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Nittany Lions Start Postseason Journey with Big Ten Tournament

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10442147.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's soccer team will officially start its postseason on Wednesday afternoon when the Lions meet Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament (1:30 p.m.). After winning its 16th Big Ten Championship and third outright title in the past four years, Penn State earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Coming off of its strong finish to the regular season, the team is staying focused on what needs to be accomplished during the tournament.

"We take it one game at a time," senior Whitney Church said. "We approach every game as a new opportunity and try to stay more focused on the present than on the past."


The Lions start off the week facing Northwestern, who they beat 4-1 in the regular season. If victorious, Penn State would play the winner between Iowa and Rutgers. Both Rutgers and Iowa played a significant role in the Lions' regular season.

Finishing the season with an overall record of 17-2-0, Penn State lost just once on Jeffrey Field in 2014. That came in a narrow 1-0 decision against Rutgers on Oct. 11.

If the Lions do find themselves facing Rutgers again, they can use the past as a learning experience and build on that game with confidence.

"We never try and dwell on the past, as a team it's important to always stay positive," Church said.

The other potential opponent in the second match of the tournament, should the Lions advance, would be Iowa. Last week, Penn State beat Iowa, 2-1, to clinch the Big Ten regular season title. Nonetheless, all eyes are looking ahead to the first game on the tournament schedule against Northwestern.

The conference tournament structure presents a unique challenge for the Nittany Lions.


With the team potentially playing up to three games in just five short days, the players and coaching staff have been preparing both mentally and physically for this tournament.

"It is a lot within a short amount of time. We give it our all during the games and then make sure we recover for the next game," Church said.

For the four seniors on the team, this is their last chance to walk away with not only the Big Ten regular season title, but the tournament crown, as well.

"I think this year is more nerve wrecking than any prior," Church said. "It's because it's the seniors last time with this team and we want to know we gave it all we could for our last season together."

The four seniors on the team have not only taken on leadership roles on the team but have become second coaches for the younger players.

There are 11 freshmen on the 2014 team which also means that are 11 players experiencing this tournament and the intensity of a postseason for the first time in their collegiate careers.

"It's really exciting since it's a new experience but also a little overwhelming. I think as a team we are ready," freshman Haleigh Echard said. "It makes the journey easier knowing there are 11 of us going through this new experience together. We can also always look up to the older players who have been through this before for advice if we need it."

The 2014 team has transformed from a team into a family, and that transformation has translated into success.

The Lions are approaching the tournament one game at a time with the same dedication, passion, and momentum that has carried them throughout the season. 

2014 Opponent Previews - Indiana

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10502219.jpegIndiana | Memorial Stadium | 12 p.m. | Big Ten Network
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State travels to Bloomington on Saturday to take on the Hoosiers. Get to know Indiana in this week's scouting report.

The Hoosiers are led by fourth-year head coach Kevin Wilson, who is 13-30 in his career at IU. Indiana went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten in 2013.  They returned 59 lettermen and 18 starters from a year ago.

Indiana fell to 3-5 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten last Saturday, losing 34-10 at Michigan. The Hoosiers gained 191 yards on offense, rushing for 167 yards.  Freshman quarterback Zander Diamont completed five of his eight passes for 24 yards.  He also rushed for 49 yards on seven attempts.  Running back Tevin Coleman continued a strong season, gaining 108 yards on 27 carries.  D'Angelo Roberts rushed for 19 yards, including a three-yard touchdown. Shane Wynn caught two passes for 12 yards.

The Hoosiers allowed 404 yards against Michigan, including 184 rushing.  Safety Antonio Allen led the defense with 10 tackles, six solo, and also added 0.5 TFL and a pass breakup. Fellow safety Mark Murphy recorded seven stops, while linebacker David Cooper had six tackles, including one for loss. Chase Dutra intercepted a pass, returning it 39 yards.

Indiana ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game. They also average 426.6 total yards, ranking fifth.  The Hoosiers average 274.5 yards rushing and 152.1 yards passing, ranking third and 12th in the conference, respectively.

Diamont will make his third start of the season at quarterback after junior Nate Sudfeld suffered a shoulder injury.  Diamont has completed 10 of his 23 pass attempts for 35 yards. He has yet to throw a touchdown or an interception, but he has rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown.

