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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. Today, the Nittany Lions open the Big Ten home schedule with a matchup against Northwestern.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Northwestern

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Beaver Stadium Pictorial: Northwestern Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 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

Here is a preview of the feature content inside the Penn State vs. Northwestern BSP that will be sold during the 95th Homecoming game.

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

Upholding the Linebacker U. Tradition
BY: Paul Marboe, Penn State Athletic Communications
For anyone who watches senior Mike Hull, it is easy to see the traits and work-ethic that make him the player next in line to leave his mark at "Linebacker U." and add to its superlative legacy.

On fall Saturdays, Hull can be seen flying around the field, making plays from sideline to sideline on defense and special teams. The 6-0, 225-pound Hull contains that blend of toughness, discipline, instincts, speed and playmaking ability that makes the Penn State linebacker tradition so special.

After three years playing alongside some great linebackers, Hull has emerged as the clear leader of the 2014 unit and the Penn State defense.

Dan Radakovich: The Man Behind "Linebacker U."
by: Lou Prato, Penn State Sports Historian
The man most responsible for the creation of "Linebacker U." doesn't know when the nickname started or who came up with it, but it's the perfect and succinct description for the bevy of talented linebackers at Penn State over the last four decades.

Dan Radakovich is certain that the name evolved after he became Penn State's first linebacker coach in 1958 and helped develop All-Americans Denny Onkotz and Jack Ham and NFL stalwarts Ralph Baker and Bill Saul.

It wasn't just what the linebackers did at Penn State that gave the school its initial reputation in the 1970s. What they did in professional football had even more influence on the conception of the nickname.

Men's Hockey Looks to Build on Last Year's Late Season Success
By: Matt Caracappa, Penn State Athletic Communications
Under the direction of third-year head coach Guy Gadowsky, the Nittany Lion men's hockey team will look for continued success during the 2014-15 campaign. After an impressive run to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Penn State returns 24 lettermen from last year's squad while welcoming three newcomers to the fold.

The Nittany Lions opened the 2013-14 season with heightened anticipation and excitement throughout the Centre Region as the campaign commenced with a 4-1 victory over Army at the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State also began its first foray into the Big Ten Conference, as the conference sponsored the sport for the first time.

The Nittany Lions battled through the second-hardest schedule in college hockey a season ago and came away with many monumental firsts for the program. Penn State defeated Michigan for both its first Big Ten win, which occurred at home, and its initial Big Ten road victory. The Lions also defeated the Wolverines for a third time during the Big Ten Tournament.

The Penn State vs. Northwestern BSP also features;
Expanded Game Notes
Unrivaled Moment: vs. UMass
Player Q&As w/ Ryan Keiser, Deron Thompson & Matt Zanellato
University Feature: Nittany Lion Bonds All Penn Staters
2014 Penn State Football Team Photo
Penn State Athletics Sports Planner

2014 Gameday Preview - Lions Meet Northwestern on Homecoming

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GAME BLOG - Northwestern

Game Notes | Gameday Central | Northwestern Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Gattis Q&A | Player Q&A Video | BSP Preview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (4-0, 1-0)) welcomes Northwestern (1-2, 0-0) to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for the 2014 Big Ten home opener and Homecoming. The Nittany Lions and Wildcats are slated for noon kick on BTN.

10369524.jpegThe Lions marched to their fourth-straight win to open the season last week with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball against UMass. Thanks to strong play in the trenches, Penn State rushed for 228 yards and five touchdowns. Seniors Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak each visited the end zone twice and Akeel Lynch scored once in a 48-7 victory.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions turned in another strong effort against the Minutemen. Limiting UMass to just three rushing yards, Penn State leads the nation in rushing defense at 45.9 yards per game.
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.

Northwestern enters Saturday's game following a 24-7 home victory over Western Illinois. The Wildcats opened the season with two one-score losses against California (31-24) and Northern Illinois (23-15). Led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats return 18 starters from the 2013 squad. That list includes senior quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Saturday's gameday marks Penn State's 95th Homecoming game. The Alumni Blue Band will be featured as they join the Blue Band performance at halftime. The Homecoming court will parade onto the field and the 2014-'15 King and Queen will be announced during halftime. The annual Homecoming Parade will be held on campus and downtown State College on Friday night.

Also, a Varsity "S" tunnel will take place for team entrance against the Wildcats, with hundreds of former student-athletes lining up on the field just prior to kickoff.

