Recently in Football Category

Monday Notebook: Lions Set to Return Home

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
10313503.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having played two of the first three weeks on the road, the Nittany Lions return home on Saturday for the first of two-straight games in Beaver Stadium.

Penn State (3-0) will face off with UMass (0-3) for the first time in program history at 4 p.m. (BTN) on Saturday afternoon.

A gritty performance from the Nittany Lion offense and a stifling second-half defensive effort fueled the Nittany Lions to a dramatic 13-10 victory at Rutgers on Saturday. The Nittany Lions only led for 73 seconds in the primetime victory, but the group again illustrated an ability to make winning plays when it had to.

Junior cornerback Trevor Williams was a key figure in another standout effort from the Nittany Lion defense. Williams hauled in two interceptions and finished with five tackles in the victory. For his efforts, Williams garnered Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career on Monday.

Williams and the Nittany Lion defense held Rutgers to just three first downs and 95 yards during a scoreless second half for the Scarlet Knights. Additionally, Penn State forced five turnovers in the victory.

Saturday's game marks the final non-conference matchup until mid-November when the Nittany Lions take on Temple.

Defense Among Nation's Best
Three games into the 2014 season, the Penn State defense is among the nation's top units in three major statistical categories. Penn State is seventh in the country in rushing defense at 68.3 yards per game allowed. The Lions are 11th in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) and 13th in total defense (275.7 ypg). Thanks to five interceptions on Saturday night, Penn State is also sixth in the nation in passes intercepted.

Lions in the Stat Rankings
Several Nittany Lions are among the leaders in national and conference statistical categories. Here is a weekly breakdown of Penn State players in the stat rankings:

QB Christian Hackenberg - Hackenberg is sixth in the nation in passing yards (1,082) and seventh in the nation in passing yards per game (360.7 ypg). He leads the Big Ten in both of those categories. He is 12th nationally in completions per game at 26.33. Hackenberg is eighth nationally in total offense (367.7).

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks fifth in the nation in receiving yards and tops the Big Ten with 380 on the season. He is ninth nationally and second in the Big Ten with 126.7 yards per game.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 13th nationally (second in the Big Ten) in receiving yards with 337. He ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Big Ten with 8.7 receptions per game.

DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel leads the Big Ten and is fourth in the nation with 2.3 tackles for loss per game.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the Big Ten opener at Rutgers.

4,000 - Christian Hackenberg became the 10th quarterback in Penn State history to reach 4,000 career yards. Hackenberg reached the figure just 15 games into his college career.

100 - The wide receiver duo of DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis both eclipsed 100 yards in a game for the second time this season on Saturday. The last time two Penn State receivers both had 100 yards in multiple games was in 1994 when Bobby Engram and Freddie Scott had 100 yards in the same game three times.

95 - The Penn State defense limited Rutgers to just 95 total yards and three first downs in a scoreless second half on Saturday night.

73 - The Nittany Lions led Rutgers for 73 seconds.

13 - After trailing 10-0 at halftime, the Lions scored 13-unanswered points, including a game-winning touchdown from Bill Belton with 1:13 to play.

7 - Anthony Zettel has already equaled his season-high in TFL with seven hits for loss this season.

6 - Cornerback Christian Campbell became the sixth Penn State true freshman to make his debut when he played in the first half at Rutgers.

5 - The Nittany Lions tallied five interceptions on Saturday. The last time Penn State had at least four interceptions in a game was at Michigan State in 2005.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet UMass.

Rutgers Extended Game Highlights

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Hackenberg, Nittany Lions Cool Under Fire

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

10310972.jpegVIDEO: Player Interviews at Rutgers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No matter how many times it happens, the magnitude of clockwork execution on a game-winning drive cannot be overstated.

The Nittany Lions added another chapter in a long list of dramatic victories on the road Saturday night when the offense marched 80 yards in 1:49 to knock off Rutgers, 13-10, in the first Big Ten game of the season.

Simply put, it did not matter to the Lions that they had played 56:58 without visiting the end zone, or that the largest crowd in Highpoint Solutions Stadium history was on its feet roaring.

