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Triple Plays, Senior Day and a Challenge

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team celebrated Senior Day on Saturday (May 17) after a 7-6 loss to Michigan State, but from the looks on the players faces they knew the outcome could have been different. Five unearned runs ended up being the difference, but head coach Rob Cooper knows the program made progress during his first season at the helm.

"I was happy with our progress and some of the things we were able to do this season," said Cooper. "The guys that are returning know there are things they need to work on and our coaching staff knows there are things we need to do better, as well. The biggest thing in changing a culture and a mindset is to get the players to play hard and compete each day and I feel like this team did that."

All weekend, Penn State had their opportunities to take down the Spartans, falling by scores of 4-2 and 4-1 in a doubleheader on Friday. However, in each of those games the Nittany Lions brought the game tying run to the plate in the ninth inning. On Saturday, they entered the ninth trailing by just a run and three seniors coming to the plate.

The trio of Sam August, Alex Farkes and Steve Snyder were unable to get anything started against MSU closer Jeff Kinley and Penn State's season came to a close. Cooper honored each senior after the game, but before the contest he let each of them know just how much they meant to him and to the program.

"I just told them that I love each one of them [the seniors]," said Cooper. "I told them that moving forward I want to be able to help them in any way I can. If that is a letter of recommendation, a phone call or anything else, they deserve it for what they've given to this program."

Special Tribute on Senior Day
Head coach Rob Cooper had said a few times leading up to the Nittany Lions' final home weekend that Senior Day is a special day to him. It is a chance for him to show his appreciation for those who gave four years of hard work to help build a program.

With just one year at the help of the Penn State program, this group of seniors was a little different for Cooper.

"It's an emotional day," said head coach Rob Cooper. "For some of these guys it will be the last time they put on the uniform...they put a lot of time and energy into making this program better. I don't like Senior Days because it means you're saying good bye in a way and this group has brought tremendous energy and effort all year. I wish I had more time with this group."

All eight seniors on the roster played over the weekend with seven penciled into the starting lineup at some point. Tim Dunn and Ian Parvin started on the mound on Friday and Sunday, respectively, while Greg Welsh collected the final out in Saturday's season finale. Sam August, Alex Farkes, Zach Ell, Colin Keefe and Steve Snyder each started at least two games on the weekend.

"Those eight seniors are guys that everyone in the locker room looks up to," said Taylor Skerpon. "We all went through the same changes this season, but for them to show so much maturity and leadership through the coaching change is something that everyone can keep with them. They showed us how quickly and easily it is to buy in to a system and make it successful."

Accepting the Challenge
Prior to Senior Day, each departing player was presented with a challenge coin; a medallion usually issued by military unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of that unit. The coin is a symbol that they can carry with them showing their standing, and this group was the first honored with the token under Cooper.

Cooper also addressed the seniors in the locker room and lauded them for their attitude and effort while going through something that not many players have to go through. He praised them for accepting change and, in some ways, being "freshmen" again and having to learn a new system.

"The challenge coin was a way to show our guys that they are all connected through this special journey," said Cooper. "The challenge coin is a way to distinguish them as Penn State baseball alums and the only way to attain it [the coin] is to play baseball and graduate from Penn State. It shows them they are a part of something special."

The coin represented more than just admittance into the Penn State baseball alumni family, but it confirmed what many of those seniors already knew about coach Cooper: he cared.

"I grew so much as a baseball player and a person this season," said senior Zach Ell, "I can't thank the coaching staff enough. To see the coin, with the Penn State logo on one side and the baseball alumni on the other, is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. It's a token to show all the hard work we all put in the last four years and that really means a lot. I love [Cooper] to death and I appreciate all he has done for us."

Pair of Triple Plays Land Lions Atop #SCTop10
Penn State has fielded a baseball team for 127 seasons and never before have the Nittany Lions turned two triple plays in a single game. In fact, only once in Division I baseball history - 2006 when Gonzaga did so at Washington State - has it happened.

The plays helped the Blue and White nail down the top spot on SportsCenter's Top 10, appeared on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and was highlighted on the MLB Network in their evening coverage.  The YouTube video had over 232,000 views as of May 21.

