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Perseverance Pays Off in Big Ten Championship Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, it's on to the bowl game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO: Postgame James Franklin & Players - Wisconsin

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

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

Player Interviews

James Franklin

2016 Gameday Live - No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State is headed to the Big Ten Championship game, as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions are set to meet sixth-ranked Wisconsin in Saturday's title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.   

Follow along with our live blog for all your in-game updates in one place as well as exclusive content. 


Live Blog No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship)
 

Balanced Lions Silence Blackbirds

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions continued their dominance in the NCAA first round Friday night with a convincing straight set victory against LIU Brooklyn to advance the Nittany Lions to yet another second-round matchup.

Penn State used a balanced attack to overwhelm the Blackbirds, who were the NEC champions after a 16-14 season. Penn State limited LIU Brooklyn to eight points in the first set and six in the third set on their way to one of the quickest matches they have played all season long. It was a game Penn State was expected to win and they did just that, wasting little time.

"First off I want to congratulate Long Island on a great season," Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose said. "I thought we played well tonight in a situation where the other team just couldn't seem to get themselves going."

Penn State certainly got going early and often as they started the match on a 16-3 run behind the hot serving of Abby Detering. She poured in 28 assists to go along with three service aces to lead the team. Detering also had 10 digs to give her a double double on the match.

On the offensive side, Penn State was efficient, hitting at a .403 clip, one of their highest totals since their out of conference slate ended. Simone Lee led the charge with 12 kills, but the main key for Penn State was a lack of attack errors. 

"I thought we did a solid job in the game of not committing errors and keeping the ball in play," Rose said. "I thought it was nice to get some of our other players in the match as well and I thought Clare Powers had a good match for us off the bench."

As always has seemed to be the case this year, Kendall White was once again a star in the back row for Penn State. White, who gained All-Big Ten freshman honors just this past week, had 18 digs and was the recipient of high praise from her coaching staff after the game.

"I thought she was really good tonight," Rose said. "She was always in the right place at the right time and just overall did a real nice job."

The Nittany Lions will not have much time off as they have to quickly recover and take on the Pittsburgh Panthers at 6:30 in Rec Hall. The Panthers are coming off an impressive victory over the Dayton Flyers, who came into this NCAA tournament with college volleyball's best winning percentage at 30-1 on the year. The Panthers dominated in sets three and four to take the match. Penn State talked about their matchup tomorrow with high expectations of Pitt.

"That first match was played at a very high level today," Rose said. "We will need to be better than we were today because Pittsburgh is a very good team and they have beat some good teams this year as well."

"We are prepared for them and we've scrimmaged them the last couple of springs so we should be ready to go tomorrow," added Lee.

Penn State will be in front of their home crowd for the final time this season tomorrow when they take on the Panthers. 

Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

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Penn State Football Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

Welcome to the Penn State Football Big Ten Championship game content central. Follow along with us from Happy Valley to Indianapolis for all your behind-the-scenes access and exclusive content during championship weekend.

Saturday, December 3 - GAMEDAY!

9 a.m. - Noon - ESPN College Gameday
ESPN's College Gameday hit Indianapolis for their weekly Saturday segment. Nittany Lion fans were out in full support with some creative signs and cheers galore. Penn State alum Keegan-Michael Key joined the set as the weekly guest picker, selecting the Nittany Lions as his Big Ten Championship game winner. 

Head out into the crowd and watch the Nittany Lion guest picker take the stage below. 

Noon - 8 p.m. - Fan Fest and the Big Ten Network Letterman Football Panels
An all-day event, the BTN Fan Fest has games, food, displays and more. For a portion of the afternoon, we caught up with Penn State Football alums Tyoka Jackson, Terry Killens and Anthony Morelli to talk Fan Fest and a little Nittany Lion football ahead of tonight's title game against Wisconsin. 

Penn State Women's Lacrosse in Indianapolis!
We caught up with Penn State women's lacrosse in Indianapolis as the Nittany Lions made the trip to show their support for the Nittany Lion football team in a very #OneTeam effort. 

6 p.m. - Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally
Nittany Lion fans waited patiently in line before entering the Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally prior to the game Saturday.

 

Friday, December 2 - Arrival & Media

Touchdown in Indianapolis!
The Penn State Football charter flight touched down just before 2 p.m. to be greeted by a Nittany Lion Indy car, which led the police escort to the team hotel.

