of the left net.

With his third shutout of the season, Wolverton now only needs three more to bring his career total to 29 and claim the Nittany Lions all-time record.

"I have complete confidence in Wolvie," Griffith said. "He's an unbelievable keeper."

On a night in which Penn State honored the 60th anniversary of the 1954 and 1955 national championship teams, Jeffrey Field hosted an astounding 4,052 fans, the most to attend a Penn State soccer match since August 31, 2012.

"How special is it for them to come back and see 4,000 people in the stands and this kind of atmosphere and this kind of quality soccer and this kind of field," Warming said. "I'm just so happy."

2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Akron

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' home-opener against Akron in Beaver Stadium.