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BLOG: Penn State Upended By George Mason

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "This can't happen again," Penn State's Payton Banks said to a quiet media room following an 85-66 loss to George Mason Wednesday evening at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Nittany Lions looked primed for success early on, opening the game with a 10-5 run in less than five minutes. Sparked by a dunk from Mike Watkins just seven seconds in, Penn State saw its early scoring streak boosted by back-to-back triples from Tony Carr and Payton Banks.

As quickly as Penn State went up, George Mason responded, surging back to build the Patriot lead to as many as seven, 22-15 with 11:35 remaining as Carr picked up his second foul of the night.

The Nittany Lions regrouped though, as a triple from Garner sparked a 13-4 run, capped off by Banks' third triple of the night, which lifted Penn State ahead, 28-26. George Mason came storming right back, using a pair of buckets to pull ahead by two, 30-28.

It was a back-and-forth battle right down to the buzzer at the half, as the score tied for a sixth time before 3-pointers from Banks and Terrence Samuel followed up by a pair of free throws from Lamar Stevens sent Penn State into the locker room leading by just a point, 38-37.

Out of the break, Penn State followed a George Mason layup with a pair of free throws from Stevens to pull back ahead, 40-39 with 19:14 left to play. 

That's the last lead the Nittany Lions would hold for the rest of the night as the shots seemingly stopped falling and Patriots ran off with the lead, outscoring Penn State by 20 points to finish off an 85-66 win. 

"We have to learn from this and come back tomorrow and try to look better," Chambers said. "When you have a youthful team you have to do that to make sure they stay engaged and it has been a while since I've seen missing shots dictate our effort but they'll learn."

While the Nittany Lions struggled to put together a sustained offensive rhythm, the Patriots owned the advantage on the glass, outrebounding Penn State 44-29 and 27-17 in the second half.

"I think it wasn't so much rebounding," Banks said. "It was when they got the rebound what they did with it. They just kind of drove it down the lane every single time in transition, and we were just not ready for that type of pace and that's frustrating, because that's what we pride ourselves on. Being quick, fast, and being able to defend that."

Although disappointed with his defensive effort, Banks did pace the team offensively, registering his fourth career 20-point scoring outing with a team-high 21 points. In his second 20-point game of the season, Banks also logged a career-high five 3-pointers, heading into the half at 4-for-6 from the field. 

As a team, Penn State posted 10 triples, marking the second time this season the Nittany Lions have registered double digit 3-pointers. 

"We took good open threes," Chambers said. "I thought Shep [Garner] got some really good looks, Josh got some really good looks, Payton got some good looks - they didn't drop."

As the Nittany Lions now turn their focus toward Pittsburgh on Saturday at the Prudential Center, Chambers remains optimistic.

"I can give you a ton of coaching talk up here but the bottom line is you have to come out, play hard, play together and you can't let turnovers and missed shots affect you," Chambers said. "That's on us and you can correct it, which is why I am not freaking out because it is correctable. These are all fixable things we can get better at, that we can control. As long as we do that tomorrow, Friday and Saturday...I still like the direction we are headed in."

The Nittany Lions (6-4) and the Panthers (7-4) are set for a neutral site meeting at 2:30 p.m. in the Never Forget Tribute Classic Saturday. Pittsburgh took down Buffalo 84-79 this evening to capture their fifth consecutive win at home.

Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. George Mason (12/7/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After just three days off, Penn State men's basketball is set to return to the court, hosting George Mason Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions will look to extend a four-game winning streak coming off of a dominant win against Wright State last weekend. 

Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates and exclusive content. 

Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday vs. George Mason (12/7/16)

2016 NCAA Tournament Preview Content Central - Regionals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 16 Penn State women's volleyball's journey through the NCAA Tournament is headed to the road as the Nittany Lions travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to square off against the top-ranked Huskers in in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at noon ET Friday, Dec. 9 on ESPNU.

"The opportunity to still be playing in the second weekend is something that's available to a limited amount of teams," head coach Russ Rose said. "We're happy to still be playing we certainly have a challenging opponent in playing Nebraska at Nebraska." 

Last week, the Nittany Lions (24-9) swept past LIU Brooklyn in the first round before taking down Pittsburgh in four sets to advance to the round of 16. Although regular conference opponents, Penn State and Nebraska (29-2) have not met in the tournament since the 2008 NCAA National Semifinals.