Down 10-6 with 3:02 to play following a stand from the Nittany Lion defense, Christian Hackenberg led the offense onto the field in a very familiar set of circumstances - score a touchdown or the game was over.

Never rattled by the size of the stage, the stakes or having been sacked five times, the field general's message to the huddle was simple when the game was on the line.

"He basically said, 'let's make the plays we need to make and get out of here with a win,'" said junior Geno Lewis.

It's truly remarkable to think that Hackenberg is just 19. He has firm command of the huddle and the ultimate level of respect from his peers.

"The mindset when we came on the field was to follow Christian. He is the leader of the offense, and we know he can make big plays for us," senior Bill Belton said.

It took the Lions one play to move from their own 20-yard line to the Rutgers 27. Hackenberg found Lewis on a slant. Lewis split two Rutgers defensive backs and raced down the sideline in front of the Penn State bench.

"The first one was a high ball on a high slant, and I just made a play on it. I broke a couple tackles and tried to get as many yards as I could," Lewis said.

Three plays later, it appeared as though the Lions had scored a go-ahead touchdown on a pass to Jesse James. But a holding penalty nullified the big play.

Again, never fazed by the circumstances, Hackenberg and the Lions regrouped immediately. On the next play, Hackenberg dropped a ball in between the corner and safety along the Penn State sideline for a 23-yard connection with Lewis.

"We went right back to him. It was a double move. He beat the corner, and the safety was too deep," Hackenberg said. "He made a great catch, and then Bill (Belton) finished it off."

Belton scampered into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown two plays after Lewis hauled in his second crucial catch of the drive.

"The line did a great job on that play clearing everything out of the way," Belton said.

In all, the drive covered 80 yards in 1:49. Hackenberg finished 3-of-4 for 84 yards (due to penalties).

"Obviously, he is a talented guy. When you are getting pressured and sacked as many times as he is getting and the running game is not where we want it to be, it's a lot on his shoulders," head coach James Franklin said. "I think he's handled all of that really well. His poise is steady, and he is a lot more athletic than I think people realize."

Hackenberg played in just his 15th game as a Penn State student-athlete on Saturday night. He directed his fourth comeback win in the fourth quarter or overtime. The sophomore now has seven career 300-yard passing games, which is more than anyone in Penn State history. Additionally, Hackenberg eclipsed 4,000 passing yards with his 309-yard effort at Rutgers.

The numbers speak for themselves, but you can't teach the intangibles No. 14 brings to the field for the Blue and White.

"He is light years ahead of a true sophomore," Franklin said. "To me, you grade quarterbacks on third-down percentage, red zone and wins and losses. The wins and losses are the most important thing, and comeback fourth quarter drives. He's done those things. I'm really, really proud of him."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference at Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Head into the media room to hear from head coach James Franklin following Saturday night's dramatic 13-10 victory at Rutgers.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks at Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

VIDEO: James Franklin Press Conference

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Hear from several Nittany Lions following Penn State's 13-10 road victory over Rutgers on Saturday night.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Photo Blog - Penn State at Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' Big Ten opener at Rutgers.


2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. The Nittany Lions open the Big Ten schedule on the road against Rutgers under the lights.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Rutgers

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Gameday Preview - Big Ten Opener at Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

GAME BLOG - Penn State at Rutgers

Game Notes | Gameday Central | Rutgers Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Rahne Q&A | Player Q&A Video | PSU In The NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (2-0) will begin its 22nd season in the Big Ten on Saturday under the lights at Rutgers (2-0) in the conference's opening game of the 2014 season. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. with television coverage by BTN.

10299450.jpegThe Nittany Lions remained unbeaten with a 21-3 victory over Akron last week in the team's home opener. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Junior Jesse James also hauled in a pair of touchdown catches to help fuel the Lions.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions were stout for the second-straight week. Through two games, the Lions have allowed just 93 rushing yards on 54 carries (1.7 ypc). Senior linebacker Mike Hull has been the catalyst of the defense. Hull is second in the Big Ten with 22 tackles in the first two games.