Once the team arrived at the hotel, Penn State head coach James Franklin was presented with the helmet of the Indy car driver, officially welcoming the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis.

                              

3:30 p.m. - James Franklin visits BTN set
Franklin went live with Dave Revsine, Spice Adams and Gerry DiNardo for a brief segment.
 

4 p.m. - Lucas Oil Stadium Press Conference (Transcript: Franklin - Transcript: Chryst)

INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of Big Ten Championship game media Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Prior to taking questions from the media, Franklin and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst posed together for a snapshot with the Big Ten title game trophy.

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Franklin opened his press conference noting the Nittany Lions are both humbled and honored to represent the Big Ten East Division, in another piece of an already exciting season.

"The word I probably would use best to describe our team is we've persevered and we've gotten better as the season has gone on," Franklin said. "It's something we take great pride in. What I've always taken great pride in as a coach is your team playing hard, number one, getting better each week, each day. We've done that."

Franklin also stressed that this week's focus was just as consistent as any other surrounding, 'Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin,' no matter what conversation might be going on outside the program.

"The only thing that exists for us is Wisconsin and the Big Ten Championship game," Franklin said. "If we take care of our business and play the way we're capable of playing, we'll be happy with the result."

Friday Night Senior Shares
As Franklin shared earlier this season, the Nittany Lions will have senior shares at the hotel the night before gameday, where selected seniors on the team and staff have opportunities to share their stories in their own unique way. This evening's shares include senior long snapper Zach Ladonis and Penn State director of Football Operations Michael Hazel.

On Special Teams Improvement
While Franklin pointed out that there has been lots of talk about the offensive and defensive improvements this year, he noted that probably the biggest area of improvement as much as anything this season has come on special teams - an area that will be of heavy importance come Saturday.

"Compared to the last two years and really from the beginning of the season, I think that's a big reason why we are where we are today," Franklin said.  "I think Charles Huff, our special teams coordinator, Yaz [Tyler Yazujian], our special teams captain, long snapper, Blake Gillikin, Tyler [Davis], those guys have been awesome all year long. Then the other 10 guys rallying around them have been really good.

Hometown Connections
Franklin pointed out that both he and Chryrst are currently head coaches of teams in their hometown states.

"The fact that he's from there, grew up there, played there, his dad coached there. It's an awesome story for him," Franklin said. 

"Then my story growing up in the state of Pennsylvania, having an opportunity to come back home -  that doesn't happen very often," Franklin said. "So for two coaches to be able to come back home and represent their home states is I think pretty cool, pretty special."

Inside The Locker Room
Take a sneak peek inside the Penn State Football locker room as set up and preparations for gameday are well underway. A converted Indianapolis Colts locker room now has a new shade of blue and white. Check it out below.

2016 Gameday - Lions, Badgers Set for B1G Championship

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Gameday Central | Gameday Live Blog | 2016 B1G Championship Content Central |  Game Notes | Press Conference Roundup | Wednesday Practice Update | Tim Banks Q&A | Monday Notebook | Nittany Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State is headed to the Big Ten Championship game, as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions are set to meet sixth-ranked Wisconsin in Saturday's title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.   

The Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1 East) closed out the regular season with wins in each of the last eight consecutive games, downing Michigan State 45-12 to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season crown. The Badgers (10-2, 7-2 West) won the West division outright and enter the matchup on a six-game winning streak, making their fourth appearance in the Big Ten Championship game since it first began six years ago. 

Following the dominant performance in the regular season victory against the Spartans, Penn State earned several Big Ten postseason awards this week.

Nittany Lion running back Saquon Barkley earned Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year awards, in addition to First Team All-Big Ten Football Team honors from both the coaches and media. 

Penn State head coach James Franklin also earned Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, selected by the conference media members, to mark his first Conference Coach of the Year award.

In total, nine Nittany Lions earned selections to one of the three coaches or media 2016 All-Big Ten Football teams, with an additional five earning honorable mention distinction.

As every Big Ten honoree has been quoted this week though, the honors and awards are wholeheartedly a reflection of a collective team effort. Among postseason all the awards and predictions though, the Nittany Lions have approached the week with the same consistency and dedication to the process as any other regular season game. 

