By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a complete team effort, the Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team powered past Rutgers, 11-6, on Senior Night in Happy Valley on Sunday.
Looking to snap a skid, the Nittany Lions came out with their strongest first quarter of the year against the Scarlet Knights. Although Rutgers got on the board first, Penn State quickly answered, and never looked back. The Nittany Lions dominating performance gave them a convincing win after weeks of hard work.
"I feel really good for our seniors," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know they've worked so hard and fought through a very difficult stretch and when you're losing over a four or five week period it's not easy to keep coming back every day like these guys have."
Although several players had multi-goal games, the performance of senior Pat Manley stood out to those in attendance and those watching on TV. His five points, three of which came in the first half, helped rocket the Nittany Lions past the Scarlet Knights.
"I think all year we've kind of had trouble with initiating the offense and too much one and done, taking the ball to the goal, so I kind of took it on myself to look for the open guy today," said Manley.
Four of Manley's points came from assists, a contribution that didn't go unnoticed. Earlier in the season, the Nittany Lions had difficulty in creating opportunities in front of the net. Against Rutgers, the story changed.
Manley was one of nine seniors honored prior to the opening face off against Rutgers. A win on home turf during Senior Night meant the world to the oldest players on the team.
"It's great to get a win," said Manley. "It's been a tough year so far. To get our first Big Ten win on Senior Day is just awesome, it's been such a relief. All the stuff we've been through this season, just having our families here [for the game] and seeing them all day today it's just been a great moment for us."
Tambroni was pleased with his players' performance against Rutgers and thought the team had worked hard all season, deserving the win. Tambroni has admired the senior class and how they have led the team the whole season, during a time of significant transition for the Nittany Lions' program. Tambroni believed it was the seniors who set the tone for the Sunday night win.
"I think it was a culmination of their belief and their hard work and their persistence that really pushed us over the edge today," said Tambroni. "I just feel for that group. They're a wonderful group of young men who earned this victory here today."
Now having a fourth win under their belts, the Nittany Lions look forward to their final game of the regular season. A win against Michigan would be enough to place Penn State in Big Ten tournament contention. The Nittany Lions will take their newfound confidence from a long awaited win and channel it to improve every day during practice this week.
"We just want to keep playing," said Manley. "If we win this next game it's just another chance for us to keep playing and I know us seniors and all these guys want to keep playing after the season that we've had so we're just gonna have to take it one day at a time next week. Michigan is a great team, up and coming program so we're gonna have our work cut out for us."
Penn State travels to Ann Arbor for their final game of the regular season at Michigan this Saturday.
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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame
Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sunny skies and 68,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2015 season.
After a practice period marked by superb progress, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a great deal of confidence. The Blue topped the White, 17-7, during a productive Saturday for the Lions.
"We got what we wanted to get out of it," said head coach James Franklin. "We stayed healthy, which is the most important thing, especially in our situation. We were able to mix the run and the pass. Obviously, our defensive line still holds an advantage over our offensive line. That's going to be a work in progress and a focus in the offseason. It was great to see some of the running backs like Nick Scott and Akeel Lynch make some plays, but we had great work. We had two real teams. We didn't end up having to run guys from one side to the other, so guys got a bunch of reps."
Penn State practiced 15 times between March 20 and April 17 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.
The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year is unique, and Saturday was no exception. From the autograph session to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.
"The guys worked really hard this spring, and to be able to come out today and play in front of such a great crowd was huge for us," Hackenberg said. "It was great to meet so many fans today because they are such a big part of what we do. It was a great day."
"It's a pretty cool experience to be out there in front of 68,000 fans for a spring practice," said running back Akeel Lynch. "
In his first spring as a the featured back, Lynch excelled for the Nittany Lion offense. He finished with nine carries for 50 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run for the Blue team. Lynch and the Penn State offense took full advantage of this being year two in the offensive scheme. The unit's increased comfort level led to a greater degree of execution.