The winner of the Penn State/Nebraska matchup will move on to the round of eight, taking on either No. 8 Washington (28-4) or Arizona (20-14) in the NCAA Regional Finals Saturday, Dec. 10 at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

With the original field of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament teams narrowed to just 16 remaining squads, Penn State is poised to make its 14th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals, a streak that stands as the longest in tournament history. The Nittany Lions have also made appearances in eight of the last 10 NCAA Regional Finals.

Take a closer look at the Nittany Lions as they head to the NCAA Tournament Regionals.

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Press Conference - Regionals

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 16 Penn State at No. 1 Nebraska
VBPreviewGraphic.jpgBRACKETS: Printable - Interactive 

A CLOSER LOOK: Features & Highlights

No. 16 Penn State Set for No. 1 Nebraska
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating LIU Brooklyn in three sets and Pittsburgh in four sets in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Penn State has advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. 

In the first and second rounds of the tournament, the Nittany Lions competed against two teams they didn't see in the regular season. However, this coming Friday, the matchup is the opposite as No.16 Penn State (24-9) will take on No. 1 Nebraska (29-2) for the third time this season at the NCAA Regional Semifinals. 

No. 1 Nebraska
The Huskers are seeking back-to-back national championships after defeating New Hampshire and TCU in the first and second rounds of the tournament last weekend. They were crowned this year's Big Ten champions after finishing off the regular season with an 18-2 record in conference play.

"Nebraska is the defending national champion so they're especially confident at home," head coach Russ Rose said. "They're strong in each of the positions...Nebraska just had six players selected to the AVCA All-Region team."

In the regular season, Penn State fell to Nebraska in both matches. The two teams first met in November when top-ranked Nebraska visited Rec Hall and the Nittany Lions rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth set, but ultimately fell short. Less than two weeks later, Penn State traveled to Lincoln, but lost in three sets. 

"We played there a few weeks ago, so we're familiar with the facility and the quality of the opponent, Rose said." 

While first serve is set for noon, Nebraska set the single-season average home attendance record in collegiate volleyball during the regular season with more 8,600 attendees. 

"Playing at Nebraska is really tough because it's a huge gym with about 8,000 people in there and they're all rooting against you, so I think we learned that we need to start out strong and win the serve-pass game," junior Heidi Thelen said. "If we come out and play as a team and play together, we can do this. We're just really excited to go and have another opportunity to play there." 

The last time Penn State and Nebraska played in the NCAA Tournament dates back to the 2008 NCAA national semifinals, when the Nittany Lions battled to a five set win (25-17, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11) in Omaha. Penn State went on to win its second straight national championship that year, while also hosting LIU Brooklyn in the first round. 

Elite Coaching
Penn State's Russ Rose and Nebraska's John Cook are two of the top coaches in collegiate volleyball. Rose entered the year as the winningest coach in NCAA DI women's volleyball, atop the all-time coaching charts, before improving his career total to 1, 213 wins and 195 loses in his 38th season. Cook entered the year at No. 6 all-time, having improved his career record to 658-62 with a 497-64 mark at Nebraska.

The two programs have combined for eight of the last 10 NCAA titles.

"We're two teams that know how to win and how to compete to win a national championship," Thelen said. "It's going to be super tough and they're the defending national champions and we won two, two years before that. It's going to be a grind, close and tough, but I think we're all really excited and we've been pumped up all week."

Cook is in his 16th season as head coach for Nebraska and was recently named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the coaches and media, his first time earning the honor since the team joined the Big Ten. He has led the Huskers to three national championships - in 2000 defeating Wisconsin, in 2006, defeating Stanford and in 2015, defeating Texas. 

"The quality of the players that they have is very high," coach Rose said. "The coaching is very good and the support of the university is very positive so they're aware of where they should be with the talent that they have. They're a challenge for everybody."

No. 8 Washington vs. Arizona
If the Nittany Lions defeat the Huskers, they will move on to face the winner of No.8 Washington-Arizona in the NCAA Regional Finals Saturday. 

Eighth-seeded Washington earned the Pac-12 title finishing the regular season at 26-4, 16-4 in conference play. The Huskies swept their first two opponents, Texas A&M-C.C. and Kentucky, to advance to the round of 16. 

Arizona swept Cleveland State in the first round of the tournament and shocked No. 9 Michigan State with an upset in five-sets last Saturday. The Wildcats went 18-14 in the regular season and 10-10 in conference play to finish seventh, before earning their fourth consecutive at-large selection to the tournament.

