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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Army West Point

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Army West Point inside Beaver Stadium. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Army West Point

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Army West Point

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Army West Point inside Beaver Stadium. Follow along for photos from gameday.


2015 Gameday - Nittany Lions Host Army West Point in Beaver Stadium

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup | Lions in NFL

Coach Franklin Wednesday | Coach Spencer Q&A | Notebook | Parking Adjustments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State brings a three-game winning streak into Saturday's non-conference finale against Army West Point inside sold out Beaver Stadium.

Continuing a stretch of five-straight home games, the Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0) and Black Knights (1-3) will meet for the first time since 1979 when the two squads line up for a 12 p.m. kick on Military Appreciation Day. The game will air live on ESPNU.

11367261.jpeg"We are excited about the opportunity to play a service academy in Army," said head coach James Franklin. "You know that when you line up against an academy, they are going to play hard from start to finish. This is the first non-conference sellout at home since 2011, so we are looking forward to Saturday."

Behind another dominant performance from the Nittany Lion defensive line, Penn State tallied its third consecutive home victory against San Diego State last week (37-21). Led by a spirited effort from Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week Anthony Zettel, the Nittany Lion D-Line turned in a masterful performance with
21 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups and a touchdown from Austin Johnson against the Aztecs.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions tallied a season-high 296 yards through the air against San Diego State. Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg finished 21-for-35 with three touchdowns. The Lions had seven different players catch passes, including running backs Saquon Barkley and Mark Allen, who each scored touchdowns.

Army West Point enters the week following a 58-36 victory over Eastern Michigan last week. The Knights scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from Eastern Michigan. Army West Point tallied 556 rushing yards in the victory and had six players tally 60 or more yards in the game. Running a triple option scheme, Army West Point has attempted just 36 passes in 2015. The Knights have rushed for 1,178 yards on 200 attempts (5.9 ypc). All three of Army West Point's losses came by five points or fewer (Fordham - 37-35, UConn - 22-17, Wake Forest - 17-14).

For the fourth straight season, the Nittany Lions will recognize the men and women in uniform with Military Appreciation Day. Active duty, Guard and Reserve military, veterans, and fallen and Gold Star families were eligible to register to receive complimentary tickets purchased by Penn State supporters as part of the Seats for Servicemembers.

The program honors the commitment and sacrifices of veterans, families and loved ones by providing tickets at no cost to active and retired Servicemembers, as well as a complimentary pregame tailgate at Bryce Jordan Center.

"It's something that means a lot to us," said Hackenberg. "We have the utmost respect for everything and all the sacrifices that the military and their families have made."

Welcome to the gameday preview for week five - Penn State vs. Army West Point.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11367296.jpeg1. Penn State sees its fair share of offenses throughout the course of a football season, but this week will be a unique test for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, the coaching staff and the players. Army's triple-option scheme provides an entirely different look than any other team on the schedule. The Black Knights practice the timing-based offense every single day, but opponents get just a limited amount of time to do so. The Nittany Lions spent a little bit of time during the offseason prepping for the triple-option before preparations began in earnest this week. Staying disciplined is a big key for the Lion defense this week.

"With these option teams you have to be even more disciplined than ever because they will, they will take a shot when you're overcommitted to stopping the run," said Franklin. "I think the triple option puts stress on everybody. It always does, not just because of the scheme that they run, but also the style of play and the fact that you only see it maybe once every couple of years and things like that. It also, I think, aligns really well with the type of kids that they have."

2. During the past three games, the Nittany Lion offensive line has allowed just two sacks. The growth and development up front has yielded gains for the offense as a whole. The Lions rushed for more than 300 yards against Rutgers and threw for more than 300 yards against San Diego State. As Coach Franklin indicated earlier this week, the offense has shown glimpses of being a very good unit. Now, the Nittany Lions are seeking to find some consistency and balance on the offensive side of the ball.

3. Complementary football is a term often used by the coaching staff. It's a byproduct of offense, defense and special teams functioning, essentially, as one unit. Success in each of the three areas can lend itself to success for the others. Last week, the Nittany Lions turned three turnovers (two on defense and one on special teams) into 21 points. Through the first three games, the Lions had scored just three points off of five turnovers, but the surge against San Diego State proved to play a huge impact on the game.

