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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Penn State has showcased some serious depth at the wide receiver position
this season, with five different receivers combining for 10-of-14 long yardage
pass plays on the year.
Last week, it was junior Chris Godwin's turn as he stepped up to lead the Nittany Lions with seven catches for 117 yards, notching his seventh career 100-yard receiving game.
Godwin highlighted the Temple game with a 52-yard grab in the first quarter to put Penn State on the board early, finishing with three of his seven receptions for at least 16 yards. His seven catches also moved him to 10th all-time on the Penn State career receptions list (112).
Godwin enters the week leading the team with 73.3 yards receiving per game, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten standings. Averaging 6.0 receptions on the year, he's also ranked second in the conference and 30th nationally among DI FBS programs.
Heading into the 2016 campaign, expectations were high for the 1,000-yard receiver, who was named to both the Maxwell Award and Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch Lists prior to the start of the season.
Godwin had been relatively quiet in the first two games totaling 11 catches for 113 yards. Despite opening the year with a 26-yard reception in the first quarter against Kent State to put the Nittany Lions in position for their first touchdown of the year, Godwin is simply among a deep group of talented options.
Last week, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis acknowledged that dealing with six or seven offensive possibilities has meant that he's asked the team to be unselfish in how they approach a newly installed offensive scheme.
A selfless mentality just makes it all the more exciting when No. 12 is called though.
"Anytime you can get in the end zone is a blessing," Godwin said following his team-high performance against Temple. "Just the fact that it was my time was a great feeling. With the offense that we have, anyone can score at any given moment. It's just a matter of being patient, working on technique and waiting for your turn."
Head coach James Franklin noted that he was pleased to see different faces making contributions last week. With injuries taking their toll, Penn State saw career-high efforts from linebackers Brandon Smith (eight tackles, 0.5 TFL) and Manny Bowen, who collected his first career sack in the second quarter. Other new faces included defensive end Torrence Brown, who earned his first career start against the Owls and combined with defensive tackle Robert Windsor for a sack in the fourth quarter.
Penn State place kicker Tyler Davis has not missed either a field goal attempt or a PAT kick this year, extending his career combined total (field goals and PATs) to 35-for-35. Having made two field goals in the win against Temple, Davis is among 18 DI FBS players to have a perfect 1.000 percentage on the year. Davis, who did not play a single snap of football during his high school career, took over place kicking responsibilities late last year.
A few notes on
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned earlier this afternoon that Penn State's offense presented an opportunity to change things up, specifically noting that the Nittany Lions have both a very good quarterback and a very good running back.
There's really no question as to who his was referring to, as quarterback Trace McSorley enters the week leading the Big Ten in passing yards. Running back Saquon Barkley also ranks first in the conference in scoring (14.0), having secured the win against the Owls with a career-long 55-yard scoring run.
At 3-0 on the year, Michigan enters the first week of Big Ten play ranked fourth in the AP poll and fifth in the coaches' edition. Among leaders for the Wolverines, Jabril Peppers stands out, having earned Big Ten Special Teams and Co-Defensive Player of the Week awards this week.
"There's not another player like him - I know there's never been another player like him that I've coached," Harbaugh said. "The unique thing about him is all the positions that he can play, if you start counting them it would be safety, corner, nickel, outside linebacker, flat receiver, wildcat quarterback, running back, kick returner, punt returner, hold up - that's 11 or 12 right there and I know there's others he could do and do well."
Penn State travels to Michigan to take on the Wolverines Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. live on ABC.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Postgame media sessions at Beaver Stadium typically hum along with questions from the flurry of individual interviews prompting familiar names like Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkey and Chris Godwin. This week, a new name emerged from the Beaver Stadium media room following Penn State's 34-27 win against Temple.
Just a little more than an hour drive from Beaver Stadium, a standout linebacker and running back from Lewisburg Area High School turned away offers from prestigious institutions like Penn and Princeton to pursue his Penn State Football dream.
Before Saturday, Smith's career stat line included appearances in five games, three contests in 2015, including one tackle against Illinois. Smith did not see any playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and was a member of the scout team as a walk-on true freshman in 2013. On pace to graduate in December, the kinesiology major and Dean's List student currently carries a 3.77 cumulative GPA.
Saturday afternoon, nearly every player in the media room, including head coach James Franklin, had something to say about the bold and brave performance from the Penn State walk-on from Winfield, Pennsylvania, who had just recently earned a scholarship.