The Penn State and Northwestern coaching staffs will be wearing Coach to Cure MD patches this week to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. More than 110 FBS schools will be wearing a Coach to Cure MD patch in this the seventh year of the annual initiative. Fans are encouraged to donate online at or donate $5 by texting CURE to 90999.

Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week five matchup against Northwestern.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10369526.jpeg1. The Penn State ground attack played its best football of the season against UMass last week. Junior Akeel Lynch said this week that the performance against the Minutemen gave the running game some confidence, but now it is up to the group to improve. Lynch, Belton and Zwinak are a formidable trio when the offense is executing at a high level. In addition to the importance of consistency from the running game, the success of the Penn State running backs opens the door for play-action passing from Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg is leading the Big Ten in passing at 315.2 yards per game. Geno Lewis leads the conference in receiving yards per game at 115.5. DaeSean Hamilton leads the Big Ten in receptions per game at 7.5. When all of the offensive units are playing well, they complement one another.

2. Penn State's run defense has been lights out in 2014. Holding its opponents to less than 50 yards per game speaks to unit's ability to swarm to the football. The strong run defense begins with stout play in the trenches, but the second level of the Penn State defense deserves a great deal of credit, as well. The linebacker trio of Mike Hull, Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman has played at a consistently high level since the season began in Ireland. Hull leads the Nittany Lions in tackling with 37 stops on the season. Wartman, who was named Defensive Player of the Week for the UMass game by the coaching staff, has come on strong in recent weeks. He has 20 tackles. Bell has nine stops on the season, but his impact on the defense goes far beyond the tackle numbers. The New Jersey native has been a disruptive player for the Nittany Lions throughout the 2014 season.

3. No player has been more consistent for the Nittany Lions since the end of spring practice than kicker Sam Ficken. A perfectionist when it comes to mastering his craft, Ficken is off to a strong start for the Nittany Lions this season. He is 8-of-9 on field goal attempts and is 12-of-12 on PATs. Ficken has also been a weapon on the kickoff unit. He has 12 touchbacks this season, including eight touchbacks on nine attempts last week against UMass.

What to Watch For - Northwestern
10369570.jpeg1. Northwestern senior quarterback Trevore Siemian is a veteran of 36 career games for Northwestern. Ranked ninth on the school's all-time passing list, Siemian entered 2014 third on the active passer list in the Big Ten. He has completed 59 percent of his passes this season. Siemian has thrown for 614 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His top target thus far has been superback (TE/HB) Dan Vitale, who has 11 catches for 103 yards. Senior wide receiver Kyle Prater has 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown.

2. Defensively, Northwestern is a fundamentally sound unit led by a veteran cast of players. In all, eight of Northwestern's 11 starters on defense are juniors or seniors. That list includes the linebacker duo of Chi Chi Ariguzo (30) and Collin Ellis (28), who have combined for 58 career starts for the Wildcats. Ariguzo and Ellis are the anchors of the Northwestern defense. The two linebackers lead the Wildcats in tackling with 28 and 26 hits, respectively. Ellis, however, was listed on the final injury report as out for the game on Saturday. Sophomore defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo has been disruptive this season, as well, with 2.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.

3. Sophomore punter Chris Gradone was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts in week four. Gradone averaged 44.1 yards on seven punts. Six of his seven kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line, including two kicks inside the 5-yard line. Junior wide receiver Miles Shuler has been Northwestern's top returner. Shuler is averaging 21.2 yards per return on kickoffs.

The Final Word:
Penn State played its first Homecoming game on Oct. 9, 1920 against Dartmouth (W, 14-7). All-time, the Nittany Lions are 68-21-5 in games contested on Homecoming. That list includes eight on-field victories in the last 10 Homecoming games, including last season's thrilling 43-40 triple overtime win against Michigan. Saturday's game marks the third time the Nittany Lions will host Northwestern on Homecoming. The Nittany Lions topped the Wildcats in 2002 (49-0) and 2012 (39-28). Dating back the latter stages of 2013, head coach James Franklin and the seven members of the coaching staff who were with him at Vanderbilt last year have won nine-straight games heading into the Northwestern game.  Kickoff is slated for 12:01 p.m. on BTN.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Northwestern Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Josh Gattis

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Gattis_Josh_A-14-UMass-MS_1867.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State offensive recruiting coordinator, assistant special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis spoke with the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions host Northwestern on Saturday at 12 p.m. (BTN). Take a look at a Q&A with Gattis leading up to Saturday's home game.