"I think we did a lot of great things as a unit," Hackenberg said. "I think as a unit we also have a lot of things we need to work on for next season. I try to execute everything I am asked to do to the best of my abilities."
A big piece of the offense's growth is the line's progression since the season ended at the Pinstripe Bowl. The growth process will continue through the summer, but the Nittany Lions have taken a big step forward along the offensive line.
"I think we are way ahead of where we were at this point last year," said Franklin. "As a group, we still have a situation now where we still have guys trying to learn left tackle, which I think showed up at times today. But as a group, four out of the five in totality of it, we still have a lot of work to do. I am confident that between now and the start of camp, we can take another step and then continue to grow during camp and be ready to go."
Defensively, the Nittany Lion front four headlined a strong set of practices for coordinator Bob Shoop's unit. Sure, the defense entered the spring without starters Mike Hull, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, but the Lions didn't skip a beat.
"We're a deeper unit. Garrett Sickels and [Carl] Nassib have had an excellent spring," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. "They played very, very well. You saw Evan Schwan wreak havoc and was pretty dominant today at times. Curtis Cothran's a good player and Torrence Brown's a very good player. So I feel like we have a really, really, really good situation at those positions right there. Those guys are playing exceptionally well."
Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a great deal to look forward to when fall camp begins in early August.
Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Lincoln Financial Field against Temple on Sept. 5. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions, but with the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2015.
"We made great strides on offense and on defense, and it was great for the fans to come out in such big numbers to see us," said Trevor Williams. "Now, we need to take the next step and get even better."
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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a confidence-boosting doubleheader sweep of Ohio State, the Penn State softball team (23-20, 6-8) will travel to College Park, Md. for a three-game weekend series against the new kids on the block, the Maryland Terrapins.
The first pitch of the weekend will be thrown at 6 p.m. on Friday night, then the new conference foes will face off at 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday morning. The series finale on Sunday will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State enters the series riding some momentum, as the pair of wins on Wednesday night vaulted it from 12th to seventh place in the B1G. Adversely, Maryland has dropped three straight and six of their last eight, downgrading it to a three-way tie for the ninth position.
In their first season in the B1G, the Terps boast a 23-19 record with a 5-7 mark in the conference. After an abysmal 11-win season in the ACC in 2014, the Terps rebounded well and has exceeded expectations this season.
Leading the charge for the Terrapins at the dish are outfielders Erin Pronobis and Hannah Dewey. Pronobis ranks fifth in the conference with 11 long balls. She leads the team with 40 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .715. Dewey tops Maryland with a .388 batting average and a .556 on-base percentage. She also sees her fair share of time in the circle. The versatile sophomore has gone 4-8 this season in 24 appearances.
The clear number one for the Terps on the hill is senior Kaitlyn Schmeiser. In the team's 42 contests this year, Schmeiser has thrown a pitch in 37 of them. She totals 158.1 innings on the mound, and has worked her way to a 17-7 record. Her 3.31 ERA ranks seventh in the B1G.
The Nittany Lions will seek to counter Schmeiser with a bevy of offensive studs, highlighted by Lexi Knief. The junior has risen her batting average to an impressive .414 on the year while smacking 55 hits, fifth most in the conference. Macy Jones has also had a fantastic season as she sports a .461 OBP and a .630 slugging percentage. The junior has also cracked eighth homers and 30 RBIs.
A defining key to the series for Penn State will be limiting walks. Maryland has a patient lineup that has worked the second most free passes in the B1G this year, so the PSU pitching staff will have to pound the zone and force U of M to beat them with its sticks. The Nittany Lions have surrendered 159 bases on balls this year.
Another X-factor for the Blue and White will be Mollie Sorenson. The freshman has slowly moved up to the two-hole and has been incredibly efficient since B1G play began. Sorenson is batting .297 on the year, but she's hitting .417 in conference games with 20 base knocks and 12 runs scored. She will need to stay hot in the B1G to give the offense a boost this weekend.
