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2014 Opponent Previews - Northwestern

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10366695.jpegNorthwestern | Beaver Stadium | Noon | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions welcome Big Ten foe Northwestern for their annual Homecoming game on Saturday. Get to know the Wildcats in this week's scouting report.

Pat Fitzgerald, who is in his ninth year leading the Wildcats, has a record of 56-48 at Northwestern. The Wildcats finished last year with a 5-7 record, including 1-7 in the Big Ten. Northwestern is 1-2 this season.  The Wildcats returned 57 lettermen and 18 starters from 2013.


Northwestern earned its first win of the 2014 campaign last week against Western Illinois (24-7).  The Wildcat offense gained 283 yards on 66 plays, including 166 yards rushing.  Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 15-of-25 passes for 117 yards.  Running back Justin Jackson picked up 92 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.  Treyvon Green added 38 yards on eight attempts.  Solomon Vault scored twice, with six carries for 31 yards.  Ten different Wildcats caught a pass.

The Wildcat defense allowed 376 yards, including 292 through the air.  They forced four turnovers, with three fumbles and an interception.  Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo forced all three fumbles, recovered one, and added two sacks.  Senior linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo led the defense with 12 tackles, while cornerback Matthew Harris added 10 stops.  Fellow cornerback Nick VanHoose recorded seven tackles and an interception.

Northwestern's offense ranks 14th in the Big Ten in scoring (21.0 ppg) and 13th in total offense (343.7 ypg).  The Wildcats average 115.3 rushing yards per game to rank 12th in the conference and 228.3 yards passing to rank ninth.

Siemian, a senior, has completed 59 percent of his passes for 614 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. 

Freshman running back Justin Jackson averages 4.5 yards per carry with a total of 184 yards and two touchdowns.  The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Jackson also has 35 yards receiving on five catches. Green has 101 yards rushing on 31 carries. 

Dan Vitale, a tight end/H-back in the Wildcat offense, leads the team with 11 receptions for 103 yards.  Six-foot-five senior wideout Kyle Prater has caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.  Another big target, 6-foot-3 Cameron Dickson has 129 yards and a score on seven receptions.  Junior Miles Shuler has eight catches for 68 yards. 

The Wildcat offensive line features two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.  Senior center Brandon Vitabile was a preseason second team All-Big Ten selection by Phil Steele.

Northwestern ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 20.3 points per game.  They also come in 10th in the conference in total defense, allowing 397 yards per contest.  The Wildcats give up 139.7 yards per game on the ground and 257.3 through the air, ranking 10th and 11th, respectively, in the Big Ten. 

Defensive end Dean Lowry, a junior, leads the defense with 2.5 sacks. He has 10 total tackles (six solo).  Odenigbo, a sophomore, has six tackles to go along with two sacks and three forced fumbles.  End Deonte Gibson has three tackles for loss and a sack.

Ariguzo ranks sixth in the Big Ten, averaging 9.3 tackles per game.  He has 19 solo tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery.  Linebacker Collin Ellis has 26 tackles (18 solo) and an interception.

Harris, a sophomore cornerback, leads the secondary with 22 stops (18 solo). VanHoose has five pass breakups and an interception to go with 21 tackles.  VanHoose has also blocked a kick.  Safety Ibraheim Campbell, a senior, has 21 stops, an interception and a forced fumble.

Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell has hit on both of his field goals attempts in 2014, with a long of 28 yards. Junior punter Chris Gradone averages nearly 40 yards per punt and has placed 10 kicks inside the 20-yard line.  Gradone was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. Shuler handles kick return duties, averaging 21.2 yards per return.

Penn State is 13-3 on the field all-time against Northwestern.  The teams last played in 2012, with the Nittany Lions earning a 39-28 win.  Penn State overcame a 28-17 deficit in the fourth quarter to claim the victory.


What Pat Fitzgerald is saying about Penn State:

"We're playing an outstanding football team this weekend. James and his staff have done a great job. They've found a way to win a couple games that went down to the wire. Very impressive ways to win."


"(Christian) Hackenberg is as good as anyone in the country. He's a very talented young man. He's elusive in the pocket. He moves around well. If you aren't run lane conscious, he can escape and make plays with his feet. He's deadly accurate and he does a terrific job."