"The [older] players that have been there and have experienced the national championship, so it's just really cool to be there because I haven't been there yet and makes me want to be there even more to experience all these things," sophomore Keeton Holcomb said. "They know what it takes to get there and that's something I want to do so I can help the younger players coming in as well and get to the same spot because I think it's a fun experience and it means a lot." 

Veterans Propel Penn State to NCAA Regionals
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a balanced offense from the upperclassmen, the Penn State defeated Pittsburgh in four sets (20-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-18) in the NCAA second round Saturday night in Rec Hall.

"It was a really competitive match," head coach Russ Rose said. "Pittsburgh is a great opponent and when we lost the first game, it was clear that they were more prepared to play at the onset than we were, but it steadied out. It was a good match. They played really well and they should be congratulated on a great season."

Juniors Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington led the offense with 14 kills apiece, with Washington hitting at a .462 efficiency. Junior Ali Frantti finished second on the team with 11 kills, hitting at a .308 clip.

"We played together well and we had three people with double digit kills. that gave us the balance that we needed," coach Rose said.

Lee recorded four kills early in the first set to stamp her name in the Penn State record book, as she moved into the top three on the single season kills list during the 25-point rally scoring era. Lee has 485 kills on the year and is 36 kills away from tying for second all-time.

The Nittany Lions knew they had to regroup the second set, having dropped the opening frame, 25-20. Lee opened up the scoring in the second set with a kill, before pounding another to spark an 8-4 scoring streak early on in the second set.

"Pittsburgh's good so it's hard to win 3-0 all the time," coach Rose said. "We didn't hit for a good efficiency in the first and they hit for a really high one. In the second game, we were a little better and they cooled off significantly. It's two good teams battling. That's what it is. That's what happens in the NCAA Tournament."

Lee also helped out defensively finishing second on the team with nine digs and two blocks. Washington powered the blocking unit with five blocks.

Penn State also knew that they had to build on their momentum from the second set win, and that's exactly what happened in the opening of the third set.

Washington and Detering teamed up for a big block that opened up a 7-2 run for the Nittany Lions. Washington led the offense for most of the set and eventually hammered a kill for set point.

"The start of the first match, we were all a bit high on our block," Washington said. "We came out of the halfway point in the first and we made the adjustment a lot lower because Pittsburgh's contact point is low, really strong and very aggressive. So if we just bring the contact point down on our blocks and just make sure we're low and over, that was the big adjustment that we made [from the first set], and it worked." 

9257392.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most young baseball players hoping to hear their names called during the MLB draft are glued to their televisions and smartphones, trembling with anticipation. It's the moment all of their hard work leads up to and a day never to be forgotten for a handful of aspiring players.


That moment came for Penn State alumna Jack Anderson on the third and final day of the 2016 draft, but he didn't even know it at the time.


Anderson was actually swimming while on vacation with a few teammates in Palm Beach, Florida when the Seattle Mariners selected him in the 23rd round with the 687th pick. He found out from his old coach Rob Cooper.


Cooper called Anderson after hearing the news to congratulate his former closer. He had no idea he would be breaking the news to Anderson for the first time.


Anderson then realized he missed a call from a Mariners scout and quickly called back in excitement. He and the rest of the crew celebrated that night as Anderson returned home the next day to a surprise party at his house.


Anderson spent his first professional year bouncing from A-ball in Seattle, Washington to the rookie league in Peoria, Arizona He spent most of the year in the rookie level before getting called up for the Everett AquaSox playoff run.


In 21 innings pitched, Anderson surrendered just four earned runs in his rookie season for a 1.71 ERA between both teams. He was a key contributor to the Mariners' rookie team winning the Arizona League championship.


As is typical for minor leaguers, Anderson finds himself far away from his home in Chicago, Illinois. His living arrangements have varied from host families to hotels.


While in Seattle, Anderson stayed with a host family who lived right next to a lake. They even had a jet ski for his amusement. In Peoria, however, Anderson lived in a small Hampton Inn with one roommate. You never know what you're going to get as a minor league ballplayer.


"Life has been a whirlwind ever since I got drafted, moving place to place, but it's all been good stuff. It's been fun," Anderson said.


On the field, Anderson is working on adding a changeup to his repertoire to compliment his sidearm, frisbee-like slider. He also wants to become more of a multi-inning pitcher next season.


