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James Franklin Named Dave McClain Coach of the Year

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Penn State head coach James Franklin arrived at Penn State in January 2014, he came to Happy Valley with a plan. With each passing year, Franklin has led a storied Nittany Lion team through unthinkable circumstances and challenging times, never wavering in the face of adversity.

Wednesday evening, Franklin earned the Big Ten Conference Dave McClain Coach of the Year honor, voted on by media members from around the league. Earning his first postseason conference award of his career at Penn State, the honor comes as a symbol dedication to the process and gratitude for the staff and student-athletes who have benefited from his leadership.
 

In the moments following a dominant 45-12 win against Michigan State to clinch the Big Ten East Division title and secure Penn State's first 10-win regular season since 2009, Franklin was quick to thank those around him.

"I want to thank the best coaching staff in the country," Franklin said. "We spend a lot of time together, care about one another, support one another, we're very creative and have a lot of fun. I want to thank the players - the players have been great."

While the path to Franklin's first Big Ten Coach of the Year honor has been anything but ordinary, if one thing has been the same from year one to year three, it has been a steadfast commitment to process and consistency in the same approach based on a foundation of four core values, positive attitude, work ethic, competition in everything and the willingness to sacrifice.

The first two years, steep scholarship reductions presented a unique challenge, but Penn State battled to a pair of bowl appearances following back-to-back 7-6 seasons. 

Following the 2015 season, Franklin adjusted staffing positions, most notably promoting Brent Pry to defensive coordinator, welcoming offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who was the head coach at Fordham and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover, who served as an assistant at Minnesota. 

A 2-2 to start the 2016 season, although back at full scholarship allotment, the Nittany Lions were facing a linebacker unit riddled with injuries, unlike anything Franklin had ever seen with the Big Ten slate already underway.

Despite the circumstances, Franklin calmly addressed a room full of media members on a Tuesday afternoon in early October, going back to the process.  

"There's a process from the time we arrived to where we're going," Franklin said. "I think I see strides in people that come to practice every single day, see strides in the people that are around our program, in every aspect, the professors that come as the guest coach programs with us, the administration that's around us, at practice, in meetings, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package, there's progress being made."

Urging the room to pause for a deep breath, Franklin offered one final statement before moving on.

"We're going to continue loving these kids," Franklin said. "We're going to continue supporting these kids. We're going to continue developing these kids, and I believe in my 22 years of experience that we're heading in the right direction and good things are going to happen if people let the process play out."

Just four days later, Penn State engineered a triumphant comeback from, defeating Minnesota 29-26 in overtime to kick off a string of eight consecutive victories, culminating in the Big Ten East Division title, securing Penn State's first conference crown since 2009.

Along the way, Penn State shocked the nation, rallying from a 14-point deficit to upset second-ranked Ohio State in front of an electric white out crowd of more than 107,000 fans.

On Saturday, as Franklin addressed the media postgame following a dominant 45-12 win against Michigan State, he again, returned to the process. 

"I think if you look at our track record, that's really who we've been," Franklin said. "We've gotten better as the season has gone on and stuck to our process. I know early on we had some other challenges and I know people like to make light of that, but this is really who we've been. We've stuck to the plan and supported one another every step of the way to keep getting better."

Whether its injuries, youth, or even a situation as unthinkable as crippling sanctions, Franklin and his staff, long standing or new, have not waivered in the face of adversity, but rather reverted to the plan as the roadmap to what's ahead.

"Coming here, it's not like I was a first time coach, it's not like our staff was the first time being together," Franklin said. "We had a plan and we believed in the plan, it was detailed, it was thorough, it was organized and it wasn't like we were just trying to take a plan from school 'x' and bring it to school 'z', we had modified it to Penn State and we believed in it. Although there were rough patches and tough times, we stuck to the plan."

For Franklin, amidst a 10-win season, a Big Ten title and a Big Ten Championship game on the horizon, there's still a long way to go. Although pleased with the progress that has been made, there's still much to do moving forward as the plan continues to unfold.