"(Bill) Belton and (Zach) Zwinak are very talented players. They run with different styles, but both are very talented and physical. (DaeSean) Hamilton has made a lot of plays for them at wide receiver. They spread the ball around. They use their tight ends well. (Geno) Lewis has made some big plays."

"Defensively, they are very, very good. Up front, they have very active and physical guys. They get up the field and in your face. Anthony Zettel is a terrific football player. He's a dominant football player. He's active in the run and pass game and (Austin) Johnson is a big, physical guy inside."


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

VIDEO: Northwestern Week Player Q&As - Jesse Della Valle & Andrew Nelson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with safety Jesse Della Valle and offensive tackle Andrew Nelson leading up to the Northwestern game.

Week Five Press Conference Roundup - Northwestern Week

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10364016.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 23

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will cap off a two-game homestand on Saturday with its Big Ten home opener against Northwestern (12 p.m. on BTN).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the Homecoming matchup against the Wildcats on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

Franklin opened the weekly press conference by delivering a birthday cake to legendary radio announcer Fran Fisher, who turned 91 on Tuesday. Fisher is a fixture at the weekly press conferences and at practice during the week. Fisher began his association with Penn State Athletics in 1966 when he joined the Penn State Football Radio Network as color announcer.

"Like to obviously start by wishing happy birthday to Fran Fisher," Franklin said. "A legend when it comes to Penn State Athletics, a legend when it comes to this community, and he's earned it. So I wanted to take some time and let him know how much we all appreciate all his years of service to Penn State."

Moving to the review of the UMass game, Franklin highlighted the improvement of the Penn State running game. The Nittany Lions rushed for a season-high 228 yards, including 134 rushing yards in the second quarter alone. Franklin addressed a few areas that he is looking for more gains out of the offense this week, namely cutting down on the number of penalties.

"Offensively, details in our foot work, I think our foot work can be a lot better across the board at every position," Franklin said. "Coordination of our protection, there's still some times that we're not coordinated, and then we already talked about the elimination of penalties."

The Penn State defense shined in Saturday's 48-7 win over UMass. Now, the focus is solely on Northwestern and building upon the first four weeks of action. Penn State leads the nation in defending the run heading into this week. The centerpieces of the defensive line, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel, have been big reasons why. Franklin noted Johnson's workmanlike play in the middle.

"Well, it's funny, because a lot of times he may not get the stats that maybe our linebacker or our other defensive linemen are getting, but a lot of it is, he's the cause of it," said Franklin. "I think he's got a chance to continue to be a special player for us and we're going to need him to be. When you can dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive line or the offensive line, you have a chance to be successful. Him and Zettel make a really nice one two punch for us inside."

Franklin will be facing the Wildcats for the second time during his career on Saturday. He coached against Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern in 2012 when Vanderbilt played in Evanston.

"Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that having history with people, with teams, with coaching staffs, with players and things like that, there comes a little bit of a comfort level there or an understanding," said Franklin. "I don't know if one game really does that, but it's better than none."

Saturday's game will be the 17th game between Penn State and Northwestern. The Nittany Lions own a 13-3 edge in the series on the field.


Press Conference Notes
- Coach Franklin announced that the team's internal players of the week for the UMass game were Angelo Mangiro on offense, Nyeem Wartman on defense and Sam Ficken on special teams.

- Franklin on the Northwestern offense:
"
One of the things that we're going to have to be aware of and have to do a good job with and this is where our fans are going to be huge with a sold out stadium is they are a no-huddle tempo team that does a lot of communication at the line of scrimmage."

- Franklin on the Northwestern defense:
"Their defense and Mike Hankwitz, who is in his seventh season there, 44 years overall. They got eight starters on defense that are juniors or seniors, so you're talking about a veteran defense. They play base 4-3, fundamentally sound and in a lot of way he's they're similar to us, maybe a little bit less pressure in their scheme."

- Franklin on the Northwestern special teams:

"On special teams, Pat Fitzgerald runs their special teams. A guy that shows up to us over and over again is a kid out of New Jersey, No. 21, Kyle Queiro."


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Monday Notebook: Nittany Lion Defense Off and Running

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10359507.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense played its most complete game of the season against UMass on Saturday, but the story from the first month of football in 2014 has been the standout play from the Nittany Lion defense.

Penn State (4-0) will take a great deal of momentum on the defensive side of the ball into Saturday's Homecoming clash against Northwestern (1-2).

