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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. The Nittany Lions meet rival Ohio State under the lights in Beaver Stadium.



Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State
 



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2014 Gameday Preview - Nittany Lions Host Buckeyes

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Game Blog: Penn State vs. Ohio State

Game Notes | Gameday Central | Ohio State Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Pry Q&A | Player Q&A Video | White Out History

Penn State to Team with Best Man Tim Campaign

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-2) return home on Saturday for a primetime Penn State White Out contest against Ohio State (5-1, 2-0). Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. with television coverage on ABC.

10462710.jpegPenn State and Ohio State first met in 1912 and have met annually since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993. The two schools will continue to meet on a yearly basis as members of the East Division. The Buckeyes own a 16-13 edge in the all-time series.

The Lions return to action following their second and final bye week of 2014. Penn State's defense headlined the first six games of the season by playing at a consistently high level. The Lions are ranked among the top units in the country in three of the four major statistical categories. Penn State is No. 1 in rushing defense (60.8 ypg), No. 6 in scoring defense (15.2 ppg) and No. 6 in total defense (283.3 ypg). Penn State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in all three of those categories.

Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg continues to rank among the top signal callers in the Big Ten. He is leading the conference in passing with 272.8 passing yards per game. Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has opened his Nittany Lion career with a Big Ten best 7.2 receptions per game. Hamilton is averaging 93.3 yards per contest. The Lion freshman is just 131 yards shy of Deion Butler's freshman record of 691 yards (2005 season).

Ohio State improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten with a 56-17 win over Rutgers in Ohio Stadium last Saturday. The No. 12 Buckeyes rank second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally in scoring offense at 46.5 points per game and have topped the 50-point mark in four straight games entering this week's game. Ohio State also is second in the conference and ninth in the NCAA in total offense at 533.8 yards per game.

A team and fan favorite and one of the most iconic scenes in college football, the stage is set for the 2014 Penn State White Out. All fans are encouraged to sport white attire to ensure a Penn State White Out for the primetime clash. The official White Out T-shirt can be purchased at the Penn State Bookstore and the GoPSUsports.com online store. A Penn State Football Letterman's Club tunnel will take place when the team takes the field. At the end of the third quarter, the Penn State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes will present a check to the Uplifting Athletes Organization.

Additionally, Penn State and The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced on Thursday that they will jointly honor Shane Conlan with an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute, presented by Fidelity Investments, during Saturday's game. Among one of the all-time greats at "Linebacker U," Conlan starred from 1983-86. He will become the 23rd member of the Penn State football family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Get primed for the 30th meeting between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes. Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week seven matchup against Ohio State.

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Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10354231.jpeg1. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the Penn State defense look to make opponents one-dimensional on offense. In a way, the Nittany Lions strive to play complementary defense, using rushing defense to set up effective passing defense, blitzing opportunities and forcing turnovers. But that process begins with defending the run. Through six games, the Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (60.8 ypg). Opponents have tallied just 2.0 yards per rush on 182 attempts against the Lions this year. Penn State's stout play against the run has been a huge part of the unit's collective success. Penn State is ranked No. 6 in scoring defense (15.2 ppg) and total defense (283.3 ypg). Senior linebacker Mike Hull has been the catalyst on the defensive side of the ball. Hull is second in the Big Ten in tackles per game at 10.7.

2. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg enters the second half of the season as the Big Ten's leader in passing yards per game. A healthy passing game begins with an effective ground game. With the second bye week in the books, Penn State will remain committed to a balanced attack on the offensive side of the ball. Hackenberg talked earlier this week about how a strong outing from Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch can lead to opportunities down the field in the passing game. Wide receivers Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton head into the week averaging 16.0 and 13.0 yards per reception, respectively.

3. Head coach James Franklin has said it since spring practice that Sam Ficken has arguably been the most consistent player for the Nittany Lions. Ficken's senior season has gotten off to a strong start. Ranked sixth in the nation with 2.0 field goals per game, Ficken has connected on 12 of his 14 field goal attempts and all 13 of his extra point attempts. His two misses were both blocked at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Ficken has 15 touchbacks on 31 kickoffs this season. 

