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RELATED LINKS: Gameday Central I Game Notes I Depth Chart I Tuesday Presser Roundup I Wednesday Practice Report I R. Rahne Q&A I Monday Notebook I Nittany Lions in the NFL - Week 6 I Gameday Promos and Reminders 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Back from a restful bye week, No. 2 Penn State football (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) returns to Beaver Stadium, set to host No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) in a Penn State White Out Saturday. 

The Nittany Lions and the Wolverines will meet in a primetime matchup set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC with Chris Fowler (pxp), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Maria Taylor (sideline) on the call.

Earlier this week, head coach James Franklin called Saturday's matchup a real challenge for the Nittany Lions, as the two storied programs prepare to collide with a variety of intriguing storylines coming to life under the lights.

At the midpoint in the year, Penn State storylines have continued to take shape, including an explosive offense, an efficient special teams unit and a powerful defense highlighted by a secondary loaded with ball hawks who have proven key in pivotal moments.

Outscoring opponents 76-0 in the first quarter, Penn State's defense is limiting opponents to a national-best 9.0 points per game. In the big plays category, Penn State ranks within the top 25 nationally and second in the Big Ten with 38 plays of 20 or more yards.

Turning toward Michigan, the Wolverines head to Happy Valley for their second weekend on the road, coming off a 27-20 OT win at Indiana last week. Ranked within the top 10 of nine defensive categories in the NCAA standings, Michigan's defense is tops in FBS in total defense (223.8 avg.), third down defense (20.5 pct.) and passing efficiency defense (88.85). At the midpoint in the year, the Wolverines have also limited five of six opponents to a season-low points total an all six to a season-low in yardage. 

Regardless of what the statistics say though, Franklin and the staff have stressed focus above all things this week, with University Park buzzing ahead of the Penn State White Out, the Nittany Lions' highest AP poll ranking in nearly 20 years and ESPN's College Gameday [MORE: College Gameday Info] taking over the Old Main lawn.

"My message for the team this week is, they've earned these things," Franklin said. "These things are nice. The rankings are nice. The fact that ESPN and College GameDay is coming is nice. The fact that this is a white-out is nice. At the end of the day none of those things matter. It's about our preparation."

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What To Watch For - Penn State
1. Franklin noted that Saturday's matchup will bring some interesting chess matches between coordinators, also putting on display, as he says, two of the best defensive coordinators in college football. Having coached together at a previous stop, Franklin was quick to note Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown's success. 

"Don's big thing, it shows up on tape, they're going to solve their problems with aggression. That's something I remember years ago Don talking about. It still shows up on tape. His answer for the game of football is to be aggressive, be aggressive in the way he calls the game, be aggressive in how their players play. They're a big wreck-the-decision-maker, try to get to the quarterback as much as they possibly can and either sack him or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and don't give any yards away, no free-access throws."

2. Penn State is tops in the Big Ten and second in FBS in turnover margin at plus-12. With 17 takeaways in the in the first six games marking the most for the Nittany Lions in a six-game span since 1993, the mark is also tied for third in FBS. With the Nittany Lion secondary contributing a Big Ten leading nine interceptions, it's more than just the secondary that has helped Penn State make take such a significant step forward. 

"I don't think it's just our secondary," Franklin said. "I think it's our D-line. I think it's the linebackers. "Christian is a senior and has been playing since his freshman year. Grant is a senior, has been playing since his freshman year. Amani, his role just continues to grow every season. I think those guys have had a dramatic impact. But, again, to play really good defense, all three phases, D-line, linebackers, secondary, all got to be coordinated and working together."

3. Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki enters Saturday's matchup looking to eclipse a career milestone. Coming off of the road trip win at Northwestern, Gesicki is just 249 yards shy of the a nearly 50-year old career receiving yards record for a Penn State tight end. He also needs just one touchdown reception to match the career touchdown catches record, also tying his own record for single season touchdown grabs. 

What to Watch For - Michigan
1. Franklin identified Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst as both explosive and disruptive for the Wolverines.

"I think Hurst is really fun to watch on tape," Franklin said. "He's a really good player. He's explosive. He is quick. His get-off is what really jumps out. You watch the ball snapped, he's the first one across the line of scrimmage. They move their defensive line a lot. He uses his hands well."