This will be the 25th meeting between Penn State and Rutgers. The border foes have not met since 1995 when the two squads clashed in Giants Stadium. Penn State leads the all-time series with Rutgers, 22-2. The two teams met annually from 1982-'95. Now, as members of the East Division, the Lions and Scarlet Knights will play every season.

Led by head coach Kyle Flood, Rutgers enters the week with a 2-0 mark after knocking off Howard (38-25) last week. The Scarlet Knights defeated Washington State (41-38) in Seattle during the opening weekend of the season. Flood is 9-0 as a head coach during the month of September. Rutgers officially became a member of the Big Ten Conference on July 1.

Penn State's Adam Taliaferro and Eric LeGrand of Rutgers, forever linked through horrific spinal cord injuries suffered on the field and their courageous recovery efforts that followed, will serve as honorary game captains on Saturday. Both players will be on the field for the pre-game coin toss.

Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the trip to Rutgers.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10299409.jpeg1. No game is more important to Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions than the next game on the schedule. The mindset never changes for the Lions. Regardless of the week's news and events or the opponent, focus is solely on preparing to the best of the team's ability leading up to Saturday's game. This week, the coaching staff and players have worked to maximize each day with preparation for the conference opener. Corrections from the Akron game were made on Sunday afternoon. From there, the team has been focused on Rutgers and the challenges it presents on offense, defense and special teams. Coach Franklin said on Tuesday that the big thing he is looking for across the entire depth chart is consistency this week.

2. First and foremost on the defensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions will be looking to defend the run like they have during the first two weeks. Forcing teams to be one-dimensional on offense is a big point of emphasis every time the Lions step onto the field. Nonetheless, Penn State will be looking to limit the big-play ability of Rutgers. Through two games, the Scarlet Knights have scored 10 touchdowns on offense. Five of the 10 visits to end zone have come on plays of 30 or more yards, including three scores of more than 50 yards. Limiting big plays when the Nittany Lions are on defense is a key area to watch. Last week, the Penn State defense did not allow a running play of more than 13 yards or a passing play of more than 23 yards against Akron.

3. The Nittany Lions enter the third game of the season looking to take better care of the football and force more miscues on defense. Penn State has committed six turnovers and forced just one during the opening two games. Taking care of the football is priority number one for quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the offense. Defensively, Coach Franklin said this week that he is looking for a big play from the defense on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions have done a great job limiting big plays since the season-opener in Ireland, but the defense is searching for a turnover.

What to Watch For - Rutgers
10299404.jpeg1. Energy will be high inside High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday night. The Scarlet Knights have had this date circled, and they will host a raucous sold out crowd in their first Big Ten game. Penn State and Rutgers are separated by 228 miles. There are 15 players on the Penn State roster from New Jersey. All that being said, there is a regional component to Saturday's matchup between the Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights. Like any other game, though, this contest counts for just one victory for the triumphant group. On the field, the Scarlet Knights are 15-2 when they score 20 or more points under head coach Kyle Flood.

2. Senior quarterback Gary Nova headlines a veteran group of offensive players for Rutgers. Nova has started 30 games for the Scarlet Knights, and he enters the weekend playing with great confidence. Nova is the Big Ten's leader in pass efficiency (208.9) after opening the season with six touchdowns and just one interception. Junior Leonte Carroo is Nova's primary big-play target in the passing game. Carroo has two touchdown catches this season, both of which coming on plays of more than 35 yards or more. In his career, Carroo has 10 scores of 60 yards or longer. Junior running back Paul James spearheads the rushing attack. James enters week three with 216 yards and four touchdowns. The Scarlet Knights return all five offensive line starters from 2013.

3. Sophomore linebacker Steve Longa is the top tackler on the Rutgers defense. Longa has 15 stops this season. Redshirt freshman Komoko Turay leads the unit with 3.5 sacks during the first two weeks of the season. As a group, Rutgers has allowed 31.5 points per game and 482.5 yards per contest, but the Scarlet Knights have averaged two turnovers forced during the first two games of the season.