What to Watch For - Ohio State
10462681.jpeg1. The Ohio State offense enters the week having scored 50 or more points in four-straight games. Efficiency is a big reason for the offensive output from the Buckeyes. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is the conference's leader in total offense (333.0) and passing efficiency (182.1). The redshirt freshman has thrown for 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 2014. Barrett has led Ohio State on a touchdown drive during its first possession in each of the last four games.

2. Ohio State's defensive line headlines the Buckeye defense. Tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa are the two names to watch for when Ohio State's defense is on the field. Bennett is a disruptive player in the middle of the defensive line. A member of the watch lists for the Bednarik, Outland, Nagurski and Lombardi Award, Bennett has 12.0 career sacks. Bosa enters the game as the Big Ten's leader in tackles for loss (1.50 per game) and fumbles forced (0.50).

3. Head coach Urban Meyer has always placed a big emphasis on special teams play. The Buckeyes enter the weekend rated No. 1 in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage. Ohio State is also ranked in the third of the Big Ten in punting, kickoff returns and punt returns. Dontre Wilson is the lead returner for Ohio State. Wilson is averaging 9.7 yards per punt return and 22.7 yards per kickoff return.

The Final Word:
Saturday evening will mark Penn State's third and final primetime game of the 2014 season. The Nittany Lions play host to their seventh all-stadium Penn State White Out. The history of Penn State White Outs stretches back to the 2004 season when the first student section white out took place when the Nittany Lions hosted No. 9 Purdue on Oct. 9. Beaver Stadium hosted student white outs in 2005 (Ohio State) and 2006 (Michigan) before the first all-stadium Penn State White Out took place on Sept. 8, 2007 (Notre Dame). Since 2007, the Lions hosted full stadium Penn State White Out games against Illinois (2008), Iowa (2009), Alabama (2011), Ohio State (2012) and Michigan (2013). Kickoff is slated for 8:14 on Saturday night with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe on the ABC broadcast.


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Penn State White Out History in Beaver Stadium

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Always a fan favorite, Beaver Stadium will play host to a full stadium Penn State White Out on Saturday under the lights when the Nittany Lions collide with Ohio State (8 p.m. on ABC).

A tradition stretching back to a student section white out in 2004, the Penn State White Outs have created an unrivaled atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium. Saturday will mark the seventh time the Nittany Lions will host a full stadium Penn State White Out. Take a look through a photo history of the student and full stadium white outs since the idea began in 2004.


Purdue - Oct. 9, 2004 (student section)
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Ohio State - Oct. 8, 2005 (student section)
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Michigan - Oct. 14, 2006 (student section)
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Notre Dame - Sept. 8, 2007 (full stadium)
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Illinois - Sept. 27, 2008 (full stadium)
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Iowa - Sept. 26, 2009 (full stadium)
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Michigan - Oct. 30, 2010 (student section)
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Alabama - Sept. 10, 2011 (full stadium)
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Ohio State - Oct. 27, 2012 (full stadium)
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Michigan - Oct. 12, 2013 (full stadium)
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Ohio State Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Brent Pry

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10462247.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry spoke with the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions return to action on Saturday against Ohio State (8 p.m. on ABC). Take a look at a Q&A with Pry.

Q: What kind of challenges does the Ohio State offense present?
Pry:
"I think first of all, they have more team speed on offense than anyone we have seen up to this point. I would compare their team speed to what you would see at Vanderbilt out of some of the better teams in that league (SEC). At wide receiver, there is not just one or two, there are multiple guys that can run and that are dangerous after the catch. At running back, they are really quality backs that can run. They have great balance. They have great vision, particularly No. 15. And of course the quarterback is a heck of an athlete in his own right. He can throw the ball around, particularly in their system. And then he's had numerous plays, particularly in the last four weeks, where he has made scramble opportunities and turned them into big gainers. And then where he has run the ball within the running scheme, he is dangerous that way. And then they have two tight ends that are very good blockers and have a lot of range. They can cover ground and stretch the field. There is not a weak component to the guys they can get the ball to."

