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Hoops Notebook: Huge Second Half Fuels Lions

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10578404.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Patrick Chambers normally enters the locker room at halftime with a handful of things he wants to see out of the Nittany Lions in the second half.

Down 45-32 at the break against hot-shooting Akron in the BJC on Tuesday night, he only needed to say one thing to the team at the break. It was a crystal clear message to the Nittany Lions. And it was a message the group took to heart.

"We always like to give them five things that they need to adjust or work on and we didn't need five," Chambers said. "They (Akron) shot 60-percent from two and 42-percent from three, we were throwing the ball all over the place, we were walking around and there was no energy or juice, so sometimes it just comes down to wearing the jersey. Taking pride in wearing the jersey, taking pride in everything we've been through here the last three and a half years. At some point that has to come out, there has got to be a fire in those bellies in that locker room that's tired of it and I think that's what you saw in the second half."

Penn State roared out of the halftime break with a game-altering 16-0 run in the opening 6:55. Ross Travis ignited the surge with a dunk on the opening possession of the half, and the Nittany Lions never looked back in a thrilling 78-72 win over the Zips. Penn State shot 64 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes and held Akron to just 21 percent shooting. The Nittany Lions played with a purpose and were not going to be denied.

"We're tough to play for 40 minutes," said senior D.J. Newbill. "The first half was over. Coach always says, forget what happened in the first half, we have another half to play basketball. Coach made some adjustments in the lineup. He made some defensive adjustments and we went zone in the second half. That helped, because their cuts were getting shots. We came out hitting and getting stops. The stops led to easy offense, which we weren't getting in the first half."

Newbill a Model of Efficiency
Newbill's efforts in Penn State's first six games of 2014-'15 have been nothing short of stellar. The senior guard is averaging 24.5 points per game, which leads the Big Ten. But what's more impressive than Newbill's scoring is how efficient he has been. The Philadelphia native is shooting 49 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc, 84 percent from the foul line, and he is averaging 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Newbill has been as clutch as he has been efficient, as well. He scored 15 of his game-high 29 tallies against Akron in the final 11:35 of the ballgame. What stands out most to Coach Chambers is Newbill's unselfishness and ability to make those around him better.

Taylor Steps Up

Tuesday night's game may not have been junior Brandon Taylor's best shooting night, but it's hard to remember a bigger sequence of shots in the forward's Nittany Lion career than his back-to-back threes in the second half on Tuesday. Taylor's consecutive triples handed the Lions their first lead in the second half and played a huge role in the dynamic of the game. He finished with 14 points and seven boards.

"Yes, he got hot at the right time. He got hot and they (his teammates) were feeding him too. D.J. (Newbill) passed up a three to give it to him which just shows you what he's all about," Chambers said. "He sees a hot hand and he gives it up. He is a special kid. But he (Brandon Taylor) hit some big ones and I knew he would. I just felt the last two days he shot the ball really well here and he was disappointed with his performance in Charleston, so I felt like he was going to come out and make shots. Now 4-11 is not a great clip (from three), but he made shots when we needed him to make shots."

Bucknell Up Next
After enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with one another on Wednesday, focus has shifted towards a trip to Bucknell on Friday (4 p.m.). The Nittany Lions will wear throwback uniforms to honor Penn State's first color combination - pink and black - against the Bison. The Lions will also wear the throwback uniforms against Virginia Tech next Wednesday (7:15 p.m.) in the BJC during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Friday's game at Bucknell will mark Penn State's first trip to Lewisburg since 1976.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Michigan State Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Bob Shoop

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10578272.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop spoke with the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions host Michigan State in the final regular season game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ABC). Take a look at a Q&A with Shoop.

Q: When you got here in January and looked at all of the personnel, did you think this unit could play as well as it has this year?
"At that time, I didn't know. When I got here, I'd studied all of the personnel and I knew there was potential. I knew there was a nice nucleus of seniors...I knew Deion Barnes. I knew who Austin Johnson was. I knew C.J. Olaniyan. I certainly knew who Mike Hull and Adrian Amos were. The guys are hungry. They are team-first individuals. They play hard. And I think is a group that embodies the thought that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They've been really neat overachievers."