The Final Word:
The Nittany Lions will play their 19th night game during the past 10 seasons on Saturday at Rugers. Penn State has played in at least one primetime game in each of the past 15 seasons. In 2014, the Nittany Lions will play three night games, including two on the road. The Lions last played to night games on the road in 2008 when they met Wisconsin and Ohio State under the lights away from Beaver Stadium. In a series that began in 1918, Penn State and Rutgers have met just three times on the Rutgers campus. The Nittany Lions have traveled to New Jersey to meet Rutgers nine times, with six of those games coming at Giants Stadium, including the most recent meeting in 1995. Penn State has not played on the Rutgers campus since 1955. Kickoff is slated for just after 8 p.m. on Saturday inside a sold out High Point Solutions Stadium.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Rutgers Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Ricky Rahne

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

10298565.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne talked to the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions travel to Rutgers on Saturday for a primetime game against the Scarlet Knights (8 p.m. on BTN). Take a look at a Q&A with Rahne leading up to Saturday's Big Ten opener.

Q: Being a former quarterback, can you talk about what it's like being able to relate to a guy like Christian (Hackenberg), who is always a tough critic of himself?
"I was like that as a player. It's one of those things where it is one of your greatest strengths and one of your greatest weaknesses at the same time. My wife would probably say that I am still like that. I don't think anyone is harder on me in terms of coaching than me. I do understand how it is. The one thing that I am not going to do, and Christian knows this, and he doesn't want me to do it - it doesn't mean I give him a pass when he makes a mistake...That's really one of his greatest strengths - despite his abundance of mental and physical talent, he still is not only willing to be coached, he wants to be coached. That's the thing that makes it easier for him and I to have a good relationship. I understand where he is coming from in a lot of aspects because we have similar personalities. We both want to be the best we can be at all times."

Q: Do you ever have to remind yourself that Christian is only 19?
"Every day. Every day. Not only because of his genetic gifts that he has, but also his maturity. Watching him deal with all of the pressures that he has every day, I have to remind myself in the rare instance that he acts like a 19-year-old kid, I have to remind myself that in fact, that is how old he is...Not only should we be thankful (as the Penn State community) that he is a great player, and he really is, that he is a great person. He has handled some pressure situations very well."

Q: Overall, through the first two games, how would you assess the way Christian has played?
"Christian has played very well. There have been a couple plays in each game where we've just had lapses in judgment, and that's my job to get that fixed. Overall, he has played very well. He has thrown the ball accurately. He's made the plays that were there. I've been pleased with that. The other thing, and just like the other guys on the team, we've been able to come out with two victories, and we are working on it every week to come out with another one. I've been pleased with his play. It's cleaning up those three to four to five plays a game that we need to clean up. Some of the plays are things you probably see, some of them you probably don't. Not only have I been pleased with his play, I've been pleased with how coachable he has been."

Q: When you look at film from the first two games, how do you think Christian has done in terms of going through his progressions and putting the ball where you want it to go?
"Like I said, there are probably three to four plays a game where he didn't. Other than that, he has been very good. He has been getting back to third and fourth progressions at times, which speaks to his knowledge of the offense and the offensive line playing well and giving him time to do so. I've been pleased with how he has been working through his progressions. I think the one thing it has allowed us to get done is get the ball to a bunch of different people. A bunch of different guys have catches this year, and that helps us to get a nice balance."

Q: What have you seen from the Rutgers passing defense leading up to this game?
"I think they are a well-coached team. They are talented. They play fast. A lot is given to yards and statistics, but sometimes that's who you are playing...I know their defense has helped their team go 2-0 to this point, and the defense has helped put them in a position to start the season off in the way that they want to start off. We have to be ready for them. They've got some good schemes, in terms of their pressure game. We have to be ready and able to adjust on the fly. I think our guys have really prepared well this week knowing they are about to play a good football team."

