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VIDEO: Michigan Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUSports.com talks with Derek Dowrey and Brandon Smith, catching up on the season and previewing the Big Ten opener at Michigan Saturday. 

Brandon Smith

Derek Dowrey

Monday Notebook: Godwin Highlights Temple Victory

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has showcased some serious depth at the wide receiver position this season, with five different receivers combining for 10-of-14 long yardage pass plays on the year.

Last week, it was junior Chris Godwin's turn as he stepped up to lead the Nittany Lions with seven catches for 117 yards, notching his seventh career 100-yard receiving game. 

Godwin highlighted the Temple game with a 52-yard grab in the first quarter to put Penn State on the board early, finishing with three of his seven receptions for at least 16 yards. His seven catches also moved him to 10th all-time on the Penn State career receptions list (112).  

Godwin enters the week leading the team with 73.3 yards receiving per game, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten standings. Averaging 6.0 receptions on the year, he's also ranked second in the conference and 30th nationally among DI FBS programs.

Heading into the 2016 campaign, expectations were high for the 1,000-yard receiver, who was named to both the Maxwell Award and Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch Lists prior to the start of the season.

Godwin had been relatively quiet in the first two games totaling 11 catches for 113 yards. Despite opening the year with a 26-yard reception in the first quarter against Kent State to put the Nittany Lions in position for their first touchdown of the year, Godwin is simply among a deep group of talented options.

Last week, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis acknowledged that dealing with six or seven offensive possibilities has meant that he's asked the team to be unselfish in how they approach a newly installed offensive scheme.

A selfless mentality just makes it all the more exciting when No. 12 is called though.

"Anytime you can get in the end zone is a blessing," Godwin said following his team-high performance against Temple. "Just the fact that it was my time was a great feeling. With the offense that we have, anyone can score at any given moment. It's just a matter of being patient, working on technique and waiting for your turn."

New Faces
Head coach James Franklin noted that he was pleased to see different faces making contributions last week. With injuries taking their toll, Penn State saw career-high efforts from linebackers Brandon Smith (eight tackles, 0.5 TFL) and Manny Bowen, who collected his first career sack in the second quarter. Other new faces included defensive end Torrence Brown, who earned his first career start against the Owls and combined with defensive tackle Robert Windsor for a sack in the fourth quarter. 

Still Perfect
Penn State place kicker Tyler Davis has not missed either a field goal attempt or a PAT kick this year, extending his career combined total (field goals and PATs) to 35-for-35. Having made two field goals in the win against Temple, Davis is among 18 DI FBS players to have a perfect 1.000 percentage on the year. Davis, who did not play a single snap of football during his high school career, took over place kicking responsibilities late last year. 

A few notes on Michigan
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned earlier this afternoon that Penn State's offense presented an opportunity to change things up, specifically noting that the Nittany Lions have both a very good quarterback and a very good running back. 

There's really no question as to who his was referring to, as quarterback Trace McSorley enters the week leading the Big Ten in passing yards. Running back Saquon Barkley also ranks first in the conference in scoring (14.0), having secured the win against the Owls with a career-long 55-yard scoring run.

At 3-0 on the year, Michigan enters the first week of Big Ten play ranked fourth in the AP poll and fifth in the coaches' edition. Among leaders for the Wolverines, Jabril Peppers stands out, having earned Big Ten Special Teams and Co-Defensive Player of the Week awards this week. 

"There's not another player like him - I know there's never been another player like him that I've coached," Harbaugh said. "The unique thing about him is all the positions that he can play, if you start counting them it would be safety, corner, nickel, outside linebacker, flat receiver, wildcat quarterback, running back, kick returner, punt returner, hold up - that's 11 or 12 right there and I know there's others he could do and do well."

Penn State travels to Michigan to take on the Wolverines Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. live on ABC.

Balance Improves as Penn State Heads Toward Big Ten Play

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9440242.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. -Penn State women's volleyball teams have always had standouts. As one of the most storied programs in collegiate volleyball, the Nittany Lions have developed some of the nation's top talent in the game. This year's Penn State team is not without standouts, but if this past weekend is any indication, a balanced attack might be the best way for Penn State to find success.