Q: Were you able to put your finger on what the defense needed to do a little bit better at the end of the Illinois game and how did the unit bounce back?
"It was just a couple plays. (Mike) Dudek and (Reilly) O'Toole made a couple plays. And I think you certainly give them credit. Bill Cubit is an outstanding offensive coordinator. Dudek played a great game on senior day, and O'Toole came up with a couple big plays. We misplayed the first two. We played 72 snaps in that game. You hold them to 282 yards and 14 out of 16 on third down and you don't execute in the two-minute drill. We stepped up at the end and made them kick a field goal, but we needed to block it obviously at that particular point. I think Coach might have said this yesterday; there is a difference between playing well and playing winning football. We need to execute in all situations. We didn't do as well as we needed to at the end of the Illinois game.

"We did a two-minute drill yesterday against the offense, and they executed very, very well. They are a resilient group. They are very confident. We always have a 24-hour rule, good or bad. Twenty-four hours after the game, we have a Sunday meeting to debrief the previous day's game. I show them a good, bad and ugly tape. We evaluate all of the situations to show what we did well and what we did poorly. And then we move on to the next opponent. The players are really excited to play Michigan State this weekend."

Q: What can you say about Ryan Keiser and what he meant to the defense? And how much will it mean to you to see him get honored with the senior class?
"Words probably can't express what it means to me to see him out on the field with his teammates on Saturday. That was really one of the weirdest, flukiest things I've ever gone through as a coach on the Thursday before Ohio State...We thought he had the wind knocked out of him, and then for him to have gone through what he has gone through during the past month has been tough. Someone put it really well to me, there is probably no one in our program more equipped to handle such a thing than Ryan because he is married. He's so mature. He recognizes that football is what he does and not who he is. He's handled it incredibly well and unselfishly. I've gotten to know his wife McKenzie during this period better than I knew her before. What he brought to the team that people don't recognize, he is one of those unique people who can make everyone around him not only a better player, but a better person. I include myself in that...As good of a football player as he is, he is a better person. He can be on my team any day. I can promise you that."

Q: How would you describe the improvement Deion Barnes has made this year and his commitment to get better?
"Deion is awesome. I saw it when I first got on the job here. When I first got on the job here the perception was that in (2013), he took a little bit of a step backwards. I watched a lot of the game film, and I didn't necessarily see it that way. He and Sean Spencer developed an incredible relationship. And he and I developed a really good relationship. He's a man of few words. He doesn't say a whole lot, but his approach to getting better as a person and as a football player everyday was incredible...There is probably not a player who practices more consistently than he does. He has great fundamentals. He has great techniques."

Q: How much of an impact do you think Mike Hull has had on Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell through the whole season?
"That is a great question. Mike Hull has had an impact on our entire unit, this entire team, and maybe the entire program. I don't know that I have ever seen a person be more of an ultimate teammate than he is. Similar to Deion, Mike is a person of few words. It's not like he is the most vocal guy. But when he says something, it has a significant amount of substance. To him, it's not talking about it, it's being about it. It's about how he approached winter program, how he approached the new staff with tremendous energy, about how he embraced being the quarterback of the defense. Certainly, he helped Brandon and Nyeem take their games to another level. But certainly he helped a lot of people on the defense take their game to the next level. In some ways, he's like a quarterback on the field. And he has really taken the next step now that Keiser is out."

Q: Remarks on the Michigan State offense...
"Michigan State will certainly provide as tremendous of a challenge that we have faced all year. Connor Cook is an outstanding quarterback who is playing really well. (Jeremy) Langford is a tremendous running back. They have great depth at running back. They've got good tight ends. They've got a stable full of wide receivers. And their offensive line is really very, very good."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Opponent Previews - Michigan State

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10578006.jpegMichigan State | Beaver Stadium | 3:30 p.m. | ABC
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hosts No. 10/8 Michigan State on Saturday in the final game of the regular season. Get to know the Spartans in this week's scouting report.

Mark Dantonio is in his eighth year leading the Spartans. Dantonio is 73-31 at Michigan State and 91-48 overall. The Spartans went 13-1 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten in 2013, winning the Big Ten Championship and defeated Stanford, 24-20, in the Rose Bowl. Michigan State returned 46 lettermen and 12 starters from last year.

The Spartans improved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play with a 45-3 win over Rutgers last Saturday. Michigan State's offense gained 520 yards, including 242 on the ground. Quarterback Connor Cook completed 16-of-24 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jeremy Langford gained 126 yards and scored twice on 16 carries. Fellow back Nick Hill contributed 61 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Tony Lippett caught five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. R.J. Shelton had three receptions for 39 yards and a score.

Michigan State allowed only 234 yards and 95 yards rushing. The Spartans also forced three interceptions, with safety Kurtis Drummond, linebacker Riley Bullough and cornerback Arjen Colquhoun all recording picks. Drummond added six tackles, including five solo. Linebacker Ed Davis led the Spartans with seven tackles. Defensive tackle Joel Heath added five stops, two for loss and a sack.