On Friday, May 16th in the first game of a doubleheader, Penn State equaled that feat with a pair of triple plays vs. Michigan State. In the fourth inning, the Spartans had runners on first and second with no out when Tim Dunn got MSU's Blaise Salter to line out Jim Haley at shortstop. With both runners breaking on the play, Haley stepped on second base and threw across to J.J. White at first base to complete the triple play.

In the eighth inning, Haley was again part of the three-out play when a single and an error put two runners for the Spartans Jimmy Pickens. Penn State's Ryan Harper watched Pickens line a ball towards center field that Taylor Skerpon made a leaping catch on, tossed to Haley who then threw to White to write Penn State into the NCAA record books.

Penn State ended the season with three triple plays, also turning one at Santa Clara on March 15.

"It's pretty surreal to be a part of something like that," said junior Taylor Skerpon. "Waking up today I had about 100 notifications about being on SportsCenter. You sometimes don't believe it happened. I joked around a little with Jim (Haley) about not flipping the first ball to me, but to see it happen twice in one game and to be a part of it is a lot of fun."

Applying Pressure
First year head coach Rob Cooper will admit that he wasn't exactly a baseball prodigy during his time as a college player, but in his 21years the dugouts his teams have produce a lot offensively. The reasons for the turnaround at Penn State can be attributed to sound offensive players, but Cooper approach and coaching philosophy also plays a role in that.

In his nine seasons at Wright State, Cooper's teams set five of the school's top 10 team batting averages, while also accounting for five or more seasons in the top-10 of season doubles, sacrifice hit, sacrifice flies and hit by pitch.

This season, Cooper took a nearly identical lineup and watched them improve in nearly every statistical category. They ended the year just shy of last season's batting average and slugging percentage, while topping their 2013 totals in on-base percentage (.338), walks (184), hit-by-pitch (40), stolen bases (50) and sacrifice files (22). They also cut down on their strikeouts in 2014.

"What we try to do is be a smart offensive team and take advantage of what the other team is giving us," said head coach Rob Cooper. "Today we did a good job hitting with two outs, we took advantage of some things like delayed steals and we used our short game well. It's about taking what the other team is giving us that day and making it work."

Working Within the Zone
Pitching coach Brian Anderson said early in the season that his pitching staff would attack the strike zone and look to start bats. His pitchers reiterated that point throughout the season, saying they had "trust in the defense behind them" and that trust equated into a lower ERA, less runs allowed and over 100 free passes fewer than they had in 50 games in 2013.

As a staff, Penn State improved their ERA from a season ago. The Lions staff ended the year with a 4.77 earned run average, allowing fewer runs (304), earned runs (226) and walks (141) in 50 games. The staff also hit fewer batters and threw fewer wild pitches during the season.

From 2013 to 2014, Penn State pitches walked 97 fewer hitters and hit nine fewer batters for a total of 106 fewer free bases. The defense also did a better job of taking care of the baseball, committing 12 less errors on the year, limiting the extra outs supplied to the opposition and building a trust with their mound workers.

"Our pitching staff made a large commitment in the offseason to be strike throwers," said assistant coach Brian Anderson. "We made a lot of strides during that time and throughout the season and I am proud of them for buying into our philosophy of attacking hitters." 

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

2014 Coaches Caravan Day VII - Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE - The final leg of the 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off with a sold out lunch stop in Williamsport and a dinner event in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Week three will feature a new lineup of Penn State head coaches joining James Franklin on the road.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik boarded the modified Fullington bus on Tuesday morning when it rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m.  Take a look through highlights of day seven on the Penn State Coaches Caravan.


Stop No. 13 - Williamsport (Pennsylvania College of Technology)


 
A sold out crowd of 270 Penn State fans filled the Field House on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus for the first of five stops during week three.  What makes the Caravan so unique is the variety of head coaches who entertain the crowds.  With the addition of Cooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik to kick off this week, nine head coaches have now been a part of the 13 total stops.

Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion men's volleyball team to a 25-7 overall mark and a spot in the NCAA semifinals, Pavlik is on the Caravan for the third-straight year.  The men's volleyball squad battled eventual national champion Loyola to a 3-2 setback on Loyola's home floor during the semifinals.  That being said, Pavlik has firsthand experience of what a home crowd advantage can do for a team.  He can relate to Franklin's vision of a sold out stadium during every home game.

