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Penn State Football THON Explorers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A highly anticipated of the year for Penn State Football, the Nittany Lions welcomed nearly 50 THON families for a fun-filled afternoon at the Lasch Building.

Together, the Penn State football staff transformed the home of the Nittany Lions into a Candy Land themed event decked out with exciting games and even an ice cream bar at the fueling station.
Several members of the team lined the meeting room hallway welcoming each of the families with high fives and hugs. After gathering in the squad room, linebacker Jason Cabinda introduced the team and paired the Nittany Lions with each family before sending everyone out to explore.

THON families were treated to a limbo contest and miniature golf just to name a few, as they toured through the building taking time for a sneak peek at the Penn State locker room.

"Walking into the weight room and the locker room and seeing the jaw drops, seeing the big smiles running around, it's awesome," Ryan Bates said.

The tour eventually spilled out into the practice field where the team joined families and children on a perfect day outside in Happy Valley.

"Coach Franklin does a really good job putting us in positions to give back so we really appreciate the time that we have with these families," Mark Allen said.

Check out a few more photos from the THON Explorers event.

THON: Lip Sync Battle Featuring Special Guest

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Quarterback Trace McSorley and linebacker Jason Cabinda took to the stage at THON for a lip sync battle around 8 p.m. Friday night with a few THON family members. Prior to the Nittany Lion football team's performance, the Lionettes debuted a lip sync dance to open competition. IMG_3534.JPG

The lip sync battle quickly turned to from competition to fun as DNCE, led by lead singer Joe Jonas surprised the crowd with an upbeat an energetic performance. Check out some highlights from the event below.

THON Features: Shuman Set to Dance for a Cure

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By Arielle Sargent,

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ever since high school, Penn State's Charlie Shuman knew he would eventually dance at THON. Come Friday, he will join three other Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) representatives on floor at the Bryce Jordan Center for a 46-hour challenge unlike any other. 

As a football's SAAB representative, Shuman saw an email from head chair Angela Widlacki (women's soccer) in the fall asking if anyone had interest in dancing in THON 2017.  All he needed to do was reply and Widlacki would respond with instructions for interested candidates. 

"There were five of us in total who emailed in that we wanted to dance," Shuman said. "The thing with our organization is, since we're so busy as athletes, the big thing is that the top four people who raise the most amount of money will pretty much be selected." 

With a minimum fundraising goal set at $2,800, Shuman got work. He participated in the 100 Days 'til THON merchandise sale as well as a few other events that he could credit toward his total, even reaching out to family members and friends, all for the cause. In his hometown of Pittsford, New York, he set up donation boxes in each of the 22 physical therapy clinics owned by his parents. 

When the time came to submit numbers, Shuman's donations boxes totaled around $1,000, with his initial fundraising total coming in at about $3,500. He made it.


"It all added up," Shuman said.

As registration deadlines for dancers drew closer, Widlacki gathered the group of four SAAB dancer candidates who met the fundraising goal for a meeting at 9 p.m. in East Area Locker Room.

"She sat us down and said, 'I already talked to Megan [Schafer] earlier and you guys are all so close with your money that you're going to have to write an essay,'" Shuman said.

Immediately disappointed, Shuman and the other three dancers slowly opened their laptops to get busy on the essay before Widlacki quickly exclaimed she was just kidding, they were all selected as dancers for THON 2017.

This weekend won't be Shuman's first trip to THON though, an energetic event widely regarded as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

His freshman year he went for two hours and stayed in the stands at the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year that changed.

"Last year, my friend actually danced so I went down and saw her on the floor," Shuman said. "The floor is completely different from just sitting in the stands. I waited for like 13 hours just to get down on the floor."

Overcome with the electric energy on the floor, the experience only furthered his decision this fall. 

It wasn't exactly THON as an entire event that sparked his initial interest though, as his passion for helping families in need goes back to high school.

