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2014 Opponent Previews - UMass

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10321001.jpegUMass | Beaver Stadium | 4 p.m. | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return home this Saturday to host Massachusetts in the first ever meeting between the schools. Get to know the Minutemen in this week's scouting report.

Mark Whipple returned as head coach at UMass in 2014 after spending eight years as a coach in the NFL and a brief stint at the University of Miami. Whipple previously coached UMass from 1998-2003, which included three Atlantic 10 titles, three NCAA I-AA Tournament appearances and an NCAA I-AA National Championship in 1998. Whipple most recently was quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12. He has an overall record of 49-29 at UMass.

The Minutemen finished 1-11 and 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference in 2013, their second year as an FBS program. They returned 59 lettermen and 13 starters in 2014.

UMass is searching for its first win (0-3) after a close loss to Vanderbilt last week. The Minutemen gained 346 yards, including 258 passing, during a 34-31 loss in Nashville. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel completed 17-of-34 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked three times. Running back Lorenzo Woodley gained 43 yards and scored two touchdowns on 22 carries. He also caught two passes for 241 yards. Tajae Sharpe caught eight passes for 73 yards, while Rodney Mills hauled in three receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard score on a fake punt in the first quarter. Kicker Blake Lucas hit a 32-yard field goal, but missed a 22-yard attempt as time expired.

The UMass defense allowed 310 yards, including 160 on the ground. Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox recorded 15 tackles, three solo, and 0.5 TFL. Safety Joe Colton added 12 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack. Fellow safety Trey Dudley-Giles forced a fumble and picked off a pass. Dudley-Giles also gained 94 yards on two kick returns.

The Minutemen are averaging just over 25 points per game and 306 yards of total offense. Frohnapfel has completed 48 percent of his passes for 619 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Three different running backs have more 20 carries this season. Redshirt junior Jamal Wilson has 88 yards and a touchdown. Freshman J.T. Blyden has 68 yards. Woodley, a 6-foot, 212-pound sophomore, has 53 yards and two touchdowns. All three backs are also active in the passing game, as Wilson has five receptions, Blyden has three and Woodley has two.

Sharpe leads the receiving corps with 246 yards and a touchdown on 15 catches. He is averaging 16.4 yards per catch. Mills has 112 yards and three scores on five receptions and junior Jean Sifrin has five catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns.

The UMass offensive line features three sophomores and two juniors.

Opponents are averaging 35 points and 431.7 yards against the UMass defense, including 218 yards per game on the ground. The Minutemen use a 3-4 defense.

Nose tackle Daniel Maynes leads the Minutemen with four tackles for loss. He has 17 total tackles.

Santos-Knox, a junior, leads the team with 42 tackles (11 solo). He also has three tackles for loss and a sack. Fellow linebacker Kassan Messiah has 25 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack.

Colton, a junior, leads the secondary with 34 tackles, 13 solo, and 3.5 for loss, including a sack. Cornerback Randall Jette has 18 tackles and leads the team with two interceptions. Dudley-Giles has 16 tackles and an interception.

Lucas has connected on two-of-four field goal attempts with a long of 34 yards. Punter Brian McDonald is averaging 39 yards per kick, placing five inside the 20-yard line. Dudley-Giles is one of the most dangerous returners in the nation, averaging 35 yards per return. He ranks second in the nation in kick return yards.

What Mark Whipple is saying about Penn State:

"Bill O'Brien and I are close and I saw every game last year. Penn State was great to my son, Austin, so I was there a lot last year. They have great kids and it is a great place. Penn State is a great place to play and has tremendous history." 

"(Hackenberg) is an awesome kid. To see the way he's taken the team on his shoulders, the way he played all last year and the way he handles not only success but also the way he handles failures... Hackenberg is a winner and I couldn't say enough about him. I've seen him play every single game, I've seen his practice habits, seen him in the meeting rooms, I've seen the way he's worked with Bill O'Brien and he's the real deal.

"Austin Johnson is a great player and Anthony Zettel is playing out of his mind. Deion Barnes is a great player who can rush the passer. I think their whole defense is set up and Bob Shoop has done a great job. They've got the guys up front and they play coverage very well, but those guys up front are making it happen." 