In front of more than 100,000 fans in the "Stripe Out" crowd at Beaver Stadium, he stepped in the game at middle linebacker for starter Nyeem-Wartman White, who departed the game in the first half with an injury.
"Coach told me to be ready to play," Smith said.
Smith embraced every sense of the familiar "next man up" phrase he had surely heard all week, with the Nittany Lions already dealing with the loss of starting linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell to injury.
Still, he rose to the occasion, stopping Temple running back Jahad Thomas, a 1,000-yard rusher, midway through the second quarter to match his career-high one tackle mark. Smith wasn't done though, as he registered seven more tackles in the second half, pairing up with Torrence Brown for his first tackle for loss, bringing down Temple quarterback Phillip Walker for a 1-yard loss in the fourth quarter.
"I thought it might be for a couple of series to give Nyeem Wartman-White a break," Smith said. "I didn't really know what to expect but I was preparing mentally and physically for the game because you never know what's going to happen and you have to be ready when your number is called."
When No. 47 was called, Smith made the most of the big opportunity he'd been preparing for his entire career, delivering and communicating calls without missing a beat, despite having little to no experience in practice with the first team.
"Brandon comes to work every single day," defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. "He's a guy that I've always looked up to and tried to follow because his work ethic is unbelievable. He's always ready to go. His number got called today and he came out and had a great game."
Franklin awarded Smith one more opportunity postgame, letting him break the team down at the end of the Nittany Lion locker room talk.
Smith's focus was family.
"There's nothing like being a part of a football team," Smith said. "We spend all our time together and I broke it down on family tonight, because that's the way I feel about these guys and we feel about each other. We're here together, we spend about 345 days out of the year together and it's just been an awesome experience."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football has returned home from the road, now set for a Saturday "Stripe Out" matchup against Temple.
The Nittany Lions (1-1) wrap up the 2016 non-conference slate taking on the Owls (1-1) for the 45th time in Beaver Stadium, while also entering the outing with a perfect 24-0-1 record against Temple at home.
Penn State fell short at Pitt last week, falling in its first loss of the 2016 campaign, 42-39, on the road at Heinz Field.
"Obviously, we needed to play better, especially early in the game, and offensively, we have to secure the ball," head coach James Franklin said, reflecting on the loss earlier this week.
The Nittany Lions did receive some positive performances on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 332 yards, while running back Saquon Barkley recorded five touchdowns. Sophomore DeAndre Thompkins also stepped up to lead the team with 87 yards on three catches, while veteran receiver DaeSean Hamilton tallied eight catches for 82 yards.
Despite dealing with some unexpected adjustments on the defensive line, defensive end Torrence Brown forced his first career fumble in the fourth quarter, finishing with a career-high six tackles, including 2.0 TFLs.
Sophomore John Reid highlighted Penn State's special teams play with a career-long 59-yard punt return in the first quarter. True freshman Miles Sanders also stood out with a 33-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Led by Penn State alum and State College native Matt Rhule, Temple enters the week fresh off of a 38-0 shutout against Stony Brook (FCS), having dropped its season opener in a 28-13 loss to Army West Point.
The Nittany Lions and the Owls have met in each of the last two consecutive seasons, with Penn State claiming a 30-13 win in the most recent outing at Beaver Stadium in 2014.
The last four games between Penn State and Temple have also been decided fewer than 17 points at an average of 12.3 points per game within the stretch.
"This game has become more and more competitive," Franklin said. "Obviously, the Temple football program has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, not only with Coach Rhule, who is doing a great job, but Coach Addazio did a great job there as well, and Coach Golden really got it started there as well."
The second annual Penn State "Stripe Out" will also take place Saturday. Fans will have the opportunity to find out if their seating location calls for blue or white attire. Fans can the website PennStateStripeOut.com to enter their second and find out which color to wear to the Stripe Out.
"We are excited about, this week, being back in Beaver Stadium and the Stripe Out, which last year I thought went extremely well," Franklin said. "Tremendous environment."
Pregame Reading -
What to Watch For -
1. It seems like every week we see a new Nittany Lion emerge from a deep and talented wide receiver group. Last weekend, Thompkins led the team with 87 yards, with two of his three receptions measuring at least 30 yards, highlighted by a 39-yard grab in the fourth quarter. Those types are plays are just another day at the office for the likes of Thompkins and the the other Nittany Lion receivers.