Hurst is second on the team with 7.0 tackles for loss with defensive end Chase Winovich leading the team with 8.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. On the year, Michigan's defensive line has accounted for nearly 50 percent of its 20 sacks. The Wolverines are sixth in FBS and tops in the Big Ten averaging 3.33 sacks per game. 

2. From his early film study Penn State wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins mentioned Michigan's trust in the secondary, noting that winning the contested matchups will be key.

"Basically we've just seen guys who are very sound in their technique with footwork and attention to detail," Thompkins said. "These guys are very comfortable with being one-one-one on the outside and that's something that they do pretty much every game, so that's something that's not different for them. They kind of live in that environment, and they thrive in that environment."

3. Michigan running back Karan Higdon enters Saturday coming off of a career-high 200-yard performance with three touchdowns against the Hoosiers. With starts in three consecutive games, Higdon has totaled 401 yards at the midpoint of the season. 

The Final Word -
Nearly every Nittany Lion asked about the Penn State White Out this week explained the electric atmosphere as something you'd have to experience to be able to describe. Penn State and Michigan have met for a Penn State White Out four times since 2004. Under the lights though, the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines' last primetime meeting came Oct. 12, 2013 when Penn State battled to a 43-40 win in four overtimes.

Ricky Rahne Q&A - Michigan Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State tight ends coach and pass game coordinator Ricky Rahne joined the assistant coaches weekly teleconference Thursday afternoon.

Talking everything from life in the booth to Michigan, check in with a few highlights from the Q&A session.

Week Six Surprises?
At the midpoint in the season, Rahne was asked if there's anything specific the Nittany Lions might have learned when it comes to how opponents are attacking the offense. Having spent more time than usual on self-scouting due to last week's bye, there weren't many surprises for Rahne and the staff. 

"I don't know if there was anything that we've learned necessarily," Rahne said. "I think it was more of a confirmation process than anything else. As we look at things we've said to ourselves, 'okay this is how we think teams are attacking us' and we were really able to confirm most of those thoughts. There might have been a thing here or there that maybe we overestimated how it was happening. In general, I would say that most of the ways we thought teams were attacking us, those were pretty accurate." 

Blocking Assessment
When asked about the blocking performances Rahne has seen from his tight ends this year, he noted that he's generally happy to date. 

"As a general rule, I think we've been blocking pretty well," Rahne said. "I'd obviously like to see us get a little more movement at the point of attack, but I think that's something, as an offensive coach you're searching for until the end of time. I don't think you're ever going to be satisfied with that." 

Michigan's Defense
There's no doubting that the matchup between Penn State's explosive offensive and Michigan's physical defense is intriguing.   

"They play on defense very similar to how we play on offense, Rahne said. "It's a great matchup."

For Rahne, maximizing practice preparations means making concepts as efficient as possible to put the Nittany Lions in the best possible situation for success come Saturday.

"You try to give the guys as many of the looks as you can, while trying to simplify it as much as humanly possible and give them concepts as opposed to trying to have them remember every defense against every play," Rahne said.

Life in the Booth
From up in the booth, Rahne noted that his vantage point from up top can give a little better view of the field as compared to coaches on the sidelines. From either angle, part of what Rahne finds as the most enjoyable part about working with the rest of the offensive staff though, is how well everyone communicates. 

"I'm able to talk to coach Gattis, he's able to talk to me," Rahne said. "I'm able to talk to Coach Limegrover, Coach Huff and then Coach Moorhead. We're all able to make suggestions, no one is looking to assign blame, we're all looking to move the ball down the field to help us score points and help us win. Obviously being up top I can have a little better view on that sometimes." 

Learning from Moorhead
Rahne called Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead the best offensive coordinator in the country. More than his ability to call up the perfect play at precisely the right time, it's his unique ability to inspire belief that Rahne noted.

"I just think the world of Joe and what he brings to the table," Rahne said. "The one thing underestimated, is his ability to get the players to play hard for him and believe in him and our system. Obviously he calls a lot of great plays. I think we as a staff do a great job of designing plays, making adjustments. None of that matters if the kids don't believe. He does a great job of motivating our team and I've learned that from him."

Practice Report: Michigan Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and defensive linemen Shareef Miller met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening during Michigan week.