"Our guys are excited and they're focused," Franklin said. "We're not going to treat it as anything different. We're not going to change how we go through our weekly game plan."

Led by second-year head coach and 2016 Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Paul Chryst, the Badgers wrapped up their regular season with a 31-7 win against Minnesota last week. Wisconsin topped Iowa on the road 17-9 before defeating then-No.7 Nebraska 23-17 in overtime to kick off its recent string of six straight wins. 

Penn State and Wisconsin will meet for the 18th time in program history as the Badgers own a narrow 9-8 advantage in the all-time series. The Nittany Lions have won each of the last two meetings, defeating the Badgers 24-21 in overtime in 2012 and 31-24 on the road in 2013.

"What I would say about these guys is when you think in your mind, or at least when I think in my mind, of what a traditional Big Ten team is, that's who these guys are," Franklin said.

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Pregame Reading -

What To Watch For: Penn State
1. Just a quick scan of running back Saquon Barkley's certainly makes the case for his conference postseason honors. Averaging 130.25 all-purpose yards per game Barkley is tops in the Big Ten in the category, while also leading the league with 17 touchdowns on the year, including 15 rushing touchdown runs. Barkley isn't the only threat from the running back unit though, as Andre Robinson, Miles Sanders and Mark Allen have all showcased their talent this season, with Robison coming off of a two-touchdown outing against the Spartans highlighted by a career-long 40-yard touchdown catch.

2. Second Team All-Big Ten quarterback Trace McSorley has continued to impress as the leader of Penn State's high-scoring explosive offense. McSorley leads the nation in passing yards per completion, averaging 16.17 per game. He's both gutsy and effective with the deep ball, ranking within the top five for passes of 20, 30, or 40 or more yards, slotted as high as second nationally with 20 passes for 40-plus yards on the year. McSorley's arsenal includes a deep group of wide receivers, including veteran Chris Godwin who sparked a 35-0 run in the second half against Michigan State with a 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

3. Having battled through adversity and challenges with injuries, Penn State's defense has only continued to become more relentless throughout the season. Ranked fourth in the conference in total defense, the Nittany Lions have held their last two consecutive opponents without a touchdown. Defensive linemen Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan are atop the team standings with six sacks each this season. Combining for 7.5 sacks between the two of the them in the last four games, Schwan has registered at least a half of a sack in all four outings during the stretch.

What To Watch For: Wisconsin
1. Earlier this week, Franklin sighted the matchup between Penn State's wide receivers and the Wisconsin secondary as an interesting matchup. Not only have the Nittany Lions proven that they can come up with the big catch, but McSorley's deceptive mobility has kept defenses guessing. Come Saturday, the Badgers enter the matchup with a national-best 21 interceptions on the year. All-Big Ten Badger safety Leo Musso has picked off five passes this season, ranking second in the conference and 10th nationally in interceptions per game. Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to eight touchdown passes in 12 games this season. 

2. As an entire defensive unit, the Badgers have strength all around, as Franklin pointed out strength in the Wisconsin linebacking unit as well as the secondary. With the third-ranked scoring defense nationally in the FBS standings, Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to 100.8 rushing yards per game with the third-ranked rushing defense. First Team All-Big Ten linebacker T.J. Watt is atop the team standings with 13.0 tackles for loss. With a team-high 9.5 sacks on the year, Watt is averaging nearly a sack per game at 0.79, which ranks third in the conference and 20th nationally. 

3. On the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers are both strong and physical, as their ground game has surpassed the 200-yard mark in five of the last seven games. All-Big Ten running back Corey Clement is the focal point of the Badger rushing attack, as he's logged at least 100-yard performances in six of Wisconsin's last seven games, including each of the last four straight. As just the 17th Badger in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, Clement's 1,140 rushing yards ranks third in the conference, while his 103.6 rushing yards per game is second. 

The Final Word -
Saturday's matchup has all of the making of a true strength-on-strength matchup with both the Badgers and the Nittany Lions are among the Big Ten's best in a few opposing categories. Keying in on just a few of the intriguing storylines, in the East Division, Penn State has won its last eight straight, averaging 40.4 points per game during the winning streak. In the West Division, Wisconsin has limited its opponents to fewer than 14 points per game, picking off a total of 11 passes in the second half of a six-game winning streak. Either way, both teams will await the outcome of another postseason matchup with Bowl selections beginning as early as 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tim Banks Q&A - Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks took time to talk with members of the media Thursday afternoon leading up to the Nittany Lions' trip to Indianapolis.