Q: How much more difficult is it to prepare when you are playing offense with so many components to it, like you talked about?
Pry:
"Sometimes you can isolate. When there are just one or two guys, you can bracket and hone in on one particular thing. These guys make you be very well rounded. You can't change your concentration. You have to be sound up front. You can't commit to the box too much or they will expose you on the perimeter. You can't be light in the box or they will run the football. Then the element of the quarterback running makes you guarded there. They do so much. They spread you out all over the field. They deliver the ball and get it around to all of their threats. Sometimes you can hone in on a guy or two, but these guys don't let you do that."

Q: Coach Franklin has talked about Nyeem Wartman. What is he doing well in your eyes right now?
Pry:
"Probably, there are two qualities of his that impress me the most right now. No. 1, he's got a lot of maturity. For being a redshirt sophomore, he is a mature kid. He's got a great mentality. He's got a great understanding of the position; a very good understanding of the defensive scheme. And then the second quality I'm impressed with is that he's got great knee bend and agility. For a big guy who is weighing around 240, his lateral movement is right up there in the neighborhood of Mike Hull's. He's just a really good athlete. He's physical. To be honest, there have been numerous opportunities for us to end up in the wrong thing or make the wrong call, and Nyeem sees something and makes it right. He's really a good complement to Mike Hull in the box to get us lined up the way we want to get lined up."

Q: Following up on that, how much do you think Nyeem has benefitted from playing next to Mike Hull?
Pry:
"There is no doubt. I think it is all of the guys, not just the linebackers but across the entire defense. He's one of those guys that practices the way you want a guy to practice. Nyeem certainly does that, as well. I think being a student of the game and mastering your position, I think he has learned that from Mike. I hope all of the guys are learning that you have to take to heart the techniques that are necessary for your spot, and then master those techniques. Nyeem is very vocal. He is a great communicator. He's got a lot of confidence. I thought up at Michigan, watching him play basically one-handed with that cast on, I was really impressed. He played physical. He made plays. He stuck his face in there."

Q: Can you talk about Brandon Bell and the progress he has made this year?
Pry:
"I think Brandon, he is a guy - honestly, I was excited about Nyeem and Mike coming out of camp - Brandon, I still had some question marks. We ask a lot out of that field backer. There is a certain skillset we like to see, and Brandon is a little different. He's almost geared towards the position Nyeem plays a little bit more. Brandon has done a tremendous job growing into that position. He has given us everything to his abilities that we need out there. We have the good fortune and subbing and getting into a sub group when we feel like there needs to be a little more speed or athleticism out at that spot. We can put a safety in the game. Brandon has just done a very, very good job of being a solid player at the field backer position. I'd like to see more production from Brandon. I'd like to Brandon be a little more explosive in our blitz package. There are some things where we are working towards for the second half of the season where we can get a little more production out of Brandon."

Q: When you look at this weekend, what type of an impact does a Penn State White Out have in terms of recruiting?
Pry:
"This is obviously a big recruiting weekend. Everybody as a prospect wants to come see Penn State-Ohio State, white out in a sold out stadium. That's obviously one of the great things about Penn State. When you walk into a high school and get into conversations with coaches and players that's one of the first things you talk about - Beaver Stadium and the white outs. A bunch of those guys that signed with us last February were at the Michigan game last year where it was a white out and Penn State victory in dramatic fashion. Those guys all talked about that during the recruiting process up to when we signed them. (Saying) that it was just a fantastic experience and that it was unrivaled - that there was no other gameday atmosphere that they had attended and made them as excited as Beaver Stadium did."


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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Ohio State 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 return to action on Saturday (8 p.m. on ABC) against Ohio State.






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2014 Opponent Previews - Ohio State

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10458955.jpegOhio State | Beaver Stadium | 8 p.m. | ABC

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions take on No. 12/13 Ohio State on Saturday in a primetime matchup.  Get to know the Buckeyes in this week's scouting report.

Urban Meyer, who is in his third year leading the Buckeyes, owns a 29-3 record at the school and a career mark of 133-26.  The scarlet and gray are coming off a 2013 campaign in which they went 12-2, including 8-0 in the Big Ten and played in the Orange Bowl.  The Buckeyes returned 38 letterman and 10 starters.