Anderson continues to improve each year by adding new wrinkles to his game and flat-out working harder than anyone. He did just that in his four years in Happy Valley, and he hasn't slowed down.


At Penn State Anderson improved his ERA and increased his total appearances each year. He closed out his career with the most appearances in Nittany Lion history with 98. His 25 saves is also a school record.


Anderson isn't just reliable, though. He was a shut-down closer virtually his entire Penn State career. He didn't allow one home run in college and did the same in his first professional season.


"I just think that Jack has really worked hard and understands who he is as a pitcher, and he really relishes that role of pitching to contact and getting ground balls," Cooper said. "If you understand who you are and you don't try to do too much you can have a lot of success."


A lot of Anderson's steady improvement over the last few years is a credit to Cooper and pitching coach Brian Anderson. He gives both coaches plenty of praise for his accomplishments in college.

"[Cooper] really pushed the mental game on us," Anderson said. "That was a big time adjustment for me, and I think that the mental game is always going to push baseball players over the edge. He really pushed that on me."


With the guidance of Cooper and a strong work ethic, Anderson has a realistic opportunity to climb the ranks in the minor leagues and make a splash for the Mariners.


He may not have that special moment of hearing his name called on draft day, but Anderson is living out his lifelong dream of playing professional baseball.

Watkins Steps Up as Penn State Preps for Patriots

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After just three days off, Penn State men's basketball is set to return to the court, hosting George Mason Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Monday afternoon, head coach Patrick Chambers met with members of the media to preview the matchup, while also wrapping up Saturday's win against Wright State.

Among positives from veteran leaders and newcomers, Chambers made a quick note regarding contributions from Mike Watkins, especially surrounding his surging shot blocking ability.

Entering the week, Penn State is ranked fourth nationally and first in the conference with 57 blocks, with Watkins accounting for 33 of the team's total. With at least two blocks in every game this season, Watkins logged a career-high eight blocks in the win against Wright State. The sixth-highest total in single game in program history, Watkins' eight blocks are the most since Calvin Booth had nine in 1999.

"He's doing a really good job protecting the rim," Chambers said. "We're pressuring the ball a little bit more and he's doing a good job of waiting and waiting - and he gets off the floor really quick. He has great hands and I think that really helps him."

Individually, Watkins is ranked fourth nationally and atop the Big Ten standings with 3.67 blocks per game.

Watkins' timelessness has made all the difference, giving those around him an added confidence boost.

"You might miss an assignment or get blown by but you know Mike is behind you covering the basket," Tony Carr said.

Not surprised by his impressive total this year, Carr can recall some uneasiness heading into high school matchups against Watkins. 

"Even back in high school I used to hate playing against Mike just knowing that he's a great shot blocker and that always messes with the guard," Carr said. 

On the other side of things, Chambers noted that turnovers have become a point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions.

"Live ball turnovers are a killer right now and offensive rebounding, we've got to do a better job," Chambers said. "Even though there's dead ball rebounding, I still feel like we're giving them another possession that we can't afford."

In the early part of a season where the framework surrounds a more up-tempo pace offensively, the key to limiting turnovers simply involves keeping true to simple, solid and efficient play, not trying to make everything on the highlight reel as Chambers puts it. 

It's all part of the growing process for the Nittany Lions though, as they prepare to play their 10th game in nearly a month on a 4-0 winning streak for the first time since the early part of last year's nonconference slate (Nov. 24-Dec. 5). 

"This is such an amazing process," Chambers said. "Where we started that first game on a Friday to where we are now. It has flown by, but we've definitely gotten better."

Quick Look at the Patriots
Both Penn State and George Mason will put a pair of winning streaks on the line Wednesday. The Nittany Lions have won their last four straight, while the Patriots have each of their last five, most recently taking down Mercer, 79-68 at home.

Three reached double digits for the Patriots in the win against Mercer led by 21 points from leading scorer Marquise Moore, who's averaging 17.3 points per game. Moore added 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double through 10 games. Otis Livingston II finished second on the team with 17 points, including a 4-for-4 showing from the free throw line. Livingston II boasts a .958 clip from the charity stripe, at 23-for-24 on the year, which ranks seventh nationally.