What to Watch For - Army West Point
1. Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw steers the Army offense. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound signal-caller is the team's leading rusher with 341 yards. Bradshaw, who was named the starting quarterback at the end of training camp, has two 100-yard games and a total of seven touchdowns on the season (four rushing and three passing).

2. Army West Point played ball control to near perfection against Eastern Michigan last week. The Black Knights rushed for more than 500 yards and held onto the ball for more than 40 minutes. As is the case with most option offense teams, the best defense for the Black Knights could be its offense on Saturday. Army enters the game ranked No. 9 in the nation in rushing offense (294.5 ypg).

3. Junior linebacker Andrew King enters the game second on the team in tackles with 30 stops on the season. King has made a living behind the line of scrimmage, tallying 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks during the first four games. King has made at least one TFL in six-straight contests for Army. He is ranked fifth in the nation in tackles for loss.

The Final Word:
The service academies have been a huge part of Penn State's history on the gridiron. Since 1894, the Nittany Lions have played 66 games against Air Force, Army West Point and Navy. This week's Military Appreciation Day game will mark the 26th time the Nittany Lions and Black Knights have met on the field. Penn State has won the last nine contests against Army, dating back to 1968. The Lions are 6-3 all-time against Army at home.

Penn State will be seeking its first 4-0 start at home since the 2008 season. The Nittany Lions went 7-0 in 2008 in games at Beaver Stadium en route to winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl. ESPNU's live coverage of the Army West Point game begins at 12 p.m. with kickoff slated for 12:02 p.m. Anish Shroff (Play-by-Play) and Ahmad Brooks (Analyst) will call the game.

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Army West Point Week Q&A - Sean Spencer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions finish the non-conference season on Saturday with a matchup against Army West Point at Beaver Stadium (12 p.m. on ESPNU).

Leading up to the non-conference finale, defensive line coach Sean Spencer talked with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Spencer.

Q: You seem to have a lot of unique personalities within your group, how do these guys complement one another?
Spencer: "Unique is a nice word. I've got some interesting cats in that room (laughter). I embrace each one of their personalities. One guys is not the same as the other. Honestly, my coaching style adapts to who I am dealing with at that particular time. AJ (Austin Johnson) is a guy that has a lot of detailed questions, what I call 400 and 500 level questions. You really have to talk to AJ and explain the 'why'. Other guys like Anthony (Zettel), you go over the game plan with him, and he's very intense about it. He wants to know how he can be the best on each situation. Carl is a guy who sees it from a cerebral viewpoint. He can see the game from outside the box at all three levels and how he equates to that situation. With the freshmen, they are obviously going to be a little more immature. This is more football than they've ever done in their life. When you have a lot of older guys playing in front of them, you have to keep those guys in tune to the ballgame. We constantly make those guys take notes, even if they are redshirted. And we give those guys the same test that we give the older guys because we never know when their preparation will be called upon in the game."

Q: Carl Nassib is a guy who started his first game at any level a few weeks ago at Temple. What do you think motivated him to become the player he is today?

Spencer: "Well, he is tremendously driven. He's a guy whose entire career has kind of been behind the eight ball. He came in to Penn State at 215 pounds. He's increased his body weight to 275. He's now 6-foot-7, 275. He's a menacing figure out there. His work ethic is what separates him from most people. He refuses to be blocked. He's worked so hard at his craft becoming great at what he does. It's correlated to success on the field. The guy is one of the most intense human beings on the planet. You're in a walkthrough and he's foaming at the mouth talking about making plays with his eyes bulging out of his head. He wants to be a doctor one day. And I told him if he's in the operating room, I'm going to ask for another doctor because I'm a little bit nervous about him performing the surgery (laughter)."

Q: There was a play on Saturday where Anthony Zettel covered a lot of ground to track a guy down from behind. Is that the type of play you use as an example for the other guys in the room?
Spencer: "I think both Anthony and AJ have that ability to chase things down from behind. A couple weeks ago, when we played Buffalo both of those guys chased down a screen and actually overran the guy the running the ball and beat most of the guys running to the ball. Coach Franklin pointed that out to the team. It was pretty impressive. That's the type of effort we are looking for. The expectation is to always play that hard. When the young guys see that and they're in the game, until the whistle is blown, the play is never over. When you have guys in the middle able to do that, it raises the expectations for everyone else on the team."