A good blend of size and speed, Coleman is third in FBS in total rushing yards with 1,300 yards and first in rushing yards per game (162.5). He averages 8.0 yards per carry and has 11 touchdowns.  The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior has rushed for 100 yards in 10 straight games, dating back to last year.  Coleman also has 17 catches for 140 yards.  Roberts has contributed 435 yards and six touchdowns.

The Hoosier receivers are led by 5-foot-7 speedster Shane Wynn. The senior has 436 yards and two scores on 29 receptions, averaging 15 yards per catch.  Wynn also has a 75-yard rushing touchdown.  Nick Stoner has 18 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown. Freshman J-Shun Harris II has 18 receptions for 139 yards and two scores.

The Indiana offensive line has combined for 109 career starts and includes a redshirt senior, two redshirt juniors, a junior and a redshirt sophomore. Guard Dan Feeney and tackle Jason Spriggs were each projected third team All-Big Ten in the preseason by Phil Steele.

Indiana has allowed 34.8 points and 445.4 total yards per game, ranking 13th in the Big Ten in both categories.  They have given up 170.6 yards rushing, ranking 10th, and 274.8 yards passing, ranking 14th.

Nick Mangieri, playing the "Bandit" position on the Hoosiers' defensive line, has 27 tackles, 15 solo, two sacks and an interception.  Defensive end Bobby Richardson has 20 tackles, 5.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks, while tackle Nate Hoff has five tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Middle linebacker T.J. Simmons leads his position group with 45 tackles, including 25 solo. He also has 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. Outside linebacker David Cooper has recorded 41 tackles, 21 solo and two for loss. Forisse Hardin, an outside linebacker, has 35 stops, including 3.5 for loss and a sack.

Allen leads the team with 46 tackles, including 26 solo, and 1.5 for loss. Cornerback Tim Bennett, has made 44 stops and broken up nine passes.  Fellow cornerback Michael Hunter has 28 tackles, three for loss, and two pass break-ups.  Murphy has 34 tackles and an interception, while Dutra has two picks.

Kicker Griffin Oakes has connected on five of his seven attempts, with a long of 58 yards.  Punter Erich Toth averages nearly 41 yards per kick, placing 12 inside the 20-yard-line. Wynn handles the kick and punt return duties. He averages 22 yards per kick return, with a long return of 35 yards.

Penn State leads the all-time series 16-1, on the field. Indiana won 44-24 last year in Bloomington.


What Kevin Wilson is saying about Penn State:

"[Christian] Hackenberg is one of the better players in our conference. He throws the ball quite a bit. They do some stuff that starts with the quarterback and getting the ball down the field to some young receivers that are very, very good."

"Strength of their team is a very, very strong defense, I think first in our league and the country in run defense."

"Penn State is very solid up front. Their one inside player, [Anthony] Zettel is tremendously active. He's a great player."


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

VIDEO: Indiana Week Player Q&As - Sam Ficken & Anthony Zettel

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with senior kicker Sam Ficken and junior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel during Indiana week.

VIDEO: Nittany Lion Wrestling Hosts 2014-'15 Media Day

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VIDEO: Cael Sanderson Press ConferenceMedia Day Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The four-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lion wrestling team hosted its annual media day on Tuesday afternoon inside the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex.

Head coach Cael Sanderson addressed the gathered local and regional media members to preview the upcoming season before an open media session with the 2014-'15 wrestlers. The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions open their dual match season on Sunday against No. 17 Lehigh inside sold out Rec Hall, and Sanderson is eager to get the season started.

"I'm excited to get this going to see where we are right now," said Sanderson. "...We want to see where we are as a team (on Sunday)."

The 2014-'15 Nittany Lions will take on a much different look this season with the graduation of defending NCAA champions David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (184). Sanderson also confirmed on Tuesday that All-Americans Nico Megaludis (125) and Zain Retherford (141) would likely redshirt. The openings in the lineup will give a host of new Nittany Lions an opportunity to emerge in the starting lineup.

"I feel confident that the overall foundation of our program is as strong as it has ever been," Sanderson said. "Our base is getting wider and stronger."

The Nittany Lions enter the season with seven wrestlers ranked, led by No. 3 Matt Brown at 174 pounds. Junior Morgan McIntosh is ranked No. 4 at 197 pounds. Penn State will begin the season with competition throughout the lineup as Sanderson seeks to find the best combination of starters. No fewer than six spots on the probable lineup for the Lehigh match indicate competition, including a three-way battle at heavyweight.

"I think we are going to have a fun team this year," Sanderson said.