Looking Ahead
Following Wednesday's game, Penn State will hit the road, traveling to Newark, New Jersey to take on Pittsburgh in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Prudential Center. The double header event will feature Notre Dame and 2016 NCAA national champion Villanova in the first matchup of the day. The Nittany Lions and the Panthers will meet for the 146th time in program history in the first outing between the two teams since 2013. Pitt is out to a 6-2 start this season, set to host Buffalo Wednesday, Dec. 7.

On The Quote Board
Carr said that a major adjustment in his transition from high school to Penn State has been the addition of strength training, noting that he wasn't really one for weight training in high school. When asked to compare the strength training of Roman Catholic teammate Lamar Stevens, Carr was all smiles.

"To be honest I don't know how his body got like that," Carr said. "I feel like he just woke up one day and he just looked like the Hulk or somebody, he definitely touched more weights than me in high school."

More from Carr below.

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey wrapped up its 2016-17 fall semester portion of the season last week, taking down Michigan in a pair of back-to-back wins before heading to the break. 

Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman forward Liam Folkes recapped the Big Ten conference sweep while also looking toward some time off. 

Catch up with the Nittany Lions in their video sessions below. 



BLOG: Consistency Helps Penn State Past Lehigh

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling continued its dominance at Sunday's Bryce Jordan Center Dual, defeating ninth-ranked Lehigh in front of more than 15,000 fans.

"I think overall we wrestled pretty good," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I think that's a good team, a top 10 dual team for sure. I think they're going to beat some good teams this year, tough all the way up and down their lineup for the most part." 

Although true freshman Nick Suriano opened the afternoon with an impressive victory against sixth-ranked Lehigh junior Darian Cruz, the Nittany Lions were trailing 7-3 after a pair of losses at 133 and 141 for Nittany Lions Jered Cortez and Jimmy Guliabon.

Suriano, who has been a spark for the Nittany Lions all season, handed Cruz, an All-American, his first loss of the season.

"That was big," Sanderson said. "When you have a leadoff man who is consistent and their effort is consistent and their mindset is consistent, I think that's a huge blessing to the program. So, we're very happy, blessed and grateful to have Nick as our leadoff man."

When first asked about his first collegiate outing in the packed venue, Suriano made no mention of his dominant performance, focusing rather on the opportunity.

"This arena is unbelievable," Suriano said. "We were just talking about it before, Rec Hall is a little more personal, fans are a little louder and a little more uptight, but this is the kind of atmosphere I train for and this is what Penn State offers and it's awesome. Beating a ranked guy, it doesn't matter it's just getting out to wrestle for me, is wonderful in this environment."

Penn State's top-ranked Zain Retherford shifted the momentum for the Nittany Lions, pinning ninth-ranked Laike Gardner to remain unbeaten on the season.

At 184, third-ranked Bo Nickal registered his seventh consecutive pin of the season, downing Kyle Gentile at the 2:35 marker. 

For Nickal, he simply credited his success this season to a focused approach on one match at at time.

"I'm just having fun," Nickal said, "I love wrestling, so every time I get to go out there I'm just competing with gratitude."

Along with Retherford and Nickal, Penn State cruised to the 30-10 final score with Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Matt McCutcheon (197) and Nick Nevills (285) all clinching wins.

At 3-0 on the season, Penn State returns to action Sunday, Dec. 11, hosting Binghamton at 2 p.m. in Rec Hall.


By Tom Shively, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Trailing 4-1 after two periods Sunday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena, the Penn State Nittany Lions needed a spark to get them back on track.

And that's exactly what they got to begin the third period.

Two goals in the first six minutes from Meike Meilleur and Laura Bowman cut the deficit to 4-3, highlighting one of the best stretches of hockey Penn State has played all season. They completely dominated puck possession in the offensive zone, taking control of the tempo of the game and wearing down the Robert Morris defensemen.

"One of the things we stress is short term thinking, breaking things down into chunks," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We don't ever want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to live in the moment. Breaking it down into chunks was something they really responded well to and when you do that, that's when you can live in the moment, have a six or seven-minute stretch that goes like that."

Bowman's goal early in the third period was one of three total for her on the day, and was also the most critical as it gave the Lions confidence that they could pull out of their three-goal hole.

"It gave us hope," Bowman said. "We changed up and it ended up working really well. I just wanted to get the puck over to Amy [Petersen] because I knew she was flying down and it just so happened she made a great pass back to me and I was able to put it away."