"We all expect to make big plays as a group," Thompkins said. "So when a guy makes a big play, there's really not a 'wow' moment, it's just, 'you had your chance, you did a great job' and you know what's expected out of us as a receiver group. We're not really surprised when guys make big plays."
2. With the passing game picking up, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis stressed the importance of finding balance within the newly installed offense.
"Each game calls for a different game plan and obviously with the increased emergence of our tight ends - Mike Gesicki is playing really hard and playing really well, so we have a lot of confidence in him," Gattis said. "We're asking guys to be unselfish right now. We're trying to be as balanced as we can be, not only in the pass game, but in the run game, especially when you have the backs that we have."
With five touchdowns last week, Barkley is certainly the leader of the running back unit, entering the week averaging 18.0 points per game, which is tied for second in the nation.
3. With a young defensive line, Franklin addressed tackling consistency as an issue the Nittany Lions would need to shore up before heading into Saturday. Earlier this week, veteran starting defensive end Garrett Sickels said that focusing on the fundaments would be key in helping Penn State get out to a strong start from the first snap of the game.
"I think sometimes we just try to do too many jobs at the end position and at defensive tackle and try to make plays rather than taking care of our own responsibilities," Sickels said. "I think we have to settle down and play solid fundamental football going into week three."
What to Watch For -
1. Temple returns 14 starters from last year including senior quarterback Phillip Walker, who recently topped the Owls all-time list in the record books in passing yards with 7,666 career yards. Named to the Davey O'Brien watch list for the nation's top quarterback earlier this season, Walker went 11-for-23 with three touchdowns against the Seawolves last week.
"He's been an impressive guy," Franklin said. "He has a chance to break almost every record for a quarterback at Temple. So, [I've] been very impressed with him."
2. Temple defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike enters the week tied for first nationally among active NCAA players in forced fumbles (8) and fifth among active NCAA players in forced fumbles per game (.23). Across the last two years, he has totaled 67 tackles, 19.0 TFLs and a team-high 11.5 sacks across. Martin-Oguike is also joined by fellow redshirt senior Haason Reddick on the defensive line, who earned all-conference honors in 2015.
3. Temple running back Jahad Thomas ranks 10th all-time for the Owls in rushing yards (1,646) and seventh in all purpose yards (4,343). Although he's been out for the last two games for the season, the 2015 all-conference selection posted 1,262 yards on the ground last year, scoring 17 touchdowns.
The Final Word -
Penn State owns a combined 166-96-12 record against NCAA DI teams in Pennsylvania and will look to add one more tally to the left side of the column with a win over Temple. In order to get there, Penn State must first address an issue that has plagued the Nittany Lions throughout the first two weeks of the season - getting out to a strong start early in the game.
"I think the first week was a typical first week, Franklin said. "Last week, it was a tough environment. That stadium was rocking. There was a lot of emotion."
In week three, the Nittany Lions are embracing the challenge, looking to channel the energy and momentum from the end of the Pitt game into Saturday's matchup.
"We can't wait to get into the game," sophomore linebacker Manny Bowen said. "We have to be playing salty right off the bat, which means going in there and how we played [at Pitt] in the fourth quarter, we can't wait to turn it up. I think we have to come out like that from beginning of the game to the end of the game."
Penn State and Temple kickoff at noon Saturday on BTN with Eric Collins (pxp), Glen Mason (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (sideline) on the call.
What are your thoughts on the wide receivers in terms of the way they have played, how they have rotated in and how hard it is to get as many guys into the game as possible in this offense?
Gattis: It's a challenge when you're dealing with the number of guys that we have. We're trying to rotate six or seven guys throughout the game and trying to make sure guys are getting the amount of reps to allow them to develop early in the season. Each game calls for a different game plan and obviously with the increased emergence of our tight ends, Mike Gesicki is playing really hard and playing really well, so we have a lot of confidence in him. We're asking guys to be unselfish right now. We're trying to be as balanced as we can be, not on ly in the pass game, but in the run game, especially when you have the backs that we have.
I've been very pleased with the way these guys have gone out and performed. Obviously offensively, we're still taking strides toward the offense that we want to be and I think we've shown going through, how explosive we can be in putting up the points and the yards and the numbers to be able to win games for us.
I wonder with DeAndre Thompkins, how has he done adjusting to a couple of new roles - at a different position and obviously a lot more playing time with the recent injuries?