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

VIDEO: UMass Week Player Q&As - Brandon Bell & DaeSean Hamilton

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with linebacker Brandon Bell and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton leading up to the UMass game.

Week Four Press Conference Roundup - UMass Week

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10317801.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - September 16

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return home on Saturday for a week four matchup against UMass in Beaver Stadium (4 p.m. on BTN).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against the Minutemen on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Franklin reviewed Saturday's 13-10 win over Rutgers before shifting gears into conversation about UMass.

"Overall, I say it was a great team victory, and by that I mean that's the offense, that's the defense, that's special teams, that's the coaches, that's the trainers, doctors, that's the administration; that's everybody that has a part, academic support, great team victory, really proud of the guys for that. Really pleased with how they persevered in a really difficult, hostile environment," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions lifted and practiced on Sunday afternoon before Monday's off day. Practice preparations for UMass resumed on Tuesday afternoon. Two big areas that Coach Franklin said are points of emphasis this week focus on protecting the quarterback and establishing the running game. Communication is key for both.

"I think it really comes down to our communication and coordination up front, making sure that all five or six guys, depending on the protection or the play, are all on the same page and working together and that has not been case so far," Franklin said. "So we're going to make sure that's happening. That's time, that's chemistry. That's all those things that have to happen."

Defensively, the Nittany Lions are coming off a stellar second-half effort against Rutgers. Penn State held the Scarlet Knights to just three first downs in the final two quarters. The success on the defensive side of the ball begins with the game plans put forth by defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the staff. The players talk constantly about how familiar they are with the opponent each week. Shoop does a terrific job of preparing for the week's foe, and the Nittany Lions have entered the first three games with great confidence.

"I've been on the head set with the defense where Bob's called out 75 percent of the plays before they have been run," Franklin said. "He's called out, we are going to get an interception here and things like that. It's pretty impressive at times, it really is. And I think that confidence that he has coming into the game, because of the amount of time he's put in, spills over to our players, and I think the same thing with our staff."

Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel has been a big key to the defense's success during the first three weeks. Zettel leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 7.0. Zettel was a quick player at the defensive end position prior to this season. By moving to an inside tackle position, Zettel is able to use the speed advantage to his favor on every snap.

"He's got a tremendous motor," Franklin said. "He's got really good quickness. He's really sudden off of the ball. His spin move I think is really, really good, which is one of his big plays last week he made off of his spin move. His tenacity is unbelievable."

Saturday's game will mark the first meeting between Penn State and UMass.

Press Conference Notes
- Coach Franklin announced that the team's internal players of the week for the Rutgers game were Christian Hackenberg and Bill Belton on offense and Trevor Williams and Anthony Zettel on defense. Grant Haley was the honoree on special teams.

- Franklin on the UMass offense:
"On offense, Mark Whipple, the offensive coordinator, five starters, they run a multiple offense. They are unorthodox, as well, in a lot of ways, utilize a lot of different formations, misdirection and deception. They scored over 30 points in their lost two games against FBS opponents."

- Franklin on the UMass defense:
"Defensive notes, returning six starters, they place a base 3-4 defense. Defense runs very well. They play really hard. They utilize, really, an unorthodox scheme and concepts, and I think that's kind of part of their plan. They are trying to make up for some challenges that they have by being unorthodox. A lot of different fronts, a lot of different pressures and a lot of different looks at the secondary."

- Franklin on the UMass special teams:

"UMass, special teams, from what I understand, Coach Whipple will be running the special teams this week and for the remainder of the season. We've got to do a better job with our kickoffs and be more consistent. They do have a really good returner and we need to be aware of that. No. 9, Trey Dudley-Giles, 5-11, 282-pound junior is doing both their kick return and punt return. Punt return is averaging over 15 yards and kick return is averaging over 35 yards. So there's no doubt he's a playmaker and we have got a tremendous challenge."

- The Penn State wide receiver duo of Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton were added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List on Tuesday.

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Monday Notebook: Lions Set to Return Home

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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

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Hackenberg, Nittany Lions Cool Under Fire

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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."

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VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference at Rutgers

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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.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks at Rutgers

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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.

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State at Rutgers

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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

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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

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2014 Gameday Preview - Big Ten Opener at Rutgers

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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