Ohio State improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten last weekend with a 56-17 victory against Rutgers.  The Buckeyes compiled 585 yards, including 324 on the ground.  Quarterback J.T. Barrett continued a strong year, completing 19-of-31 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.  The redshirt freshman added 107 yards and two scores rushing.  Six different Buckeyes got at least four carries, with Ezekiel Elliott leading the way with 69 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Curtis Samuel added 59 yards on four carries and Rod Smith scored on a 3-yard run.  Receiver Michael Thomas caught four passes for 55 yards, while fellow wideout Evan Spencer caught a touchdown pass.  Tight end Nick Vannett caught two touchdown passes, totaling 38 yards.

The Buckeye defense allowed 345 yards and forced three turnovers.  They also totaled nine tackles for loss and four sacks.  Cornerback Doran Grant and linebacker Joshua Perry tied for a team-leading seven tackles.  Grant added an interception.  Defensive end Joey Bosa made five stops, including two sacks.  Rashad Frazier and Damon Webb each forced a fumble, with Eli Apple returning a fumble four yards for a touchdown. 

Ohio State's offense ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 46.5 points per game and has scored at least 50 points in each of their last four games.  The Buckeyes lead the conference in total offense, averaging 533.8 yards per game.  They average 259.8 yards on the ground and 274 yards through the air, ranking fifth and third in the conference, respectively.

Replacing the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Braxton Miller, is not an easy task. But after Miller suffered a right shoulder injury during preseason practice, Barrett stepped up into the starting role and has not looked back.  Barrett leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency, passing touchdowns and total yards per game and ranks second in passing yards per game. The redshirt freshman has completed over 65 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.  He has also added 383 yards and four touchdowns rushing.  In his last four games, Barrett has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only one interception, with at least four touchdowns in each game.

Elliott leads a host of options at running back with 531 yards and four touchdowns on 91 carries, good for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.  Elliott is also very involved in the passing game, with 14 catches for 137 yards.  Samuel, a 5-foot-11 freshman, averages seven yards per carry with a total of 251 yards and two scores. The 6-foot-3, 231-pound senior Smith has added four touchdowns and101 yards on 24 carries and also has a receiving touchdown.

In the passing game, nine different players are averaging at least one catch per game.  Thomas, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, leads the group with 21 catches for 377 yards and five touchdowns.  He averages 18 yards per reception. Six-foot-one senior Devin Smith averages nearly 30 yards per catch, with a total of 355 yards and five scores on 12 catches.  Senior Evan Spencer has added 73 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. H-Back Dontre Wilson, a speedy player at 5-foot-10, has caught 14 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, while fellow H-Back Jalin Marshall, 5-foot-11, has nine catches for 97 yards and two scores.  Vannett leads the tight ends with 10 receptions for 120 yards and three touchdowns.

The Buckeye offensive line includes a senior, two juniors, a redshirt sophomore and a redshirt freshman.

Defensively, Ohio State allows 20.2 points per game, ranking fourth in the Big Ten. They also rank fifth in the conference in total defense, giving up 319.5 yards per contest.  The Buckeyes allow only 181.7 yards passing, ranking 2nd in the conference, and 137.8 yards rushing, ranking sixth.  Ohio State has forced 14 turnovers, including 10 interceptions, and rank third in the conference with a plus-five turnover margin. Eight different Buckeyes have at least one interception.

The Buckeyes boast one of the top defensive lines in the nation, led by sophomore Joey Bosa.  The 6-foot-5, 278-pound Bosa has a rare blend of power and quickness, as shown by his nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2014.  He leads the Big Ten, averaging 1.5 TFL per game, and has forced three fumbles.  Joining Bosa is 6-foot-2, 288-pound senior tackle Michael Bennett, who has three tackles for loss, a sack and has batted down two passes. Fellow tackle Adolphus Washington has recorded 14 stops, four for loss and a sack.

At the linebacker position, Perry leads the defense with 45 tackles, including 27 solo, and three for loss. He also has 0.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.  Senior Curtis Grant has 32 stops this year, with 13 solo, three for loss and a sack.  Freshman Darron Lee has recorded 27 tackles, including six for loss, two sacks and an interception.  Lee also returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown against Navy.