"It's going to be a really hard game," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I think we're both sort of battling for the Big Ten and to be one of the few teams at the top of the Big Ten. So, they're always very, very good, especially at home. It's going to be quite a battle."
With Northwestern and Penn State both fresh off wins, it is clear the two teams will be prepared. According to Doherty, her team will need to play strong defensively, shutting down the Wildcats and handling the pressure they bring. She also knows it will be important for the Lions to finish each and every shot, putting the ball away as often as possible.
If Penn State does those few key things, the game will be theirs to take. Nevertheless, captain Kelly Lechner believes there is one additional aspect the team must excel in - the draw.
"We're really focusing on the draw because possession is key, especially against a team like Northwestern," said Lechner. "We're just going to need the ball and also staying calm under pressure. Like I just said, possession is key. We don't want to lose it on opportunities that we shouldn't. We just need to stay calm and keep the ball in our hands."
This season, the draw has consistently been one aspect the Nittany Lions feel they can improve upon. Lechner has played a huge role, winning 30 draw controls for the third most on the team. Jenna Mosketti and Ally Heavens are both first and second in that category, respectively.
As the season has progressed, the Lions have steadily improved in that area, which may correlate to their winning ways. With the team's six consecutive victories and polished play as of late, it is not surprising it feels confident. Penn State knows what it can accomplish, and this game against Northwestern will only help the Nittany Lions gauge their level of play.
"I think our confidence is great, especially coming off that win against Cornell," Lechner said. "We were looking at these last three games as kind of our championship plays. You know, they're huge games and we really came together at the right time during Cornell to piece together a whole game. So, we still have some things we need to work on, but the team is definitely confident, gelling together and working really well offensively and defensively."
Even with the Lions' belief in what they can accomplish in the remainder of the season, the team will need to make sure it excels on the road. Including this past week's game against Cornell, Penn State travels for its final three games of the regular season.
While being away from home certainly is a factor, the Blue and White refuse to let it affect their play. The team knows it can be successful each and every time it steps on the field, regardless of whether or not it is in Happy Valley.
"I think it's good and bad being on the road," said Doherty. "It's nice to have the team collectively together before games and preparing, but it's hard not to be at your home turf. We're excited to get on the road, and certainly these last two games are going to be a good measure of where we are."
The Nittany Lions are ready for Northwestern. With the way they are playing right now, Penn State knows it can compete with any team.
"Our expectation is to play our best game of the season," Lechner said. "We work on things every week. We don't think we've played our complete, whole best game. So, we just want to compete for 60 minutes and really execute on the things we've been working on."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After finishing off the regular season with two second-place finishes, there was doubt in how well the men's gymnastics team could perform in the postseason. The Nittany Lions used that uncertainty and their passion as motivation to finish off the 2014-15 season in a tremendous way.
Big Ten Championships
In front of 1,060 fans inside Rec Hall, the Penn State men's gymnastics team completed a perfect home record by capturing its third Big Ten title with a score of 436.700 after edging by Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska in a vigorous battle that came down to the final set.
Junior Trevor Howard ended the championship on floor exercise with a score of 15.100 to let Penn State secure the conference crown.
Howard, senior Matthew Felleman, freshman Thad Lawson, senior captain Tristian Duverglas, redshirt-sophomore Leroy Clare, Jr., senior Craig Hernandez and junior Alexis Torres all competed in the individual event finals.
Howard competed in four individual event finals, the most of any gymnast, and seized the lone individual title of the night for Penn State. He defended his Big Ten still rings title from the year prior.
After finishing the Big Ten Championships with a score of 87.200, Felleman earned the Big Ten all-around title. He also placed second on high bar and was named an honoree alongside Howard for the first team All-Big Ten team.
The men's gymnastics team built on its momentum from the Big Ten victory as they went to the NCAA Championships two weeks later. They finished the season with a third-place finish inside Lloyd Noble Center in Oklahoma.