Shuman started "Big Helping Little" with the support of his family in high school as a project to organize fundraising efforts to benefit a local family from his hometown with a daughter suffering from a rare genetic mutation. 

It's his roots in the success of the project that give him something to look forward to the most. 

"Dealing with that and seeing how everything effected the family I helped initially, and now being able to dance and see all of the families down there dancing, interacting and taking themselves out of what they struggle with every single day is awesome," Shuman said.

Along with three other SAAB representatives and a host of morale captains and other THON volunteers surrounding him, Shuman's family will also be up for the entire weekend to show their support. 

"They are my two dancer support tickets so I'm guaranteed to see them at least twice during the weekend," Shuman said. "I don't know how long or when because they aren't supposed to tell us the time." 

With winter workouts underway, juggling everything from classes and lift sessions can present a bit of a challenge, but Shuman's not backing down from his usual schedule. 

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Come Thursday, Shuman will lift with the team as usual following a morning workout and then take only Friday off before THON begins. He'll be back at it by Monday.

With just a few days remaining, all that's left to do now is pack.

"They have a bunch of lockers in one room for us to put our stuff into, but it's really small. I think they are three feet by one foot," Shuman said.

As a six-foot-eight offensive lineman, that could make things a little interesting for Shuman when it comes to packing.

On the list so far, he has three pairs of shoes, flip flops, recovery pants and a Go Pro camera. 

"I'm still trying to figure it out, especially all of the little things," Shuman said with a laugh.

 A typical THON packing list suggests dancers bring a few extra shirts. 

"Obviously it's going to be hot and I'm not a small person," Shuman said. "I'm going to pack like eight shirts. They say like two or three, but that is not going to get me through the week." 

Shuman and the rest of the SAAB representatives take floor at the Bryce Jordan Center to begin their dance for the cure at 6 p.m. Friday. 

Looking Back at Penn State Football Signing Day

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Penn State Football National Signing Day
-      Visual Recap: Looking back at the newest Nittany Lions during their official visit weekends

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - National signing day for Penn State Football is day of growth and this year was no different as the Nittany Lions looked toward the future to welcome its newest members of the family.

"Today is a day to celebrate all the hard work that the coaches, the families have put in, the players have put in," head coach James Franklin said. "It's a special day for these young people. Made probably the most important decision of their life up to this point."

Franklin arrived at 5 a.m., before the celebration officially started to pick up with the entire Penn State football staff, a group of cheerleaders and special guests filling the Lasch Football Building shortly after 6:30 a.m. The office fax machine, tucked away behind the action though, and perhaps the most important item of the day, was up and running bright and early too. 

Penn State's first signee came through before verification at 7:30 a.m., as quarterback Sean Clifford (Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Xavier) was the first member to officially join the family. Signing day emcee Jevin Stone (Penn State Football video coordinator) opened the ceremony, before Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour announced Clifford's signing and placed his signing day magnet on the signature "big board."

Less than 10 minutes later, offensive lineman C.J. Thorpe (Glenshaw, Pa., Central Catholic), was the second Nittany Lion to make it official, with the packed room once again erupting in cheers and excitement.


Special guests including Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State University President Dr. Eric Barron, Penn State Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten, as well as proud Nittany Lion alums like Matt McGloin and representatives from the Penn State Blue Band and Nittanyville all joined in on the announcement process presenting picks, along with others too.

National letters of intent (NLI) continued to pour in as Penn State verified a total of 16 letters of intent in the early part of the morning. Tariq Castro-Fields (Upper Marlboro, Md., Riverdale Baptist) was the final member of the class to sign on signing day with his letter of intent approved just after 4 p.m.

Penn State officially welcomed 17 in its 2017 signing day class, while also including the same unique announcements for four early enrollees who already arrived on campus at the start of the spring semester.

The 16 individual announcements featured a special FaceTime session with signees, family members and different staff members, all projected on several televisions hung from walls in the specially fashioned "war room."