On the heels of Spartan victory, Franklin joined the Big Ten Championship game conference call Sunday afternoon, giving just a glimpse of what the recent the success has paved the way for, in terms of the next piece of a process that will ultimately take time.

"Now we have recent success that allows people, instead of talking about what Penn State was, people are now talking about what Penn State is, and that's exciting."  

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Transcript: Franklin | Transcript: Schwan | VIDEO: Schwan Q&A

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Penn State Football is headed to the Big Ten Championship game with a Saturday matchup against Wisconsin set for 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

"We are looking forward to seeing a big contingent obviously this week in Indianapolis," Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin said. "It should be fun. It should be exciting." 

Penn State is set to make its first appearance in the Big Ten Championship game, having claimed its third overall Big Ten regular season title and second divisional crown since joining the conference in 1993.

As he does weekly, Franklin recapped last weekend's 45-12 win against Michigan State before turning the focus toward Wisconsin.

Looking back at the Michigan State victory, Franklin was quick to point out that the Nittany Lions committed just one penalty, noting both focus and discipline as a key to another team win.

"The thing I'm probably most proud of is this team's focus overall, their discipline, and our chemistry," Franklin said.

With positive takeaways from offense, defense and special teams, Franklin also revealed Nittany Lion coaching staff's player of the week awards with Trace McSorley on offense, Brandon Bell and Marcus Allen splitting defense and Blake Gillikin earning special teams honors. 

Both McSorley and Bell earned a few more honors for their standout performances against the Spartans. McSorley earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor. 

Turning the focus toward the Badgers, Franklin stressed that consistency has been key for Wisconsin, which is making its fourth trip to the Big Ten Championship game in the last six years.

"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.

With a big physical presence on offense and a defense bolstered by a stout front seven and a strong linebacking unit, Franklin also made note of the Badger special teams unit. 

"The thing that really jumps out is they are solid and consistent in all phases on special teams," Franklin said.  "One of the things that they do on punt return is line up, screen move and shift their fronts. They've gotten so many people to jump off-sides by real fast screen jumping or moving guys down the line of scrimmage. It has caused everybody to jump off-sides. There's been some games it's happened multiple times." 

On the Quote Board -
-  Franklin on the matchup between Wisconsin's secondary and the Nittany Lion receivers. 

"I think the explosive plays come from Trace's mobility, when he is able to step up in the pocket and extend plays. He's also one of those quarterbacks that when he steps up in the pocket, even when he's kind of on the run, he's eyes are downfield."

"The other thing is, as good as defensive backs are all over the country, and specifically in the Big Ten, if the offensive line can protect and the quarterback can extend [the play], I don't care who you are, I think playing defensive back may be one of the most difficult positions in all of sports. You're basically doing everything that most people do backwards. It's all reactionary."

-  Franklin on the progress Ryan Bates has made. 

"I think that's probably one of the bigger stories of our season. We have always thought he was talented enough. Trust me, we got into a discussion with the staff the other day, Josh Gattis brought this up a long time ago, we've all kind of seen it and discussed it. There's some aspects of his body type that you'd say he's probably more fit for center or guard, but his feet and his athleticism and his comfort in space make him really good at tackle."

-  Schwan on the potential Wisconsin could utilize two quarterbacks.

"Throughout the entire season we've played teams that have had the same situation, where they'll put a guy in who's a bigger guy that can kind of run you over. They'll put a speed guy in to do certain jet sweeps. We'll prepare for that accordingly."

VIDEO: Wisconsin Week Player Q&A

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football is headed to the Big Ten Championship game with a Saturday matchup against Wisconsin set for 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Penn State's Evan Schwan took time to preview the upcoming matchup against the Badgers, while also taking a quick look at the journey to the title game. 