The Nittany Lions swept the Penn State Invitational, playing some of their better volleyball this season on the way to straight set victories against Rhode Island, Howard and Clemson. Led by a balance of offensive fire power in all three matches, Penn State had at least two Nittany Lions with seven or more kills. In two matches (Clemson, Howard), the Nittany Lions had at least three with seven or more kills.

"When it comes to offense, we really wanted to move the ball around," setter Abby Detering said after Friday's match. "Simone [Lee] has been fantastic for us but we have so many good hitters that we don't lose much if we spread it around. That's my mentality going in to the games, is to try to open up and spread the ball around."

Lee has been the focal point of the Penn State offense throughout the first four weeks of the season, but the past couple of weeks, the emphasis on getting multiple arms involved has paid dividends for Penn State.

"I think Haleigh [Washington] and Heidi Thelen had a great match," head coach Russ Rose said after Saturday's match against Clemson. "Heidi has been taking some good swings and Haleigh had a very efficient match."

Thelen, a middle converted to right side, had 21 kills on .447 hitting in three matches this weekend, swinging with authority. Washington had 27 kills for the Nittany Lions and recorded a .610 hitting clip across the tournament.

The added emphasis on a balanced attack has fueled an early season rejuvenation for the Nittany Lions. After starting the season 2-3, the Nittany Lions regrouped with six straight wins. It hasn't just been the result that has been positive, but the energy and continued improvement from Penn State has been a breath of fresh air as well.

"I thought the crowd was great and we had very good energy," Rose said following Saturday's match. "When we were 2-3 I didn't know how ready we would be to head into Big Ten play, but were playing better and we feel better about the way we have been playing. I'm pleased with where we are right now." 

The Big Ten regular season will come in a hurry for Penn State as they have just a few days of rest before heading to Rutgers for their first conference match up. Though Penn State has improved, by the same token, the Big Ten will present a whole new challenge in terms of competition.

"We like where we are, but we can be better," Rose said. "I think the players understand that and want to be better as well."

With Big Ten play, comes a gauntlet of eight teams teams ranked in the top 25 nationally, including Penn State. Historically one of the best conferences in collegiate women's volleyball, Penn State will have to dig deep in the upcoming months.

"For the next 10 weeks we play two games a week that hold the same weight," said Rose. "It will be tough but we like where we are."

Penn State travels to Rutgers Wednesday, Sept. 21 with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m. in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Rizzo Prepares for USA Junior National Team Debut

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

Penn State goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo has been selected to the United States U21 junior national team and the one person she has to thank is her fourth grade gym teacher.

"I actually never knew what field hockey was until I came to Pennsylvania." Rizzo said. "I grew up in Long Island, New York and they didn't have much of that out there. My gym teacher in fourth grade was the coach at the high school level.  We used to play in gym class and she really thought I had potential.  She told me to come out to their camps, so I started going to camp. There was just something about hitting the ball with the stick that was just really fun for me." 

Rizzo decided to join a local field hockey team and played all the way through high school, but it was not until her sophomore year that she became a goalie.

She had been a right midfielder since she began playing the sport, but her high school team needed a goalkeeper and Rizzo was the answer.

"My coach told me they needed a goalie and she thought I was pretty athletic and that I would be able to do it," Rizzo said. "I was definitely nervous to transition into the goalie position because I didn't know if it was the right decision since I knew I wanted to play at a college level. I never had a desire to have balls hit at me, but I started playing and I really enjoyed being in the cage." 

It is safe to say that she made the right decision. 

Because of her switch in positions, Rizzo has now secured her spot to compete in the 2016 Field Hockey World Cup in Chile at the end of November, but the process was not easy. 

"USA Field Hockey has a program called 'High Performance' so every year around May, any college student who is under 21 years old can try out for the team," Rizzo said. "You go to High Performance locations throughout the country and there's East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and some down south.  You just train with the people in your area."