Penn State and Wisconsin are set to square off in the Big Ten Championship game at 8:17 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Check out updates from the Q&A session below.

On what Banks has seen on tape from Wisconsin in terms of how they might plan their offensive attack Saturday.

Banks: I don't think they'll change. I think they'll do exactly what the Wisconsin model has been, run the ball, play action pass. They are very big offensively up the front with their offensive line. Obviously, they have very good backs, they have a long history of being able to run the ball, control the clock and take shots appropriately. I think they'll stick to their formula because obviously it has been boding well for them through the years. 

On how to balance game planning and preparation with recruiting efforts this week.

Banks: It's a big challenge because you have to be able to take care of business with our own team and concentrate on how to win this game, but you also have to have the ability to look toward the future and work with some guys who are heavily involved in the recruiting process. It's definitely a challenge but it's one that is welcome being in this situation, having an opportunity to play this late in the year. Has it been difficult? Yes, but definitely we've enjoyed it and playing in the championship is the best possible recruiting that we can do. 

I think the kids have really handled it well, they have been great with the few official visits that we have had, helping us recruit and us being in contact, and some of the younger guys being able to see us playing consistently on TV has been great as well. It's been good in that regard but very challenging. 

On how Penn State has worked with the defense in anticipation of Wisconsin ability to have success controlling the clock.

Banks: We just talk about doing our job and concentrating on the next play, the next play, the next play. We can't get frustrated, obviously their goal is to try to get ahead of the chains and our goal is to do the same. If we're disciplined and particularly from a back end perspective, if we key our eyes in the right places, hopefully we can get off the field quicker than they want to. But the reality of it is, that they have been great controlling the ball so we just have to do a great job winning up front. The back end has to do a good job covering, but it's a challenge, that's why those guys have been successful. I think it's a challenge that our guys are looking forward to and hopefully we can answer the bell come Saturday.

On what makes Wisconsin's play action so good and how the team has approached the area of strength in practice.

Banks: What tends to happen, because they run the ball so effectively, people tend to have to get secondary guys involved. The more involved they get and the more aggressive they get, you sometimes leave yourself vulnerable for deep passes and play action passes. From our perspective, we have to do a good job of hopefully slowing the run game down to the point where we feel comfortable that they are going to be in what we deem as obvious passing situations. 

But if you allow them to be able to run the ball with great success, that makes us have to be a lot more aggressive and in turn, put guys in different situations where they might be somewhat uncomfortable and leave you to be susceptible to some of the bigger plays. We just talked about winning at the line of scrimmage and from a safety or defensive back position, make sure we have our eyes in the right places. If we do those things, hopefully we can limit some of their deep shots and some of their play action passes. 

On scout team or true freshmen guys who have stood out this season.

Banks: We've played some young guys, probably Cam Brown comes to mind. An outside linebacker for us who has played some significant snaps not only on defense, but on special teams. He has been a great contributor to our program and has a vital role in helping us get to this championship game. Ayron Monroe, one of our young safeties who has really played well on special teams. I think our special teams have played well. If you look across the board, we have a lot of young guys there who take great pride in their roles and have really embraced it and I think that has really helped out program take the next step because our special teams have been so good and I think a lot of that has to do with a lot of the young guys we have - Javis Miller comes to mind, Shareef Miller. We feel like we have a really good nucleus of young player who are contributing even though they don't get a lot of the press clippings. Those guys are really embracing their roles and playing at a high level.

On what Banks has noticed the most about Marcus Allen's game throughout the season.

Banks: He has been very consistent. He is obviously a very fun loving guy, he loves to have fun, but when we step between those lines he's all about business. One compliment I would give him is that he's not one of those guys who waits for Saturday to practice hard or play hard. He does it in practice from Sunday through Friday. He knows one speed on the practice field, he practices hard and it shows up on Saturdays. That's why he plays well, because he knows how to practice and I think the young kids see that and they see how he goes about his business and I think he has had a good impact not just in the way he plays, but in the way he practices. That probably would be the highest compliment I could give him. I really love the way he practices.