Check in for a few highlights from the pair of media sessions.

Weekly Update
Franklin noted that at this point in the week, he's pleased with the progress the Nittany Lions have made from Sunday through Wednesday.

"I felt really good about yesterday's energy and execution," Franklin said. "We've got some new things in so it wasn't as clean as you'd like it to be but that's typical on a Tuesday. I thought today, just being out here, not watching the film, I was really pleased with how we practiced." 


Bye Week Bonus
Last week's bye meant more time for Miller and the rest of the Nittany Lions to prepare for this week's Michigan assignment. With extra time to get a handle on film, Miller also got the opportunity to head home for the weekend before getting back to the grind Sunday. 

"It helps a lot to be honest with you, you can get more film in," Miller said. "A lot of us were watching film constantly so now this week, most of us kind of know what they are going to do Saturday. Having a bye week really gave us a good jump on it." 

Looking at Michigan
Describing the Michigan offense, Franklin went with Stanford-esk, Michigan State or a traditional Big Ten style of offense to describe the Wolverines. 

"They're one of those styles offenses where they're going to be multiple formation, multiple personnel groups, multiple shift and formation," Franklin said. They're going to run power, run lead, run counter."

Miller's First Penn State White Out
For Miller, his first Penn State White Out experience came in 2014, when the Nittany Lions narrowly fell short in a double overtime lossto No. 13 Ohio State. Among the rest of his visits, nothing came close to Penn State though, which prevailed by a longshot.

"That's what really sold me to come to Penn State, just the white out atmosphere," Miller said. 

Now on the field suited up in the Blue and White, it's an exciting experience that's difficult to explain.

Tuesday Roundup - Michigan Week

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RELATED LINKS: Transcripts: Franklin I Oruwariye, McGovern I Watch: Full Press Conference I Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football is back from the bye week, as Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media in his weekly Tuesday press conference. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye and center Connor McGovern also joined Franklin for a pair of media sessions. 

For Franklin, if there's one thing he's more excited for thank Christmas, it's the Penn State White Out game, as the second-ranked Nittany Lions turn their focus toward No. 19/15 Michigan.

"We're excited. Obviously it's going to be a great environment," Franklin said. "I'm jacked up like I am every year because the environment is special. I think Beaver Stadium on a normal game day is a top-five atmosphere. I think a white-out game day is something I think you don't really understand unless you can come experience it for yourself."

For Oruwariye and McGovern, both echo the notion of a truly unique experience.

"It's unreal. To have all those fans behind you, screaming and cheering the whole time for you, it's unlike any atmosphere in the world," Oruwariye said. "We have to stay focused on the task at hand and there's going to be a lot of outside stuff going on and we're really just exited to get it to 1-0 with a win."

Among the Penn State White Out excitement and the added anticipation from the addition of ESPN's College Game Day, Franklin noted that keeping the focus on this week's assignment is the top priority.

"It's going to be special," Franklin said. "Then my message for the team this week is, they've earned these things. These things are nice. The rankings are nice. The fact that ESPN and College Game Day is coming is nice. The fact that this is a white-out is nice. At the end of the day none of those things matter. It's about our preparation. A lot of times, I think the most important job of a head coach, in my opinion, is to eliminate distractions. If not handled right, that's what these can be. We're going to stick to our routine and our SOP, kind of go from there."

Franklin's message is nothing new for the Nittany Lions, who know just how to maintain focus amidst distractions.

"The coaching staff does a great job of just keeping us focused on the week, preparing hard, focusing on practice and getting ready for the game," McGovern said.


On The Quote Board -

- Franklin on limiting negative yardage plays

"If we just eliminate those, the plays that we get tackled behind of line of scrimmage and things like that, whether that's a block getting beat, whether them doing a great job of disguising what they're doing, that will really help us. The sacks, the negative yardage plays, if we can just reduce them a little bit, I think that will help us, will keep us on schedule from a first down perspective, and it will extend drives." 

"I don't know, I just would say it's just the loudest thing you'll hear. It's the -- it's just all you hear is just screaming, crazy, fanatic, like crazy fans, and just, like, the whole town is just lit up in white because everyone is wearing white. I don't know, it's just -- you have to experience it most of the time to get a feel."