The outstanding start to the season on the defensive side of the ball begins with Penn State's ability to stop the run. The Lions lead the nation in rushing defense at 49.5 yards per game. UMass had just three rushing yards on Saturday.

"I think our D-line has been playing really well all year," said head coach James Franklin. "The fact that we're able to make teams one-dimensional is huge on defense."

In addition to leading the nation in rushing defense, the Nittany Lions rank sixth in scoring defense (11.0 ppg) and 10th in total defense (270.8 ypg). In the past 12 quarters of football, Penn State has allowed just two offensive touchdowns. Collectively, the Nittany Lions have yielded 12.38 rushing yards per quarter during the 2014 season.

The Lions have also been strong on defense in the red zone. Opponents are scoring at a 63.6 percent rate on red zone visits, which ranks eighth in the country.

Penn State is one of 25 teams unbeaten in the FBS after four weeks of football.

Saturday's game marks the final contest in a string of five-straight weeks of games.


Lions in the Stat Rankings
In addition to the defensive 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 eighth in the nation in passing yards (1,261) and 13th in the nation in passing yards per game (315.3 ypg). He leads the Big Ten in both of those categories.

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks seventh in the nation in receiving yards and tops the Big Ten with 462 on the season. He is 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten with 115.5 yards per game.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 14th nationally (second in the Big Ten) in receiving yards with 402. He ranks 13th in the nation and first in the Big Ten with 7.5 receptions per game.

DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel leads the Big Ten and is 12th in the nation with 1.8 tackles for loss per game.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is ninth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the victory over UMass.

99,155 - Saturday's attendance (99,155) was the largest figure for a non-conference home game since 2011 (Alabama).

228 - The Nittany Lions entered Saturday's game with 227 rushing yards on the season. The Lions rushed for 228 yards on Saturday, alone.

207 - Kicker Sam Ficken now has 207 career points. He is the 11th player in school history to have scored at least 200 points.

198 - Through four games, Penn State has allowed a total of 198 rushing yards.

48 - The Nittany Lions scored 48 points on Saturday, marking their most since 52 against Eastern Illinois in 2009.

46 - Akeel Lynch's 46-yard rush during the first quarter was the longest of his career and the longest for Penn State this season.

20 - Penn State has outscored its opponents by a margin of 20-0 during the first quarter this season.

8 - Penn State scored on eight-straight possessions during the UMass game, stretching from the first quarter to the third quarter.

7 - Punter Daniel Pasquariello became the seventh true freshman to play for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

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


UMass Extended Game Highlights




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Offense Looking to Build on Strong Outing vs. UMass

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10356689.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass | VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering Saturday's game against UMass, the Nittany Lion offense had tallied 227 rushing yards during the 3-0 start to the season.

Yes, the Lions were pleased with victories during the first three weeks of the season, but the offensive unit knew it needed to take another step forward to become the offense it wants to be in 2014.

Thanks to another tremendous performance from the Penn State defense, the Nittany Lion offense found another gear on Saturday afternoon in a 48-7 route of the Minutemen. Penn State rushed for 228 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground in the unit's most complete performance thus far in 2014.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's great to establish a running game and be able to make some plays with multiple backs and multiple people," said head coach James Franklin. "I don't know what our total yardage was, but we were able to be balanced. We were able to take some pressure off of [Christian Hackenberg], which is great."

A focused week on the practice field fueled the offensive line's effort on a day where the running back trio of Bill Belton (two), Zach Zwinak (two) and Akeel Lynch each visited the end zone.

"We were working hard for a long time and when you keep working and working and working the success is going to come," said Belton. "We just continued to go out there and work hard each day and we came today to show what we've been working on all week."

Penn State's big afternoon on the ground was a collective effort from each member of the offense.

"First, it is definitely a full team effort," freshman tackle Andrew Nelson said. "I think the line played better than we usually do but it takes the entire offense to do well. All practice long we have been stressing the run game and throwing the ball when we had to throw it. I think all week in practice Coach Hand was just really stressing that we would get better this week and I think we did."

Lynch kick-started the strong ground day with a 46-yard burst off the right side of the line. The junior led the rushing attack with a stellar 10.1-yard average on eight carries. Lynch finished with 81 yards, which included a 15-yard touchdown run mid-way through the third quarter.

"It's a stepping-stone for all of us. As you see, we did well with more than 200 yards as a group," Lynch said. "It's always good to have that as a stepping stone into the next game."