Q: How much did you enjoy seeing Austin have a big play on Saturday? He's a guy who maybe isn't talked about as much as Anthony.
Spencer: "Austin does a lot of things people don't see right away. When plays have to bounce outside, it's tough to run up the middle against him because he's such a physical presence in there. He's made a lot of plays. I think he's almost surpassed the TFL number he had all of last year...His presence was always known. I think people tend to look where Anthony is, but when you have a guy like Austin, he can reap the benefits of them concentrating on Anthony. And when you get them both going, it makes it harder to concentrate on either one of those guys."

Q: What has Garrett Sickels done to take the next step on the defensive line?
Spencer: "He's gotten better against the run. He's a guy that has always been a good pass rusher. He can go in on third down and pass rush because he is tremendously twitched up. He's a guy who worked on completing his game (during the offseason). He's a guy who understands the function of the defense and understands how to play the run and get off of blocks. I think those are two of the things in the offseason he's really done a great job with. He's a really, really good pass rusher, some of the best lean and bend that I've coached. He can come off the end and clear the tackle and really bend. He can twist well. He can explode at the point of impact. We are really excited about him moving forward. He's done a great job helping the young guys and has really matured. I'm excited about G."

Q: Your guys have been really successful in the fourth quarter. Depth probably plays a big role in that, but why do you think you've been able to play so well in the final quarter?
Spencer: "I think in those games and situations we've faced this season, No. 1, the depth is huge. You are able to play a lot of guys. They are able to play as strong in the fourth quarter as they are in the first quarter. Secondly, teams are having to throw the ball late, and those guys get to pin their ears back. Honestly, our crowd is unbelievable. And how loud our crowd is affects timing and what the offense is trying to do. That gives us an advantage, especially at home."

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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Army West Point Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

The Nittany Lions will host Army West Point on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Beaver Stadium in the final non-conference game of 2015. Take a look at the practice update from Army week.

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VIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive end Garrett Sickels during Army West Point week.

Christian Hackenberg

Garrett Sickels

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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Army West Point Week

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11361289.jpegVIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin met with the media on Tuesday to preview Penn State's home matchup against Army West Point.

The Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0) and Black Knights (1-1, 0-0) will play for the first time since 1979 at 12:00 p.m. (ESPNU) inside Beaver Stadium on Saturday, continuing a string of five straight weeks of home football in Happy Valley. Franklin reviewed Penn State's 37-21 win over San Diego State and looked ahead to the final non-conference matchup during his weekly meeting with the press.

A tremendous effort from the Nittany Lion defensive line fueled Penn State to its third-straight win on Saturday. The group in the trenches has done a superb job being disruptive during the first four games of the season. Penn State's D-line finished with 21 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups and a touchdown against the Aztecs.

"We're playing really, really well up front," said Franklin. "That was kind of the expectation going into the season really the last two years. I feel like our depth and our talent at that position is really strong. Our defense kind of feeds off of how our D-line plays."

The Lions head into the Army West Point game ranked No. 1 in sacks (18) and No. 2 in tackles for loss (40). Those stats are a direct byproduct of elite play up front. Coach Franklin tabbed tackling fundamentals as the one area he is looking for out of the defense this week heading into the contest against the triple-option attack of Army West Point.

Offensively, Franklin noted the team's ball possession in the first half of the San Diego State game. The Lions had 45 offensive plays and more than 22 minutes of possession in the opening half. San Diego State had just 20 plays and eight minutes of possession. Effectiveness in the running game played a big role in the 27-point half and ball control.

"That's how we'd love to be able to play, control the ball, make plays, keep our defense off the field. Play great, complementary football there," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions took a step forward in the passing game on Saturday, as well, thanks to a strong afternoon from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The junior quarterback distributed the ball to seven different players and finished with 296 yards. The Lion receivers made a number of big plays, and Coach Franklin knows the group can take another step forward as confidence continues to grow.

"I thought we had some drops early on in the season, but I think overall we're doing some good things," said Franklin. "We need to continue building there. I think we've got some guys that can have a more significant impact in the game and making opportunities for them in the way we're calling the game... I think they can do better. But as we continue to build confidence on our offensive line and grow with experience there, that those guys will be able to have a bigger and bigger impact as the season progresses."

Penn State will have the unique challenge of prepping for a team that rushed for 556 yards and held the ball for more than 41 minutes last week. Offensive possessions against an effective triple-option team, like Army West Point, can be few and far between. Getting off the field on defense Saturday could play a huge role in impacting all phases of the game.