Unfortunately, a game-tying goal was not in the cards for the Nittany Lions, who ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 score. But the comeback, not the loss, is what this team will take away from the game.

"Teams of championship caliber, sometimes they're made in the difficult moments. I truly believe today was one of those days," Brandwene said. "It's one thing to face adversity once, it's one thing to face it over an eight or ten-minute stretch. It's another thing to be down the way we were down on a number of times today. It's another thing altogether to play with that 'it-factor' where you just want it so badly you can taste it. That's something I saw from this hockey team in the last 20 minutes that's far above even what I've seen in the past. While frustrating to lose, that is a big gain for us as a hockey team and I'm really excited about the second semester."

"It definitely shows our team's ability to come back," Bowman said. "We continued to play our game and even played a better game than we did in the first 40 minutes and just dominated the last 20 minutes. We just need to bring those 20 minutes to the full 60."

The Nittany Lions had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but a breakaway empty-net opportunity from Robert Morris trickled through a Penn State defenseman trying to block the goal for a decisive 6-4 lead, one the Colonials would not yield.

Bowman was able to net her third goal of the game on a power play with just under 30 seconds remaining, bringing Penn State back within one. But the Nittany Lions couldn't get another quality shot on net as time expired.

The one-goal loss followed up a 4-2 defeat Saturday, a game in which the Nittany Lions hung with Robert Morris for most of the game. Two late goals, one deflecting off the skate of a Penn State defenseman and another empty-netter, proved to be the difference as the Colonials were able to come out on top.

"Bounces happen, that's a part of hockey," Brandwene said. "We were actually in exactly the right position on their third one that did bounce in, so sometimes you do exactly the right thing and the wrong outcome happens."

The Nittany Lions have almost a month between now and their next game as they prepare for final exams and the holidays. They resume play on Dec. 30-31 with trips to play Quinnipiac and Princeton before we usher in the new year.

Perseverance Pays Off in Big Ten Championship Win

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Blacknall hands up.jpg

INDIANAPOLIS - On Friday, it was Penn State head coach James Franklin who told a room full of media members at the Big Ten Championship game that the one word to describe the Nittany Lion 2016 season was persevere.

Just a little more than 24 hours later, the Nittany Lions put on yet another resilient showing, proving that perseverance is truly the foundation for Penn State's Big Ten Championship season.

The path to hoisting the Big Ten Championship game trophy into the air Saturday evening wasn't anything short of extraordinary, but that's nothing the Nittany Lions aren't already used to.

Against Minnesota, it was Irvin Charles' 80-yard touchdown that sparked a double-digit comeback. Against Ohio State, it was the Marcus Allen blocked field goal that Grant Haley returned 60 yards for the touchdown to secure another comeback from a double figure deficit. We'll arrive at Allen and Haley later.

Near the end of the first half Saturday, the Nittany Lions were faced with yet another challenging deficit, trailing 28-7.

Penn State refused to back down in the first half though, as quarterback Trace McSorley relied on his arsenal of talented wide receivers, tossing four plays of at least 12 yards, culminating in a 40-yard touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall to send the Nittany Lions into the locker room down 28-14.

A renewed Nittany Lion team emerged from the locker room though, determined to engineer another comeback this season.

In the first Wisconsin drive of the second half, Penn State's defense paved the way, forcing the Badgers to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt, which they missed.

Now cue the momentum shift, as McSorley found Blacknall for a Big Ten Championship game record-70-yard touchdown on the first play of the Penn State scoring drive, pulling the Nittany Lions within seven after the Tyler Davis PAT.

Penn State continued to chop up field with chunk play after chunk play in the third quarter, as Barkley dashed for a 16-yard rush before McSorley found Chris Godwin for a pair of 13-plus yard pass plays to set up the 1-yard Saquon Barkley touchdown that tied the score, 28-28.

Limiting the Badgers to just a field goal in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions had found their stride with the defense making stops and the offensive line giving McSorley the extra crucial moments to key in on his talent receivers downfield.

Before long, it was veteran DaeSean Hamilton, who backed up his clutch first half third down conversion grabs with back-to-back catches of at least 25 yards, to put Penn State in perfect position for McSorley to find Barkley for the 18-yard touchdown catch to send the Nittany Lions ahead, 35-31 in the fourth quarter. Penn State's explosive offense was clicking.