"I was really pleased that they rose to the occasion," said head coach Randy Jepson. "There were some really dramatic moments, but it could have been a far different result than what it was and our guys really showed a lot of heart to finish through it, just shy of second, and I was really pleased with the team's performance overall and how the individuals did, as well."
In the qualifiers last Thursday, the Nittany Lions finished third with a score of 432.900, two-tenths higher than Minnesota, to advance to Friday's NCAA team finals.
The situation was similar to the Big Ten Championships where it came down to the final performance on floor exercise. Sophomore Christian McSwain, sophomore Dominic DiFulvio, freshmen Thad Lawson and Felleman had great performances to bring the team close to qualifying. Howard tied his career-best of 15.800 to help the team advance to the team finals.
"I was just focusing on the there-and-now, and not really in the past, but just getting through the set and making sure to do the best that I could," said Howard.
In the team finals, the Nittany Lions followed behind Oklahoma and Stanford to be the third best team in the country. It was Penn state's highest finish since they placed third in 2012.
"We had a lot to prove after the first day, having the mistakes, but overall, I think we made a strong statement in competition against the other big teams as well as the national team members," said Lawson. "I think we went out there and proved our worth."
Lawson captured the NCAA individual title on floor exercise in the individual finals.
"[Lawson] was great," said coach Jepson. "He was rough the first day, but fortunately, we qualified in and he got a second day and he was perfect, nearly flawless. It was probably the best routine of his life and that's the time to do it. I was really impressed that he was that focused and knew what he had to do and that he went out and did it."
Lawson tallied as the fourth national champion in floor exercise in Penn State history and is the second one in the past three years.
"It definitely is a sign to any other team and it proves our dominance on [floor exercise] as well as being the force to be reckoned with on that event and it definitely keeps me with high expectations looking into the future as well as people, recruits and people that come to this team and what we expect," said Lawson.
The last freshman to earn the NCAA floor exercise title was Howard in 2013. Due to injury, Howard was unable to compete in the individual finals, but he was ecstatic for his teammate's accomplishment.
"It's awesome," said Howard. "[Lawson] trained so hard and he's been having injuries with his back for years now since his previous injury, so him coming out and winning floor was definitely a huge motivational thing for him and I'm really happy for him...I was definitely really disappointed I couldn't compete, but the team needed me more than just individually, so being able to go out and help the team more than myself is always just an honor."
Even with Howard out of the finals, he was still able to provide advice for Lawson.
"I always tell [Lawson] to be calm, not worry about the scoreboard, just doing you will have the outcome that you want," said Howard. "I think he really took that to heart and it showed."
Though Lawson is a national champion, he still has plans to improve.
"I've proven myself this year on floor and I came out with a win, but definitely still have work to do," said Lawson. "We all do. For me, it's time to prove myself on the other events."
Duverglas, Clarke, Jr., Torres and Felleman also competed in the individual event finals. They each finished in the top-six for their events. All four of them and Lawson recorded All-America honors. Howard also tallied All-American with a fourth-place finish in the all-around.
"[The team] is excited about what the future holds and we have a busy summer ahead of us with some training and competition and development, so that's kind of where we're headed and the guys are really upbeat and excited about where they can go and what they can do next year," said coach Jepson.
Blue-White Gameday Central |
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will wrap up spring drills on Saturday afternoon at the annual Blue-White Game Presented by AAA inside Beaver Stadium, marking the culmination of a productive spring practice season. The game will kick at 4 p.m. with live television coverage from BTN. Both parking and admission are free.
Penn State made significant progress on both sides of the ball and on special teams during the allotted practice period for spring drills. Saturday's game marks the final opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate the team before the start of training camp in early August.
"We've had a great spring. The fact that we returned our entire staff was really valuable," head coach James Franklin said. "I think we are the only staff in the Big Ten that did that. I think that has been helpful in building on the foundation we laid last year."