"I think the big thing for us is the way you practice (during the week)," said defensive end Garrett Sickels. "We practice hard every play. The games are easier. That's (Coach) Franklin's philosophy. If we practice hard every play, the games will take care of themselves. (Against the triple-option) we just have to be disciplined. Everyone has to take care of their job - defensive line, linebackers in the back end. We have to do our job every play."

The Nittany Lions will practice in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thursday. Saturday's game will kick at 12:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

Press Conference Notes:
- Saturday's Military Appreciation Day festivities will be special for two members of the roster. Both of wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton's parents, Johnie and Madgeline, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 20 years. Hamilton has lived all over the world and was born in Okinawa Japan. Fellow wide out DeAndre Thompkins has direct ties to the military, as well. His father, Shawn, is in the Marines. Currently a Staffing and Recruiting Specialist for the U.S. Marine Corps in Buford, Ga., Shawn Thompkins has spent more than 15 years with the Marines.

- Coach Franklin on the field in Beaver Stadium, given the amount of rain on gamedays and during the days leading up to this week's game.

"We've had an unusual amount of rain, obviously, so that's always a concern with that. But Herb and our turf management people, I think are the best in the business. Our turf management program is probably one of the best in the country. So I have tremendous faith in those guys that the field will be in great condition come Saturday."

- Chris Godwin earned a rare double honor for the team's internal accolades this week. The sophomore wide out was named Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week for the San Diego State game. Godwin tallied five catches for 78 yards on offense and had two tackles and a fumble recovery on special teams.

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Monday Notebook: Chunk Plays Kick Start Passing Game

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11358387.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg finished just four yards shy of a 300-yard afternoon during Penn State's 37-21 victory over San Diego State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions stretched the field on big day through the air. 

During the first three weeks, the Nittany Lion passing attack had accounted for two plays of more than 35 yards. On Saturday, the Lions tallied three plays of 35 yards or more alone.

Sophomore Saeed Blacknall had receptions of 45 and 46 yards, while senior tight end Kyle Carter had a catch and run of 35 yards on Saturday. The success in the passing game goes hand in hand with the success of the Nittany Lion ground attack. And it was huge for the offense's confidence.

"Being able to make some plays down the field is huge for us," Hackenberg said. "It's huge for confidence, especially to see Saeed make a couple big catches down the field. It adds another dimension to the offense for us."

Penn State had seven different players catch a pass on Saturday, including three receivers, two tight ends and two running backs. Distributing the ball to a number of players makes it tougher on an opposing defense to gameplan for the Lions.

"When you have a lot of different guys catch the football and a lot of different guys make plays, especially down the field, it's going to bode well for us the rest of the year," said Hackenberg.

Nassib Leading the Nation
Senior defensive end Carl Nassib has been nothing short of stellar during the first quarter of the 2015 season. The former walk-on has been a man on a mission for the Nittany Lions since pre-season practice started on Aug. 3.

Nassib entered the season with 2.0 career sacks and 5.5 career tackles for loss. Through four games, the West Chester native has 7.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. He is leading the nation in sacks with (1.75 per game) and third in the nation in tackles for loss (2.3 per game).

"You look at Nassib; he's got some elite, overpowering size and speed and combination things that are really showing up," said head coach James Franklin.

His never-ending motor makes Nassib a fun player to watch during every snap.

Penn State vs. Service Academies
The service academies have been a big piece in Penn State's 129 seasons on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions have the utmost respect to the men and women in uniform, and this Saturday, Beaver Stadium will pay tribute to the armed services on Military Appreciation Day.

Saturday's clash against Army West Point will make the 67th game against service academies. The Nittany Lions have played against Navy on 38 occasions, Army on 25 occasions and Air Force on three occasions. Penn State leads the series against Army West Point, 13-10-2. The two teams first met in 1899. The most recent meeting came in 1979. The Nittany Lions have won the last nine games against Army West Point.

Early Look at Army West Point
The Black Knights enter the game with a 1-3 mark following a 58-36 victory over Eastern Michigan last week. The Knights scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from Eastern Michigan. Army West Point tallied 556 rushing yards in the victory and had six players tally 60 or more yards in the game.