Rizzo started in May at Drexel University. After spending some time there, her Drexel coach selected multiple athletes who stood out and sent them to a young women's High Performance tournament at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pennsylvania at the end of June. From there, the U21 junior national team head coach, Janneke Schopman, watches each game and chooses the girls she thinks are the best to go to a junior national camp to then be selected for the national team.

"There's definitely more pressure with [Schopman watching] than a collegiate game," Rizzo said. "I know she saw a lot of my clips through video, so I didn't even know she was watching for some of them. So, I am kind of glad about that, but at the same time the added pressure kind of makes me play better."

After being selected by Schopman to attend the junior national camp, Rizzo had the opportunity to compete against India's Olympic field hockey team before they left for Rio this past July.

"It was really cool. They were phenomenal," Rizzo said. "We just went into it just thinking we are going to grow from this no matter what happens.  It was really cool to be put under that much pressure and we really played well against them considering they were an Olympic team.  We followed them in the Olympics the whole way." 

At the conclusion of her final training camp, Rizzo still did not know if she had landed a spot on her dream team. 

"I got an email from Janneke before [Rizzo] knew," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "So I called [Rizzo] and asked how it was going and she said everything was good and I just told her that I knew she made the team. She was so excited. I think they selected 12 and then were going to select another six, but she was in the top group right from the start. "

"It's pretty awesome to be selected," Rizzo said. "It's always been an aspiration of mine to play at an international level, so it was pretty rewarding."

With her Penn State season underway, Rizzo had one final training camp with her national team two weekends ago. She left after a game to go to Spooky Nook that evening and missed class on Monday and Tuesday. But, this balancing act has never been a problem for the sophomore.

"She just does a great job getting ahead in classes. She's always prepared," Morett-Curtiss said. "She went away last year to Trinidad and Tobago for a tournament and she had to miss a week of classes, she had to submit reports to our faculty advisor who wasn't really keen on her going because it was a lot of missed class time, but she checks in with her professors and stays on top of her academics. She's the prototype of being a student athlete." 

Rizzo leaves for Chile with the U21 junior national team November 21, but until then, her focus is winning a national championship with her fellow Nittany Lions.

Smith Makes the Most of Temple Opportunity

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Postgame media sessions at Beaver Stadium typically hum along with questions from the flurry of individual interviews prompting familiar names like Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkey and Chris Godwin. This week, a new name emerged from the Beaver Stadium media room following Penn State's 34-27 win against Temple.

Brandon Smith.

Just a little more than an hour drive from Beaver Stadium, a standout linebacker and running back from Lewisburg Area High School turned away offers from prestigious institutions like Penn and Princeton to pursue his Penn State Football dream.

Before Saturday, Smith's career stat line included appearances in five games, three contests in 2015, including one tackle against Illinois. Smith did not see any playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and was a member of the scout team as a walk-on true freshman in 2013. On pace to graduate in December, the kinesiology major and Dean's List student currently carries a 3.77 cumulative GPA.

Saturday afternoon, nearly every player in the media room, including head coach James Franklin, had something to say about the bold and brave performance from the Penn State walk-on from Winfield, Pennsylvania, who had just recently earned a scholarship.

In front of more than 100,000 fans in the "Stripe Out" crowd at Beaver Stadium, he stepped in the game at middle linebacker for starter Nyeem-Wartman White, who departed the game in the first half with an injury. 

"Coach told me to be ready to play," Smith said. 

Smith embraced every sense of the familiar "next man up" phrase he had surely heard all week, with the Nittany Lions already dealing with the loss of starting linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell to injury.

Still, he rose to the occasion, stopping Temple running back Jahad Thomas, a 1,000-yard rusher, midway through the second quarter to match his career-high one tackle mark. Smith wasn't done though, as he registered seven more tackles in the second half, pairing up with Torrence Brown for his first tackle for loss, bringing down Temple quarterback Phillip Walker for a 1-yard loss in the fourth quarter.