In year two under Franklin and the coaching staff, the Nittany Lions have been productive every time they have stepped on the field since practice began on March 20. With increased knowledge of the schemes, practice routine and more depth, the Lions have been able to approach this spring differently than they did one year ago.
"It's night and day (between this year and last year)," said Franklin. "...We have more depth. We have more bodies. Just across the board, the players understand the expectation. I think we are in a situation now where we have everybody on the same page. It's not even close. Our practices have been able to be more a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more physical because of the depth that we have. Just across the board, from top to bottom, it's like watching a different team.
While Saturday's game will be a fun way for the team to put on a show for the fans, it's a chance for the players and staff to work through typical game-like conditions.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to get out in front of a crowd," quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. "It's a great weekend for the fans because there is so much going on. It's a little bit of a show, but at the same time it's work. A lot of these guys have never really had reps in front of fans at this level. It's a great opportunity to go out, have fun and immerse yourself in what a gameday feel is."
The work to prepare for 2015 is just beginning for the Nittany Lions, but the spring period set the tone for the rest of the academic semester and summer conditioning program. Franklin is very optimistic about the direction the team is headed in, and he is looking forward to getting in front of the Beaver Stadium crowd.
"Spring has gone really well in all three phases," said Franklin. "We still have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot of progress that we are going to need to make between now and the start of the season against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. We are excited. We are excited about playing the spring game. We are hoping to have a good crowd. The weather is supposed to be great."
Take a look through some Blue-White items to watch as the Nittany Lions wrap up spring practice for 2015.
Autograph Session Returns
The popular pre-game autograph session returns for the second-straight year. Parking lots around Beaver Stadium will open at 8 a.m. The team will arrive at the South Tunnel at approximately 12:30 p.m. Gates A and B will open at 1 p.m. before the autograph session on the field from 1:15-2 p.m.
Fans are asked to enter the field through the South Tunnel. The offensive players will be signing on the West side of the field (please enter through gate B) and the defensive squad will be on the East side (please enter through gate A). Fans will go through the single-file line and get autographs from either the offense or defense before exiting the field through the North Tunnel. Those seeking additional autographs will need to return to the South Tunnel the re-enter the line.
The players will be permitted to sign one item per person to give as many fans as possible an opportunity to meet the squad. The players will not be available for photographs during the autograph session.
The Blue-White Game will feature regular scoring. The squad has been split into a Blue team and a White team. Quarterbacks will wear the opposite jersey color of their team (Blue team QBs will wear White jerseys; White team QBs will wear Blue jerseys). The game will have four quarters, each 15 minutes in length. The first quarter will have normal game timing. Quarters two, three and four will feature a running clock. There will be 22-minute halftime intermission. Prior to the 4:06 p.m. kickoff, a placekicking competition will be held on the field. Prior to the start of the second half, a punting competition will be held on the field.
Blue-White Game Rosters
Take a look through the breakdown of the roster for Saturday's game. Note that the coaching staff has been split into two groups.
Uplifting Athletes Jerseys
For the second-straight year, the Nittany Lions will wear special one-game only jerseys at the Blue-White Game to help raise funds for Uplifting Athletes. The Blue and White jerseys will feature an Uplifting Athletes patch. Following the game, 20 of the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off with the proceeds benefitting the Kidney Cancer Association. Last July, the 12th Annual Penn State Uplifting Athletes Lift For Life raised a record $140,000. Last year's fundraising efforts brought the cumulative total of funds raised to more than $1 million to benefit the Kidney Cancer Association. The 13th Annual Lift For Life is slated for July 11. Details on the game-word auction will be announced soon.
Also announced this week, AAA Southern Pennsylvania will donate to the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes for each photo posted from Saturday's Blue-White activities on Twitter using the hashtag #AAABlueWhite.
McGloin Back in Beaver Stadium
The last time Matt McGloin stepped into Beaver Stadium with a working role on a gameday, he helped lead Penn State to a thrilling 24-21 victory over Wisconsin on Senior Day in 2012. The West Scranton native and current Oakland Raider will be back on Saturday, serving as an analyst for the Big Ten Network during the live broadcast of the Blue-White Game.