The 2017 class features 14 signees tabbed as either a four or five-star recruit by at least of of the major four recruiting sites. Among the group, defensive back and early enrollee Lamont Wade (Clairton, Pa., Clairton) is a five-star prospect. Wade, Pennsylvania's top-ranked recruit, marks the second consecutive season Penn State has signed the top prospect in the state since signing Miles Sanders a year ago. It also marks the first time since 2005 that Penn State has signed the No. 1 recruit in Pennsylvania in back-to-back classes. [MORE]. 

By position, the 2017 class features 12 Nittany Lions from the defensive side of the ball and nine from the offensive side. Looking closer, the class breaks into five defensive backs, four defensive linemen, three linebackers, four offensive linemen, three wide receivers, one quarterback and one running back.

In the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work, Penn State's 2017 signing day class was tabbed third in Big Ten, by all three major recruiting outlets heading into the end of the day. 

For Franklin though, the group represents the culmination off a full-staff effort with the result yielding just the right mix of Nittany Lions who will blend perfectly into the already outstanding culture that is Penn State Football.

"The type of football players is important," Franklin said. "Obviously that's where it starts. But the type of students they are, the type of people they are, the type of communities they come from, the families they come from, then ultimately the fit. We've got a great locker room right now. Our chemistry and our culture is really good. We want to bring people that are going to come in and they're going to complement that, they're going to build on that."

A Bit About the DBs
The framework of Penn State's recruiting class features five defensive backs, all from five different states (and one country too), who bring a mix of speed and athleticism among a host of other unique qualities.

Among the group, Smith noted that five-star Lamont Wade, was someone who he had been recruiting for four years, even before arriving at Penn State.


"Lamont will have the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball," Smith said. "I think the focal point through spring is to make sure he learns and understands defensive back because that's going to be his focal point. Once he learns that then obviously we want to try and get him into the return game and try and get him some spot touches on offense." 

Looking at the entire group though, Smith noted that there's already a solid group of veterans for the newcomers to rely on, who will all be imperative pieces when it comes to mentoring with leadership and veteran experience.

"I think when you look at the entire group of DBs, I think they all have an opportunity to come in and make an impact," Smith said. "You just never know which one will grasp it."

The Offensive Line
Franklin was particularly fired up about the offensive line, noting that for the first time, the unit could potentially become a strength for the Nittany Lions, especially building off of improvements from this year.

Penn State signed four offensive linemen in the 2017 class, all from either Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, as well as an average of less than 200 miles from the University Park area.

Among the group, Franklin noted that early enrollee Mike Miranda (Stow, Ohio, Stow-Munroe) has the ability to fill interior roles at center or guard. Along with Miranda, C.J. Thorpe, whose father played at Penn State from 1985-88 as both a linebacker and a halfback, also brings a level of pure toughness in his total approach.

Franklin also highlighted that Robbie Martin (Sparta, N.J., St. Joseph Regional) could offer the Nittany Lions options at a variety of positions, while Des Holmes (West Norriton, Pa., Cardinal O'Hara) brings tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. 

As mentioned with Miranda and Thorpe, the common theme between the four though, is a unique level of toughness, or a true "nasty demeanor" on the field, a trait that Franklin expressed as coveted among coaches but difficult to find. 

"If you look really at this entire offensive line recruiting class, they all show that," Franklin said. 

On The Media Circuit
Franklin also took to a busy media circuit schedule on signing day to discuss the success of the class and the day's festivities.

Among a wealth of live interviews and appearances, Franklin joined Shae Peppler from Campus Insiders to highlight the class.


Franklin also called into FOX Sports' The Audible, a podcast hosted by Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel. Skip to the 11:30 mark in the episode for Franklin's remarks on the class.


Franklin also video conferenced in with Nick Kostos, Barton Simmons and Brady Quinn from FOX Sports to talk signing day and the newest members of the Nittany Lion football family.

Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda also joined the annual signing day live stream as a guest co-host. To replay the live show featuring special guest appearances from coaches Terry Smith, Josh Gattis and James Franklin, athletic director Sandy Barbour and Nittany Lions KJ Hamler, Mike Gesicki and Marcus Allen in addition to a few recruiting experts. Replay the show below.

