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Monday Notebook: Nittany Lion Defense Off and Running

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10359507.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense played its most complete game of the season against UMass on Saturday, but the story from the first month of football in 2014 has been the standout play from the Nittany Lion defense.

Penn State (4-0) will take a great deal of momentum on the defensive side of the ball into Saturday's Homecoming clash against Northwestern (1-2).

The outstanding start to the season on the defensive side of the ball begins with Penn State's ability to stop the run. The Lions lead the nation in rushing defense at 49.5 yards per game. UMass had just three rushing yards on Saturday.

"I think our D-line has been playing really well all year," said head coach James Franklin. "The fact that we're able to make teams one-dimensional is huge on defense."

In addition to leading the nation in rushing defense, the Nittany Lions rank sixth in scoring defense (11.0 ppg) and 10th in total defense (270.8 ypg). In the past 12 quarters of football, Penn State has allowed just two offensive touchdowns. Collectively, the Nittany Lions have yielded 12.38 rushing yards per quarter during the 2014 season.

The Lions have also been strong on defense in the red zone. Opponents are scoring at a 63.6 percent rate on red zone visits, which ranks eighth in the country.

Penn State is one of 25 teams unbeaten in the FBS after four weeks of football.

Saturday's game marks the final contest in a string of five-straight weeks of games.

Lions in the Stat Rankings
In addition to the defensive stat rankings, several Nittany Lions are 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 eighth in the nation in passing yards (1,261) and 13th in the nation in passing yards per game (315.3 ypg). He leads the Big Ten in both of those categories.

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks seventh in the nation in receiving yards and tops the Big Ten with 462 on the season. He is 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten with 115.5 yards per game.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 14th nationally (second in the Big Ten) in receiving yards with 402. He ranks 13th in the nation and first in the Big Ten with 7.5 receptions per game.

DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel leads the Big Ten and is 12th in the nation with 1.8 tackles for loss per game.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is ninth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the victory over UMass.

99,155 - Saturday's attendance (99,155) was the largest figure for a non-conference home game since 2011 (Alabama).

228 - The Nittany Lions entered Saturday's game with 227 rushing yards on the season. The Lions rushed for 228 yards on Saturday, alone.

207 - Kicker Sam Ficken now has 207 career points. He is the 11th player in school history to have scored at least 200 points.

198 - Through four games, Penn State has allowed a total of 198 rushing yards.

48 - The Nittany Lions scored 48 points on Saturday, marking their most since 52 against Eastern Illinois in 2009.

46 - Akeel Lynch's 46-yard rush during the first quarter was the longest of his career and the longest for Penn State this season.

20 - Penn State has outscored its opponents by a margin of 20-0 during the first quarter this season.

8 - Penn State scored on eight-straight possessions during the UMass game, stretching from the first quarter to the third quarter.

7 - Punter Daniel Pasquariello became the seventh true freshman to play for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

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

UMass Extended Game Highlights

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Notch Four Wins at Alumni Classic

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10358855.jpegBy Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 3 Penn State women's volleyball (12-1) wrapped up its non-conference portion of the 2014 season after capturing the Penn State Alumni Classic title with a straight-set victory (25-11, 25-17, 25-10) against East Carolina (6-2) Saturday night.

Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney earned the Penn State Alumni Classic MVP honors for her excellent offense and defensive performances throughout the weekend. She tallied a .722 hitting percentage against UIC (5-9) and .667 hitting percentage against DePaul (2-8) and EIU (5-6). She also recorded her second double-digit kill performance of the season in a win against Illinois-Chicago with 13 kills. Senior Dominique Gonzalez also joined her on the all-tournament team.

"Aiyana had a great weekend attacking," said head coach Russ Rose. "Dom had a good weekend passing and playing defense."

Head coach Russ Rose is now in first place on the all-time DI NCAA wins list with 1,137 wins after passing current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji.

Penn State vs. Eastern Illinois
The Nittany Lions opened up the tournament with a straight set victory (25-10, 25-9, 25-17) against EIU Friday afternoon.

Senior Nia Grant led the offense with 10 kills and a .625 hitting percentage. Grant also recorded a team-high of five blocks for the match. Freshman Simone Lee tied with Grant in recording 10 kills and helped the team defensively with three blocks.

Junior Megan Courtney and Whitney each finished with seven kills for the night. Courtney tied alongside with senior Micha Hancock with ten digs apiece.

Penn State started the game with an early advantage of 11-4 and though EIU came back with a kill, Penn State scored five unanswered points. The Nittany Lions continued their surge and ended up with a 25-10 win.