Monday Notebook: Nittany Lions Join B1G Championship Call

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Jason Cabinda and quarterback Trace McSorley all joined the Big Ten Football Championship Game conference call this afternoon ahead of the Wisconsin matchup Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Nittany Lions downed Michigan State 45-12 to earn a share of the Big Ten East Division title, earning a spot in the championship game Saturday at Beaver Stadium helped out by an Ohio State win against Michigan.

Separated into 10 minute segments, the trio of Nittany Lions talked everything from big plays to the buzz in Happy Valley following Penn State's third Big Ten regular season title in program history.

One common theme united the three though, a unique approach from the offseason throughout the year, focused on achieving a championship standard, something that's been embedded in their mindset for more than just the last eight consecutive wins.

"That's something that we talked about before the season started, we started talking about championships and focusing on the little things to get there," Barkley said. 

For Cabinda, it's simply an awesome experience to see all the hard work and dedication from the offseason begin to come to fruition. 

"Really this is the vision that we've had from the get-go in the beginning of the season and really through the offseason, we've been talking about winning a championship here and this is always the goal and the vision and what we've planned to do."

Check out a few more notes from today's teleconference. 

Saquon Barkley -

-  Barkley opened up with a quick note on Wisconsin's defense, which has limited opponents to just 13.7 points per game through the regular season, good for second in the conference and third nationally. The Badgers have also logged a national-best 21 interceptions this season.

"Wisconsin has a really good defense and they have the numbers to show for it" Barkley said. "They have a bunch of studs over there, so we have to come out really focused. It's going to be a really tough game, a physical Big Ten game and we have to come out ready for it." 

-  Barkley noted how the Nittany Lions have only benefitted from depth at the running back position, most recently illustrated by back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdowns from Andre Robinson against Michigan State and a career-high performance from Miles Sanders at Rutgers with 85 yards on five attempts. 

"We have that next man up mentality," Barkley said. "Obviously you don't want to see a teammate go down or not be able to finish a game, but you have to get the win and you have to be ready for your team when you're called on."

Jason Cabinda -

-  Following the win against the Spartans, Cabinda noted there has been a tangible buzz on campus as students are arriving back to campus, eager to support the team as it prepares for the trip to Indianapolis.

"They call it Happy Valley for a reason," Cabinda said. "I don't remember the last time I've seen Happy Valley this happy. There's just a buzz around the whole community, everyone's talking about the team and really what we've been able to accomplish so far this year."

-  Cabinda also took a quick look back at the Minnesota overtime victory, a moment where he was both pleased with the defense's next man up mentality as well as how the win revealed glimpses of true character. 

"You had young guys in there stepping up like Brandon Smith and Manny Bowen with some linebackers out and guys were stepping up," Cabinda said. "To get that win in OT and continue to see guys fight and grind, it was huge and it just shows the kind of character this team has." 

Trace McSorley -

-  McSorley recalled a moment a preseason camp last year where he realized Barkley was going to be a special piece of the Penn State offense. 

"There was one run that he had, kind of broke outside and we were doing a live drill and he made one cut and was gone. It was one of those cuts that you don't see all the time, it was pretty special just to see him do that." 

-  McSorley talked about the key to Penn State's explosive offense, which ranks among the best in college football in terms of long yardage plays. Averaging a national-best 16.17 yards per completion, McSorley is among the nation's best with the deep ball, slotted top five in passes of 20-, 30- or 40-plus yards.

"I think a big key has been our offensive line," McSorley said. "They've been doing a great job with protection all year, giving us quarterbacks time to look down field to take those shots, trying to get explosive plays, letting our receivers work on the outside." 

He also noted Penn State's ability to utilize play-action with Barkley, leveraging his threat to opponents out of the back field to create one-on-one opportunity for Penn State's deep group of talented wide receivers. 

"You have guys like Chirs [Godwin], Saeed [Blacknall] and DaeSean [Hamilton] outside, and the kind of talent at wide receiver, it helps get those guys on one-on-one matchups and we're confident in their ability to win those matchups."

Second Half Adjustments Key for Nittany Lions

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State head coach James Franklin noted postgame Saturday, the 2016 regular season has come to a close, but a new challenge though, is now on the horizon as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions sped past Michigan State, 45-12, on the way to a Big Ten East Division title.