Senior Doran Grant leads the secondary. The cornerback has made 24 tackles this year (19 solo).  He also has two interceptions and four pass breakups.  On the other side of the field is freshman cornerback Eli Apple, who has two interceptions and three pass breakups.  Safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell have recorded 35 and 33 tackles, respectively, and each has an interception.

Kicker Sean Nuernberger has connected on six of his nine attempts, including a long of 46 yards.  Kyle Clinton handles the kickoff duties, averaging 62 yards per kick with 16 touchbacks.  Punter Cameron Johnston averages 44.2 yards per punt and has placed eight inside the 20-yard-line.  Dontre Wilson is responsible for kick and punt returns.  He averages 22.2 yards per kick return.


What Urban Meyer is saying about Penn State:

"Number one rush defense in the country. They are very well coached up front. They have good personnel up front."

"Obviously we have a lot of respect for that big quarterback, Hackenberg. Tremendous player. Statistically came out of the chute high with a high completion percentage."

"We did go on the road once (this year), but obviously 110,000 is different than 50,000 some. We were there (in 2012). I remember Shelley and I were both like, that's one of the top five atmospheres we ever played in. We can expect that same type of reception."


Contributions on all of the 2014 Opponent Previews provided by GoPSUsports.com Student Writer Paul Marboe.

VIDEO: Ohio State Week Player Q&A - Geno Lewis

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with wide receiver Geno Lewis to preview the Ohio State game.

Week Seven Press Conference Roundup - Ohio State Week

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cjf_OSU.jpgJames Franklin Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 21

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions play host to Ohio State on Saturday evening for a primetime kick against the Buckeyes (8 p.m. on ABC).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against Ohio State on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

On the heels of a second bye, Franklin is pleased with how the team improved on the off week. With the season moving into its ninth week overall, Franklin said that practices are beginning to be scaled back. But the team took full advantage of the extra time during the bye.

"Obviously, really excited for this week's game and this opponent coming off a bye week, which we got a lot of stuff done," Franklin said. "We were able to rest our players, we were able to work on technique and fundamentals and some scheme things that need to improve. We were able to get on the road recruiting. We were able to scrimmage the young guys. We were able to get a lot of work done, so really productive bye week."


Moving to Ohio State prep, Franklin noted the Buckeyes as the most athletic team the Nittany Lions have played this season to date. Ohio State enters the week on a four-game winning streak, which includes Big Ten victories over Maryland and Rutgers.

"Ohio State and Coach Urban Meyer, you look at their program and their team doing a tremendous job, probably the fastest, most athletic team and also tremendous size, probably the best combination that we've seen so far this year," Franklin said.


Two names that stand out among the talented Buckeyes are quarterback J.T. Barrett and defensive end Joey Bosa. Barrett has thrown 17 touchdowns and has just one interception during the last four games. He has been responsible for at least four touchdowns during each of the last four contests. Bosa is leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss (1.50 per game) and fumbles forced (0.50 per game).

"You talk about a guy who is 6-5, 280 pounds and really has some quickness and is sudden," Franklin said. "He's able to play with quickness and he's able to play with power, and a lot of times you can find guys that are extremely strong and powerful and explosive at the point of attack but maybe don't have the quickness as a pass rusher. He's got a rare combination that he can beat you with speed and quickness but he can also beat you with power."

With Saturday being the annual Penn State White Out game, Coach Franklin said on Tuesday that he is excited to see the crowd inside Beaver Stadium, and he is looking for the fans to provide a boost to the team.

"Obviously we would love to have a huge, home field advantage, which I anticipate us having," Franklin said. "107,000 Penn State fans wearing white, screaming and going crazy, making it really difficult for them to communicate."

In the 30th meeting between Penn State and Ohio State, Franklin said balance on the offensive side of the ball would be key for the Nittany Lions.

"Obviously balance on offense, we've been talking about that all year long," Franklin said. "The games that we have had some balance and have been able to establish somewhat of a running game we've been able to do some nice things. That's something we're not going to shy away from.  We're still committed to doing that."


Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Ohio State offense:
"I think the coaching staff does a great job of tailoring their scheme to the players. They're No. 1 in the Big Ten right now in yards per game. They're averaging 46 points per game. Third down percentage, they're doing a great job at 49 percent, which is ninth in the nation. They run a spread offense, run a spread offense, have a lot of speed, a lot of athleticism, like us they're young on the offensive line coming into the season, one of those players most of their guys have been in the program for a long time with that scheme and with that system and have stepped in nicely for them."


- Franklin on the Ohio State defense:
"They're a 4‑3 defense, they're going to press you on the outside and challenge your receivers. They're typically a quarters team, what we call 'full press', creative in their third down package. They're excellent up front. I would say across the board they run extremely well, offense, defense, and special teams."

- Franklin on the Ohio State special teams:

"
Kerry Coombs, who I think does a really good job coaching their corners as well, they've done some really, really nice things, I know Urban is really involved on special teams as well, they're leading the Big Ten in kickoff coverage, you look at their special teams, they run extremely well, they're long and rangy, they do a good job of being physical in their return units and Dontre Wilson is a guy we're going to have to be aware of as a kick returner."


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Monday Notebook: Lions Hosting Penn State White Out

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10453730.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Always a favorite of the fans and players, the Nittany Lions will host a Penn State White Out on Saturday when they welcome border rival Ohio State to Beaver Stadium for an 8 p.m. kick on ABC.

After practicing three times during the bye week, the team opened Ohio State week preparations on Sunday afternoon. The team's off day is Monday. Practice will resume on Tuesday as the Nittany Lions prepare for the seventh game on the 2014 schedule.

Beaver Stadium will be a sea of white on Saturday evening as all fans are encouraged to wear white under the lights. The history of the Penn State White Out in Beaver Stadium stretches back to the 2004 season. The first organized student white out took place during the Purdue game on Oct. 9. The first full stadium Penn State Whiteout was on Sept. 8, 2007 against Notre Dame.

Penn State and Ohio State have met during organized Penn State White Outs in 2005 (student white out) and 2012 (all stadium). Saturday's game will mark the seventh full stadium Penn State White Out in Beaver Stadium's history. The full list includes the following games: 2007 vs. Notre Dame, 2008 vs. Illinois, 2009 vs. Iowa, 2011 vs. Alabama, 2012 vs. Ohio State, 2013 vs. Michigan.

On the field, the Nittany Lions enter Saturday's game with a defense ranked among the top units in the country in three of the four major statistical categories. Penn State is No. 1 in rushing defense (60.8 ypg), No. 6 in scoring defense (15.2 ppg) and No. 6 in total defense (283.3 ypg). Penn State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in all three of those categories.

Saturday marks the 30th meeting between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes. Ohio State holds a 16-13 edge in the all-time series between the two programs.


Lions in the Stat Rankings
Several Nittany Lions remain 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 leading the Big Ten in passing yards per game at 272.8 yards per game. He ranks third in the Big Ten in passing yards at 1,637. He is second in the conference in completions per game at 22.33.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 14th nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receptions per game (7.2). He ranks 21st in the nation and second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 93.5.

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 85.3 receiving yards per game and 5.3 receptions per game.

LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten and is ninth in the nation in solo tackles per game at 6.7. He is second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in total tackles at 10.7 per contest.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is sixth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00.

Early Look at the Buckeyes
The Buckeyes enter the week on a four-game winning streak after cruising past Rutgers at home on Saturday. Since dropping a 35-21 decision to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6, the Buckeyes have been red-hot on the offensive side of the ball. During the four-game winning streak, Ohio State has averaged 56.0 ppg.

The winning streak includes a 2-0 start in Big Ten play following a win at Maryland (52-24) and Saturday's triumph over the Scarlet Knights (56-17). The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in total offense at 533.8 yards per game. The unit is second in scoring at 46.5 points per game.

Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett leads the conference in total offense (333.0 ypg) and pass efficiency (182.1). Barrett has thrown for 1,615 yards and 20 touchdowns. Additionally, he has rushed for 383 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, Ohio State is ranked fifth in the Big Ten, allowing 319.5 yards per game. The Buckeyes are ranked second in the conference against the pass (181.7 ypg) and sixth against the run (137.8). Linebacker Joshua Perry leads the Ohio State defense in tackling with 45 stops on the season.