Gattis: I've been very pleased with DeAndre. He's a guy who has had a great offseason. We talked about it before the season started, with who were the most improved players for us and that was Saeed Blacknall and DeAndre Thompkins. DeAndre is starting to show where all of his hard work and his dedication is really paying off. We have tremendous confidence in him. We know the kind of player that he can be and the player that he is so exciting to be able to go out there on Saturday's and for people to kind of see how hard work is really paying off. Our quarterbacks have tremendous confidence with him as well as the other receivers. So he is just another example of a guy who is just making the most of his opportunities and working hard each and every day to continue to develop to be the player that he wants to be.
I wanted to ask about DaeSean Hamilton, obviously he was pretty upset after the Pitt game. From your perspective, have you ever seen him like that before and what does that say about him?
Gattis: DaeSean is a true leader. He is a competitor and a guy who has a work ethic that is infectious. He has, probably, the greatest work ethic on the team, so he takes a lot of pride in how he performs and everything that he does. He's a guy who has made tremendous plays for us. I would never judge one man on one play. He's a guy who has 137 catches in his career at Penn State and I'll probably say half of those have been big at some point whether it's been on third down conversion, touchdowns or whatever. He knows the kind of player that he is and he knows the kind of player that he can be.
I think he stepped up as a leader last week. Not only in how he performed but in how you accept your performance after the fact, and he really showed other guys how passionate of player that he is. Players rallied around him and they respect him for who he is and how hard he works. When you go out and see his work ethic each and every day in practice, you can only respect him for the player that he is.
You've been through the emotions with someone like DaeSean Hamilton and maybe as a player probably yourself as well. What is the process for a receiver from start to finish, from the moment they miss that catch to recovering from that and getting through that?
Gattis: I think every player that has ever played and anybody professionally that does anything knows that not everyone has always had a perfect moment. I've had moments as a player where I've let myself down and I've let myself to a lower expectation and the neat thing is that learning from the experience and learning from the situation that happened and moving on. In DaeSean's case, he's a phenomenal player. I don't need to have to stand here and vouch for him because his history here, his past year and all the accolades he's received for the kind of player that he is.
It was great to see DaeSean come out this week and have a great week of practice. We put last weekend behind us, we're focused on this week and it shows in how we've prepared and how we've practiced this week. There was an increase and urgency in small details in everything for everyone across our whole team. So it's not just how one guy responds, but how does your team respond. We're very pleased this week with the week of practice that we've had. I think it's been one of our better weeks ever, but DaeSean's going to bounce back. We have the confidence in him and just as he has won plenty of games for us in the past, he'll continue to do that in the future.
How does DaeSean's skills fit well in having him in that slot position?
Gattis: I think everyone is overemphasizing the slot title, but DaeSean has spent up to 70 percent out of his past in the previous two years working out of the slot, just in our three wide receiver set. So he has a natural skill set inside, he's a great route runner. He has really good short area quickness, he has great feet. He is a student of the game, he understands the nuances of that position and how to get open and it shows. He's a great fit for us, we feel like he is a guy we can play at a number of positions because he can play any of our wide receiver positions. Although we label them as an "X, Z or H," we feel like we're still trying to put our best three guys out there on the field, but they can all be interchangeable.
How much do you think the pass game has improved from spring, when you installed the offense, to now?
Gattis: I think you're just now seeing it kind of touch the surface because each game plan is different. You're not going and carrying all of your passes in each game plan based on what opponent defenses do or based on your game plan to attack that defense that week. There's still a lot left that a lot of people haven't seen. A lot of different concepts and it's different from when you're practicing against your defense in your script in practice toward success in the games and obviously we've increased importance in our run game. I think what people are starting to see is small pieces of how dynamic this offense can be in the pass game, how dynamic this offense can be period, especially in the run game. As the weeks go on and we start facing different defenses and how they attack you, we'll see more and more of those roles increase.
Where do you think Juwan Johnson is it at with at this stage with his development? How is he doing for you guys and what are some areas where he needs to keep working at?
Gattis: Juwan Johnson is doing a fabulous job. He's doing a great job, he's being selfless and doing a lot of things, him and Irvin Charles. He's getting opportunities in the game. The tough thing with Juwan is that obviously he's behind a pro guy like Chris Godwin. If Juwan keeps developing at the rate that he's going, he's going to be a phenomenal player. We have a lot of confidence in him, his role is going to continue to increase on offense, but it's hard when you have seven guys to try to kind of make sure everybody is getting the same opportunity if Juwan's in then who's out. There will always be the question of how to get the right players on the field and how to get them the right amount of time. We're working through that right now, but Juwan has been a phenomenal player for us as a young guy and he has a very, very bright future if he keeps developing, keeps learning from Chris.
