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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 12/14 Penn State hits the road this week, traveling to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
On the road for the second time in the last three weeks, the Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1) and the Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) are set for a noon kickoff on ABC or ESPN2. For a full TV coverage map, please click here.
Last week, the Nittany Lions extended their winning streak to five straight, downing Iowa, 41-14, in Beaver Stadium. Penn State broke into the College Football Playoff Rankings Top 10 at No. 10 in this week's release. The Nittany Lions also rose to No. 12 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Penn State offense was both productive and explosive against the Hawkeyes, combining for 599 yards of total offense, including 359 yards on the ground.
Running back Saquon Barkley powered the Penn State offense with 211 all-purpose yards, scoring both of his touchdowns on plays of at least 44 yards or more, highlighted by a 57-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, Penn State has proven stout in its ability to halt the ground game, holding Iowa to just 30 rushing yards. In the last two games, the Nittany Lions have limited back-to-back Big Ten opponents to less than 50 yards for the first time in program history. It's also the first time since 2014 that Penn State's defense has held three opponents to less than 50 rushing yards in the same season.
Led by sixth year head coach Kevin Wilson, Indiana enters the week fresh off of a 33-27 win against Rutgers. The Hoosiers recorded 550 yards of total offense in the win, registering 420 passing yards and 147 yards on the ground. In a 42-36 win against Maryland the week before, IU totaled 650 yards of total offense, including 414 rushing yards.
"The biggest thing with Indiana is they're doing a lot of things well, they're putting up a lot of yards and they're putting up a lot of points so we just have to limit them and do our best on defense," junior Garrett Sickels said.
Penn State holds an 18-1 advantage in the all-time series against the Hoosiers, including a 9-1 record when playing on the road at IU. The Nittany Lions visit Indiana for the first time since 2014, where Penn State claimed a 13-7 victory.
What to Watch For: Penn State
1. In the last five games, Saquon Barkley has continued to prove why he is one of the most dynamic and explosive running backs in college football, rushing for 738 yards with an average of 7.3 yards per carry and two 200-yard rushing performances within the stretch. With at least one rushing touchdown in four of the last five games, Barkley's 11 rushing touchdowns ranks second in the conference standings. He's also atop the conference standings in all-purpose yards (147.67), rushing yards (1,055) and rushing yards per game (117.2).
2. When asked about his success in the run game, Barkley is quick to direct all credit to the Nittany Lion offensive line. Penn State head coach James Franklin noted earlier this week that he has been truly impressed with the offensive line's ability to adapt to unexpected changes, while paving the way for success in the run game.
"The fact that we're able to establish a run game and get people to commit to the box - and obviously Saquon's a big part of that, but it opens all those things up," Franklin said. "It opens up opportunities down the field when people are concerned about stopping Saquon and our offensive line has been able to establish the run and protect our quarterback."
3. Turnovers are another area where the Nittany Lions have seen tremendous improvement this season. In the last five games, Penn State has committed just one offensive turnover, while also turning each of the last five opponent miscues into touchdowns. The turnover success marks the first time since 2012 that the Nittany Lions have played at least three turnover-free games.
What to Watch For: Indiana
1. Earlier this week, Franklin tabbed Wilson as one of the best offensive minds in college football. Averaging 298.1 yards per game, the Indiana passing offense is ranked second in the conference and 22nd nationally. Among several options at wide receiver for the Hoosiers, Nick Westbrook (17.27) and Ricky Jones (17.03) are both ranked among the top six in the conference in average yards per catch at fourth and sixth, respectively. Quarterback Richard Lagow also ranks second in the conference with 2,574 passing yards, averaging 286.0 per game.
2. Four of Indiana's five scoring drives in the win against Rutgers resulted in the scoring play measuring at least 34 yards, highlighted by backup quarterback Zander Diamont's 59-yard touchdown rush on the first Hoosier possession of the game. With three rushing touchdowns on the year, Diamont is averaging 47.8 yards per game, as well as 8.3 yards per carry.
3. Indiana's limiting its opponents to 225.8 passing yards per game, with defensive back Rashard Fant's 16 passes defended and 15 pass breakups slotted first nationally. The success has not only been in the secondary, as the Indiana defense as a whole has registered 10 sacks and 28 tackles for loss across the last three games. Linebacker Tegray Scales is leading the team with 85 tackles, averaging 9.4 per game, which ranks second in the conference standings.
The Final Word -
While Penn State owns a sizable advantage in the all-time series against Indiana, there has been no shortage of close calls for the Nittany Lions along the way, especially on the road in Bloomington. Four of the last five outings on the road at Indiana have been decided by six points or less. That includes the most recent meeting at Indiana, when Penn State captured a 13-7 win at Memorial Stadium.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff spent time speaking with members of the media this afternoon.
The No. 12/14 Nittany Lions travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers Saturday, Nov. 11 at noon on ABC or ESPN2.
Check out updates from the Q&A session below.
On the improvement of
Penn State's special teams unit
Huff: We've gotten better. Obviously we're not anywhere near where we want to be or expect to be, but it's been part of the process. I know it's kind of the same old song and dance, you hear that it takes time, it takes time but, from year one we knew coming in under the circumstances that we were dealt, having depth issues and not being able to play everybody on special teams because of those depth issues and limitations. It starts by getting to play some of the other guys and as you continue to recruit and develop players you're able to get some of those developed players on special teams. When you get some of those better players and more depth and more options and more competition in practice, you see improvement.
The time that it takes is not always what you want, but we've made progress in each of the three years and I think the kids have done a really good job of buying in and staying committed to special teams and the things that we do and our core values that we stand on. It helps, as we get better we have more depth we've got some recruits in certain areas that have helped us. It's allowed us to play some of the older guys and some of the younger guys and kind of mix that in. It kind of all runs together. We still have a ways to go, but I'm impressed with where we are, I'm pleased with where we are and the effort that the coaches and the guys are putting in.
On recruiting athletes
and not just specialists, highlighted by Blake Gillikin chasing down the high
snap for a safety in the win against Ohio State.
Huff: That one play was huge. A lot of people over the course of the game - there was a lot that went on that was really good for the program. But if you think back on it, Ohio State missed an extra point. So then we give up the safety, but the safety only counts as one point at that time. The hidden yardage or the hidden parts of the game, a lot of people don't see that. Now if you give up a touchdown, that's five points, that's totally different. Being able to have an athlete, it's not what you want, you don't want him actually running behind trying to pick up a ball. But having an athlete that understands, okay, not only do I need to get back to get this ball, but I need to fall on it. I actually prefer him to kick it out of the end zone but when you have an athlete where when in the game certain things don't always got the way you planned or maybe not exactly what you said is going to happen - they don't panic in those situations. They allow themselves to still be in the moment, still be able to play and what happens is, you take a bad play and you don't let it become a catastrophe.
So when we're recruiting, we're looking for guys who have played the game of football and understand. I'm not saying that those young men who just kick or do some other things aren't valuable, but it helps when you have an awareness, a smarter player is a better player. So if they understand the game and the importance of certain things and why we're asking them to do things, Blake's been really good for us because Blake understands the game so he is able to give input. He is able to say, this is what I can do with the wind this way, this is where I feel more comfortable, and that helps. The last few years we haven't always had that experience and like Coach [Franklin] talks about, when guys have been athletes and played the game. So when things don't always go perfect, they are a little limited in what they can do, and that helps.
Those types of plays, those types of games - there are moments in program history here, there are moments in program history across the country that change or define the culture and that game, those special teams plays in that game, really defined our special teams culture of when everybody comes together, everybody is bought in, when you're taking the coaching and listening to every meeting. We had 400-some meetings about what happens if the ball goes over the punter's head. If you're just kind of sitting in the meeting and you're like ok here we go and it comes up, well we just had 400 meetings about where the block spot is on field goals. Those guys have been trying to get there, trying to get there and then Marcus [Allen] gets there. You're always looking for that defining moment if you're a teacher, that "aha" moment and I think that game and those types of plays were a good start to that.
On the youth and depth
at running back and how that impacts recruiting at the position.
Huff: As we talk to recruits, we tell them. The recruits that we are recruiting at the level that we should be at here at Penn State, all of their options are going to be deep, wherever they go. So it's not like we're the only ones that are deep. Alabama is deep, Clemson is deep. The schools that we are competing against and the options that they have, everywhere is deep because everywhere has been recruiting and they've been successful. So we tell them that it comes down to one - you have to be able to compete.
Then it comes down to the other factors, the academics, the relationship that you have with the coaches, the style of offense, distance from home, your family support system. All of those things. That's something a lot of people talk about, saying they have Saquon [Barkley], they have Miles [Sanders], and they have all these guys. Well, everywhere you go - I always talk to the recruits and I tell them that nobody really knew who Trent Richardson was Mark Ingram was there and nobody knew who Derrick Henry was when Mark Ingram was there. So you have those same guys, but you can still be successful if you go in with the right attitude. We always tell them that the best player is going to play. I tell them, I am hoping that we find a guy or there is a guy on our team right now, that forces us to start him over Saquon Barkley. That's what we want because that means you are that much better, which is going to make Saquon better, which is going to make the team better. That's the message that we give recruits. Wherever you go is going to be deep, so you better be ready to compete. Then you have to take everything else into account, what makes it the best spot for you.