Saturday marks Ohio State's second true road game of 2014.



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Hull Right at Home Making Plays at Middle Linebacker

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10442216.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When you think of Penn State Football's core value pertaining to unrivaled work ethic, you should visualize Mike Hull.

The senior captain knows one speed when he is working out, practicing and playing in games.

A fierce competitor, Hull is the benchmark for leaving everything on the field for the Nittany Lion defense. While his actions speak louder than words, Hull's production through the first six games of 2014 speaks loudest of all.

Simply put, the middle linebacker has been tremendous during the first half of the season for the Nittany Lions. Averaging 10.7 tackles per game, Hull has been instrumental on a Penn State defense that is ranked in the top 10 nationally and leads the Big Ten in three of the four major statistical categories.

"He's probably the most productive MIKE linebacker that we've been around," head coach James Franklin said. "He's quick; he's strong; he's smart; he's unbelievably passionate about this team. He goes to work like that every single day. He's been a pleasure to work with."

"Anybody that knows anything about college football should watch (him)," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. "(He) has played as good at middle linebacker as anyone in the country."

Hull moved to middle linebacker prior to this season after playing at one of the outside linebacker positions since he stepped on campus in 2010. He has embraced the move to the middle, and he feels right at home in a comfortable spot.

"Honestly, I've played middle linebacker my entire life," said Hull. "My dad taught me the right way since I was little on how to read linemen and how to read pullers, and things like that. I developed a knack for that in middle school. Moving back to the middle this year really lets me take advantage of those instincts I have learned over the years."

What separates Hull from most players on the field is his instinctual football IQ. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time to make a play. Hull thinks a big piece of his play-making ability comes from Coach Shoop's scheme that allows the defense to play with instincts instead of thinking too much on the field.

"Coach Shoop and Coach Pry do a great job with us at the walkthroughs every single day at practice," Hull said. "The other thing is communication. You need to do a great job communicating during every period at practice. Off the field, I make sure that I have all of my assignments down so that I don't have to think when I'm out there."

Hull's 10.7 tackles per game put him in elite company. Only four Penn State players have averaged 10.7 or more tackles for a complete season since 1970 (Greg Buttle 1975, '76; Andre Collins '89; Shawn Mayer 2002; Dan Connor '07). Granted, there are six more games to play, but thus far, the results speak for themselves.

"When you are out there just reacting to things and not thinking about playing, it makes it easier to make plays and work at full speed," Hull said.

Hull is the quarterback of the Nittany Lion defense. Shoop often says that Hull is knowledgeable enough to call a game from the field in an emergency situation.

"He has an understanding of the defense as well as any player I have ever coached," Shoop said. "He's very confident out there. He knows the gameplan inside and out, which enables him to play fast."

There is an open dialogue between Hull and the veteran defensive players with Shoop. They bounce ideas off one another to cater the defensive scheme to best fit the strengths of the players on the field.

"When we are able to talk with Coach Shoop on the same level and let him know what we like and what he likes, it makes the whole thing run a lot more smoothly out there," Hull said. "I really think he gives us the freedom to make calls that other defensive coordinators across the country don't."

The aggressive nature of the Nittany Lion defense fits Hull's style to a tee.

"I really like how we are an attacking defense and how we get down hill on every play," Hull said. "Coach Shoop gives us the freedom to change the calls a little bit depending on the formation. We have a little more freedom to be in a position to make plays."

A Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, native, Hull looked up to Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee growing up in Western Pennsylvania. All three hail from the Pittsburgh area, and Hull shares some of the fundamentally-sound traits and tenacity of Posluszny and Lee.

"I followed them closely and watched how they played the game with such intensity and passion. I just tried to emulate those guys growing up," Hull said.

Like the rest of the senior class, Hull has seen just about everything during his college career at Penn State. This season is special to No. 43, though. Hull wanted to leave his mark on the linebacker position and Penn State defense in 2014. Through six games, there is no doubt that Hull is a man on a mission.

"This is something I wanted to make sure happened for my senior year because Penn State is such a special place with a strong tradition of great defenses," Hull said. "At the mid-way point, we have a lot to work on, but I'm happy with the way the defense has performed so far."


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