"I thought it might be for a couple of series to give Nyeem Wartman-White a break," Smith said. "I didn't really know what to expect but I was preparing mentally and physically for the game because you never know what's going to happen and you have to be ready when your number is called."

When No. 47 was called, Smith made the most of the big opportunity he'd been preparing for his entire career, delivering and communicating calls without missing a beat, despite having little to no experience in practice with the first team.

"Brandon comes to work every single day," defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. "He's a guy that I've always looked up to and tried to follow because his work ethic is unbelievable. He's always ready to go. His number got called today and he came out and had a great game."

Franklin awarded Smith one more opportunity postgame, letting him break the team down at the end of the Nittany Lion locker room talk.

Smith's focus was family.

"There's nothing like being a part of a football team," Smith said. "We spend all our time together and I broke it down on family tonight, because that's the way I feel about these guys and we feel about each other. We're here together, we spend about 345 days out of the year together and it's just been an awesome experience."


VIDEO: Postgame Players One-on-One - Temple

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com spent time with several Nittany Lions in exclusive interviews with Mike Gesicki, Chris Godwin, Trace McSorley, Brandon Smith and Marcus Allen.

VIDEO: Postgame One-on-One with Coach Franklin - Temple

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following Penn State's 34-27 win against Temple Saturday at Beaver Stadium. 

2016 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Temple

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome back to our live, interactive coverage of the Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions are back at Beaver Stadium this week, wrapping up the non-conference slate with a Stripe Out matchup against Temple.


Live Blog Penn State vs. Temple
 

Kendall White Brings Experience to the Back Row

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By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman Kendall White never really thought about playing volleyball when she was younger. She thought she was too short in comparison to the other players on the court. However, that all changed when her older sister, Sloane White, got recruited to play volleyball.

"My older sister played volleyball at College of Charleston in South Carolina," White said. "She's a lot taller than me, so when she was about 12, she was recruited to play volleyball and I went to all of her tournaments. I started playing volleyball because of her when I was eight years old and just fell in love with it from there."

Ever since the 5-foot-five freshman stepped on to the volleyball court for the first time, she has been making a name for herself on each court she's ever played on. During her four years of high school at Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana, she was a four-year letterwinner and concluded her career with a school-record 1,546 digs. She led the Fighting Irish to a 36-0 record as well as the Class 4A state championship in her senior year as the team's libero and captain. This was the first Indiana 4A team to have an undefeated season. In addition, in 2015-16, she was selected as the Indy Star Player of the Year, Cathedral's High School Female Athlete of the Year and Indiana's volleyball Gatorade State Player of the Year.

"My high school season was amazing," White said. "They helped me so much going into [Penn State's] team because that was probably the best team as a unit I have ever been part of. We were all so happy together and we used each other's personalities differently and each other's strengths so when someone was messing up, someone would rise to the occasion. That's helping me a lot here because that's exactly what the team needs - we need people to rise to the occasion when other people aren't rising to the occasion. We need to work on team unity. We all love each other so much on this team, and we're all really good friends, and I think it's awesome. I think we can develop our team unity like that team did, and we can fight back in games and tough situations and just move on to grow as a team." 

The Nittany Lions are only eight matches into the season, but White has already started to become a staple in the back-row for Penn State as she wears the opposite colored-jersey in each match as the starting libero. In the season-opener, White made a phenomenal collegiate debut, leading the team with 16 digs against West Virginia. 

"You'd think it would be overwhelming at [Rec Hall], but with all the people in there, I loved it," White said. "I absorbed the energy. I thought it was amazing. I thought the crowd and cheering made me want to perform better and being surrounded by all my teammates...It was awesome -  I enjoyed it so much." 

This season, she already leads the team with 106 digs and recorded a career-high of 22 digs in the match against Stanford. Even though White holds a smart court presence, she believes that she still has a lot to work on for this season.