-Franklin on Nittany Shareef Miller

"You're talking about a skinny kid from Philadelphia, shows up here and takes advantage of training table, takes advantage of the weight room, gets bigger and stronger. He takes advantage of all the academic support, the unbelievable professors we have on campus, is doing extremely well in that area. Is well liked and respected by his teammates and coaches."

- McGovern on his adjustments since moving to center

"I feel very comfortable with the transition now, being more of a leader, being more vocal, and up front we just have to be more physical, blow them off the ball, and sustain our blocks." 

- Franklin on the best part of the bye week

"I think it's probably allowing the players to just get some time off, either just to relax and be normal college students, normal 19-year-olds, the opportunity to go home and see their families. That's probably the best thing."

- Oruwariye on where improvements can still be made among the DBs

"As a group, like I said, we want to take the ball away as much as we can. We want to challenge receivers all the time. We're going to be put on an island sometimes so we can stop the run game, but we embrace that. We worked on it all off-season. But we just want to play to the best of our ability, like I said, and just try to make takeaways."

- Franklin on the Penn State White Out game

"I think people realize the only thing I like more than Christmas is a white-out football game. I'm jacked up like I am every year because the environment is special. I think Beaver Stadium on a normal game day is a top-five atmosphere. I think a white-out game day is something I think you don't really understand unless you can come experience it for yourself." 

- McGovern on his first Penn State White Out experience

"Back in high school, that was my first-ever game here, the [Penn State] White Out, and I'd say everyone - if you're a college football fan, you have to experience at least one [Penn State] White Out in your life. They're a lot of fun, a lot of fun to play in, especially under the lights at night. It's a lot of fun."

Monday Notebook: Michigan Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Back from a bye week, Penn State football is set to return to Beaver Stadium as Nittany Lions host Michigan in the annual Penn State White Out game Saturday. 

Having ascended to No. 2 in both the AP Poll and Amway Coaches Poll, second-ranked Penn State will open a challenging middle-third portion of the conference slate. The Nittany Lions are focused on nothing more than this week's assignment though, as No. 19/15 Michigan makes its first trip to Happy Valley since 2015.

Earlier this afternoon, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley earned a spot on the Sporting News Midseason All-Americans list. Averaging 217.0 all-purpose yards, Barkley is ranked atop the Big Ten and FBS standings in the category, having put together a standout first half of the regular season.

When asked about containing Barkley, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh named containing him critically important in his Monday afternoon press conference. 

"It will be a team effort defensively to go against a great player and a really outstanding offense - a really good quarterback, good receivers, a line and backs that are hitting on all cylinders," Harbaugh said. 

Ranked third in the Big Ten in rushing yards, eighth in receiving yards and first in kickoff returns with an average 32.3 yards per return, Barkley has brought fans to their feet and stunned opposing sidelines along the way this year.

"He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run all the assortment of runs inside the tackles, on the edge - a very good pass protector," Harbaugh said. "He's a multi-purpose back who can do everything well."

Defense vs. Defense
Penn State's defense has been equally as impressive this year, entering the week allowing fewer than 10 points per game (9.0), good for first in the FBS standings. On the flip side, Michigan's defense is surrendering just 223.8 yards of total defense, which is also atop the FBS standings. Regardless of the numbers, Harbaugh noted that Michigan was still looking at options when it comes to attacking the Nittany Lion defense.

"Very good defense," Harbaugh said. "I don't see a lot of big plays right now. I don't see them giving up a lot of plays in the running game or the passing game, which means they are really sound. You can already see really good players in the front seven and in the secondary. They get to the ball, close up gaps and they're rarely out of position."

Helped out by two shutouts, Penn State's defense has not surrendered a single point in the opening quarter, as the only FBS team to hold opponents scoreless in the first quarter to date. 

Get the Signs Ready
Penn State announced Saturday that ESPN's College Gameday will takeover Happy Valley, marking the 16th time Penn State has hosted the pregame college football program. ESPN's College Gameday broadcasted live from the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game, but returns to Penn State as its site for the first time since 2009.

In White Out Conditions ...
Saturday marks the 10th stadium wide Penn State White Out game in program history. The Nittany Lions have hosted a Penn State White Out that's either spanned the entire stadium or just the student section in each of the last 12 seasons.