Q: Since you got here, how have Geno and DaeSean worked to improve and in what ways have they gotten better?
"They both continue to focus on the fundamentals and the details of route running, as well as improving their ball skills. I think as an overall group their commitment to improving their ball skills by drills and everything that we do in practice has been a true testament to some of the plays they continue to make, and they continue to increase their concentration and detail on each and every one of the plays."

Q: How does Geno Lewis compare to some of the other players you have coached?
"I think Geno is a really good football player. I still think his best football is ahead of him. I think he is very conscious of everything we ask of him as far as the details go. He's a very hard worker. He shows up every day and continues to work hard and get better."

Q: What type of guy is DaeSean Hamilton away from the field when you are in the meeting room?
"He's an awesome kid. He's a very, very smart kid. He's probably one of the smartest minds in our meeting room. He's come a very long way because he didn't get a chance to practice in the spring. He took advantage of every bit of coaching and paid attention to all of the details. He grew his game from understanding our offense. He came from a military background that's lived in numerous places. He's always got a smile on his face. He's always cracking jokes. He's really a great kid to be around. He's a guy who brings excitement and energy to our group."

Q: As young as the receiver group was when you got here, who has stepped up as leaders?
"I think we have stepped up as an overall group as leaders. But specifically, I would say with the game experience, DaeSean and Geno have stepped up tremendously. We are a very young group, and that is the exciting thing about it. I still say that our best football is still ahead of us. We are just scratching the surface on our potential and looking to transfer that over into production. Those two guys have been tremendous leaders, not just on the field but off the field, as well. Both of those kids carry over a 3.0 GPA and that speaks for the group itself."

Q: What is the receiver group's role in the running game?
"We are very unselfish. One of our goals on offense is that we want to create explosive plays. You create explosive plays with explosive players. But you also create explosive plays with downfield blocking. We are active in the run game. We are active as far as blocking our assignments. We need to make sure we are doing a good job keeping the guy we are blocking out of the picture, as well as stretching the defense. Obviously, by having the threat of the pass it allows you to put stress on a defense. Also, some of the short screen game, we consider that an extension of our running game. A lot of times on our run plays we will have options to throw the ball based on the looks. The more effective we can be out on the perimeter with some of our screens, the more effective we will be opening things up on the inside for our ball carriers."

Q: Like an effective run game, can a physical receiver group do its part in wearing down a defense?
"Absolutely. Everything in the pass game with the receivers, I preach all the time about going down to the details. It's not about how fast you are or how big you are or how strong you are. It's really about the details and the fundamentals of running routes and catching the football. You can be a guy with 4.3 blazing speed, but if you don't always catch the football, it doesn't make a difference. At the end of the day, it comes down to the technique and fundamentals and the details in plays that make things successful."

Q: What have Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall showed you through the first four weeks?
"Their progress has been astonishing. We still have a long way to go, but their improvement has been tremendous. Just their understanding of the offense, they are getting better as football players. They are playing with confidence. The most exciting thing about this (group) is that it is a bunch of young guys who love football. Geno Lewis hasn't even grazed the surface of how good he can be. DaeSean Hamilton hasn't scraped the surface of how good he can be. So, for all of these guys to go out each week and continue to get better and game reps and gain confidence, it is going to be a tremendous asset to us in the future. But to see guys like Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall, who are true freshmen, to be able to go out and play in front of 107,000 people and do the things you ask of them is exciting. Out of all these guys, they are so unselfish. They do what you ask. And you can't ask for more out of a group."

Q: As the offensive recruiting coordinator, what can you say about the recruiting message you have at Penn State?
"There is a lot of excitement around our program right now. Obviously, there is a new coaching staff. We're able to lay the foundation for the future of this program. But we've got an unbelievable product here to sell at Penn State. You're talking about the 37th ranked school in the country academically. You're talking about coming to place that gives you a world-class education with the largest dues paying alumni associations in the country. When you speak about what a Penn State degree means, you are not only talking about what it is going to do for you, but what it is going to do for your future and being able to put you out in areas of the country that are going to be in places with active Penn State alumni who can help you with your transition. As far as the rich football tradition here, you look over in Beaver Stadium and see 107,000 of the best fans in the country. When you look at the history here in terms of the national championships and undefeated seasons, there is a lot to sell with this program. This is one of the most storied programs in all of college football. When you have a great product to sell and you've got great coaches and a great head coach in Coach Franklin, it makes it easy to sell."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Northwestern Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin provided an update to the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex. The Nittany Lions host Northwestern on Saturday for a noon kick on BTN.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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 Student Writer Paul Marboe.

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

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 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."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony