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Buffalo Week Q&A - Terry Smith

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions open the home season on Saturday with a matchup against Buffalo at Beaver Stadium (12 p.m. on ESPN2).

Leading up to the home opener, defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith talked with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Smith.

Q: How do you think the squad came out of the Temple game emotionally?
Smith: "I thought we've had a really good week of practice. I thought the guys have been flying around. We've had an emphasis on communication. We've done a really good job with that. We have some younger players who are in there getting more reps than they did last week. And I thought practice was really good. We feel really good about our approach to Saturday's game. Temple is behind us. We are moving forward. We are preparing for Buffalo, and I think we are going to be ready to play come noon on Saturday."

Q: How has the defense worked on communication this week at practice?
Smith: "The thing that makes our defense go is the communication. We have to have 11 guys on the same page playing the same defense. Often times when you are in big stadiums, you can't verbally communicate. So you have to use signals. That's where we had a couple breakdowns last week. Through practice, we've overemphasized it. We have it fixed and we are ready to go for Saturday."

Q: What did John Reid show you in camp that helped him move up the depth chart so quickly?
Smith: "He's a really smart kid. He picked up the system really quickly. He's a driven and competitive kid. He competes at a high level. He came from a big-time high school program in St. Joe's Prep. He's used to competing at a high level. His skillset is really good. He's going to continue to get better for us with each rep he takes on the field."

Q: What did you see from Grant Haley throughout camp and how did Grant not playing Saturday impact the defense?
Smith: "Grant is clearly one of our better corners on the team. We are hoping that he will be ready to go on Saturday. He brings some experience. He brings us some speed, athleticism and competitiveness. He's one of our smarter players on the defense, as well. We really miss him. He gives us added depth to the numbers that we have at the corner position right now. He's clearly one of the better guys at that position. We need his presence and experience on the field."

Q: What have you seen from Buffalo on film that you have to be prepared for on defense?
Smith: "Well, clearly, the quarterback has a lot of experience. He's passed for more than 6,000 career yards. He's had 60-plus TDs. He's had a lot of game-time experience. It's not going to be anything new for him to come out and execute under a new system and a new staff. Looking at them from last week, they executed pretty flawlessly. They've got some weapons on the perimeter. The running back ran for 1,400 yards last year. There are weapons that we have to make sure we know where the guys are."

Q: What is it about Buffalo QB Joe Licata that has made him so productive?
Smith: "A couple things stand out. He's got poise in the pocket; a presence in the pocket, and he stands tall. He's a pretty accurate passer. Then No. 2, he runs their system. They have a lot of plays where they have a run called, but they can also pull the ball and throw it to a single receiver. He seems to have grasped that system really well. He executed it flawlessly in the game against Albany last week."

Q: What sort challenge does that type of quarterback present to the corners?
Smith: "We have to be really disciplined in staying in our coverage. He's a quick ball-faker, so he handles the ball really well. We just have to stay in coverage and be disciplined. We can't get caught trying to trigger into the run game. We have to make sure that we stay into coverage. We saw in their game last week that they threw a quick slant when the corner got sucked into the run game and all of a sudden it was a touchdown. We just have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Q: Being a former player, how can you relate to the current players and the expectations around the program after a game like last week's?
Smith: "Playing here, I played on Joe Paterno's first losing team. I experienced one of maybe the lower points in Penn State Football. You always draw on your experiences as a player and try to teach your players certain things and certain aspects of how to handle it. No one wants to go out and lose a game. But those things happen. That's the beauty of sports. The life lessons that are taught here are so valuable as you go from being a young man to being a man by the time you leave college. You draw on your experiences and try to help our guys."

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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Buffalo 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 meet Buffalo on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. Take a look at the practice update from Buffalo week.

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VIDEO: Buffalo Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and safety Jordan Lucas during Buffalo week.

DaeSean Hamilton

Jordan Lucas

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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Buffalo Week

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11304111.jpegTranscripts: James Franklin |  PlayersBuffalo Week - Player VIDEO Q&As

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talked with the media on Tuesday to preview Penn State's home opener against Buffalo.

The Nittany Lions (0-1) and Bulls (1-0) are set to collide on Saturday at 12 p.m. (ESPN2) inside Beaver Stadium to kick off a string of five straight weeks of home football in Happy Valley. Franklin offered his take on the season opener at Temple and looked forward to the week ahead for the Lions during his weekly meeting with the press.

Communication is the big point of emphasis for Franklin and the Nittany Lions this week. When asked about things that stood out while watching the game film, Franklin said the team needed to do a much better job communicating with one another in all three phases of the game.

"If you look offensively, obviously the sacks were the big story line on the offensive side of the ball. Everyone had a role in them, the offensive line, the quarterbacks, the receivers, we had communication issues in all three phases, offense, defense, and special teams," said Franklin.