Stay tuned for much more coverage leading up to Sunday's season-opener on GoPSUsports.com.





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Week Nine Press Conference Roundup - Indiana Week

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10501116.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Nov. 4

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (4-4, 1-4) head on the road this week for a matchup against Indiana (3-5, 0-4) on Saturday at noon (BTN).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against the Hoosiers on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

The Nittany Lion defense again turned in a dominant performance on Saturday, limiting Maryland to 194 total yards of offense, including just 33 on the ground. Penn State leads the nation in rushing defense (77.1 ypg) heading into the Big Ten East Division tilt against Indiana.

"Defensively, we're doing a nice job stopping the run and eliminating the big plays," said Franklin. "We need to get more turnovers. That would be helpful for us. Third down, we were excellent (last week)."

This week, the Nittany Lion defense will face a stiff test matching up against the nation's top rusher. Indiana's Tevin Coleman is No. 1 in the nation in rushing yards per game (162.5), rushing yards per carry (8.02) and yards from scrimmage per game (180.0). As a team, Indiana is ranked third in the Big Ten at 274.5 rushing yards per game. Franklin and the Nittany Lion defense are looking forward to the challenge.

"It's funny, me and Bob Shoop were just talking about this. It kind of reminds us of McFadden, who used to be at Arkansas, a little bit," Franklin said. "He's big, he's strong, he's a one‑cut runner. The thing that was interesting too, I was looking at their offensive line, they've got a massive offensive line, but not only that, they have depth and experience."

Core value No. 1 for the Penn State Football program is approaching all facets of life with a positive attitude. That being said, the team is looking ahead with great confidence. The mindset for Franklin and the Nittany Lions will never change and the level of enthusiasm towards getting better each week will never waver. That could not have been more evident listening to Coach Franklin on Tuesday afternoon.

"(We are) in a great mood. Excited about getting out to practice today and getting better and continuing to work with these guys," Franklin said. "(We've) Got a tremendous opportunity. Myself, the staff, the players are more determined and more optimistic than we've ever been."

Correcting the little mistakes on the offensive side of the ball is on top of the priority list moving forward. Franklin is seeing progress each week, but he is looking for the unit to clean up the small mistakes this week at Indiana.

"Offensively, it really just comes down to execution," Franklin said. "There are too many little things. Whether it's footwork, whether it's assignment that we're not doing consistently, and it's not one person; it's one person this play, it's a different person that play. So we have to do a better job there."

The Nittany Lions and Hoosiers are slated for a noon kick on Saturday. The two teams have met 17 times in a series dating back to 1993.


Press Conference Notes
- Ryan Keiser injury update
"I don't want to get into the specifics and details unless there is something to really be told. But he is doing extremely well from everything that we're told. We have a staff meeting every morning at 7 a.m., and that is part of the discussion. I've talked to Ryan's mom multiple times. I've talked to Ryan's wife multiple times. Our training staff as well as our doctors have been involved every step of the way. I think Tim Bream, our head trainer went down yesterday to visit with him. From everything I'm hearing and everything I know he's doing great."

- Franklin on the Indiana offense:
"They're averaging 274 rushing yards per game, number three in the Big Ten, and number 10 nationally. I think that's what this game is really about. Our rush defense versus their running back, who is leading the country in rushing right now. They return seven starters. They're a spread, no-huddle, tempo offense. The last three games they've had 11 big plays. Ten runs, one pass for a total of 615 yards. Explosive offense. That's what you watch them, they may go zero yards, one yard, zero yards, two yards, and then an 80-yarder. That's kind of who they've been."

- Franklin on the Indiana defense:
"They've improved dramatically over the last couple of years. They've got nine starters returning. They're a three-four defense. Really big up front. I think they were starting to develop some depth as a four-three defensive line. Now they're only playing with three defensive linemen on the field, but you look at them, they've got 300-pounders almost three-deep. You look, they're a cover four defense. They do a really good job in the secondary running around. They're a multiple pressure defense."

- Franklin on the Indiana special teams:

"
They have a really fast slot receiver as well as specialist, Shane Wynn, No. 1. That's kind of who they are on special teams as well. Shane Wynn is their punt returner and kick returner. Their kicker has a really strong leg. He's made a 58-yard field goal this year, and that is 21 touchbacks. "





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VIDEO: #WGYMonday - Meet Oni Timothy

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is just 10 weeks away from opening their 2015 campaign and each Monday we introduce you to a member of the squad. Our third #WGYMonday feature introduces Oni Timothy from Rochester, N.Y.