Chris Godwin seems like the stability factor within the unit, with all the talent. Can you speak to his intangible factors and also, what he's like in the film room?
Gattis: Chris is a phenomenal kid to coach. It doesn't get better than No. 12, just a great kid. He has a wonderful skill set. He's a pro football player, that is who he is. He has really great speed, great ball skills, he has great body control. He is a guy who can stop on a dime, a guy who can make great adjustments and step up. I think he has a lot of physical ability that makes him the player that he is. He is also very, very savvy. He's a smart football player, he's mature. You'll never see Chris rattled, you'll never see him too hype or too low. That's the thing, he stays who he is no matter what the situation is and he's very humble. He shows up every day and he wants to work on things. He'll constantly comes to me and say 'hey coach what do I need to work on' or 'how should I run this route and what should I do' and it's those things to perform at his level that he's always trying to get more and more information to get himself better than that's what leads to a success.
I can't be more thrilled for Chris and I think people respect him across the country for who he is. He is a reliable player. He is a guy who, when the ball is in the air to him, you feel very confident that he's going to make the play.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- Penn State Football returns home to Beaver Stadium this week, set to meet
its second consecutive in-state opponent. Nittany Lion head coach James
Franklin met with members of the media Tuesday to preview Saturday's Stripe Out
game against Temple, which kicks off at noon on BTN.
The Nittany Lions (1-1) and the Owls (1-1) are set to meet for the 45th time in program history and the third consecutive year. This week, Franklin took time to review a few items from last week's trip to Pitt before previewing the Temple matchup.
After taking time to look back at the Pitt tape, Franklin noted that he was especially proud of the team in its efforts to battle and preserve despite the final outcome in a challenging environment.
Among items to improve this week, consistency proved to be a major theme today as the Nittany Lions begin Temple preparations. Speaking about improving consistency in different areas, Franklin stressed the focus on offense securing the ball, tackling on defense and on special teams related to kick location.
Franklin also addressed the importance of getting out to a strong start early in the game.
"I think the first week was a typical first week," Franklin said. "Last week, it was a tough environment. That stadium was rocking. There was a lot of emotion. We anticipated all of those things. We did a lot of stuff to work with noise in the stadium and I made some comments to you guys after the game about some challenges that we had, but I'm going to move on from now. We didn't handle that as well as we would have liked."
Looking toward Temple, Franklin mentioned that the Owls would bring a great opportunity for the Nittany Lions in several areas come Saturday. Led by former Nittany Lion Matt Rhule, Temple presents tough physical traits on both sides of the ball.
Franklin specifically noted the duo of Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker and 2015 all-conference running back Jahad Thomas. Walker helped the Owls to a 7-0 start last year as the team's top signal caller and recently moved to the top of the Temple record books as the program's all-time passing leader.
"I am very impressed with their quarterback, Phillip Walker," Franklin said. "He's a playmaker for them. [Walker] and running back Jahad [Thomas], both of those guys went to the same high school. Both are big-time players out of Elizabeth High School in New Jersey."
On The Quote Board -
- Franklin opened his press conference offering condolences to the family of Army West Point sophomore cornerback Brandon Jackson, who was passed away in a car accident Sunday. Johnson totaled seven tackles against the Nittany Lions in the 2015 meeting, registering five solo and his first career sack.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brandon Jackson family, and Army's head football coach Jeff Monken for their loss," Franklin said.
- In its second year, the Nittany Lions will host an annual Stripe Out in Beaver Stadium, encouraging fans to visit PennStateStripeOut.com to see if their section calls for blue or white attire on Saturday.
"The Stripe Out, I think it's going to be very exciting," cornerback Christian Campbell said. "I really like our fans. I don't worry about the Stripe Out. I just worry about how many fans are at Beaver Stadium, because I really think it's so exciting. That wins us games, two. It's like a 12th man, because of the fans."
- When asked about Penn State's offensive identity, quarterback Trace McSorley spoke to his role in helping the offense become confident.
"Every time we go out, [we] feel we're going to score
points, and we're going to be successful every single drive we have, and for us
to kind of have that little bit of competitive edge where we're not going to
accept punting the ball," McSorley said.
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