Penn State White Out History
Oct. 9, 2004 vs. Purdue (student section)
Oct. 8, 2005 vs. Ohio State (student section)
Oct. 14, 2006 vs. Michigan (student section)
Sept. 8, 2007 vs. Notre Dame (full stadium)
Sept. 27, 2008 vs. Illinois (full stadium)
Sept. 26, 2009 vs. Iowa (full stadium)
Oct. 30, 2010 vs. Michigan (student section)
Sept. 10, 2011 vs. Alabama (full stadium)
Oct. 27, 2012 vs. Ohio State (full stadium)
Oct. 12, 2013 vs. Michigan (full stadium)
Oct. 25, 2014 vs. Ohio State (full stadium)
Nov. 21, 2015 vs. Michigan (full stadium)
Oct. 21, 2016 vs. Ohio State (full stadium) 

The Nittany Lions and the Wolverines have met for a total of four Penn State White Out games, most recently in 2015, which followed a thrilling four-overtime win against Michigan in 2013. 

 

Practice Report: Bye Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with media members following practice during the bye week Wednesday evening. 

Now further into the bye week, Wednesday's practice featured the non-travel squad, wrapping up with a scrimmage. Catch up on a few highlights from the post-practice media session.

Bye Week Objectives
Franklin noted the bye week gives ample time for the Nittany Lions to ease off the wear and tear of a regularly scheduled practice, incorporating younger members on the team, while still maintaining a level of productivity. 

"Each practice we had a bunch of stuff with the young guys, probably at least three 12-play scrimmages per practice with those guys," Franklin said.

He also noted that tomorrow's practice will be solely run by Penn State's graduate assistants, with the GA's given the opportunity to take total control.

"Tomorrow, we'll have a GA run practice, which is great for them from a development standpoint because they get to run their own meetings," Franklin said. "They get to come out and run their own practice. It will be just the GA's and the non-travel squad."


Emerging Nittany Lions
With mostly the scout team on display this week, Franklin named a few Nittany Lions who have stepped forward. 

One of those Nittany Lions is true freshman running back Journey Brown. Prior to arriving at Penn State, the Meadville, Pennsylvania native capped off his high school career winning a state championship in the 100-meter outdoor event, setting a state record with a time of 10.43 seconds.

"Obviously we knew he could run, but being able to run fast on a track and being able to do it at this level, he has really showed something the last couple of weeks," Franklin said. "He has the ability to break tackles, which we didn't know, because in high school he was just faster than everybody."

Franklin also made mention of true freshman offensive lineman C.J. Thorpe, someone who he believes has a chance to develop into one of the more physical, intimidating blockers in the Big Ten.

On The Recruiting Trail
While the team might be free to enjoy the weekend or a few days off from practice, Franklin noted that he and the staff will hit the recruiting trail this week. Franklin will head off to Texas immediately, with the rest of the coaching staff spread out in different areas of the country from Wednesday on through Saturday.

"For us, it's not like the old days where you go recruit Maryland and you just hit every school in Maryland," Franklin said. "You're going to see specific prospects all over the country and it's pretty demanding. We'll get our time off after signing day."

Franklin Joins B1G Call

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although there was no regularly scheduled press conference this week, Penn State head coach James Franklin still made a regular appearance on the Big Ten Head Coaches Teleconference.

Franklin spent time taking questions from media members, giving a glimpse into the bye week schedule as well as looking ahead to next week's assignment.

Check in on a few highlights from the Q&A session.

What a Difference a Year Makes
It's been 382 days since the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines last met and it goes without saying that so much has changed within in the stretch of time. For Franklin though, the success the Nittany Lions have seen since September 24, 2016 isn't just a result of what has happened exclusively within the nearly 400-day span. 

"I think it's been a slow steady process of building since we got here," Franklin said. "I think that loss obviously gave us a shot in the gut and I think everybody took a hard look in the mirror and said, what do we need to do to move forward and to take the steps that we need to take. I think that loss as well as 100 positive steps in the right direction, kind of everything just came together at the right time and then we were able to get the win against Minnesota and just keep building."

Inside the Bye Week
Franklin noted postgame at Northwestern that he was pleased with where the Nittany Lions are at, but looking forward to the opportunity to key in on academics with added time to get healthy, in addition to some extra opportunities for development.
 

As Franklin shared today, self scouting was the first thing the Nittany Lions dove into on Monday, spending Tuesday getting ahead on Michigan before the team returns to practice this afternoon following an off day.

"You always have to take some time to check yourself out and then get on to that next opponent," Franklin said.

Scott's Impact
A captain on the team and the leader of the Nittany Lion special teams unit, Penn State's senior Nick Scott's impact goes much further on the team than his performance on the field. When asked about his responsibilities on the team, Franklin had only positive things to say about Scott's approach. 

"He has done an unbelievable job with it, he's playing more and more on defense," Franklin said. "For two years now he has had a huge impact on special teams. He's an energy guy, he brings positive energy, enthusiasm, focus. He's one of the more respected players on our team." 

Penn State returns to action next Saturday, Oct. 21 hosting Michigan in its Penn State White Out game set for 7:30 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. 

Monday Notebook: Bye Week Arrives

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The bye week has arrived as Penn State takes time to turn the focus toward itself before embarking on a challenging middle third of the Nittany Lions' nine-game Big Ten conference schedule. 

Pleased with where the team is at and the progress it's made to date, Franklin noted that the bye week focus would involve academics as well as an opportunity to get healthy.

"There'll be a little of young player development as part of our bye week," Franklin said. "They'll have their own practice. And then obviously we'll spend some time cleaning up some things that have given us issues on offense, defense and special teams. What are the themes? What are the things that we see that everybody's doing against us, our offense? What are the things everybody's trying to do against our defense that's giving us some problems? Let's clean those things up, and then obviously get a head start on that next opponent." 

The Nittany Lions have plenty to be pleased with headed into the open week, fresh off a 31-7 win on the road at Northwestern to improve to 6-0 on the year. 

Sustaining an Elite Level
Penn State's defense was dominant in the win against the Wildcats, with Franklin noting that as a whole, its executing well in all areas. One of those areas of course, is Penn State's veteran secondary.

In mid-September when cornerbacks coach Terry Smith noted that his unit was playing at an elite level. Since week two, Penn State's cornerbacks have only continued to impress, with a combined 17 pass breakups between the trio of Christian Campbell, Grant Haley and Amani Oruwariye. Campbell is leading the way with nine pass breakups on the year, with at least one in each of the last seven consecutive games. Haley is close behind with five on the year, having broken up a career-high three passes against Northwestern.

Campbell, Haley and Oruwariye have also grabbed at least on interception with Oruwariye leading the way with his third pick against Northwestern. 

Record-Setting McSorley
Quarterback Trace McSorley went 25-for-34 with 245 passing yards and one touchdown against the Wildcats, extending his school-record streak to 21 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. McSorley also made history completing 15 consecutive pass attempts from the first quarter through the third quarter to surpass a Penn State program record for consecutive completions originally set by Kerry Collins in 1994. 

"It's pretty cool," McSorley said with a smile when asked about hearing that he first broke the record. "I had no idea about that."

Among record-setting streak, McSorley tossed his lone touchdown pass of the afternoon to quarterback Tommy Stevens, who lined up as a running back before grabbing the 10-yard touchdown pass in the end zone in the second quarter.

When asked about the stretch though, McSorley gave credit to the offensive line and his receivers for finding ways to get open. His success hardly came as a surprise to teammates though. 

"Trace is extremely accurate, great decision maker," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "He's the leader of our offense, he's the guy who makes our offense go so it's not a surprise at all that he did play a phenomenal game just like he has for the past year and a half that he has been our starting quarterback." 

With a .670 completion percentage, McSorley's ranked third in the Big Ten and 19th in the FBS standings, while also atop the conference with 1,597 passing yards.

Save the Date
As announced today, Penn State and Michigan is set for primetime with kickoff arriving at 7:30 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions will host the Wolverines in Penn State White Out conditions Oct. 21. 

Depth, Experience Powering Penn State Defense

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the minutes following a 31-7 win on the road at Northwestern, Penn State head coach James Franklin addressed a jam-packed media room with a message hardly unfamiliar to those closely following the now 6-0 Nittany Lions.

"Can't give our defense enough credit," Franklin said. "I think after last season kind of, the story line was the exciting offense, and I'm pleased with our offense. We're scoring enough points to win, which is the most important thing. But our defense has been playing unbelievable, you know, really well. I'd say almost shutout football."

There's Northwestern of course, managing its lone score of the afternoon in the final two minutes of Saturday's game to smudge an almost third Nittany Lion shutout of the season.

A point of critique for a potent Penn State defense though, should hardly be a starting point for how far it's come and how long it's perhaps, been flying a bit under the radar.

On Northwestern's first drive, defensive tackle Curtis Cothran sacked Wildcat quarterback Clayton Thorson for a loss of eight before cornerback Amani Oruwariye picked off Thorson to keep Northwestern out of the end zone. Defensive ends Ryan Buchholz and Shaka Toney wiped away another Wildcat opportunity as Buchholz grabbed his first career fumble recovery following a Toney strip sack.

In just the first 15 minutes, Penn State's defense protected its perfect first-quarter streak, as the only FBS team to keep an opponent off the scoreboard in the first frame this season.

Penn State was hardly finished though, with cornerback Christian Campbell sending the Nittany Lions into halftime with his first interception of the season, following Toney's second Thorson sack.

"If you look at us, we don't really have one thing that we're just overpowering people with," Franklin said. "It's not really necessarily just our D-line, or just our linebackers, or just our secondary. It's a little bit of all those things."

Complimentary football as Franklin often says, but this time, outside of offense, defense and special teams, it's relatable to the entire defense.

"Our D-line, our linebackers and our secondary are all fitting correctly and complement one another to play really well, sound defense," Franklin said. "And when you watch us, we're not a suffocating defense, where we take like every yard away on the field. But the most important thing is we keep people out of the end zone and we create turnovers."

A main focus of offseason training, Penn State's ability to create turnovers has been just as impressive as its NCAA-leading 9.0 points allowed from opponents this year.

In just the first six games of the season, the Nittany Lions have forced 17 turnovers, marking the most in a 6-game span since 1993. For context, Penn State generated 21 turnovers across all 14 games last year, with nine after six games. 

"It's unbelievable, our defense is playing at an extremely high level," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "Coach Pry deserves a ton of credit for the way he has been orchestrating our defense and everybody on the defense," Gesicki said. "Whether it's the defensive line, linebackers, DBs, everybody understands their role and executes the game plan."

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Fresh off of his first career multi-sack game, Toney is a key example of the depth that Pry and the rest of the defensive staff have been hard at work developing long before the Nittany Lions stepped on to the field against Akron back in early September.

"We don't have him out there very often on first and second down," Franklin said. "He's growing into that. We're using him in obvious passing situations or third down and medium to long, and allowing him to play and do what he does best."

Toney showcased exactly what he could do best Saturday, now just behind Nittany Lion starter Shareef Miller with 5.5 tackles for loss, tied though with 3.0 sacks on the year.

"It's the change of pace," Toney said. "I talk about it with the older guys all season, with Shareef, Buc [Ryan Buchholz], Shane [Simmons], even Yetur [Gross-Matos], a young guy - if you all beat them up first and second down, I promise third down he isn't going to be able to catch me."

For Toney, it's also a result of an offseason dedicated to hard work, spending time keying in on his pass rush, leaning on the veteran advice of those around him but especially Torrence Brown, often going over to his house after every single practice.

"Torrence, people forget about him but he taught me a lot as a player," Toney said. "It hurts that he's not here right now but I always know I can depend on him. He always works on my moves, makes sure I'm doing what I need to be doing."

Whether it's experience, maturity or leadership though, it was Pry himself who last week noted that Penn State's defense this year has been what's expected, forged of course by the unique notion that the staff knows exactly what it can expect from a veteran group that will only continue to step forward with confidence.

"Playing a team with confidence is dangerous," Oruwariye said. "We've got a better grasp of the system. Just experience. Guys have been in this position, it gets a lot easier when you have guys like that in front of Jason [Cabinda] and Marcus [Allen].

VIDEO: Northwestern Postgame (Players)

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EVANSTON, Ill. - Fourth-ranked Penn State captured its sixth consecutive win with a 31-7 win on the road at Northwestern Saturday afternoon. Catch up with several of the Nittany Lions following the victory.

RB S. Barkley

 QB T. McSorley, TE M. Gesicki

 CB A. Oruwariye, DE S. Toney

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