On one big play that
stands out this year? Although not on special teams, specifically the 80-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Irvin Charles against
Huff: When you have those moments, obviously the crowd and the energy that gets infused into the stadium is huge. To me, as a coach and coaches, we always talk about how it takes one play, it takes one play. Well, its seldom the kids really grasp that fact and I think that play specifically, the Irvin Charles play, from multiple reasons and a few reasons - one, it was a time in the game where we needed a play. One, Irvin Charles had been a guy that has had flashes in practice of greatness. The team knows he can be great. He has made plays in practice where you just say wow. He hadn't been able to do it in a game for multiple reasons. The ball just hadn't gone his way, he hadn't made plays, but for him to get that play in the game, catch that ball and separate from the defenders like that, it was a combination of yes, we did it - but it was more of the team's love for Irvin and the stuff we see you do on a daily basis now the world knows. Those types of plays, to me, are the ones that give you the - we can come back from anything, we can play with anybody, all we have to do is make plays. As coaches, you harp on that and it takes those types of plays to give you some validity for the players to say, you're right. That was was of those types of plays. It was a moment in the game where we were stalling back and forth, back and forth and we needed a boost of energy as a team, we needed a boost of energy as an offense. For that to happen, for that connection of people - Trace to Irvin, to a guy who the team loves and they have seen him successful in practice, but needed that "in a game moment," that was huge.
On the most impressive
thing about Saquon Barkley this season.
Huff: For me, and I don't try to belittle his extraordinary runs by any means. We work on those drills all the time. He has done some amazing things. To me, some of the bigger things that you don't see - I thought earlier in the season he was pressing to try and make the big run and was doing a lot of extra cuts, trying to bounce things too much. We sat down probably around game two and looked at some things, talked through some things and he started to make that change to where he was taking what the defense was giving him, he was pressing the line of scrimmage, he was being physical and taking the two yards, running through the arm tackle for four yards and like I tell him, once you do those things once or twice, the 80-yard runs will come. The 60 yards, the 20 yards, the 200-yard games will come and he really received that.
A lot of times when you have a great freshman year, you come back and you don't have success early and you kind of get frustrated, and he did not. We talked about some of the things, that he was pressing a little too much, trying to do too much and showed him some areas where he could get four yards instead of losing a yard. I thought he started to do that after the Michigan game. Now you can kind of see where he has had some of those Saquon Barkley type of runs. To me, the ability for him to be patient and not get frustrated with not going out in the first game and running for 6,000 yards. It was a lot of build up and he didn't do that the first couple of games and he didn't get frustrated, he stuck to. He kept letting us coach him and he kept watching film and to me, his patience and growth through those first couple of games is probably the biggest thing and the best that I've seen.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football heads out on the road this week, traveling to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1) and the Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) are set to meet for the 20th time in program history, in a noon kick set to broadcast live on ABC or ESPN2.
As he does every week, Franklin met with members of the media Tuesday afternoon to take one final look at the Iowa victory before diving in to Indiana.
Among a wealth of positive takeaways from the 41-14 win against the Hawkeyes last week, Franklin noted that turnovers have really been a critical key to success this season, not only related to taking care of the ball, but also excellent decision making in the passing game.
Quarterback Trace McSorley also echoed the importance of maintaining the advantage in the turnover margin this week, noting that a large part of the improvement has simply come from the ability to avoid putting the ball in jeopardy without forcing anything the passing game.
Franklin noted that increased depth among the wide receiver group has significantly attributed to McSorley's ability to target multiple receivers with ease, with the result showing in the form of McSorley's 14-3 touchdown to interception ratio on the year.
Another area where Franklin stressed that increased depth has led to positive production, is among the defensive line. Franklin stressed that he's particularly impressed with the maturity of the front seven, including the physicality of the defensive line.
This week the whole defensive line earned the coaching staff's defensive player of the week honor. Against Iowa, the unit combined for three sacks and four tackles for loss, limiting Iowa to 30 yards on the ground.
Looking toward Indiana, Franklin pointed out that the Nittany Lions would have to focus on defending the Hoosiers' strong passing attack, with an emphasis on eliminating deep long yardage plays.
"You look at how they have been built over the last couple years and they are kind of different this year compared to the two previous years, and I think a lot of that has to do with the running game, the running backs that they have had, and also the new quarterback and what they have at the wide receiver position," Franklin said.
On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on the impact and role Paris Palmer has played on the team since he arrived at Penn State.
"He's just a neat guy. He's what college athletics are all about, guys from all different backgrounds coming and learning from each other and learning from Penn State and this community. I'm really proud of him and I'm obviously glad that he's playing well, as well."
- Trace McSorley on where he's seen the most growth in his ability to make split-second decisions as a quarterback.
"Our preparation has stepped up each and every week. What we did the week before isn't going to be good enough this next week. That's something we've really taken ahold of as an offensive unit and continued to progress on a lot, and I think that's a big part of being able to anticipate things and being more confident and seeing things better because we are preparing that much better during the week."
- James Franklin on how the locker room is set up to encourage the entire team to get to know each other on a more personal level outside of the traditional position groups or class standing.
"We break it up by position, wide receiver next to a DB next to a kicker next to a quarterback. The whole locker room is broken up like that, old guys, young guys and we change it every single year. People become very territorial of their little space in the locker room and we change it every year because we want to force guys to continue to get to know each other and grow."
- Marcus Allen on his thoughts about the College Football Playoff rankings."That's something special to us, but we're so focused on the next game that we don't really have our mind wrapped around it that much. This is more, I go on my phone and go look at film and look at Indiana and stuff. Like yesterday, that's all I was doing, looking at Indiana."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off of a 41-14 win against Iowa Saturday at Beaver Stadium, junior wide receiver Chris Godwin noted that the Nittany Lions have found a new level of confidence that's now translating on to the field.
An experienced veteran on the team, Godwin is a perfect example of the contagious confidence that's helping the Nittany Lions maintain offensive consistency.
Leading the team with 34 catches, Godwin's averaging 15.0 yards per catch with 509 yards and five touchdowns to date. Through the last five games, Godwin's totaled 278 yard on 15 catches, including three touchdown grabs.
"We've really grown a lot from the beginning of the season to now," Godwin said. "We're on a roll right now with our five-game winning streak but it doesn't stop here. We're hungry, we believe we left a good amount of points on the field today, so we're going to go back and fix those things.
Whether it's a short yardage situation or he's targeted down field, Godwin can come through in the clutch. In long plays Godwin's leading the team with eight pass plays of 20 or more yards, including his most recent 45-yard catch from McSorley against the Hawkeyes.
Five of Godwin's eight long yardage plays have been for at least 30 yards, highlighted by a 52-yard reception against Temple earlier this year.
Up in the Rankings
Penn State climbed to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll, while also rising nine spots to No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
When asked what it means to see the Nittany Lions on the move in the poll rankings, McSorley said this following the Iowa win.
"It's an awesome feeling, it's a reward for all of the hard work that gets put in during the offseason and during the summer and when you see things start to culminate during the year, it's a great feeling to know that the successes and the hard work is begin recognized. At the same time, we understand that as fast as we are able to climb the rankings, it could be taken away just as fast so we have to come to work every single day and prepare like we're not ranked anywhere in the Top 25."
Penn State was slotted No. 12 in last week's first release of the College Football Playoff Rankings. The second release of the College Football Playoff Selections Committee rankings is set for tomorrow at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Weekly Awards Recap
The weekly awards keep stacking up for the Nittany Lions. This week, true freshman Connor McGovern was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, becoming the first Nittany Lion to offensive lineman in Penn State history to win a weekly honor. He is also just the third offensive lineman in Big Ten history to claim conference weekly honors.
Following a pair of Big Ten weekly honors last week, the Nittany Lions have now had at least one Big Ten weekly honor in the last five consecutive weeks, which is a first for Penn State since joining the conference in 1993.
Saquon Barkley earned another weekly award, as he was named this week's Rose Bowl Game Big Ten Player of the Week. He's the third Nittany Lion to earn a weekly Rose Bowl Game honor and has picked up at least one weekly award in back-to-back weeks.
A Quick Look at Indiana
Penn State will hit the road for the next two weeks, beginning with a trip to Indiana Saturday at noon on ABC or ESPN2.
Penn State holds an 18-1 advantage in the all-time series against Indiana, with the lone loss in the series coming on the road in 2013. The Nittany Lions have since won each of the last two outings, on the road in 2014 (13-7) and most recently, at home in 2015 (29-7). Penn State's last four wins in Bloomington have been by six points or less.