The Black Knights are ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing offense with 294.5 yards per game. Running a triple option scheme, Army West Point has attempted just 36 passes in 2015. The Knights have rushed for 1,178 yards on 200 attempts (5.9 ypc). Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is the team's leading rusher at 341 yards. All three of Army West Point's losses came by five points or fewer (Fordham - 37-35, UConn - 22-17, Wake Forest - 17-14).

Extended Game Highlight
Watch extended game highlights from the victory over San Diego State on Saturday.

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Johnson Earns Deserving Touchdown at Crucial Time

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11355718.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Arguably, no player on the Penn State roster has been more consistently disruptive during the past three seasons than Austin Johnson.

And, arguably, no player has spent less time in the spotlight.

The junior defense tackle just quietly goes about his business each day at practice and plays his heart out on Saturdays. You don't hear his name called as often as he deserves because the impact he makes on defensive plays is often noticeable in the film room, but not on the stat sheet.

Johnson's role in Saturday's 37-21 win over San Diego State was different, though.

With the scoreboard reading 27-21 heading into the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions were in need of a spark. The Aztecs had held the Lions off the board in the third quarter while trimming the Penn State lead down to six on a 1-yard touchdown run.

San Diego State drove deep into Penn State territory during a drive that started in the latter stages of the third quarter and continued into the fourth. A 31-yard pass set up San Diego State with a first down at the Penn State 24. Two plays later, it was 3rd-and-11 at the 25.

Aztec quarterback Maxwell Smith dropped back to pass. The pocket collapsed almost immediately thanks to the push from the Penn State defensive line.

Defensive end Carl Nassib's push led to the senior hitting the right arm of Smith just before it came forward on a passing attempt. The ball squirted free and fell to the turf on the left side of the line.

Johnson snatched it almost immediately and took off.

After stepping away from a tackler, Johnson saw nothing but green grass in front of him along the west sideline.

"Run big bear, run. He had a little high step in there, too, didn't he," said center Angelo Mangiro.

"He was chugging down the sideline. I was like, don't get caught, don't get caught, don't get caught," wide receiver Saeed Blacknall said.

As Johnson crossed the 50, he had a convoy of Penn State blockers around him, and he knew that an opportunity to score was within his grasp.

"Halfway there, I'm thinking, 'Oh my goodness, I might score a touchdown,'" said Johnson. "I got blocks from everybody. They are the reason I scored."

Johnson never broke stride and trotted into the south end zone for the first time in his career, giving Penn State a 13-point lead at a critical time in the ballgame.

"I liked the little high step when he got away from the tackle there," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "That was awesome. It's always great to see big guys score like that."

"It was really cool to see AJ score his first career touchdown," said head coach James Franklin. "Nothing like seeing the big boy roll down the field."

The sideline erupted as the 323-pound defensive tackle took off down the field.

"It doesn't get any better than watching a 300-pounder run 71 yards for a touchdown," said safety Malik Golden.

For a guy his size, Johnson has always played with more athleticism and quickness than he gets credit for. His teammates were thrilled with the big play and could not have been happier because of the respect they have for Johnson's efforts each week.

"There is nobody more deserving," said linebacker Troy Reeder. "It's always fun to see a big guy run down the field. I'm glad he had a ways to go because it was awesome seeing him run into the student section."

As a unit, the defensive line was again dominant in Saturday's victory. The Nittany Lions lead the nation in sacks and third in tackles for loss. Nassib leads the country in sacks through four games. On Saturday, the Lions had five sacks and nine tackles for loss.

"We played really well. We were getting after the quarterback, getting after people in the backfield, so we definitely played like a family," Johnson said.

The Lions have tallied 18 sacks for a loss of 148 yards and on the season and 40 TFLs for a loss of 201 yards. The stats speak for themselves, and the defensive line's production has been a huge boost for the team.

"They are playing really well," Hackenberg said. "They are creating a lot of stuff for opposing quarterbacks to deal with. They are in their face constantly. In the run game, they are always in there. They are playing unbelievable. That goes to coaching. That goes to their work ethic as individuals and their studying."

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions close out the non-conference slate against Army West Point on Saturday. Look for No. 99 to again be at the center of Penn State's push on the D-Line.

"It was such a great feeling to score. We are having fun and playing like a family," Johnson said.

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VIDEO: One-on-One Postgame with James Franklin - San Diego State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following Penn State's 37-21 victory over San Diego State.

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