The momentum continued into the second set with another early advantage of 5-2, but the Panthers were no match for the Penn State as they extend their lead to 17-3. Courtney scored the set point with a kill and ends the set at 25-9.

The Nittany Lions continued their rhythm into the final set by gaining an eight-point lead to make it 12-4. The Panthers closed to within four at 19-15, but Penn State regrouped with a six-point streak to earn a 25-17 win to complete the sweep.

Penn State vs. DePaul
Penn State improved to 2-0 in the Alumni Classic with a straight-set victory (25-8, 25-10, 25-13) against DePaul Friday evening.

Freshmen Ali Frantii led the team with nine kills on .571 hitting and Whitney and Courtney were close behind with six kills apiece. Whitney had three blocks, which was the most for the entire team. She also earned a career-high of two aces.

Hancock and Gonzalez finished with six digs each.

The Nittany Lions went up 16-4 in the opening set to create a safe lead for themselves. DePaul trimmed the lead down to 10, Penn State ended DePaul's brief surge and went on a 7-0 run to win 25-8 in the first set.

Penn State opened the second set with a six-point advantage and went on to claim set two, 25-10.

Penn State finished off the match with a 25-13 win by creating an 11-point advantage mid-way through the set.

Penn State vs. Illinois-Chicago
Penn State went 3-0 in the Alumni Classic with a straight-set victory (25-18, 25-13, 25-16) over Illinois-Chicago.

Whitney had superb match with a double-digit kill performance of 13 kills on .722 hitting percentage. Courtney had nine kills and six digs. Grant and freshmen Haleigh Washington and Simone Lee finished the match with seven kills each.

Penn State started with a one-point lead, but spurted ahead to earn 15-11. The Lions didn't look back from there en route to a 25-16 set victory.

Instead of repeating the first set, the Nittany Lions started the second set with an early 12-4 score. From there, UIC never got within 10 points and Penn State won the second set, 25-13.

The Nittany Lions and Flames opened the third in a tight fashion. Penn State used a run to claim a 9-6 edge. The Lions never looked back from there on their way to a 25-16 victory to close out the match.

Penn State vs. Eastern Carolina
Penn State captured the Penn State Alumni Classic title with another straight-set victory (25-11, 25-17, 25-10) against Eastern Carolina after the raising of the 2013 NCAA national championship banner.

Frantii and Courtney led the offense with 10 kills apiece, and Washington, Grant, and Whitney each earned seven kills. Gonzalez ended the night with a team-high of five digs and Hancock finished with a standout performance of 33 assists, four digs, and a season-high of eight aces.

"Micha came out of the gate and served really well," said head coach Rose. "I think that really set the tone for most of the night."

Penn State started the match with a 6-1 lead and eventually won the set, 25-11, as Hancock delivered an ace.

The Pirates started the second set off with a 5-1 lead, but a service error led to a big swing in momentum before the Lions roared to a 25-17 win.

The Nittany Lions finished their final set of the weekend with 25-10 win.

Penn State will begin their conference portion of the schedule at No.4 Wisconsin in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA national finals on Wednesday at 7:40 p.m.

One Volleyball Family

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10358795.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Prior to any sporting event, the coaches shake hands. But in Rec Hall this weekend, that was not the proper etiquette.

Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose greeted each of the opposing coaches with a hug, like he was welcoming a family member. And that's because he was.

Fourteen former members of the Penn State women's volleyball family returned to Rec Hall to be honored at this weekend's Penn State Alumni Classic as part of the 50 years of Women in Sport celebration.

Four of these women were on the opposite side of the net this weekend, coaching teams of their own. Eastern Illinois, coached by former outside hitter Kate Price, fell to the Nittany Lions in straight sets on Friday night. Price said she was happy to be back in Happy Valley, but playing against the Nittany Lions was tough.

"The cool thing about being a Penn State player is that you walk on the court and you have the confidence. You know you're going to walk out with a win," Price said. "Coming in and playing against Penn State is just the opposite feeling."

Three other coaches, DePaul's Nadia Edwards (2001), UIC's Katie Schumacher-Cawley (2002) and East Carolina's Julie Torbett (1990) were also a part of the tournament.

In between the second and third sets of the evening matches this weekend, the fourteen former players were honored, celebrated and greeted with a standing ovation and a roaring crowd.

"It's awesome to be back. It's awesome to see our home fans," Price said.

Rose has seen these former players grow from to college stars to college coaches. He's also watched them grow as players, students, coaches and as women.

For current players, meeting the women who left behind the legacy that they are playing for is second to none. They are the women who started the traditions and rituals that the team still has.

Sophomore Laura Broerman said it's great to meet the pioneers of this program and the players that created the team's traditions.