Barkley Collects Big Ten Postseason Honors

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
After bursting on to the scene as true freshman in 2015 to make an immediate impact, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has been nothing short of spectacular for the Nittany Lions in just his second season in the Blue and White.

The centerpiece of a deep group of running backs on the roster, Barkley has proven his ability to completely shift the momentum of the game, showcasing a variety of dynamic cuts and explosive plays that often feature a leap, a hurdle, or even one of each. 

Wednesday afternoon, Barkley was honored as the Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year, while also earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. 

As just the eighth sophomore to earn Offensive Player of the Year honors in Big Ten history, Barkley is among just four Nittany LionS in program history to win the honor and the first since Michael Robinson in 2005.

A quick scan of Barkley's season stats could easily make a sure case for the wealth of Big Ten postseason accolades, but they simply don't do justice to the level of intangibles he brings to the team. 

Midway through the regular season, both Barkley and special teams and running backs coach Charles Huff agreed that patience is an area where he has grown significantly from year one to two. 

"I keep a positive vibe on the sideline," Barkley said. "I'm patient and when my opportunity comes, I take full advantage of it." 

Just a snapshot of the regular season Barkley racked up this season includes 15 rushing touchdowns, which ranks first in the conference and 12th nationally in the FBS standings. His 1,563 career all-purpose yards also ranks ninth in program history. Averaging 130.25 all-purpose yards per game, his tally is tops in the league and 30th nationally. 

Against Michigan State, he broke the sophomore season scoring record with 102 points on the year, surpassing a mark set by Kevin Kelly in 2006. He also entered the season and extend his string of 14 straight games with at least one rush of 20 yards before his streak was snapped at Rutgers. It was the second-longest in college football in the last 20 years. 

The list could go on and on, but when asked about what has been the key to his success this season, Barkley says he prefers to give credit where credit is due. 

"The offensive line is the reason why I have been successful this year," Barkley said. "All my success has been due to them. Before every game I tell them, I go where you go, without you guys I'm nothing." 

Barkley has certainly been on the go for the Nittany Lions from game one, posting his first of four 100-yard rushing games this year with 105 yards on 22 carries against Kent State. At 2-2 on the season, it was Barkley who clinched the first of Penn State's eight consecutive victories with the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Minnesota. 

With one dynamic cut after the next, Barkley left the Golden Gophers guessing as he ran in for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to secure the win against the Golden Gophers, a memory he'll never forget. 

"That's stuff you dream about as a little kid," Barkley said. "Being able to score the game-winning touchdown, especially in an incredibly place like Beaver Stadium, in front of the best fans in college football." 

Barkley continued that momentum into the following week, registering his first career 200-yard rushing game with 202 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries against Maryland to become the 15th Nittany Lion to reach 200 yards in a game.

On the road at Purdue, he notched a sophomore record with 277 all-purpose yards, rushing for a career-high 207 yards and adding 70 receiving yards, for his second 200-yard performance. Among the nearly 300 all-purpose yards, Barkley highlighted the day with a career-long 81-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, marking the ninth-longest rush in program history and the eighth-longest touchdown run all-time. 

The offensive line isn't the only unit Barkley is grateful for when it comes to his success this season, as he views the entire running back unit as just as competitive as ever, which only paves the way for continued success among the entire group.

"I've felt myself get better every single day because of those guys," Barkley said. "We push each other to be the best whether it's workouts, lifting, or whatever, we push each other and we try to get the best out of each other."


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Following yesterday's All-Big Ten Football Team defensive and special teams awards, the conference announced offensive selections this evening with five Nittany Lions earning postseason honors.

Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley, earned First Team All-Big Ten accolades as the only conference player to earn a unanimous selection to the team selected by the media. Barkley also earned a pair of prestigious individual awards named to both the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year and the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year. For more on Barkley's individual honors, click here.

Trace McSorley - Second Team All-Big Ten (Coaches & Media)
In just the course of his first season as the top signal caller, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley has combined his ability to make big explosive plays with a developing mobile presence. Perhaps among his greatest strengths though, comes within his leadership as the fierce competitor has guided this year's offense to its most explosive and high-scoring output since at least 2008 with four 40-plus point games on the year.