By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- A captain is someone that leads by example. Someone who digs deep in order to do whatever they can to help the team. A captain puts the team on their back. Senior captain Laura Gebhart displayed remarkable leadership in Friday's game against No. 8 Northwestern with her poise and control.

The Big Ten Network televised game was slated to be one of the toughest for the Nittany Lions. The Wildcats have been successful and consistent over the past few years, making a true impact on Big Ten competition. This was the last home and regular-season matchup for the senior Nittany Lions and they weren't going to settle for anything less than a 'W'.

From the sound of the first whistle, spectators in the stands and those watching from home could tell this was going to be a 70-minute battle. The tenacity of both teams inside the 25-yard line was infectious as well as a great display of athleticism and sportsmanship. There was a lot on the line in this game: Northwestern had a Big Ten Title on the line and the Nittany Lions were focused on earning their right to play in the NCAA Tournament.

"Northwestern is a strong team, they are physical in a good way," head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss said. "This was a display of great hockey."

First Half Passing Game
Penn State's passing game in the first half was textbook. Short, crisp, controlled passes inside the mid field helped them control the game early on. Precision passing and speed gave them several scoring opportunities in the first half. Penn State was able to fire off 10 shots on goal, compared to Northwestern's four; each team forced three corners. Senior keeper Kylie Licata was a brick house in goal, taking the initiative and making stellar saves.

"I thought we had a really great first half," Gebhart said. "Our passing game was great and we really took control. We were all feeling really positive after the first half."

The first score didn't come until the 21 minute mark of the first half. Gebhart fired off a shot from the hash mark outside of the Wildcats' circle and found Taylor Herold at the stroke mark. Herold tipped it in, giving the Nittany Lions a buffer for the next 14 minutes before half time.

With seven seconds left on the clock, Northwestern was awarded a corner. With zero seconds on the clock off a direct shot, the Wildcats tied the score before the half.

Now, it was anyone's game.

Second Half...a Defensive Battle
The second half of Friday's contest was controlled by the defense. Seniors Katie Breneman and Katie Andrews stepped up by switching gears into "attack defense" mode, where they were making plays at the 50-yard line.

"Katie B and Katie A really stepped up their physical game in the second half," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "That's the Big Ten Conference, its physical. I think we need to step up how physical we are."

Amanda Dinunzio recorded the only shot from inside the circle in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Despite it being the second half, it appeared as though the game had moved faster.

With a tied score and ample time on the clock, any team that took control of the passing game inside of the 25-yard lines would have the best opportunity to change the scoreboard.

Enter Laura Gebhart.

Putting The Team On Your Back
For anyone watching in the stands or at home, overtime seemed almost inevitable with a tied score and seven minutes left of regulation. Then, Gebhart picked off a pass at the 50-yard line.

You could tell she was going to find the back of the net; you could see her determination. As she weaved and bobbed through the Northwestern defense, the ball never left her stick. She didn't falter, nor lose focus as she approached the outline of the circle.

Gebhart ripped off a beautiful, controlled drive into the back corner of the cage. Her shot was so powerful, the sound of the ball hitting the back of the cage echoed as loud as the Nittany Lion roar on the sound system.

"That goal was beautiful; she put the team on her back on this one," coach Morett-Curtiss. "She is a determined competitor, that's all her."

Looking Ahead to the Big Ten Tournament
The Nittany Lions head to Ann Arbor, Mich. on Thursday to face off against Michigan State in their first round of tournament play. The last time they met was over a month ago in which Penn State won, 2-1.

Heading into the postseason, Penn State's poise and control are the key weapons that will help them in their pursuit of the Big Ten Tournament Championship. These weapons have evolved since their exhibition games early on in the season and they came full circle against Northwestern.

"Our possession in this game was phenomenal," Gebhart said. We have really been working on that. Our defense really stepped up today, too. We are in good shape."

 

 

 

 

 

 



By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Penn State displayed a terrific response on special teams this past weekend against Syracuse as all three Nittany Lion goals ­were scored via the power play and the penalty-killing unit allowed just one Orange man advantage goal.

In its first CHA series of the season, Penn State (3-4-3, 0-1-1 CHA) fell to Syracuse (2-3-5, 1-0-1 CHA) on Friday night, 3-1, and tied on Saturday afternoon, 2-2.