"We are a program based a lot in tradition. Almost everything we do before games and in the middle of games is all tradition," Broerman said. "It's cool to see the girls who started the tradition of winning and everything else we do."

The Penn State women's volleyball team began in 1976. In those 38 years, six national championships have been won, countless individual accolades have been earned awarded, and history has been made. This weekend was a celebration of the program's rich history and those who made Penn State women's volleyball into what it is today.

Rose said it was special to see the individuals who have shaped this program.

"So many of those guys had great experiences here. Their pictures are all over the walls for multiple All-American awards," Rose said.

In 32 out of Rose's 33 seasons coached, there has been at least one All-American on the team. While the players may have been stars individually, as a program, they shined even brighter.

The team has made it to the NCAA tournament every year since the tournament began in 1981. After the 2013 season, the Nittany Lions have won 16 conference titles to go along with the six national titles.

The program's history is rich with great players who turned into great coaches and teammates who turned into family.

"It's a family. Whether or not you played with any of the players, it's one family. You gotta love it," Price said.

The Nittany Lions went 4-0 on the weekend. Up next for the team is a trip to Wisconsin on Wednesday to kick off conference play. 

Offense Looking to Build on Strong Outing vs. UMass

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10356689.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass | VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering Saturday's game against UMass, the Nittany Lion offense had tallied 227 rushing yards during the 3-0 start to the season.

Yes, the Lions were pleased with victories during the first three weeks of the season, but the offensive unit knew it needed to take another step forward to become the offense it wants to be in 2014.

Thanks to another tremendous performance from the Penn State defense, the Nittany Lion offense found another gear on Saturday afternoon in a 48-7 route of the Minutemen. Penn State rushed for 228 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground in the unit's most complete performance thus far in 2014.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's great to establish a running game and be able to make some plays with multiple backs and multiple people," said head coach James Franklin. "I don't know what our total yardage was, but we were able to be balanced. We were able to take some pressure off of [Christian Hackenberg], which is great."

A focused week on the practice field fueled the offensive line's effort on a day where the running back trio of Bill Belton (two), Zach Zwinak (two) and Akeel Lynch each visited the end zone.

"We were working hard for a long time and when you keep working and working and working the success is going to come," said Belton. "We just continued to go out there and work hard each day and we came today to show what we've been working on all week."

Penn State's big afternoon on the ground was a collective effort from each member of the offense.

"First, it is definitely a full team effort," freshman tackle Andrew Nelson said. "I think the line played better than we usually do but it takes the entire offense to do well. All practice long we have been stressing the run game and throwing the ball when we had to throw it. I think all week in practice Coach Hand was just really stressing that we would get better this week and I think we did."

Lynch kick-started the strong ground day with a 46-yard burst off the right side of the line. The junior led the rushing attack with a stellar 10.1-yard average on eight carries. Lynch finished with 81 yards, which included a 15-yard touchdown run mid-way through the third quarter.

"It's a stepping-stone for all of us. As you see, we did well with more than 200 yards as a group," Lynch said. "It's always good to have that as a stepping stone into the next game."

Following a stand from the defense on a fourth-down play at the start of the second quarter, Belton capped off an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run to put the Lions up 13-0. Linebacker Mike Hull forced a fumble on next UMass possession, which put the Nittany Lion offense in a great position to strike again.

Belton, who finished the day with 76 yards, scampered 20 yards for a score to make it a 20-0 lead. Belton's two rushing touchdowns ignited Penn State's first 28-point quarter since the 2009 season. The Nittany Lions had 134 yards on the ground in the second quarter alone.

"It was the focal point for us all week at practice," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "It has been the theme for us and just being able to get that going and get those guys clicking was really good. It was really good hearing the offensive line making calls and making the right calls and getting everything going in the right direction to be able to some of those runs off."

With the Northwestern game on the horizon, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build on following a strong team effort in a dominant performance against UMass.

"I think it definitely helps us confidence wise because we knew what kind of line we could be but we just weren't executing," said Nelson. "Today we executed it and it showed us that we can be the guys that we want to be."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

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VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Interview with Coach Franklin - UMass

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass. Penn State moves to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2008.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Miranda Kulp, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Under the Friday night lights at Jeffery field, the Penn State women's soccer team hosted its first Big Ten match of the season against rivals Ohio State.

The Lions started the match off with aggressive plays right away. Within the first two minutes of the game, Mallory Weber crossed over to Frannie Crouse for the first goal of the night.

Crouse's opening goal was one of five for the Lions, the final 5-1 scoring adding to their perfect home record.

"These guys are on a mission and they're playing like they have something to prove," said head coach Erica Walsh.