On defense, the Nittany Lions will be without one of their most vocal leaders, senior linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, for the remainder of the season. The middle linebacker position is a natural spot for leadership, and the coaching staff is looking at a trio of options moving forward.

"I think Wooten is an option for us at middle linebacker, I think Jason Cabinda is an option at middle linebacker, and I think Jake Cooper is an option at us for middle linebacker," said Franklin. "We're going to spend this week trying to figure that out. That's based on what we get from the injury reports, and that's also based on what guys do at practice and how they take over that leadership role."

Cabinda and Wooten combined for 10 tackles and a tackle for loss in the season-opener against the Owls. Sticking on the defensive side of the ball, Franklin pinpointed senior defensive end Carl Nassib as a player who stood out on film.

A former walk-on, Nassib took full advantage of his first career start and turned in a superb outing for the Nittany Lion defense. Nassib tallied a career-high 10 tackles and had 2.5 TFLs and a sack in the opener.

"I thought Carl Nassib played really well defensively, a guy that's been as locked in and as focus and had as committed as anybody in our program," said Franklin. "I think our commitment levels is high across the board, but he's been a guy you have heard me talk about a lot for the last year and a half. I'm really proud of him and how he's played, and I expect him to continue to play well."

Moving forward, more consistency in the trenches on both sides of the ball will pay big dividends for the Nittany Lions. Controlling the line of scrimmages is a recipe for success, and that's what the Lions are looking to build on this week on the practice field. Consistent execution in the trenches lends itself to more efficiency on both sides of the ball.

"You can build an offense or a defense around your front," said Franklin. "The better you are up front the more flexibility and the more creative you can be in terms of attacking the defense in terms of solving problems in terms of dictating the style of play. There is no doubt about it."

The Nittany Lions will practice in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final complete pre-season session on Thursday. Saturday's home-opener will kick at 12:01 p.m. on ESPN2.

Press Conference Notes:
- Coach Franklin on Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold.

"I think Coach Liepold does a great job, he has an amazing background. You look at his record and he has a lot of amazing things he's been able to do in his career. They have seven offensive starters returning, three defensive starters returning, one on special teams."

- Akeel Lynch rushed for 78 yards on 10 carries and had a 42-yard touchdown run at Temple. Coach Franklin's thoughts on Lynch thus far in 2015:

"I thought Akeel did some nice things on Saturday. He's going to continue to have opportunities in practice and the game to show us that he's 'the guy.' Right now he's listed at the top of the depth chart, and I think from an experience and from a mental standpoint he's ahead of the rest of the guys. I would love for him to take control of that job and say, 'I'm the guy' and be a difference-maker for us. He's shown flashes."

- Safety Jordan Lucas on playing his first game at safety after three seasons at cornerback.

"I felt great, you know, the first game is a first game. For a lot of people it's working through the kinks, getting through training camp and being very anxious, excited to get out there and play somebody else other than your teammates. But we got rid of our first game jitters, I know I did especially and playing a new position, it wasn't really too much for me. I'm a football player, I will go out there and just play football."

- DaeSean Hamilton on kicking off the home portion of the schedule this weekend against Buffalo.

"Being back in Beaver Stadium is always exciting. Playing in front of the fans in a comfortable atmosphere. We're all looking forward to that."

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Monday Notebook: Linebackers Embracing Increased Leadership Roles

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11302346.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin announced that junior middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White would miss the remainder of the 2015 season following Saturday's game at Temple.

One of the defense's unquestioned leaders, Wartman-White's absence will be felt on the field and in the defensive huddle. He finished second on the team in tackles last season with 75 hits. After moving to the middle linebacker spot during the offseason, Wartman-White played a paramount role in making calls to the defense.

Now, without him on the field, it will be a team of leaders picking up where Wartman-White left off. Junior Brandon Bell and sophomore Jason Cabinda are the two most veteran players who will step into greater leadership positions. Cabinda spoke after the game at Temple about the steps towards filling an increased role.

"It's not just going to be one guy. It's going to be a lot of guys," said Cabinda. "Everyone now has to elevate their games. We lost a critical piece to our unit. Now everybody has to step up. Everybody has to play better. We can't make mistakes. We have to play like veterans."

In addition to Wartman-White, Bell and Cabinda, several Nittany Lions saw game action at linebacker on Saturday. Seniors Gary Wooten and Von Walker, along with redshirt freshman Troy Reeder and true freshmen Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper all saw action.

It will be leadership by committee for the Nittany Lion linebackers beginning this week on the practice field.