Following a stand from the defense on a fourth-down play at the start of the second quarter, Belton capped off an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run to put the Lions up 13-0. Linebacker Mike Hull forced a fumble on next UMass possession, which put the Nittany Lion offense in a great position to strike again.

Belton, who finished the day with 76 yards, scampered 20 yards for a score to make it a 20-0 lead. Belton's two rushing touchdowns ignited Penn State's first 28-point quarter since the 2009 season. The Nittany Lions had 134 yards on the ground in the second quarter alone.

"It was the focal point for us all week at practice," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "It has been the theme for us and just being able to get that going and get those guys clicking was really good. It was really good hearing the offensive line making calls and making the right calls and getting everything going in the right direction to be able to some of those runs off."

With the Northwestern game on the horizon, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build on following a strong team effort in a dominant performance against UMass.

"I think it definitely helps us confidence wise because we knew what kind of line we could be but we just weren't executing," said Nelson. "Today we executed it and it showed us that we can be the guys that we want to be."


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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

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VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass.



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VIDEO: Postgame Interview with Coach Franklin - UMass

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass. Penn State moves to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2008.




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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 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. The Nittany Lions face UMass inside Beaver Stadium, today, in the fourth game on the schedule.



Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Massachusetts
 



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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' matchup against UMass in Beaver Stadium.

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Beaver Stadium Pictorial: UMass Preview

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One of the many traditions of the Penn State football program's gameday experience is the Beaver Stadium Pictorial, the official gameday magazine of the Nittany Lions. The publication originated in the 1920s and continues to evolve, bringing fans closer to the football program, its student-athletes and the entire Penn State athletic department.

Each week throughout the home portion of the of the Nittany Lions' schedule you can find a preview of the content for the upcoming Beaver Stadium Pictorial on GoPSUsports.com.

Here is a preview of the feature content inside the Penn State vs. Massachusetts BSP.

Pick up your copy on each home game day for just $5.00.

14-09-20-FB-BSP_Cover_UMass.jpg
FICKEN STILL KICKIN'
BY: GREG CAMPBELL
Sam Ficken was just a laid-back high school kid awaiting the start of his junior season when a coaching change prompted a decision that would alter his athletic career and ultimately his future.

The season Ficken was preparing for was soccer. It was the sport he grew up playing. The sport his mother had coached him and his older brother in when they were younger. But coaching changes just days before the season made him re-think things.

"Football wasn't on my radar until my junior year of high school," said Ficken. "A coaching decision right before the first (soccer) game of my junior year changed my view on some things. So, I called the football coach and said, 'I'm thinking about playing football.'"

A Lasting Impact: A Journey Through 50 Years Of Women's Athletics
by: Char Morett-Curtiss, fIELD hOCKEY hEAD cOACH; Class of 1979
I first traveled the road to Penn State from my hometown of Aden, a quiet and quaint suburb of Philadelphia, back in the summer 1975. The trip, primarily on the single-lane winding road that was Route 322 West, took four hours. It was a journey of -- and for -- a lifetime.

The middle-class family I was leaving behind included five boys and two girls, who spilled out onto Sycamore every day to play street hockey, pick-up basketball and steal the bases, often under the streetlights. We were tight-knit, but competition was 24/7.

The Penn State family I was joining was largely an unknown. In the summer of '74, I attended the Pocono Mountain Field Hockey Camp with my teammates from Lansdowne-Aldan High School. It was there that my field hockey skills caught the attention of Gillian Rattray, Penn State's head coach for both field hockey and lacrosse (what a bargain she was!).

A Look Inside The Penn State Blue Band In Its 115th Year
By: Christine Kilbride, Third-Year Blue Band Member, Piccolo; Class of 2016
"For the Glory of Old State, for her founders strong and great, for the future that we wait, raise the song."

These lyrics ring true especially for members of the Penn State Blue Band. The 315-member band has become a staple of Penn State football and the gameday experience.

Like most Penn State students, band members anxiously await the first home game each season. But home games for members of the Blue Band are not as simple as filing into the student section.

The Penn State vs. Massachusetts also features;
Expanded Game Notes
Unrivaled Moment: at Rutgers
Player Q&As w/ Bill Belton, Jordan Lucas and Angelo Mangiro
University Feature on Penn State College of Nursing
2014 Penn State Football Team Photo
Penn State Athletics Sports Planner