The Spartan offense averages nearly 44 points per game, ranking second in the conference. They lead the conference averaging 514.5 yards and 269 passing yards per game. They also rank fifth in the Big Ten in rushing offense, averaging 245.5 yards.

Junior Connor Cook sits atop the Big Ten with 2,720 yards passing. He has completed 59 percent of his passes and thrown 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. Cook also has two rushing touchdowns.

Jeremy Langford, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound junior, has 1,242 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, with 17 touchdowns. Langford has rushed for 100 yards in 14 straight Big Ten regular-season games. It is the longest 100-yard streak in the FBS for regular-season conference games since STATS began tracking records in 1996. Langford also has eight catches for 55 yards. Five-foot-eight, 196-pound senior Nick Hill has contributed 596 yards and nine scores, while 6-foot-1, 228-pound sophomore Delton Williams has 314 yards and five touchdowns.

Senior Tony Lippett leads the Spartan receivers with 56 catches for 1,071 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 Lippett averages 19.1 yards per catch. Junior Macgarrett Kings Jr., 5-foot-10, has 336 yards and a score on 24 receptions. Tight end Josiah Price, 6-foot-4, has 23 catches for 347 yards and five touchdowns.

The physical Michigan State offensive line includes two redshirt seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. The five combine for 109 career starts. Center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin were named midseason first team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele.

The Spartan defense ranks in the Top 25 in the nation in virtually every major statistical category. They rank 22nd in scoring defense, allowing 20.8 points per game, and eighth in total defense, allowing 299 yards per game. They give up 103 rushing yards per game, ranking eighth, and 196 passing yards, ranking 25th. Michigan State leads the nation in turnover margin and has forced 31 turnovers. They have returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

Defensive end Shilique Calhoun leads the line with 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Calhoun has 33 tackles, tied for the lead on the line with fellow end Marcus Rush, who also has 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Calhoun also has a fumble recovery and Rush forced a fumble.

Davis leads the linebackers with 54 stops, 11 for loss and six sacks. Senior Taiwan Jones has recorded 52 tackles, with 11 for loss and four sacks. He also has an interception and a fumble recovery. Darien Harris has 44 tackles, with three for loss, two fumbles and an interception.

In the secondary, Drummond leads with 59 tackles, 41 solo, and three for loss. He also has four interceptions and nine pass breakups. Fellow safety R.J. Williamson has three interceptions and has returned two for touchdowns. Williamson also has 46 tackles and five pass breakups. Cornerback Trae Waynes has two interception and six breakups, while Darian Hicks has two picks and three breakups.

Kicker Michael Geiger has converted on 12-of-19 attempts, with a long of 42. Punter Mike Sadler averages 41.3 yards per kick. R.J. Shelton handles the kick return duties, averaging nearly 23 yards per return. Kings is the Spartans' punt returner, averaging six yards per return.

Penn State leads the all-time series 14-13-1, on the field. The teams last met in 2010, with the Spartans winning 28-22 at Beaver Stadium.

What Mark Dantonio is saying about Penn State:

"A great environment Penn State has. Very exciting to go over and play. I think Penn State itself, Coach Franklin has a football team that's been extremely close in a lot of games."

"When you look at them defensively, they're No. 1 in rushing defense. They are top five in scoring defense, pass efficiency and total defense. So an excellent defensive unit."

"They have a quarterback that can throw it and a very productive wide receiver in [DaeSean Hamilton]."

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

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Akron

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions face Akron inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Akron

VIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As - Mike Hull & Akeel Lynch

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with senior linebacker Mike Hull and junior Akeel Lynch leading up to the Michigan State game.

Week 11 Press Conference Roundup - Michigan State Week

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10575585.jpegJames 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."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: This Week in Penn State Wrestling - Nov. 25

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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. caught up with sophomore Jimmy Gulibon for a weekly update on the Lions.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Lions Looking to Build on Charleston Trip

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10573218.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of back-to-back wins to cap off a trip to the Charleston Classic, the Nittany Lions (4-1) will continue their stretch of seven games in 14 days on Tuesday night when they take on Akron (3-1) inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

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.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monday Notebook: Lions Open Thanksgiving Week By Lending a Hand

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10257695_10152609037848198_8015578236614393127_n.jpgUNIVERSITY 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.

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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.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Astrid Diaz, 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, 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 and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.