"I'm really pleased with the overall effort," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "We got great play from both sides of special teams, power play and penalty kill. I love how we've responded to adversity on the road."

In Friday's contest Amy Petersen netted the team's first power play goal of the weekend. With assists from Laura Bowman and Bella Sutton, Petersen managed to even the score in the second period, before falling, 3-1.

Success on the power play continued into Saturday for the Nittany Lions as Bowman scored a special teams goal of her own to tie the tie the game in the first period, 1-1. This time around it was Petersen and Sutton with the assists.


After a Syracuse penalty with 4:20 left in the third period, Petersen notched her second power play goal of the weekend with assists by Bowman and Shannon Yoxheimer to tie the Orange, 2-2.

"It's great battles for loose pucks and maintaining zone possession time by the power play," said Brandwene. "Great communication and great vision seeing passing lanes and great poise, as well."

While Petersen pushes her goal total to eight on the season, as a team, the Nittany Lions converted on 43% (3-for-7) of their man-advantage opportunities against Syracuse.

"Certainly the success on the power play was big for us," said Brandwene. "I really, really feel good about the effort and response that we're getting. It's a total team effort out there for us."

The Penn State penalty-killing units played disciplined hockey, allowing just one Orange power play goal in six attempts.

"On the penalty kill, really good job with skating up ice and great job shutting down lanes," said Brandwene.

With such balanced play on both sides of special teams against Syracuse, Brandwene is certainly pleased with the development and progression of the power play and penalty kill so far this season.|

"It speaks to how coachable they are, and they deserve all the credit for the continued progress we are making on both sides of special teams," said Brandwene. "The continued attention to battling for every loose puck. Winning those 50/50 battles and just sustaining the intensity."

Notable first-year performances this weekend go to defenseman Bella Sutton who tallied two assists on the weekend and goaltender Hannah Ehresmann who stopped 50 shots in Friday's tie.

Having played ten games so far this season, Brandwene is happy with the adjustments and growth of the many freshmen.

"Our freshman class continues to grow," said Brandwene. "They learn. They work. They're willing to get better. I'm really appreciative of their efforts at the start of our season here."

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- For the second straight game, it took over 100 minutes for a winner to be decided in a Penn State men's soccer game.

A week after Michael Gonzalez gave the Nittany Lions a thrilling 2-1 victory in double overtime against Wisconsin, the Blue and White were not as fortunate this time around, falling to Northwestern 2-1.

Entering the game needing only a tie to clinch their third straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lions were just 100 seconds away from a draw when Wildcats forward Mike Roberge took a long pass and got the winning shot by Andrew Wolverton.

Although the loss was heartbreaking, it certainly wasn't because of a lack of effort. The Lions got off 14 shots and rallied to tie the game after falling behind 1-0 15 minutes in on a goal by Eric Weberman.

"I couldn't be prouder of my guys," head coach Bob Warming said afterwards. "Northwestern can be such a tough place to play. Our guys played with great cohesion and great organization."

A few weeks ago, the Nittany Lions may not have even gotten into overtime in a game like that.

In back-to-back losses against Maryland and Michigan State, the Lions fell behind early and were never able to recover. Against the No. 20 Wildcats however, they managed to fight back, tying the game on a Mikey Minutillo goal off of a penalty with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

In the second half, the Lions took control early on and looked poised to break the tie. Brandon Savino, Mason Klerks and Connor Maloney all had prime chances stopped by Northwestern goalie Tyler Miller, who played terrifically and made eight saves.

"They really kept playing hard and battling," Warming said. "They showed a lot of fight in them today.

"Northwestern is really organized and well coached and they just don't give up a lot of chances. We had a couple of good ones that were just a little off today."

One player who epitomized the attitude that Warming wants to see is Minutillo, who scored his sixth goal of the year despite coming off the bench for the first time all season.

Entering the season with the expectation of being one of the keys to Penn State's offense, Minutillo was a consistent producer early in the season yet entered Sunday having not scored since October 1 against Bucknell.

With Owen Griffith returning from an injury that kept him out of the Wisconsin game and Gonzalez having proven himself as a capable starter on defense, Warming moved Griffith up to forward and decided to see if Minutillo would be a better fit as a spark off the bench.

That certainly proved to be correct, as the California native didn't complain about the change and gave the Lions the offensive boost they needed. On the goal, the senior had his initial attempt and first rebound blocked before finally knocking it home on the third try.