"I know what a great home crowd can do for a team.  We experienced it," Pavlik said.  "A sold out venue makes it so much more of a challenge for an away team."

williamsport_1.jpg Cooper, who finished up his first full season as head coach of the Nittany Lion baseball team on Saturday, addressed the sold out crowd following Pavlik.  The Lions made significant progress from 2013 to 2014, and Cooper is excited for what is ahead.

"Being a part of the Penn State family is unbelievable," Cooper said.  "This coaching fraternity is an amazing thing to be a part of."

It was fitting for Cooper's first stop to be in the home of the Little League World Series.  Cooper joked with the crowd that his two young sons both asked him immediately after being hired at Penn State if they could attend a game at the Little League World Series in August.

"Here we are in the epicenter of youth baseball," Cooper said.  "You know what it is like to be a part of a championship event...There are good things ahead (at Penn State)."

Gadowsky stepped to the microphone following Cooper.  Still fired up after his first season of leading the Nittany Lions inside Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky could not be more appreciative of what the fan base does for the men's hockey program.

"The atmosphere you created in Pegula made me a cool dad again (with my kids)," Gadowsky joked.

"The best part about Pegula is that it takes a little piece of Beaver Stadium and puts a roof over it," Gadowsky said.  "It's awesome.  I love being in there...The reason it is so addictive is because of Nittany Nation."

williamsport_2.jpgCoach Franklin headlined the 13th stop with the final speech of the afternoon.  The fan response to his message has been superb during all three weeks, and Tuesday's lunch was no exception.

"This has been great getting out here on the road and connecting with as many people as possible," Franklin said.

The bus moved east across the state to Wilkes-Barre for the first evening stop of the final leg.


Stop No. 14 - Wilkes-Barre (Genetti Hotel & Conference Center)


 
The second stop of the day took place inside Genetti Hotel & Conference Center downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Nearly 400 enthusiastic fans filled the Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night.  Luzerne County is home to more than 8,500 passionate Penn State alums.

Wilkes-Barre will forever have a place in Penn State hockey history.  Coach Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to their first victory as a Division I program on Oct. 13, 2012 against American International.  David Glen's goal 38 seconds into overtime sealed the first win.  That game took place inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.

"Forever, this place will have a soft place in my heart," Gadowsky said.

wilkesbarre_2.jpgIn 2013-'14, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to three victories over Michigan and one over Ohio State during the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.  The fans inside the room on Tuesday are excited about Penn State hockey's future, and Gadowsky's peers are tremendously impressed with the progress the program has made in such a short period of time.

"These coaches are ordinary people who do extraordinary things with their programs," Pavlik said.

"To compete in this conference, we need all of your support," Gadowsky said.

The fan base plays a paramount role in supporting all of Penn State's teams.  Pavlik, Cooper and Gadowsky each reminded the fans in attendance of what a full Beaver Stadium every Saturday in the fall does for their programs.  The atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium during a game before a sold out crowd speaks for itself.  The same is true for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and Medlar Field, in the case of the other coaches on the Caravan Tuesday night.

That being said, the Coaches Caravan is an opportunity for the coaches to not only talk about their programs, it is a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  Like Coach Franklin has said throughout the Caravan, the people make Penn State special.

"Penn State is like a community...It gives us an opportunity to interact with you," Franklin said.

wilkesbarre_1.jpgFranklin took time to recognize offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who were in the Wilkes-Barre area recruiting on Tuesday and stopped by the event to say hello to the fans.

The Caravan rolls into Coach Franklin's alma mater, East Stroudsburg, on Wednesday for lunch before an evening reception at the Sands in Bethlehem.
    



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles


Total - 1,499 miles

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VIDEO: Baseball Drops Pair to Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team dropped tough 7-6 decision to Michigan State on Saturday, 7-6, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. It was Senior Day and we caught up with head coach Rob Cooper and senior Zach Ell.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Baseball vs. Michigan State Postgame

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team dropped a pair of games to Michigan State on Friday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. We caught up with head coach Rob Cooper and junior infielder J.J. White to talk about the doubleheader vs. the Spartans and what the focus is heading into senior day.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: One-on-One with Herb Hand on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with running game coordinator and offensive line coach Herb Hand at the Coaches Caravan stop in New York City on Thursday.