Year-End Press Conference Notebook

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Transcript: James Franklin

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of a busy recruiting weekend on campus, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media Saturday morning for a year-end press conference. 

Franklin spent time reflecting on the historic season which featured a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance, among an abundance of highlights. 

Among all the highlights though, Franklin was pleased with the poise and maturity the Nittany Lions demonstrated throughout the season, continuing to remain focused even in the face of both adversity and success. 

"I think our guys really handled a lot of things well," Franklin said. "I think the way the season ended, I think the Rose Bowl, how our guys handled themselves academically, how our guys handled themselves socially - you know, right now I think we're in a position that we're going to be able to retain most if not all of the staff, which is great."

With signing day less than 10 days away, Franklin did speak to the decision of a few of the newest Nittany Lions who have already arrived in Happy Valley.

Penn State welcomed four early enrollees including, hybrid linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden, defensive back Lamont Wade, offensive lineman Mike Miranda and wide receiver KJ Hamler at the start of the spring semester.

Although Franklin hasn't been able to spend a ton of time with the newcomers due to a packed recruiting schedule, all four are well underway taking classes and also getting into the weight room for a jump on winter workouts. 

"I'm going to have a meeting with all four of those guys today and just sit down and just make sure they are doing well and they're adjusting well, but the feedback I get from Todd Kulka, our academic advisor, they seem to be doing really well," Franklin said. "The feedback that I get from Dwight Galt, the strength staff, they seem to be doing well. Tim Bream and his staff, Will Flaherty, who runs our player development, is very hands-on with our guys in the adjustment process, they seem to be doing well." 

As Franklin and the staff have stressed throughout the season, the decision to enroll early certainly offers tremendous value, providing student-athletes with an edge in all different phases, getting a head start on transitioning from high school to collegiate life as  opposed to arriving for camp. 

"If you're just showing up on campus for the first time, it takes a pretty special guy to say you're going to play as a true freshman or earn a starting job when you've only been on campus for four to six weeks and you're competing with guys who have been on campus four, three, two years. I think it helps, but it's not for everybody," Franklin said.

As noted though, Franklin stressed that he and his staff never try to convince student-athletes that enrolling early is the way to go. Rather it's more of a case-by-case basis, taking into account the student-athletes' total readiness, from a social, academic and athletic standpoint.

"We don't ever try to talk guys into doing it because I also think there's value in saying I'm going to go to my prom; I am going to play my senior year of basketball," Franklin said. "There's value in that, as well, being with my buddies for six more months and kind of going through that process, being able to go away for vacation with my mom and dad after I graduate for a week, those types of things." 


On The Quote Board -
- While proud of the way his Nittany Lions handled their business this year, Franklin noted that there's only really one happy team at the end of the year.

"We have things that we should be very proud of, and our guys, they should be confidence-building experiences, but we also have things that I think should be motivating, that, again, the way I look at it, there's one happy team at the end of the year, and that's Clemson and my boy, Dabo [Swinney]. Everybody else is salty and angry and ready to get back to work again." 

- Among those Nittany Lions who are ready to get back to work again, is quarterback Trace McSorley, who Franklin praised for being totally aware of his strengths and weaknesses, with great intent on utilizing the offseason to study the year.

"What we're going to do between now and next year is how can we take the amount of times that he maybe made decisions that he would prefer to make differently in the future and how can we limit them," Franklin said. "Say 12 percent of the time last year he made decisions that he would have, now looking back at it, made differently; how can we take that and reduce it to maybe 8 percent or 6 percent next year, and kind of keep heading in that direction."

- Franklin stressed that under his guidance, the Penn State Football program is simply not in the mindset of building a team that's meant to be a feeder system for the NFL.