Returning from two weekends on the road, the team made sure to keep the pressure on Ohio State with consistent attacks on goal and sharp defense.

"Anytime we get the chance to play Ohio State at Jeffery Field, it's going to be a good night for us," said Walsh. "We came out hard and we came out strong."

The team took a total of 15 shots, making it one of their most offensive games yet of the season.

Freshman forward Frannie Crouse was one of the players who kept the pressure on the Buckeyes. Not only did she start the game off with a goal, she scored her second goal of the night early in the second half on a breakaway.

One of eleven freshman on the team this year, she is already a key player on the team's offense.

"I take it as the entire team doing their job," Crouse said. "I give all my credit to them since they've made my transition so easy."

She already scored four goals this season. Although this is her first year playing on Jeffery Field, she is a standout player.

"I think Frannie Crouse is the real deal. She's going to be a great leader for us," said Walsh.

Crouse is the kind of player who gives her all whenever she plays. With her speed and drive, she sets the standards for the team's aggression during any match.

"Scoring right away is such a great feeling. It gets the entire team excited and keeps you motivated," said Crouse.

Another player who led the way for the Lions' win was Salina Williford.

As a returning sophomore, Williford is continuing to help the Lions win. She is a midfielder and forward for the team that keeps the team motivated regardless of where she is playing.

During the first half, Williford scored her first career goal. She got the ball off of a turnover and kicked it perfectly in the net, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead in the first half.

After taking 17 shots so far this season, Williford proved her determination to score.

"It was such a great feeling seeing the ball go into the net," Williford said. "I've come so close to making a goal so it was great being able to score."

In the beginning of the second half, Ohio State scored from a scramble in front of the net. Frustrated and determined for a win, the Lions responded with a goal from senior defender Whitney Church.

Her first goal of the season, Church gave the Lions their two goal lead back and the team's momentum for the second half.

Nearing the end of regulation, Echard crossed the ball to Rodriguez for a goal to secure the Lions' 5-1 victory.

With its third Big Ten win of the season, the team is keeping focused as they move through the schedule. Said Walsh, "We have big hopes and high aspirations for this season."

2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. The Nittany Lions face UMass inside Beaver Stadium, today, in the fourth game on the schedule.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Massachusetts

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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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' matchup against UMass in Beaver Stadium.

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Tenacity, Focus at Root of Rodden's Success

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10326919.jpegBy Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every weekday afternoon she enters the Penn State Multi-Sport Facility for practice. She is driven. She is quiet. She is sharp. She is ready.

Senior Katie Rodden is in the midst of her final season with the Penn State women's cross country team but with the NCAA Championships still about two months away, she is not ready to say good-bye to the Blue and White or running quite yet.

Rodden has been a runner her entire life.

"I started running in the fourth grade," Rodden said. "In the seventh grade, I was [still] running long distance and that's how it all started."

"In high school, I was one of the only ones on my team that was really into running," Rodden added. "The best part about Penn State is that everyone is into it too. We run seven days a week and at any time, I can find someone to run with."

It's evident in her performance: She is driven.

In 2013, she finished in the top 25 for both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championships, she was just shy of all-region status at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, and she earned national experience as an alternate on the Nittany Lions' NCAA-qualifying group.

She is sharp.

The Ardmore, Pennslyvania, native is an exemplary student. She maintains a stellar 4.0 grade-point average, she has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, and she was a finalist for the NCAA Elite 89 Award.

The Elite 89 award is the NCAA's way of student-athletes who have reached a pinnacle in his or her competitive sport as well as in the classroom. The award is given to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average competing in any of the NCAA's 89 championships.

"I feel like I'm just like any other person," she said. "If you work hard, it will all fall into place."

Rodden juggles running 70-75 miles per week and six days per week of practice. She is finishing up a kinesiology major, she is a member of in the Athletic Director's Leadership Institute, and she has a research job for Penn State's Noll Laboratory.

"I do work pretty hard. I guess I don't have the most fun social life ever but I enjoy doing well academically and athletically," she said.

She is ready.

Come November, when the Penn State cross country regular season has come to an end, Rodden will be well on her way to yet another finish line - her collegiate career.

"Honestly, I try not to think about it being over," she said. "I love it here and I'm really going to miss it,"

She has aspirations of attending medical school after her time at Penn State has expired.

"I've applied to [medical] schools and I'm just waiting for hear back," Rodden said. "I want to something with sports medicine or orthopedics."

Through all of it, the academic honors, the medical school applications, the research projects, running will always be a part of her.

"This is something that I'm just naturally good at and I definitely I can't see myself just stopping," she said. "Maybe [after college] I'll get into marathons."