"I want to do whatever is possible for the team in order to win," White said. "I'm going to go out there no matter if I'm playing bad or if I'm playing well to make sure I keep the energy high and help the team through attitude because I think we can use that no matter what the situation is. Specifically, I just want to work hard on defense and be the top defender this weekend, hopefully, and the season, but I have to get better in order to do that."

None of this would have been possible without the help of her teammates, especially the upperclassmen. They're there for her 100 percent of the time, and they're all constantly helping all the freshman get adjusted to not only the volleyball court, but also to classes, the professors, campus and everything else.

"I like playing with Kendall a lot," junior Lainy Pierce said. "She's taken up a huge role as a freshman and I think she's carrying herself really well and playing a really good game right now...She really cares about this program, and would do anything for it. I think she's a true leader."

Besides being a defensive specialist for Penn State, White is known to her teammates for her bubbly personality, which helps the team in many ways on the court.

"I think Kendall is really loud, and that's kind of her tone," Pierce said. "She's not afraid to speak her mind, which is great to have somebody like that on the court, but she also knows where she stands and who she is on the team, and we need a leader like that this year."

Outside of volleyball, White loves to use her energy by talking, hanging out with friends and meeting new people. When she has time to herself, she's binge watching "Gossip Girl" on Netflix, and when the season is over, White plans to volunteer at a nursing home like she did in high school.

"My grandma used to be at a nursing home, and I loved visiting her. I love helping elderly people and being around them, so that's definitely something I want to do in my future," White said. 

But right now, White's focus is on Penn State volleyball, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"[My experience] has been great," White said. "The girls are amazing and the level of competition that we play at is awesome. It's exactly what I wanted an exactly what I came here for. I love it."

Freshman Feature: Sucese Brings the Consistency

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Hailing from Fairport, New York, a suburb of Rochester, freshman forward Nate Sucese grew up immersed in the world of hockey. Born in Buffalo, Sucese has been on skates and playing hockey since he was three years old.

By spending his childhood near Rochester, Sucese had endless places to find on-ice inspiration. 

Rochester is home to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and an hour away in Buffalo, are the Sabres of the National Hockey League.

"We have several teams in western New York," Sucese said. "Hockey is huge and I'm a huge Sabres fan."

The Sabres connection in Hockey Valley is obviously strong. Terry Pegula, a Penn State graduate and his wife Kim, are the owners of the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans and donated the money to build the ice arena on campus that bears their name.

Sucese named Ryan O'Reilly as his favorite player on the Sabres, and explained that he tries to model his own playing style after the fellow forward. He admires O'Reilly's knack for making big plays, his stability on the ice, and the effort he puts towards work in the defensive zone. Another player who has had a lot of influence on Sucese's playing style is Tyler Ennis. 

This season, Sucese will be wearing the No. 14 sweater, a number that has carried him through Junior hockey. The number is extremely important to Sucese, who explained he picked the number as a young player because it was the number his older brother Jonathan wore. Jonathan played four years of collegiate hockey at SUNY Geneseo, graduating in 2014.

Sucese, prior to enrolling at Penn State, played the previous two seasons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL.

During the 2014-15 season, Sucese played in 51 games with the Saints where he scored 12 goals and had 17 assists. 

His final season in Dubuque, Sucese was named an alternate captain and played in 72 games, including playoffs, finding the back of the net 30 times. He led the team in regular season goals (26) and assists (33).

Describing himself as a fast player who likes to shoot the puck, Sucese is looking forward to playing for a team that emphasizes putting the puck on net with incredible volume.

Sucese is also excited for the opportunity to possibly play on the same line as fellow New York native, sophomore Andrew Sturtz.

"We play a similar style," Sucese said. "But I think he has a little more grit than I do, he's a character."

Sucese said he and Sturtz have become great friends due to their hometown backgrounds and off-ice interests. When not working out or in the classroom, Sucese said most of the time he and Sturtz are catching up on the latest shows on Netflix. 

What are their favorite shows to watch? 

"Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill," Sucese said. "Sturtz loves them and I know a bunch of the other guys have watched them." 
 
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