The Hoosiers are 5-4 on the year and an even 3-3 in Big Ten play, having won back-to-back conference outings. Indiana topped Maryland, 42-36, before defeating Rutgers, 33-27, on the road last week. Quarterback Richard Lagow went 28-for-40 with 394 yards against the Scarlet Knights, adding three touchdowns.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football put on a show Saturday night, utilizing a balanced attack to take down a physical Iowa team in front of more than 106,000 fans at Beaver Stadium.
Scoring 41 points, the Nittany Lions racked up 599 yards of total offense, the most since logging 661 yards against Rutgers in 1995 and the highest total in a Big Ten outing since a 653-yard performance against Michigan State in 1994. It is also the third-highest total in a Big Ten game in program history.
The Nittany Lions have now won their last five games, in addition to moving to 6-0 at home in Beaver Stadium this year. During the five-game wining streak, Penn State is averaging 476.2 yards per game in the same span and has totaled at least 500 yards of total offensive yards on three occasions.
In last two games, Penn State has scored 103 points, marking the first time Penn State has combined for 100 points across two games since 2008.
Postgame, the Nittany Lions were quick to give credit to the offensive line, as head coach James Franklin noted all week that the improving offensive line needed to continue their rise, especially against a disruptive Iowa defense.
"We're really meshing," running back Saquon Barkley said. "As an offense as a whole, we're really meshing. It starts up front, and guys are doing a tremendous job of leading those guys and making the right calls to put us in position to be successful."
Along with the surging Penn State offense, here are a few more takeaways from Penn State's fifth straight victory.
Another Fast Start
Penn State made the most of its opening drive once again, as quarterback Trace McSorley found wide receiver Saeed Blacknall deep in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass to start the game. The Nittany Lions have now scored a touchdown on their opening drive in three of the last four games and in each of the last two outings. The last time that Penn State scored on its opening drive in back-to-back games was in 2012 at Virginia and vs. Navy.
"Scoring on the opening drive, that's something that we emphasized earlier in the year and we're starting to show improvement there," head coach James Franklin said.
Take a closer look at McSorley's first of two touchdown passes on the night.
Winning Battles in Explosive Plays
& Turnover Margin
The Nittany Lions checked both boxes following a week where Franklin noted that the ability to execute long yardage plays and win the turnover battle would only continue to lead to more success.
The Nittany Lions logged six plays of 20 yards or more against the Hawkeyes, limiting Iowa to just three. Barkley scored twice on a pair of long yardage plays, rushing for his longest career touchdown in Beaver Stadium with a 57-yard haul in the second quarter. He added a career-long 44-yard touchdown grab in the the fourth quarter following a Troy Apke interception.
Barkley was outstanding for the Nittany Lions in the win, totaling 211 all purpose yards, including 167 on the ground to eclipse the 2,000 career rushing yard mark with his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
Apke's interception marked the first of his career, as he picked off Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard before adding a 10-yard return.
Conversely, the Nittany Lions played their second consecutive turnover-free game. Penn State has committed just one offensive turnover in its last five games, while McSorley has played a perfect 20 consecutive quarters without an interception, in addition to an overtime period against Minnesota.
Halting the Hawkeye Run Game
When asked what he likes most about the defensive line earlier this week, linebacker Jason Cabinda said it was their pursuit. The Nittany Lions were certainly relentless in their pursuit Saturday, combining for three of Penn State's four sacks against Iowa and four of the six team tackles for loss.
Cabinda ignited an early spark for the Penn State defense, stopping Beathard and the Hawkeyes on fourth-and-1 on Iowa's first possession of the game.
The Penn State defense as an entire unit limited the Hawkeyes to just 30 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions have limited their opponent to less than 50 yards in each of the last two games, something Penn State has never done in a pair of consecutive conference outings since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Iowa entered the matchup Saturday averaging 167.9 rushing yards per game.
The Nittany Lions also held Iowa to 14 points, with the Hawkeyes entering the outing averaging 28.1 points per game on the year.
More from Cabinda below.
Improvements on Third Down
It's been a point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions all season, but Saturday Penn State finally saw some improvement in third down conversion, converting 7-of-14 attempts against Iowa.
Penn State also did not have a single three-and-out in the entire game, with McSorley able to bring up a new set of downs on five of the seven successful conversions, targeting wide receiver Chris Godwin twice for a pair of completions for at least 11 yards in a pair of third down situations.
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