McGloin broke nine school records and tied another during his stellar senior season, which culminated in winning the 2012 Burlsworth Trophy for the nation's outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on. McGloin still holds the Penn State record for: passing yards in a season (3,266; 2012), completions in a season (270; 2012), touchdowns in a season (24; 2012), career touchdowns (43) and completions in a game (35; vs. Northwestern, 2012).
The game is also airing on more than 30 Penn State Sports Network radio stations across the state and in metropolitan New York City, with Steve Jones and Jack Ham calling the action. ESPN Radio (1450 AM) and WBUS (93.7 FM) are the State College outlets. The game also is available on GoPSUsports.com.
Jeff Gordon Penn State Car on Display
It was announced this week that NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon will race a special Penn State themed No. 24 car during the June 7 Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. A show car featuring the special paint scheme will be on display beginning Saturday morning along Curtin Road near the All-Sports Museum. The car will also make a brief appearance inside Beaver Stadium during halftime of the game.
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Weekends never are a vacation for the Penn State baseball team.
That's because the Nittany Lions typically have a series against a Big Ten team from Friday to Sunday. This weekend will be no different, when the Lions hit the road to face Minnesota in a three-game test.
As important as those games are, that doesn't mean the Lions don't take the rest of their schedule seriously, something they proved this week by winning back-to-back contests against West Virginia (5-3) and Bucknell (11-2).
"These games are huge," head coach Rob Cooper said. "These games are just as important to us as the conference games, because at the end of the day, they all go towards our record. As we go forward, these games go towards whether you're good enough to play in a regional. They're important."
Though it would be easy for the Lions to get complacent against non-conference teams, they have a done a good job staying locked in no matter their opponent as of late. Since March 17, Penn State is 6-1 in midweek contests.
No only does every game affect the Lions record and keep them sharp for the weekends, they also give some of team's less heralded players the chance to prove themselves.
On Wednesday against Bucknell, it was a pair of sophomores in pitcher Tom Mullin and outfielder Nick Riotto that responded to those opportunites. Typically a reliever, Mullin gave up just one run in five innings in his first career start while Riotto went 1 for 2 with an RBI single and scored three runs in his 15th start of the season.
"A perfect example is Nick Riotto, who's had two really good games," said Cooper. "If we didn't look at these games as important than, well right now I'm really thinking that we probably need to have him in the lineup somehow Friday. But if we didn't look at these games the exact same way that wouldn't be a consideration.
"[Tonight] shows that Tom can do it. If someone gets hurt or down the road if we need someone to start he showed he can do it. I'm proud of him because it's part of the whole learning process."
In Minnesota, the Lions will face a team that is 13-19 and just one spot ahead of them in the conference standings. While Penn State's last two weekends brought tough challenges in Ohio State (24-9) and Michigan (21-16), the players aren't looking past the Gophers.
After all, the Lions know first hand how tightly contested games in the Big Ten can be, having beaten Michigan and Indiana once while losing to Ohio State by one twice. With the Gophers coming off a 13-5 win over North Dakota State on Tuesday, both teams will be riding some momentum into the series.
"These past two games are huge, especially going into this weekend," sophomore shortstop Jim Haley said. "We're not trying to put a Big Ten in front of it, I mean it's an important series for us, but we're just trying to carry that momentum over and at the minimum play 27 innings, just play our game."
With five Big Ten weekends left this season, the Lions aren't looking to waste games against anyone. As challenging as this season has been at times, the Lions feel good having won two straight and four of their last six.
"[Our morale] is definitely up right now," Mullin said. "After Michigan I would say it was tough, but yesterday it was up after that win (over West Virginia)."
"Our team morale is definitely up," Haley added. Maybe we didn't have the result we wanted against Michigan but day in and day out, from the lift to the practice, our morale is up, it has to be."