"And for us, what we're trying to do is we're trying to recruit guys that we think are great fits to this community, that are great fits academically, that are going to be really, really good college players, that will leave here with degrees, and then hopefully can continue playing the game of football as long as they possibly can in the NFL, but it's really in that order."

A Look Back at the 103rd Rose Bowl

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football has arrived back home in Happy Valley following a unique and exciting trip to Pasadena, California for the 103rd Rose Bowl Game, presented by Northwestern Mutual. In the highest scoring Rose Bowl game ever played, the 2016 season came to a close for the Nittany Lions in close, but heartbreaking loss to USC. 

From East Coast to West Coast the Nittany Lions were treated to a first-class experience from top to bottom throughout the entire trip. With media opportunities mixed in with Penn State tradition, Penn State also got to have a little fun with a trip to Disneyland. Take a look through the entire trip. 


The Story Behind Penn State's Rose Bowl Journey

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By Arielle Sargent, 

PASADENA, Calif. - It was a record setting day for the Nittany Lions in the 103rd Rose Bowl, which by any means might signal a triumphant victory. Rather, the year came to a close in a heartbreaking end to a thrilling season that not many could have seemingly predicated. 

Among all the records and even the final result on one of college football's grandest stages though, it's ultimately the journey and the story of a commitment to the process and perseverance that will live on long after the trip back to Happy Valley.

 "There's obviously a lot of raw emotion right now, there is a lot of hurt going on, and that's natural," Penn State head coach James Franklin said following the 52-49 loss to USC. "But these guys should have their chin held high, their chest out, because what we've been able to accomplish this year from the beginning to the end is really the story."

The real story starts with a group of seniors, some of them in their fifth year at Penn State, who all made their collegiate commitment at a time when Penn State was dealing with some of its most tumulus years in program history.

Unwavering in their commitment, the small, yet impactful group built the foundation for a tremendous season which featured eye-opening upsets, dramatic comebacks and winning streaks, culminating in a Big Ten Championship title. Like any season season, there were of course tough losses and costly injuries at times along the way, nothing the Nittany Lions took time to dwell on though. 

"The thing I'm probably emotional about more than anything is this is the last time that this 2017 football team will be together," Franklin said, surrounded by running back Saquon Barkley and safety Malik Golden at the postgame press conference, just outside the Rose Bowl stadium.

For both Franklin and Barkley and even among those in locker room, losing a class as special as the one in 2016, is what hurts the most, as the reality of Penn State's first loss since September 24th begins to set in.

"Because Malik and his other seniors have been through so much in this program, and me specifically, and Penn State, will be indebted to you for a very long time," Franklin said.  "So, thank you, Malik." 

The 103rd Rose Bowl had it all, from a 13-point Penn State deficit in the first quarter, to the Nittany Lions' triumphant third quarter, which featured touchdowns on four straight offensive snaps.

Reeling from the sluggish start, Penn State rose to the occasion, as the Nittany Lion offensive line paved a perfect path for Barkley to shoot right through the middle for a 24-yard touchdown run. Although USC answered back, with each Trojan score, Penn State continued to draw up a response, arriving just a touchdown shy of tying the score off of an 11-yard Mike Gesicki touchdown grab, before a missed USC field goal sent both teams to the locker room for halftime. 

"Yeah, we hate first halves," Franklin said. "We hate them. We said we were going to use the second half game plan in the first half. I really didn't feel like it was our normal problem in first halves, we just turned the ball over."

Penn State came alive in the third quarter, forcing the Trojans to a three-and-out to open the frame before Barkley was back at it again, leaving fans speechless with an incredible 79-yard touchdown run filled with dramatic cuts to give the Nittany Lions the lead, 28-27.

"The O-line blocked it perfectly and got me one-on-one with a guy and I was able to make him miss," Barkley said. "I was just satisfied to get in the end zone, because I feel like we started to turn it over early in that game." 

The sparks continued to fly as a diving Godwin grabbed a 72-yard pass from quarterback Trace McSorley from a bobbling pass on the next Penn State offensive snap. 