"I thought [Mikey] could be the type of guy that could come in and really give us a spark off the bench," Warming said. "He certainly did that."

As heartbreaking as the loss was, it doesn't end the Nittany Lions season or their chances of winning the Big Ten title. They can still win the conference if Rutgers can win or tie against Maryland on Wednesday.

The Lions could still wind up playing Northwestern again in the conference tournament, and at the very least their effort today gives them the confidence that they can play with the Wildcats.

"We are all really disappointed in the loss," Warming said. "I still think the guys are really focused. They came here a good team and left an even better one." 

Monday Notebook: Ficken Clutch for the Nittany Lions

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10497149.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior kicker Sam Ficken is quietly putting together one of the best seasons of any placekicker across the country.

Following a 4-for-4 effort in Saturday's game against Maryland, Ficken was named one of three stars by the Lou Groza Award on Monday. Additionally, he was named Big Ten Specialist of the Week for the fourth time in his career. The Indiana native nailed three field goals of 45-plus yards, a feat no other Penn State kicker has accomplished since at least 1982.

For the season, Ficken has been virtually automatic, going 17-for-19 on field goal attempts and 17-for-17 on PATs.

"He's been playing extremely well," said head coach James Franklin. "I said that to you guys in the spring. I said that to you in the summer. He's also an example of a guy who's been here; he's a senior, he's done everything right both on and off the field. He's graduated. You're talking about a veteran player, who's seen it and done it and that shows up on the field."

Ficken's only unsuccessful field goal attempts in 2014 are two kicks that were blocked. He's been a model of consistency since spring practice began in March.

"Of course, everything right now seems to be going right for me," said Ficken. "With Ryan Keiser being out Chris Gulla is doing a tremendous job filling in for him. When they do their job correctly it makes my job a whole lot easier, and I have to give them credit for that."

Ficken and Keiser developed a tremendous rapport on field goal attempts during the past two seasons. When Keiser hurt his hand and could not hold in the latter stages of 2013, Ficken's percentage dropped. Ficken went to work in the offseason to build chemistry with a second holder to make sure it did not happen again in 2014 if he needed to work with someone other than Keiser.

With Keiser out for the remainder of the season, Ficken's work with Gulla during the offseason proved to be paramount on a perfect kicking Saturday.

Ficken is ranked No. 3 in the nation in field goals made per game (17; 2.13 pg) and No. 10 in the nation in accuracy at 89.5 percent.

The senior has been just as clutch as he has been accurate this season. In the fourth quarter of games this year, Ficken is 5-for-5 on field goal attempts. That includes a game-winner against UCF and a kick that sent Penn State into overtime against Ohio State.

"My mindset is if they send me out I am expected to make the kick," said Ficken. "The score of the game adds a little pressure on how big the kick is, but in my mind, every kick is important."

Penn State travels to Indiana for a noon kick (BTN) on Saturday in Bloomington.


Lions Top Nation in Rushing Defense
After limiting Maryland to 33 rushing yards on Saturday, the Nittany Lions returned to the No. 1 spot in the nation in rushing defense. Through eight games, the Nittany Lions have allowed 77.1 rushing yards per game. Additionally, the Lions are now third nationally in total defense. Penn State opponents have accounted for 273.4 yards of total offense against the Lions this season. The Lions are ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense (17.8 ppg).

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 leading the Big Ten in passing yards (2,038), passing yards per game (254.8 ypg) and completions per game (22.88).

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is eighth nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receptions per game (7.8). He ranks 18th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 91.0.

LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten and is seventh in the nation in tackles (11.5 per game). He is second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally in solo tackles per game at 6.5.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is third in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.13.

Early Look at the Hoosiers
Indiana enters the weekend looking to snap a three-game slide. The Hoosiers dropped a 34-10 decision at Michigan on Saturday.

The Hoosiers are 3-5 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play. Indiana knocked off then-No. 18 Missouri on Sept. 20 (31-27) before the Big Ten season began.

With starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld out for the season (shoulder), Indiana has turned to true freshman Zander Diamont as the leader of the offense. The Hoosiers boast one of the top rushing offenses in the nation, thanks to junior Tevin Coleman. Coleman is nation's leading rusher at 162.5 yards per game. He is third in the nation with 1,300 total rushing yards and fifth in the nation in yards per carry (8.02). He has rushed for 11 scores in 2014.

Penn State and Indiana will meet for 18th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 16-1 all-time against the Hoosiers.


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