As the first Nittany Lion to lead a team to a 10-win season in his first year as the starting quarterback since 2008, McSorley has climbed the Penn State record books this year. With touchdown passes in the last 13 straight games dating back to the TaxSlayer Bowl last year, McSorley has totaled 200 or more yards in nine of 12 career starts. Following his fourth career 300-yard passing performance against Michigan State, McSorley tied a program record for the most 300-yard passing outings in a single season.

- Among many top performances this season, McSorley became just the third quarterback to record more than 400 yards of total offense in a game with 408 yards against Minnesota, combining for 73 on the ground and 335 through the air.

- With 389 yards of total offense in the win against the Spartans, McSorley improved his career total to 3,348 yards on the year to set a single season record. He also threw a career-high four touchdown passes against Michigan State.

- McSorley also earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors, the Rose Bowl Game Big Ten Player of the Week award and a Helmet Sticker from ESPNU's College Football Final following the Spartan win to clinch the Big Ten regular season title.

- With both a rushing and a passing touchdown in five of the last eight games, McSorley has scored one of each a total of six times on the season.

- McSorley's 372 rushing yards on the year are the most for a Penn State quarterback since 2009, helped out by a 55-yard rushing performance against Rutgers following a 63-yard performance in the upset win against Ohio State on a career-high 19 attempts. He also led the team with 73 rushing yards on just eight attempts against Minnesota, marking the first time a quarterback has led the team in rushing since 2009.

- McSorley is among the conference's best in several statistical categories, leading the league in passing efficiency (150.9), passing yards per completion (16.2) and yards per pass attempt (9.10). His 16.2 yards per completions is also tops in the national FBS standings.

Mike Gesicki - Second Team All-Big Ten (Media), Honorable Mention (Coaches)
Taking last year's offseason to completely revitalize his game, tight end Mike Gesicki has made tremendous improvement from last year to now, evolving into a key offensive contributor. From one-handed grabs to record-setting performances, Gesicki has been nothing but consistent for the Nittany Lions this year.

 - Gesicki set a single season Penn State record against Michigan State after his 64 receiving yards against the Spartans gave him 610 yards on the year. The previous mark of 600 was set by Mickey Shuler in 1977.

- Within Penn State's eight-game winning streak, Gesicki has grabbed at least four catches in six games during the stretch. 

- With a team-high five catches at Rutgers, Gesicki broke the Penn State record for tight end receptions, as he now has 44 on the year at the conclusion of the regular season. 

- Gesicki impressed the Nittany Lion faithful with a 52-yard athletic one-handed grab in the win against Temple earlier this season.

Chris Godwin - Third Team All-Big Ten (Media), Honorable Mention (Coaches)
A veteran leader among Penn State's talented group of wide receivers, Godwin has not only demonstrated consistency in his timeliness with big plays, but also in his outstanding downfield blocking too. Leading the team with 762 yards on 47 catches, Godwin has posted at least five catches in three of the last five games and four or more grabs in 20 of his last 26 career outings.

- Most recently, Godwin notched his second 100-yard receiving game against the Spartans, marking his eighth career 100-yard receiving game, which is tied for fourth at Penn State. 

- He also grabbed two touchdown passes for the second time this season against Michigan State, bringing his total to nine touchdown catches on the year, which is the best mark by a junior at Penn State. 

- In long yardage situations, Godwin leads the team with 14 catches of at least 20 yards or more, scoring six touchdowns on long pass plays. He highlighted the season with a 59-yard touchdown grab against Michigan State to spark the second-half shutout for the 45-12 victory. 

-  Just the third Nittany Lion to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season last year, Godwin has totaled 2,184 career receiving yards, which ranks fifth all-time in Penn State program history.

All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (Complete list including defense and special teams selections)
- Center Brian Gaia
- Linebacker Brandon Bell
- Cornerback John Reid
- Punter Blake Gillikin
- Defensive tackle Parker Cothren

Practice Updates - Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and tight end Mike Gesicki took time to meet with members of the media follow Wednesday's practice at Holuba Hall during the Big Ten Championship game week. 

The Nittany Lions are set to square off against the Badgers in the upcoming Big Ten Championship game Saturday, Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

Check out updates from the Q&A sessions below.

James Franklin

Mike Gesicki

@GOPSUSPORTS

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