Backed by the mission to send a special senior class out with nothing less than win in their final game at Beaver Stadium, Penn State was on the grind from the very start of the game. The Spartans though, came out with chunk play after chunk play, scoring on their first four consecutive drives, as the Nittany Lions stalled slightly on offense.

It was the Nittany Lion defense though, that proved relentless from the start, limiting Michigan State to just four field goals on consecutive trips to the red zone. 

"In the first half, we kind of struggled getting them off schedule on first and second downs," senior defensive end Evan Schwan said. "But as soon as they got into the red zone every time, it was kind of an all or nothing mentality." 

The all or nothing mentality certainly paid dividends as defensive end Garrett Sickels came off the edge to bring Michigan State quarterback Damion Terry back for a loss of five on the first Spartan scoring drive, before Terry rushed an incomplete pass on third-and-goal, nearly sacked by a blitzing Brandon Bell.

On the second Spartan scoring drive, it was defensive end Ryan Buchholz who broke through to bring Michigan State running back LJ Scott down for a loss of five before Terry once again threw incomplete, with well executed coverage in the end zone from corner John Reid. 

Linebacker Manny Bowen highlighted the opening half, speeding around the edge to sack MSU quarterback Tyler O'Connor for a loss of nine on third-and-5 as the Spartans opted for their third field goal.

"The fact that we stopped them and they couldn't get into the end zone was a huge momentum swinger," Schwan said.

Momentum certainly shifted in favor of the Nittany Lions, as Franklin noted postgame that his halftime message in the locker room was simply to settle the team down and make necessary adjustments to create movement on the offensive side of the ball for the team to make plays in the second half. 

With Penn State already proving time and again this season the ability to find success in second half adjustments, those big plays plays dazzled the senior day crowd of more than 97,000 at home in Beaver Stadium.

Penn State's explosive offense came alive in the second half as Penn State scored five unanswered touchdowns to secure the win. Four of the five touchdowns came on long yardage pass plays, with quarterback Trace McSorley making gutsy passes of at least 34 yards, in a career-high effort.

McSorley found wide receiver Chris Godwin for 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to spark the offense. 

"All season long we've been one big play away from getting it done," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "We came out and when Chris caught that touchdown, that gave us the spark that we needed and that just kind of propelled it." 

Gesicki also contributed to the offensive momentum, following Godwin with a 45-yard touchdown grab of his own from McSorley, before Godwin added a 59-yard touchdown reception a few minutes later.

Gesicki closed out a productive day with 64 receiving yards, improving his season total to 610 yards, which sets a Penn State tight end single season record.

Check out Gesicki's touchdown catch below.

Connecting with McSorley, the Godwin-Gesicki duo accounted for 18 of Penn State's 21 third-quarter points with the Nittany Lions only having possession for 4:51 during the entire frame.

McSorley finished with a nearly unstoppable performance, logging his school-record tying fourth 300-yard passing performance with a career-best 376 yards through the air.

"Trace has got a really good feel in the pocket stepping up, knowing when he needs to run and knowing when he has a little bit more time to keep his eyes down the field to make big plays," Franklin said. "It's been fun to watch those guys make plays and it's been fun to watch Trace grow up in front of our eyes."

As the Nittany Lions prepare to look toward their first appearance in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, Penn State is confidently guided by McSorley, who is the fourth Penn State quarterback to lead his team to 10 wins in his first year as the starting quarterback since Daryll Clark in 2008.

More from McSorley following the win below.

A Few Notes from the Big Ten Championship Game Coaches Conference Call
-  On Sunday afternoon's call, Franklin only echoed his point about Penn State's success in the second half. For context, Penn State is currently outscoring its opponents 274-102 in the second half on the year, helped out by the Nittany Lions' 35-0 run to close out the final half against the Spartans.

What has been the key to the success in second half adjustments this season?