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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VI - New Jersey & New York

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day V Roundup | VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

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NEW YORK - Leg two of the Coaches Caravan wrapped up on Thursday with a lunch stop in Northern New Jersey and an evening reception in New York City.

New Jersey and New York City are two pivotal areas for Penn State teams when it comes to recruiting.  Additionally, the Nittany Lion fan bases in New Jersey and the New York Metro area are among the largest outside of Pennsylvania.  Take a look through the final day of week two on the Coaches Caravan, which featured James Franklin, Cael Sanderson and Erica Walsh.


Stop No. 11 - Northern New Jersey (Hanover Marriott)


 
New Jersey is home to more than 27,000 Penn State alums, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  More than 225 loyal supporters visited the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey on Thursday for the Caravan's lunch in the Garden State.

In addition to being home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters, New Jersey is a critical recruiting area for the vast majority of Penn State teams.  Women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh opened her remarks on Thursday with a story about All-American Maya Hayes, who recently graduated from the program as one of its all-time best.  Hayes is from West Orange, N.J.

"We've had tremendous success in this area," Walsh said.  "I'm thrilled to be back.  And I've spent a lot of time recruiting in this area."

nj_1.jpgThe same is true for football program.  There are currently 16 student-athletes on the football roster from New Jersey, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  Penn State has had a long line of storied success in attracting the top talent from New Jersey, and Coach Franklin wants that tradition to continue.

Franklin informed the media during the pre-event press conference that the time and resources put into recruiting New Jersey make it as if it is part of Pennsylvania.  Four members of the 2014 recruiting class are from New Jersey.

As Rutgers transitions into the Big Ten this summer, New Jersey will carry even more importance for Penn State Athletics.  The fans and alums in the local area will now have the opportunity to watch Penn State teams compete in the state on an annual basis.

"This place is very special, and it means a lot to our program," Sanderson said.

"We are really excited about the Big Ten expanding east," Walsh said.

A special group of Nittany Lion football lettermen paid a visit to the New Jersey Caravan stop on Thursday.  Members of the 1959 Liberty Bowl team had a 55th reunion table.  Head coach Rip Engle led the Nittany Lions to victory against Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 7-0 on Dec. 19, 1959, marking Penn State's first Liberty Bowl victory.

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Stop No. 12 - New York City (Marriott New York Downtown)



The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visit to the Big Apple on Thursday evening to wrap up leg two.  The Caravan bus drove through the Holland Tunnel into the southern tip of Manhattan shortly before 3 p.m.  Situated just a block from One World Trade Center, head coach James Franklin and members of the Caravan staff took a walk around the new Freedom Tower structure towering over the New York City skyline.

The final event of the week took place before 300 enthusiastic, loud Penn State fans inside the Marriott New York Downtown.  The evening marked the end of Walsh's two-week stint on the Caravan.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer was superb each time she spoke to the crowd.  Her visualization story of a recruiting visit touched everyone in the room, and her delivery was superb.

"It's just been a thrill to be a part of this, and I am honored to be here with two of the greatest coaches that you will find," Walsh said.

After receiving another standing ovation on Thursday, a member of the crowd yelled to the stage as she sat down.

"New York loves you, Erica!"

Sanderson also finished his stint on the Caravan bus with another comical speech in New York.  While he is a terrific complement to Walsh and Franklin, Sanderson has the capability to send a large group erupting into laughter every time he brings up a new topic.  Nonetheless, his respect and appreciation of the fan base and its support speaks volumes about his enthusiasm of being a part of the Penn State family.

"You see that passion these two have, and it is unbelievable," Sanderson said.

"It has been great spending time with these two coaches," Franklin said.

The Q&A portion of the night prompted a discussion with Sanderson about the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will take place in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.  The Nittany Lions and the loyal fan base will have that date circled, and Sanderson is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle in front of so many Penn State alums.

nyc_2.jpgA large portion of Coach Franklin's Caravan speech stresses the importance of academic success for the football program.  He wants to see the team achieve its highest grade point average in history, in addition to its highest graduation rate.  Thursday night's location was a living example of what a Penn State degree can do for a student-athlete.  Nearly 10 football letterwinners currently work just a few blocks from the Marriott Downtown on Wall Street.  As Franklin says, Penn State provides a powerful degree for life beyond football or any sport.