Next up it was senior Brandon Bell, who just a few days ago noted that in his final senior season, the legacy he'd like to leave behind is one based on the fact that the circumstances never mattered when his came to an unwavering commitment to Penn State. 

Plucking a tip from Christian Campbell, Bell took off with the interception for a 24-yard return, setting up McSorley for the 3-yard touchdown - a run that took a mere five seconds to set a Rose Bowl record. 

Penn State and USC would trade touchdowns again in the third quarter before the Nittany Lion momentum came to a screeching halt in the fourth quarter.

After a Rose Bowl record 28 points in the third quarter, the Trojan's answered with back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter. A late Penn State turnover saw USC follow with a deciding 46-yard field goal in the last second to win the game.

As red and green confetti sprayed into the stands, the Nittany Lions stood motionless for just a moment before heading into the locker room for the final time this season.

Finishing with a single-game Penn State bowl record nine catches and 187 yards, Godwin's 72-yard touchdown catch from McSorley marks the third-highest scoring pass in Rose Bowl history.

"Obviously its nice to have the idea that I had a pretty decent game but at the end of the day all I'm really worried about is the team success," Godwin said. "I just feel so bad for not only these seniors but for the rest of the guys because we put so much into this, it's been a great season and a great ride and I'm just disappointed I couldn't make the play when it counted for my team." 

The feeling was mutual for Barkley, who finished with 306 all-purpose yards (194 rushing, 55 receiving, 57 kick return), as his 79-yard rushing touchdown ranks as the seventh-longest in Rose Bowl history and the second-longest scoring run in program history.

As Franklin noted in his postgame press conference though, it's not that statistics that matter. 

Rather, it's the foundation built by a group of young men who refused to let adversity and uncertainty define their journey.

Just like Bell, for Golden, it's the intangibles of his commitment that he'd like to be remembered for after a season featuring Penn State's first Rose Bowl appearance since the 2008 season. 

"I probably won't go down as the best Penn State player and I've come to terms with that, but as long as I will go down as one of the most loyal players, I'll be fine with that. Me and the group of guys who came here in 2012 and stayed here through it all."

 With every ending, there's always room for a new beginning though. As heartbreaking as the near-comeback is to stomach for the Nittany Lions as they board the plane back to Happy Valley Tuesday morning, the future is bright for Penn State Football and its returning group. For McSorley, coupled with the lasting legacy of a unique senior class, the sting of a Rose Bowl loss will only serve as motivation moving forward.

"We have to get this feeling and use this pit this pit you have in your stomach, this emotion, this pain, and use that in your motivation when you get into next year into winter workouts, when we get into spring ball, knowing how this feels at this point and never wanting to get back to this feeling again." McSorley said.

VIDEO: Rose Bowl Postgame - James Franklin

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PASADENA, Calif. - Penn State Football fell short in a heartbreaking 52-49 loss to USC in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever played Monday evening. Following the tough loss, Penn State head coach James Franklin took questions at the postgame press conference will the entire team was available for interviews in the locker room. 

Catch Franklin at the postgame press conference below. 

VIDEO: Rose Bowl Postgame - Players

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PASADENA, Calif. - Penn State Football fell short in a heartbreaking 52-49 loss to USC in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever played Monday evening. Following the tough loss, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Malik Golden took questions at the postgame press conference will the entire team was available for interviews in the locker room. 

Check in with Golden and Barkley at the postgame press conference.

Hear from Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, wide receiver Chris Godwin and Golden in a few one-on-one locker room interviews.

Gameday Live - No. 5 Penn State vs. No. 9 USC (Rose Bowl)

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LOS ANGELES - The 103rd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual has nearly arrived, as Penn State Football is set for its 47th bowl game appearance in program history, squaring off against USC in "The Granddaddy of Them All."

Follow along with our live blog for exclusive content and in-game updates all day long. 

Live Blog No. 5 Penn State vs. No. 9 USC (Rose Bowl)


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