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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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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - San Diego State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions, including Saeed Blacknall, Kyle Carter, Malik Golden, Christian Hackenberg, Austin Johnson, Angelo Mangiro, Troy Reeder following the 37-21 victory over San Diego State.

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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. San Diego State

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

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. San Diego State

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. San Diego State

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


2015 Gameday - Lions Host San Diego State in Beaver Stadium

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

Coach Franklin Wednesday | Coach Huff Q&A | Looking Back: Northwestern 2005

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Riding a two-game winning streak, Penn State will continue its string of five consecutive home games on Saturday when the Lions face San Diego State.

11348212.jpegThe Nittany Lions (2-1, 1-0) and Aztecs (1-2, 0-0) will meet for the first time on the gridiron when the two squads line up for a 3:30 p.m. kick inside Beaver Stadium. The game will air live on BTN.

Penn State notched its second win in as many weeks with a dominant 28-3 triumph against Rutgers in the Big Ten opener. Offense, defense and special teams all played paramount roles in the conference-opening victory.

"I'm actually really pleased with how we're playing as a team right now," said head coach James Franklin. "I thought that game on Saturday was probably the most complete football game we've played since we've been here. I thought we played great team football at this point where we're at as a program."

A 330-yard rushing night highlighted Penn State's Big Ten opener. True freshman Saquon Barkley (195 yards) and junior Akeel Lynch (120 yards) combined for three touchdowns against the Scarlet Knights. Penn State enters this week having rushed for 200 or more yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2009.

On defense, Penn State limited Rutgers to just 43 yards on the ground and held the Scarlet Knights out of the end zone. For the season, the Nittany Lions have allowed just seven points in the first half of games. The three points scored by Rutgers marked the lowest total by a Big Ten opponent since 2011.

Penn State's special teams play was also superb in the primetime tilt against Rutgers. The Lions forced the Knights into an averaging starting spot of their own 18-yard line. Punter Chris Gulla had five kicks downed inside the 20, and the Nittany Lions again dazzled in the return game with Nick Scott tallying a kickoff return of more than 30 yards for the second-straight week.

San Diego State (1-2) enters the week looking to snap a two-game skid following an overtime setback to South Alabama at home. The Aztecs opened the season with a 37-3 victory over San Diego before dropping a 35-7 decision at California. San Diego State has averaged 23.7 points per game during the first three weeks.

The Aztecs will become the 155th different opponent Penn State has played in its 129-year history on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions have played just four games against the current members of the Mountain West Conference. The most recent meeting against a Mountain West foe came in 1977 when the Lions played Utah State.

The Second Annual Unrivaled Band Jam will take place on Saturday. High school bands will participate in the pre-game performance with the Penn State Blue Band. More than 1,000 total band members are anticipated to perform. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at noon, and the event begins at 1:15 p.m. inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

"The band does an awesome job for us in the stadium," Franklin said. "Tuesday nights they practice on our turf, and I love it. They're out there jamming on Tuesday nights in the stadium. What they do, obviously, the environment that they bring is really, really special. So we're indebted to the commitment that our band makes to our program and the University as a whole."

Welcome to the gameday preview for week four - Penn State vs. San Diego State.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11348234.jpeg1. Thanks to physical play from the offensive line, the Nittany Lions are beginning to find an identity with a potent one-two punch of running backs in the backfield. Lynch and Barkley have combined for 555 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. The duo is averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Additionally, true freshman Brandon Polk and redshirt freshman DeAndre Thompkins bring a speed component to the ground attack and have tallied 102 yards and scored twice. Continued effectiveness on the ground will create more opportunities for Christian Hackenberg and the receiving corps down field as the season progresses. Hackenberg was not sacked during the past two games.

2. The play of the Nittany Lion defensive line speaks for itself. The unit has been nothing short of dominant up front, but don't overlook the play of Penn State's youthful linebacker corps. The linebacker group welcomed the return of Brandon Bell last week, who had nine stops in the victory. Sophomore Jason Cabinda has been stout in his first action at middle linebacker during the last two weeks, as well. Cabinda has made 19 tackles this season and broken up three passes. Redshirt freshman Troy Reeder played for the first time against Temple and started against Buffalo. He hasn't looked back since. Reeder made eight tackles last week and has 17 tackles on the season.

3. Coach Franklin called last week's game against Rutgers the best performance by the special teams unit since the staff arrived on campus. The Nittany Lions have made big gains on special teams during the first three weeks of the season. In addition to more consistency in the kicking game, the Lions have been excellent in coverage and explosive on returns.

"Special teams, I think we're playing really fast and confident on special teams right now," said Franklin. "If you had to say what unit has improved the most on our team, I'd say it's special teams. So that's through scheme, that's through commitment and effort, and that's through just more depth that we have."

What to Watch For - San Diego State
1. The Aztecs return eight starters from a 2014 defense that finished the season ranked No. 16 in the nation in total defense. San Diego State is one of just six teams nationally with two or more interception returns for touchdown during the first three weeks of 2015. Linebacker Calvin Munson has both pick-six plays on the season. Coach Franklin noted San Diego State's unique defensive scheme earlier in the week.

"If anybody's had a chance to watch San Diego State already, they play what I would call a chaos defense," said Franklin. "Anybody ever see those defenses where they don't even lineup, they just kind of walk around and do all those things. They blitz from every angle possible."

2. Junior running back Donnel Pumphrey posted his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season last week. A preseason watch list member for both the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards, Pumphrey has 2,868 career rushing yards. He leads the team in both rushing (249 yards) and receptions heading into Saturday's game. An 1,800-yard rusher in 2014 as a sophomore, Pumphrey is averaging more than six yards per carry in his career.

3. The San Diego State special teams units are ranked among the nation's top tier in a number of statistical categories. The Aztecs are balanced across the board with the kickoff return unit ranked 11th (29.10 ypr), punt return group ranked 28th (15.29 ypr), ranked 31st in net punting (40.65 yds) and tied for the highest field goal percentage (83.3) in the nation (among schools with at least six attempts).

The Final Word:
Visiting teams from the West Coast have been few and far between inside Beaver Stadium in the past four decades. Saturday's game will mark only the fourth game between Penn State and a team in the Pacific Time Zone since the 1976 season. Since Beaver Stadium opened, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC are the only teams from the West Coast that have played inside Beaver Stadium, prior to San Diego State joining that list. The Aztecs will be 2,230 miles from home when they take the field on Saturday, which is the second longest distance any continental team will travel in Division I FBS this season.

Penn State will be seeking its first 3-0 start at home since the 2010 season. The Nittany Lions have allowed a total of seven points in the first half this season and are yet to yield a point in the first quarter of a game. Penn State has outscored its opponents 41-7 in the first half this season. Big Ten Network's live coverage of the Rutgers game begins at 3:30 p.m. with kickoff slated for 3:42 p.m. Kevin Kugler (Play-by-Play), Matt Millen (Analyst) and Lisa Byington (Sideline) will call the game.

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