With plenty of time left in the frame, the Penn State defense took over, as linebacker Koa Farmer sacked Wisconsin quarterback Bart Houston for a loss of four before defensive tackle Kevin Givens came through with the stop on third-and-16 forcing the Badgers to punt.

Although the Nittany Lions managed to convert on a 24-yard Davis field goal, the Wisconsin offense was surging, staring down a fourth-and-1 opportunity at the Penn State 24-yard line with just over a minute to play.

Out of Wisconsin timeout, it was Haley once again, who came up with the game-winning play to secure another one of Penn State's signature comeback victories this season.

From the first Penn State blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in what is believed to be program history, to a perfectly timed fourth-and-1 stop, Haley and Allen helped halt Badger running back Corey Clement to end the Wisconsin scoring threat. 

When asked about the connection between he and Allen on two of perhaps the most pivotal plays of the season, Haley prefers to bring it back to the team as a whole.

"I don't think it's just us two," Haley said. "I think it's the whole 11 guys out there on the field, even coaches in the box and the scout team. It's just something that our coaches prepare for us. And when the time - when it's time to step up, I feel like any person on our defense or offense is going to step up, and it just happens to be the situation that Marcus and I have been in two great situations."

Guided by a pair of 100-yard receivers in Blacknall and Hamilton, McSorley finished with career-high and Big Ten Championship game record 384 passing yards, throwing four touchdown passes for the second consecutive game.

In total, just three of McSorley's top three targets (Hamilton, Blacknall and Gesicki) combined for 331 of Penn State's 435 yards of total offense. 

"The wideouts made unbelievable plays for him and the tight ends made unbelievable plays for him," Franklin said postgame. "We said, look, we felt really confident about our wide receiver to DB matchups and tight end to DB matchups, but we just needed to strain, strain a little bit longer in protection and give us some time, and we'd have a chance to do some good things."

Good things turned into great things Saturday evening as the Nittany Lions emerged with their fourth overall Big Ten Championship title and first Big Ten Championship title game victory since it began in 2011.

"It's been our script all season long," Franklin said. "We've done it all different ways. We've done it with comebacks at the end of the game, two-minute drives. We've done it where we've blown people out. We've done it where we had to come back in the second half. We've done it with field goal plays, blocked field goal plays. We've done it a lot of different ways. But that's the sign of a good football team when you find different ways to be successful." 

Now, it's on to the bowl game.

Penn State is Rose Bowl Bound - (Transcript)
Sunday afternoon, the Nittany Lions received their official invitation to the 103rd annual Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual to take on USC Monday, January 2 at 5 p.m. ET in Pasadena, California.

Making their first appearance in the "Granddaddy of Them All" since a 38-24 loss to the Trojans in 2009, the Nittany Lions are set for their 47th all-time bowl outing. 

Franklin joined a pair of press conferences Sunday evening to talk about the selection. Here are a few takeaways.

- Franklin noted that like the Nittany Lions, the Trojans are one of the hottest teams in college football, stressing that the matchup presents one of the scarier programs playing with a high level of confidence leading up to the selection. 

"Obviously feel like USC is a very, very talented team, and once the quarterback started clicking for them, then distributing the ball, the whole team just kind of -- they developed around him," Franklin said. "So it's been fun to watch. It's exciting to watch. They're a dangerous team."

- Trojan head coach Clay Helton watched last night's Big Ten Championship game and it's not hard to guess who impressed him.

"I've just had the opportunity to watch Penn State really on TV and culminating in last night's exceptional win, and the one thing that jumps out at you right off the bat is offensively how talented they are with Barkley and McSorley and the points they're putting up," Helton said. 

- It's business as usual for the Nittany Lions leading up to the bowl game. Penn State coaches will hit the road recruiting giving the team some time to recharge before getting into practice. There's no stress around planning or logistical preparations though, as Franklin noted that plans have already been in place since preseason.

"We do all the schedules and all the calendars for all the bowls in preseason, in the summer," Franklin said. "We already have those all set and ready to go so we have a pretty good understanding of what's going on. We'll go back and make some slight adjustments to it but all those things are pretty much set ahead of time."

VIDEO: Postgame James Franklin & Players - Wisconsin

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INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State Football engineered a thrilling 21-point comeback Saturday evening to capture the Big Ten Championship with a 38-31 win against Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Catch up with head coach James Franklin as well as Nittany Lions Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, Malik Golden, Jason Cabinda, DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki following the win. 

Player Interviews

James Franklin


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