With two weeks down, the Coaches Caravan resumes on Tuesday with a lunch stop in Williamsport on the campus of Penn College of Technology.  Additionally the Caravan will pay a visit to Wilkes-Barre for an evening event on Tuesday, lunch in East Stroudsburg and an evening in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and an evening event in Erie on Thursday.

Thank you to the fans for making the first two weeks of the Coaches Caravan a resounding success.


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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles

Total - 1,369 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Ricky Rahne on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne at the Coaches Caravan stop in Scranton on Wednesday.





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2014 Coaches Caravan Day V - Philadelphia & Scranton

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

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PECKVILLE, Pa. -  The second day of leg two on the road with the Penn State Coaches Caravan featured a trip through downtown Philadelphia and a packed house in Scranton on Wednesday.

Philly natives James Franklin, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh highlighted Wednesday's lunch stop.  Additionally, four-time defending NCAA wrestling champion head coach Cael Sanderson joined the cast of coaches for Wednesday's event.  Take a look at some highlights.
    


Stop No. 9 - Philadelphia (The Rittenhouse Hotel)


 
Wednesday's lunch took place in the heart of downtown Philadelphia at The Rittenhouse Hotel.  More than 250 fans filled the ballroom to greet the four coaches during an excellent lunch event.  Franklin, Morett and Walsh had a little extra bounce in their step after the Philly natives took a drive down Broad Street en route to Center City for the lunch.

Wednesday's crowd was superb, and the group gave all four coaches a standing ovation after they spoke.  Like the gathering in King of Prussia on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia supporters of Penn State Athletics are a diehard group of fans.

Walsh has been a tough act to follow during her two weeks on the Caravan.  Her campus tour speech is filled with details and beaming with pride.  Whether it was Bob Warming, Morett or Sanderson, every coach who has stepped to the podium following Walsh has remarked about her tremendous description of the Penn State campus.  Sanderson had his first crack at following the leader of Penn State women's soccer for the first time on Wednesday.

"That's tough to follow.  I just want to have lunch," Sanderson joked.

caravan_philly_1.jpgFresh off the program's fourth-straight NCAA title, Sanderson has an endless supply of things to talk about.  But that's not his style.  Sanderson deflects the attention off of himself to talk about the positive energy surrounding the football program and how the football program serves as the engine for the health of the athletic department.

"They have the vision, the passion and the pride.  We are in very good hands," Sanderson said of Franklin and the football staff.

He went on to urge the crowd to buy football season tickets now.

"Get your tickets now because when they get going, you're not going to be able to get them in a few years," Sanderson said.

Franklin talks about the state of pride in Penn State each time he addresses a caravan crowd.  That could not be more apparent during the first nine stops during the past couple weeks.  The fan base is excited for what's ahead.  And the fellow coaches in the department are just as excited.

"There are so many things to be excited about," Morett said.

Morett finished off her stint on the Coaches Caravan in Philly.  She will now hit the recruiting trail.  From Philly, the Fullington bus rolled north towards Scranton.



Stop No. 10 - Scranton (Fiorelli Catering)



Day two of the second week wrapped up in front of the Caravan's largest crowd in Peckville, Pa. (Outside of Scranton).  Nearly 900 Penn State fans crammed into the ballroom at Fiorelli Catering to welcome a great group from the Penn State Athletics family during the local alumni chapter's 36th annual event.  The list of attendees included Northeast Pennsylvania products and current Nittany Lions Eugene Lewis, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten and Brian Tomasetti and the voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.

Prior to dinner, Coach Franklin met a throng of fans that lined up more than 90 minutes prior to when the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Fan after fan walked up to Franklin for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos for nearly an hour.  Some offered advice.  Some told stories. Some even offered gifts.