Defense Tallies Highest TFL Number in Eight Seasons
The Nittany Lion defense combined for 15.0 tackles for loss during the season-opener at Temple. The last time a Penn State defense tallied a figure that high was at Michigan on Sept. 22, 2007.

Eleven different players played a role in Penn State's 15.0 tackles for loss, including Carl Nassib (2.5), Brandon Bell (2.5), Anthony Zettel (2.5), Trevor Williams (2.0), Austin Johnson (1.0), Troy Reeder (1.0), Garrett Sickels (1.0), Gary Wooten Jr. (1.0), Tarow Barney (0.5), Curtis Cothran (0.5) and Jordan Lucas (0.5).

Nassib and Bell each had sacks in the game.

Penn State tied for second in the NCAA with 15.0 tackles for loss during the first week of games. Colorado State led the nation with 16.0.

Five Straight at Home
Saturday's home opener against Buffalo will begin a string of five-straight Saturdays with football inside Beaver Stadium for the first time in the stadium's history. Penn State has played five-straight home games just twice in its 129-year history on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions opened both the 1920 and 1922 seasons with five consecutive home games at Beaver Field. Penn State has played four-straight home games in Beaver Stadium on four occasions (1977, 1982, 1986 and 2002).

Early Look at Buffalo
Under the direction first-year head coach Lance Leipold, Buffalo defeated Albany, 51-14, during week one. Leipold was hired as the program's 25th head coach in December 2014 following a tremendous run at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. Leipold compiled a 109-6 record and won six national championships during his last eight seasons in Wisconsin. Senior quarterback Joe Licata went 20-of-26 for 246 yards and had two touchdowns in Buffalo's season-opening win. Penn State and Buffalo have met twice before - 1900 and 2007. The series is tied at 1-1 with Penn State tallying a 45-24 victory in 2007.

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Focus on Buffalo as Nittany Lions Look Ahead to Home Opener

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11300228.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Core value No. 1 for the Penn State football program is simple.

Anyone involved with the team is expected to maintain a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances are.

That has been the case since the day head coach James Franklin took the job in January of 2014.

The message around the team is the same whether the group walks off the field with a win or a loss.

Focus is placed on what is next.

Sure, the group will review film, address areas that need attention and make corrections. From there, though, all energy, attention and efforts are shifted towards the next game on the schedule.

Before the sun had set around Lincoln Financial Field on the south edge of Philadelphia, that was the mantra around the locker room.

The team cannot change the outcome of the Temple game. But the group can impact the days and hours leading up to the next task at hand.

"It's as simple as this. We're going to come in tomorrow, watch the tape and we are going to get better. Then we are going to put it to bed," sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda said.

"It's about going back to our core values," said senior cornerback Trevor Williams. "It's a positive attitude. Compete in everything. Great work ethic. And sacrifice. Temple was the better team today. We just have to respond."

Williams was part of a defensive effort that totaled 15 tackles for loss against the Owls. The steady senior equaled his career-high with six tackles. He also tallied 2.0 TFL after entering the game with 1.5 TFL for his career. Senior defensive end Carl Nassib led the defense with a career-high 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL and a sack in his first start.

Saturday's game was big day for some of Penn State's youngest talent. Seven players started for the first time in their Penn State careers. The Nittany Lions had 10 redshirt freshmen make their debuts at Temple, along with five true freshmen.

That list includes true freshmen Brandon Polk (WR) and John Reid (CB), who both started. Polk took an end around 33 yards on Penn State's first offensive play of the season. Reid started at corner on the opposite side of Williams.

On offense, junior running back Akeel Lynch averaged 7.8 yards per carry on 10 rushing attempts. Finishing with 78 yards, Lynch scampered 42 yards for a first-quarter touchdown at The Linc on Saturday. With week one in the rearview mirror, Lynch is focused on what is ahead.

"It's life. Sometimes things don't go as planned, but you have to learn from the bumps and bruises and move on," said Lynch.

The Nittany Lions held meetings and practiced on Sunday to begin the first home week of 2015. Penn State will face Buffalo on Saturday at noon (ESPN2). The home opener against the Bulls kicks off five-straight weeks of football inside Beaver Stadium.

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame at Temple (9/5/15)

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PHILADELPHIA - Head coach James Franklin talks with the media following the season-opener at Temple.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks at Temple (9/5/15)

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PHILADELPHIA - Several Nittany Lions talk with the media following the season-opener at Temple inside Lincoln Financial Field.

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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Temple

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PHILADELPHIA - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions open the 2015 season with a clash against in-state foe Temple inside Lincoln Financial Field. Follow along for live updates from the stadium.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Temple

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State at Temple

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PHILADELPHIA - Welcome to live coverage of the Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions open the 2015 season with a clash against in-state foe Temple inside Lincoln Financial Field. Follow along for photos from the stadium.