"We're a young football team," Franklin said. "People do things to attack us based on game film, which is smart, but they come up with some things that are going to give us pause or give us some question or concern and when you have a young line - I think last week we traveled 13 linemen and either eight or nine were freshmen. People have done a good job attacking those guys and when those guys haven't had the experience that most offensive lines have, they don't play as aggressive as they need to, and it takes them a few reps to settle down. We're able to go in at halftime, get them settled down, explain to them what's going on." 

-  Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst had high praise for McSorley noting that he has really enjoyed watching him play this season, up until it became clear the Badgers would have to square off against McSorley and the Nittany Lions in the upcoming Big Ten Championship game. 

"He makes a lot of plays," Chryst said. "Certainly pushing the ball down the field, he competes and has a great energy about him, obviously is talented and makes plays with his arm, makes plays with his feet."

VIDEO: Postgame Players - Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7 Penn State football earned the Big Ten East title with a 45-12 win against Michigan State Saturday at Beaver Stadium on senior day. 

Nittany Lions Trace McSorley, Jason Cabinda, Brandon Bell, Mike Gesicki, Chris Godwin and Brian Gaia took time to recap the win against the Spartans. 

VIDEO: Postgame James Franklin - Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7 Penn State football earned the Big Ten East title with a 45-12 win against Michigan State Saturday at Beaver Stadium on senior day. 

Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin took time postgame to recap the victory against the Spartans, while also looking ahead to the Big Ten Championship matchup next week in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Beaver Stadium Extra - Penn State vs. Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Go behind the scenes with Penn State Athletics on football gameday for exclusive interviews and a closer look at team arrival, Nittany Lion senior day, special recognitions and more. 

Team Arrival & Senior Ceremony
Senior day in Beaver Stadium kicked off with a few Nittany Lion seniors heading the team arrival before all the Penn State seniors, managers and their families were honored in a pregame ceremony prior to the game. Follow the team in to Beaver Stadium and check out a few highlights from the ceremony. 

Weis Fight Hunger Program Recognition
Paring up with the Central Pennsylvania Food Banks and Penn State Athletics, Weis Markets has teamed up to fight hunger throughout the Central Pennsylvania region. Commissioning the Fight Hunger program, Penn State donated nearly 2,000 meal through the Stuff a Bus campaign, while also helping through various product purchases in Weis stores. Kevin Broe, VP of merchandising was in attendance today to present the 
Central Pennsylvania Food Bank with a $200,000 pledge from Weis Markets and Penn State Athletics for a state of the art Healthy Food Hub in Williamsport.

Nittany Lion Reveal
We got to meet the Nittany Lion mascot Jack Davis, who revealed his identity as the beloved Penn State Nittany Lion during the senior spirit group recognition. 

Postgame Celebration! 
From trophies on the field to postgame in the locker room, go behind the scenes with the Nittany Lions as they celebrate the win against Michigan State for the Big Ten East title.

2016 Gameday Live - No. 7 Penn State vs. Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome back to our live blog coverage of the 2016 Penn State Football season. The Nittany Lions and the Spartans are set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at home in Beaver Stadium in the regular season finale on senior day. 

Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates and exclusive content. 
Live Blog No. 7 Penn State vs. Michigan State
 

2016 Gameday - Lions, Spartans Set for Regular Season Finale

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Gameday Central | Gameday Live Blog  Game Notes Press Conference Roundup Wednesday Practice Updates FEATURE: A Class of Resilient Leaders Monday Notebook Nittany Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7 Penn State Football is set to wrap up the 2016 regular season at home, hosting Michigan State Saturday in a Senior Day matchup at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions (9-2, 7-1) and the Spartans (3-8, 1-7) are set to meet for the 31st time in program history in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.

"We're playing a good football team," Penn State head coach James Franklin said. "They're talented. They're well-coached. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're going to need this place rocking on Saturday."