Walsh and Sanderson both spoke prior to Franklin, energizing the room packed with Nittany Lion supporters.  But it was Franklin who got the room buzzing during an informal auction for game tickets to select Nittany Lion games in the fall and season tickets.  Franklin triggered a bidding war with the microphone that led to two fans battling up to $8,000 for a pair of season tickets.  When the final bid was announced as the winner, the room erupted with approval and rose to its feet.

scranton_1.jpg"In this room, I feel like I'm already in Beaver Stadium.  You can't move for all of the people," Sanderson said when describing the atmosphere.

Franklin's remarks were passionate and filled with energy as he closed out the evening's lineup of speakers.  While highlighting his vision for the football program, Franklin reminded the Scranton crowd of what is important in the quest to become the top program.

"Success is about doing all of the little things better than everybody else in the country," Franklin said.

Throughout all three speeches, the crowd of nearly 900 was glued to the speaker at the podium.  Walsh, Sanderson and Franklin all deserve a great deal of credit for their delivery on Wednesday night.

Simply put, the Scranton crowd was again tremendous for the third-straight year during the Caravan.

Before boarding the bus bound for the next stop in New Jersey, the Coaches Caravan crew paid a visit to 2012 Nittany Lion alum Eric Shrive's new restaurant - The Vault Tap Room & Restaurant - located in West Scranton.

Thursday's events will take place in Northern New Jersey and New York City before the Caravan heads back to State College.
    

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles


Total - 1,102 miles
    

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Josh Gattis on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis at the Coaches Caravan stop in King of Prussia.





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2014 Coaches Caravan Day IV - King of Prussia

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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Leg two of the 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday evening with a stop outside of Philadelphia.

The eighth stop of the 17-event caravan featured James Franklin, four-time defending NCAA national champion wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh.  More than 700 Penn State enthusiasts greeted the coaches inside the event room at Valley Forge Casino Resort.  Take a look at some highlights from Tuesday's event.


Stop No. 8 - King of Prussia (Valley Forge Casino Resort)




More than 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and three of the four coaches on stage treated Tuesday night's Coaches Caravan event as a homecoming.  Hailing from Montgomery County, Walsh was just minutes where she grew up in Huntingdon Valley.

"I tried to get the whole caravan moved to the Phillies game (tonight)," Walsh joked.

Morett, who is on the Caravan for the Philly swing, is a proud product of Delaware County.  Like Walsh, she was thrilled to be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.

"I'm just a Philly girl coming back home," Morett said.

Morett spent a portion of her speech giving Walsh a hard time for not attending Penn State.  Walsh has spent the past two weeks on the Coaches Caravan delivering a superb visualization speech of the University Park campus.  Morett's response?

"After listening to your speech, how did you not go to Penn State?"

As a 27-year veteran as a head coach of the Nittany Lion field hockey program and Penn State alum, Morett is among the most passionate individuals you will find when it comes to her love for the University.  She genuinely appreciates the support fans and alums give to the school that means so much to her, and it's always evident when she speaks in front of a crowd.

The third Philly product in King of Prussia on Tuesday evening was the headliner of the event.  Franklin grew up in Langhorne, Pa., which is roughly 30 miles from the site of the stop.  As he has said from day one, Franklin is a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions, and he could not have been happier to be close to home.

"It's unbelievable to be here tonight," Franklin said.  "...The sense of pride in Penn State is unbelievable."

kop_1.jpg Joining the trio of Philly natives this week on the Caravan is the leader of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling program.  Always entertaining, Sanderson has a knack for keeping the crowd light every time he speaks in front of a group.  He was clad in a "Dominate The State" T-shirt under his suit jacket to show his support of Coach Franklin.

Sanderson's introduction included a small snippet of his unmatched wrestling and coaching career.  After receiving a standing ovation following the introduction, Sanderson stepped to the microphone and noted that the intro had left off his fourth-grade all-star baseball achievement.  The room erupted in laughter.

Sanderson likes to have fun with the crowd, but when it comes to his appreciation for the position he holds, his feelings are clear.

"It's an awesome opportunity to be a part of Penn State, and it's because of you guys," Sanderson said.

The Coaches Caravan travels downtown Philadelphia for a lunch stop on Wednesday before moving north to Scranton for a dinner event.

kop_2.jpg  

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles


Total - 857 miles

caravan_mileage.jpg

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony