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VIDEO: Akron Week Player Q&As - Sam Ficken & Jesse James

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with senior kicker Sam Ficken and junior Jesse James leading up to the Akron game.





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Week Two Press Conference Roundup - Akron Week

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blog_presser_Akron.jpgJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 2

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for the 2014 home-opener against Akron (Noon on ABC).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the week two matchup against the Zips on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Saturday will mark Franklin's first time leading the Nittany Lions onto the field in front of the Beaver Stadium faithful for a game.

"I think the first time you walk through the tunnel and you look out there and you feel the energy, probably arriving at the stadium and walking through the crowd with our new entrance that we are coming into the stadium and things like that," Franklin said. "I think those things, obviously, will have an effect. But after that, you don't really kind of think about it."

Franklin said the Nittany Lions are seeking to clean a few things up after watching the film of the UCF game, namely the turnover margin and number of penalties. He also spent some time on Tuesday discussing the running game and the areas of emphasis for the offensive line. While the group made good progress leading up to the UCF game, Franklin wants to see the group play with great consistency.

"I think for us, it's finishing. It's finishing blocks. It's making sure our communication, that we are all on the same page," said Franklin. "But more than anything, it's sustaining it; it's finishing. When you think you've blocked long enough, block longer to the echo of the whistle, those types of things. So we are going to work hard on them this week and we are going to continue to invest in the running game, and hopefully that will pay dividends on Saturday."

Another area Franklin wants to see the Nittany Lions take a jump in this week is inside the red zone. Penn State went 5-for-5 on scoring chances inside the 20 against UCF, but only one of those scores was a touchdown. Fanklin wants to see the offense put seven points on the board when the Lions are in the red area.

Collectively, teams often make their biggest jump of the year from week one to week two. In his experience at previous stops during his career, Franklin said that normally that is the case. He is looking for the Lions to take a step forward this week.

"That's our goal; to make sure that we are improving collectively and we are improving individually and if you do that, then you'll like the results," said Franklin.

Saturday's game will mark the fifth time Akron will play at Penn State. The Lions are 4-0 against the Zips. The squads last met in 2009, which resulted in a 31-7 on-field victory for the Nittany Lions.

Terry Bowden is in his third season as head coach of Akron. Bowden is 7-18 at Akron, but the Zips have won five of their last six games.


Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Akron offense:

"They have got nine returning starters, and the guys that jump out to us are their running back, Jawon Chisholm, who is a Harrisburg High School kid; Zach Guiser is a wide receiver; and then their quarterback, Kyle Pohl, who threw for over 62 percent, four touchdowns and zero interceptions."

- Franklin on the UCF deffense:

"Chuck Amato, their defensive coordinator, he was the defensive coach at NC State and expecting big things from them. Six returning starters which we talked about. The guy that jumps out to us is their defensive end, No. 11, Nordly Capi, their speed guy off the edge."

- Franklin on the Akron special teams:

"On special teams, Jeff Bowden, obviously a very, very experienced coach is their special teams coordinator and No. 3, their kickoff return guy is a weapon for them."

- Comment on the play of defensive ends C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes:

"Both guys both played well. You look at the pressures and the sacks and how many hits we were able to get on the quarterback from our d‑line, and our linebacker and the way we were able to stop the run, I think that's probably the thing because probably most impressed with those guys is how physical they were in the running game. Obviously you would always love to get more sacks and create more pressures. I thought they both did extremely well and we want to build on that and go from there."



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Monday Notebook: B1G Honors to Kick Off Akron Week

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10268294.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of a dramatic 26-24 victory over UCF to open the season in Ireland, the Nittany Lions are focused solely on one thing: Saturday's home-opener against Akron (Noon on ABC).

While the win over UCF is a big confidence boost heading into the remainder of the season, the only game on the schedule for the team is the one this week.

"The win means a lot to the team because it's something where we all had to come together, and we accomplished something as a group. It's a game to build on," said redshirt freshman offensive tackle Andrew Nelson.

"It means we got off to a good start, but we now focused on Akron," junior defensive end Deion Barnes said.

After practicing on Sunday, Monday is an off day for the players. The team will get back to work on Tuesday, which is also media day for Akron week.

Ficken, Hamilton Headline Big Ten Awards
The Nittany Lions received good news on Monday with the Big Ten's announcement that Sam Ficken (Special Teams) and DaeSean Hamilton (Co-Freshman) were named players of the week for their efforts against UCF on Saturday.

Ficken converted a career-high four field goals (4-for-4), including a 36-yard game-winner to lift the Nittany Lions past UCF. Monday's honor marked the third time Ficken has been selected Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hamilton made an immediate impact in his first outing as a Nittany Lion. The redshirt freshman re-wrote the record book for Nittany Lion rookies with his 11 catches for 165 yards against UCF. Hamilton took a workmanlike approach to the offseason while building a rapport with Christian Hackenberg. The duo got off to a spectacular start across the pond.

"I was just hoping to go out there and make the plays that were coming to me," Hamilton said. "And then after the first catch, I just started to get into a groove.

Hackenberg Stands Alone in 400 Club
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is the only player in Penn State Football's illustrious 128-year history to reach 400 passing yards in a game. Hackenberg finished 32-of-47 for 454 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Nittany Lion sophomore connected with seven different receivers in the victory, including three players who had seven or more catches. Zack Mills previously owned the game passing record mark with 399 yards against Iowa in 2002.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the season-opener against UCF.

3,332 - The Nittany Lions tangled with UCF 3,332 miles away from Beaver Stadium, marking the furthest distance Penn State has ever played a game on the road.

454 - Christian Hackenberg set a school record with 454 passing yards in the victory over UCF.

338 - Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton combined for 338 receiving yards on Saturday. Each player topped 150 receiving yards, which marked the first time in program history that two players tallied 150 receiving yards or more.

94 - Penn State now has 94 victories in season-openers. The Lions are 94-20-2 all-time in the first game of the season.

18 - Placekicker Sam Ficken noted after the game that he had to play the wind on the final field goal inside Croke Park. The wind speed during the game in Dublin on Saturday was 18 mph.

11 - There were 11 players who saw the field for the first time as a Penn State player on Saturday. The list included six redshirt freshmen and five true freshmen.

7 - Junior tight end Jesse James tallied a career-high seven receptions against UCF.

6.8 - The Penn State offense averaged 6.8 yards per play in the season-opener.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet Akron in Beaver Stadium.


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VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference In Ireland - vs. UCF

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VIDEO: Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - Head into the media room following a thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic to hear from head coach James Franklin, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel.






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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews from Ireland

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VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference

DUBLIN, Ireland - Hear from several Nittany Lions following Penn State's thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic.




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Lions' Will to Win Shines on Final Drive in Ireland

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irelandblog_story_drive.jpgVIDEO: Postgame Press Conference | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - It was almost as if a sense of calm came over the Penn State sideline on the pitch in Croke Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon when UCF capped off a 75-yard drive with a go-ahead touchdown as the clock read 1:13 to play.

Down 24-23, Christian Hackenberg trotted onto the field with three timeouts in his pocket knowing he need to get the ball into field goal range or the game was over. While he is just a sophomore, Hackenberg has the poise of a senior and was no stranger to the stakes.

"We were excited. This team has been there before," Hackenberg said. "Even though we are young, we knew what we could do. Geno (Lewis) made a big play. Bill (Belton) made a fantastic play to get out of bounds. It's just one of those things where guys stepped up."

From top to bottom, the offensive unit never doubted how the game was going to end. That says a lot about the leadership in the huddle on an offense that had five players starting in their first game on Saturday.

"We all believed in each other," redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson said. "We all knew that the person next to you had your back. We had repped it in practice, and we were confident in what we were going to do."

"Whenever he is out there, everyone has the most confidence in him," senior Mike Hull said. "When he is in a two-minute situation at the end of a game, we know he is going to get the job done."

The final drive began at the Penn State 26-yard line. Hackenberg connected with Geno Lewis for a seven-yard gain. Following a third-down incompletion, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year made a quick decision to scramble for a do-or-die first down on fourth-and-three.

"I knew it was fourth down and if I was going to go, I had to go," Hackenberg said. "I just tried to get as much as I could."

One play later, Hackenberg shoveled a pass to Bill Belton, who raced 13 yards to the UCF 46. Lewis and Hackenberg connected for completions of nine and 18 yards, respectively, on the next two plays.

"It's just like it was last year, we practice it so much, and the coaches do such a great job of putting us in situations (on the practice field)," Hackenberg said. "I think today, guys went out and they wanted it. Guys made plays."

The final reception to Lewis led to a Nittany Lion timeout with three seconds on the clock.

Ficken trotted onto the field with the kicking unit, and the rest will live in Penn State and Croke Park lore.

"It wasn't a really difficult kick. The wind was blowing right to left," Ficken said. "I asked them to get the ball to the right side of the field so that I could play the wind a little better. The snap was good. The hold was good. Honestly, I didn't hit it great, but it went through and that's all that matters."

As the 36-yard kick sailed inside the right upright to give Penn State a 26-24 victory, the Lions stormed the field to chase after Ficken, who made a victory lap in front of the more than 15,000 Penn State fans who flew across the pond to see the game. The field goal made it a storybook ending for head coach James Franklin's first win as Penn State head coach.

"That guy has had as consistent of a spring and summer as anyone on our team," Franklin said. "I'm just happy for him...He's a perfect example of people in life and in this program that if you stay positive, persevere and keep working, good things will happen."

After landing in Pittsburgh on Saturday night around 11 p.m. ET and a bus ride to State College, the team will get some rest before getting right back to work on Sunday in preparation for Saturday's home opener against Akron.

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' season-opener across the pond in Dublin.


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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. We kick things off today with coverage from the season-opener inside Croke Park against UCF in Ireland.


Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF
 



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Nittany Lions Greeted By Huge Crowd in Dublin on Friday

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irelandblog_18.jpgLIVE GAME BLOG

Gameday Preview | Photo Gallery |  Ireland Day I Coverage | Ireland Day II Coverage


DUBLIN, Ireland - Approximately 10,000 boisterous Penn State fans filled every inch of the cobblestones on Essex Street East in Dublin on Friday afternoon to give the Nittany Lions a warm welcome across the pond.

The crowd began forming around the pep rally stage more than an hour prior to the start of the scheduled event. The Blue and White supporters surrounded the stage from street level to the rooftops. The Nittany Lion, Blue Band, cheerleaders and Lionettes performed before a host of speakers addressed the crowd.

"Penn State nation has descended on Dublin," said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour.

"You guys take road trip to a new level," said Hall of Fame and Nittany Lion great Jack Ham.

Approximately 20 members of the 2014 squad walked onto the small stage to say hello to the fans in attendance. Juniors Ben Kline and Matt Zanellato spoke to electric crowd.

"We came here to get an unbelievable education and play in front of the best fans in the world. This is what we are talking about," said junior Matt Zanellato.

The Nittany Lions held a walkthrough at UCD on Friday morning before having lunch inside Trinity College. From there, the team filled three double-decker buses for a narrated tour through the city. On seemingly every city corner during the bus tour, the players exchanged "We Are" chants with Penn State fans. Nittany Nation traveled in great numbers to Dublin for the Croke Park Classic.

The support across the pond on Friday was tremendous as the season-opener approaches.

Take a look at some snapshots from Friday's festivities in Dublin.

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2014 Gameday Preview - Lions Open Season In Dublin

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LIVE GAME BLOG

Game Notes | Depth Chart | UCF Scouting Report | Huge Crowd Greets Lions in Ireland

Ireland Day I Coverage | Ireland Day II Coverage | Ireland Photo Gallery

DUBLIN, Ireland - For the first time in its 128-year gridiron history, the Nittany Lion football team will play an international game. Penn State is set to meet UCF in the season-opening Croke Park Classic on Saturday (8:30 a.m. on ESPN2) in Ireland.

Head coach James Franklin will debut as leader of the Nittany Lions when he leads the team onto the infamous Irish pitch inside Croke Park Stadium. The Blue and White enter the season with seven returning starters on both offense and defense. The Lions begin the season with 54 true or redshirt freshmen on the roster.

Penn State traveled to Dublin overnight on Tuesday. After practicing at University College Dublin for three days, the Nittany Lions are focused on the season-opener against a very talented UCF squad. On the heels of a 12-1 season and a win in the Fiesta Bowl, the Knights are under the direction of 18-year veteran head coach George O'Leary.

The long wait is over. The 2014 Penn State Football season is here.  Welcome to an international version of the Gameday Preview for the season-opener against the UCF Knights.

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Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. The Nittany Lions have been more than 3,000 miles away from Happy Valley since Wednesday morning, so game week has been anything but normal from a travel perspective. But the on-field preparations and meetings have been business as usual for the Nittany Lions across the pond. Penn State held three practices in Ireland and usual gameplan meetings throughout the week. The schedule has been as close to a typical game week as possible. As Coach Franklin has said all week, this is a business trip for the team and its staff. The Lions have been exposed to some of the finest cuisine and sites in Ireland during the week, but the group has been focused on the task at hand since it arrived.

10256181.jpeg2. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg will lead the Nittany Lion offense for the second-straight season. Hackenberg, who was voted captain by his peers during training camp, is an improved player in all facets of the game after a strong offseason in the weight room and on the field. Franklin has noted several times during the offseason that the cast of players surrounding the quarterback is the key group to keep an eye on. Headlining the cast is a pair of senior running backs - Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak - and a corps of veteran tight ends led by Jesse James and Kyle Carter. Keep an eye on the youthful receiving corps made up of Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall.

3. The Penn State defense had a superb training camp season. A group filled with veterans, the Nittany Lions enter the season with eight defensive starters who are juniors or seniors. The man calling the shots on the defensive side of the ball is fifth-year senior Mike Hull. Hull is the team's top returning tackler (78 stops in 2013). In addition to Hull, defensive end C.J. Olaniyan and safeties Ryan Keiser and Adrian Amos will start as seniors. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop wants to see an attacking style with relentless pursuit of the ball every time his unit steps onto the field.

What to Watch For - UCF
1. The UCF defense features nine returning starters from last year's team that went 12-1. The Knights finished in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense in 2013, allowing just 21.3 points per game. Bednarik Award candidate Terrance Plummer returns as the team's top tackler. He finished with 110 tackles in 2013. The UCF secondary features two Jim Thorpe Award candidates in senior Clayton Geathers and sophomore cornerback Jacoby Glenn. Geathers recorded 100 stops, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season. Glenn had two interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

10256196.jpeg2. The Penn State coaching staff believes UCF has among the top receiving units that the Nittany Lions will face all season. Senior Rannell Hall made 57 receptions for 886 yards and had five touchdowns last year. Junior Breshad Perriman averaged nearly 21 yards per reception in 2013. Perriman finished with 811 yards and 39 catches. J.J. Worton is the third key contributor in the receiving corps. Worton tallied 47 receptions and seven touchdowns last season. Former UCF quarterback and NFL first-round selection Black Bortles is now playing on Sundays. Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo will make his first career start, but he has a talented cast of receivers on the field to distribute the ball to.

3. The Knights also enter the season with a solid group of specialists on the depth chart. Placekicker Shawn Moffitt is a Lou Groza Award candidate after going 21-for-23 on field goal attempts in 2013. Punter Caleb Houston averaged 42.2 yards per punt last season, as well. Hall (KR) and Worton (PR) are the team's return threats. Hall is among UCF's leaders in nearly every kickoff return category. Worton has 55 punt returns for 573 yards in his career.


The Final Word:
Historic Croke Park will play host to Saturday's clash between Penn State and UCF. Finished in 1913, Croke Park Stadium has a 69,000-seat capacity for the football game. Home of the Gaelic Games, the stadium is a large structure that towers over most of the buildings in Dublin, but does so with an intimate feel inside. The sports and cultural heritage of the stadium can be felt from the moment an individual walks inside. The pitch is hallowed ground not touched by anyone but competitors or the grounds crew. The pitch itself is large enough to fit more than two football fields across it, giving Saturday's game a unique look. The football lines will be centered in the pitch, which provides significant space between the sidelines and the stadium structure. Playing inside Croke Park means a lot to the Nittany Lions.

"There is no doubt that it is a national treasure for them," Franklin said. "Sports are very, very important in this country. I think the whole thing has been surreal in a lot of ways."


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