Ranked within the top 10 for the first time since 2009, Penn State has won its last seven consecutive games, including a 39-0 win on the road at Rutgers last week. The Nittany Lions will also look to extend their home winning streak, entering the matchup with a 6-0 mark at Beaver Stadium this year, with wins in 12 of the last 13 games at home. 

Last week, the Nittany Lions limited Rutgers to just 87 yards of total offense on the way to their largest road shutout since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1993.

Quarterback Trace McSorley led the way with 265 yards of total offense, completing 17-of-33 attempts for 210 yards through the air and one touchdown. The Nittany Lions were also productive on the ground, totaling 339 yards and three touchdowns.

Kicker Tyler Davis also logged a career-high performance, logging four field goals and three extra points for 15 of Penn State's 39 points to earn Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

The Spartans are led by head coach Mark Dantonio, who is in his 10th season at the helm.

"We're playing the defending Big Ten championship team," Franklin said. "We're also playing a team the last two weeks that has played really well. They played the No. 2 team in the country and lost by one point. The week before they scored a bunch of points and shut people out."

Michigan State enters the matchup coming off of a 17-16 loss to second-ranked Ohio State last weekend. The Spartans secured their lone Big Ten victory the week before, shutting out Rutgers 49-0 at home.

The Spartans own a slim advantage in the all-time series against the Nittany Lions at 15-14-1, having won last year's regular season finale in East Lansing. Michigan State has claimed wins in each of the last three meetings, including a 34-10 win in the Spartans' last trip to Happy Valley in 2014.

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Pregame Reading -

What To Watch For: Penn State
1.  Led by quarterback Trace McSorley, Penn State is averaging 35.8 points per game, which ranks third in the conference. Within the Nittany Lions' seven-game winning streak, Penn State is averaging 39.7 points per game, having scored in each of the last 17 consecutive quarters. McSorley is at the helm of the offense, as he enters the week ranked first in the conference and second in the FBS national standings with 15.57 passing yards per completion.

2. Another key to Penn State's potent point-scoring offense is running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the conference with 139.8 all-purpose yards per game, also atop the league standings with 1,205 rushing yards on the year and 109.5 per game. Barkley's 16 total touchdowns on the year are ranked 10th nationally and first in the conference, slotted as the most by a Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson had 20 in 2002.

3. Postgame at Rutgers, James Franklin noted that although he prefers not to make it a signature part of the program, the Nittany Lions have been tremendously successful in the second half. On the year, Penn State is outscoring its opponents 140-40 in the second half, with the the Nittany Lion offense ranked tied for third in the FBS in second half scoring (21.73) and fourth in fourth quarter scoring (12.91).

What To Watch For: Michigan State
1. Franklin stressed earlier this week that the Spartans have been playing some of their best football in the last few weeks leading up to Saturday's matchup at Beaver Stadium. That's not unusual for the Spartans though as Dantonio has guided his teams to a 25-9 record in November. With the shutout against Rutgers and a near victory against No. 2 Ohio State, Michigan State has won 19 of its last 25 games in the month of November.

2. The Spartans have rejuvenated their ground game in the second half of the season having totaled more than 200 rushing yards in four of their last five games. Most recently, Michigan State rushed for 207 yards against the Buckeyes led by a career-high performance from LJ Scott, who scored on a 1-yard run to put the Spartans within one, 17-16, with less than five minutes to play.

3. A sophomore running back, Scott has been the highlight of the Spartan rushing attack this year. Entering Saturday's matchup just 65 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark this season, Scott has 935 yards on 168 attempts with a team-high six rushing touchdowns on the year. He closed out his career-high effort against Ohio State with 236 all-purpose yards, including 160 rushing yards and a career-long 64-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. 

The Final Word -
When the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, the conference established the Land Grant Trophy between Penn State and Michigan State, presented to the winner in what was each school's yearly regular-season finale up until 2010. The Land Grant Trophy honors both programs for their unique place in history as pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.

The Land Grant Trophy is one of two conference trophy games the Nittany Lions have played this season, having claimed the Governor's Victory Bell following a 29-26 overtime win against Minnesota in early October.

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