Q: How are Trace McSorley and Michael O'Connor progressing and are either one ready to play in a game right now?
"I feel very confident in both of them to be really honest. They both have a very good grasp of the offense, which I have been really pleased with. I have been really pleased with how both of them approach the mental aspect of it. I think they both go into every week thinking, hey, I'm going to play. They both have done a nice job of their approach. I'm very confident in those guys. I think they are ready to go. If their number is every called, they are going to go in there and help us win the game."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Rutgers Week

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin provided an update to the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex. The Nittany Lions travel to Rutgers on Saturday for an 8 p.m. kick on BTN.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Opponent Previews - Rutgers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

10295908.jpegRutgers | High Points Solutions Stadium | 8 p.m. | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to New Jersey on Saturday to take on Rutgers in the Big Ten opener for both teams and the first ever Big Ten conference game for Rutgers. Get to know the Scarlet Knights in this week's scouting report.

Kyle Flood, who is in his third year leading the Knights, has a record of 17-11 at Rutgers. The Knights went 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference last year. They lost 29-16 to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Rutgers returns 44 letterwinners and 16 starters from a year ago.

Rutgers is 2-0 after last week's 38-25 win over Howard. The Scarlet Knights gained 397 yards of offense, including 288 through the air. Quarterback Gary Nova completed 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Paul James ran for 43 yards, a touchdown and caught two passes, both for touchdowns, including a 69-yard reception. Leonte Carroo and John Tsimis each caught a touchdown.

The Scarlet Knight defense allowed 427 yards, including 259 on the ground. Linebacker Steve Longa led the defense with eight tackles (five solo). Defensive end David Milewski recorded six tackles, two for loss, and forced a fumble. Milewski was one of five Knights to record at least half of a sack on the day. Cornerback Gareef Glashen intercepted a pass.

Through two games, Nova, a senior, has completed 67 percent of his passes for 563 yards, with six touchdowns and an interception. Nova leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency.

James, a redshirt junior, has 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.1 yards per rush. The six-foot, 205-pound James leads the Big Ten in scoring, with six total touchdowns. Desmon Peoples will also see time in the backfield. Peoples has 91 yards with a 4.8 yards per rush average.

Carroo leads the Rutgers receivers with eight catches for 195 yards and two scores. The 6-1 Carroo is fifth in the conference in receiving yards. Joining Carroo are 5-foot-11 sophomore Janarion Grant, who has seven receptions, and Tsimis, who has six receptions and two touchdowns. Grant also returns kicks and punts for the Knights.

The Scarlet Knight offensive line includes three seniors, led by Kaleb Johnson, a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection by Phil Steele.

So far in 2014, Rutgers has allowed 31.5 points and 482.5 yards per game, including 350 yards passing per contest. They rank 13th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 14th in total defense.

The Rutgers defensive line features a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors. Milewski leads the unit with seven tackles. He also has three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Kemoko Turay has 3.5 sacks.

Longa was named First Team All-Big Ten in the preseason by Phil Steele. The redshirt sophomore leads the team with 15 tackles, nine solo. Fellow linebacker Kevin Snyder has 12 stops and a forced fumble.

Glashen, a senior, leads the secondary with 13 tackles, 10 solo, and an interception. Safety Delon Stephenson has recorded 11 stops, while Justin Goodwin has a pick.

Kicker Kyle Federico has connected on three-of-four field goals, with a long of 42. Punter Joey Roth averages 38 yards per punt.

Penn State is 22-2 all-time against Rutgers. The schools last met in 1995, when the Nittany Lions earned a 59-34 win at Giants Stadium.

What Kyle Flood is saying about Penn State:

"It's still early in the year and I haven't seen all the quarterbacks around the country, but I find it hard to believe that there's a better quarterback in the country that we'll face as an opponent. Hackenberg is the prototype NFL quarterback, he has the prototype arm, and he has weapons all over the field to use. He's an excellent player. You can tell he's been coached very well."

"They are very good on defense and they're very good on the defensive front. They are difficult to run the ball against. They are very active. They do an excellent job pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run."

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