Defense: Chavis, Haley
Recently in Football Category
Defense: Chavis, Haley
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seventh-ranked Penn State football (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) returns to the road this week, traveling to No. 25 Michigan State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) for a noon matchup at Spartan Stadium Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan.
Both the Nittany Lions and the Spartans enter Saturday's matchup coming off their first conference losses of the season. Penn State has regrouped and moved on from last weekend though, focused and aware of the newest challenge in front of the Nittany Lions.
"Michigan State, obviously tremendous respect for Coach [Mark] Dantonio and their program," Penn State head coach James Franklin said. "You look at our history since joining the Big Ten, against Michigan State, they've had a lot of success."
Penn State evened the all-time series at 15-15-1 last year, recording a 45-12 win at home to capture the Big Ten East Division title and reclaim the Land Grant Trophy for the first time since 2010. Last year is in the past though and everyone from Franklin to the staff and Nittany Lions have noted they aren't expecting to matchup against the same Spartan team from 2016.
"Obviously going on the road again is going to be challenging," Franklin said. "They're a hard-nosed Big Ten football program. They play great on defense. They're built on defense, with a defensive head coach. They're a smash-mouth offense. On offense multiple personnel, multiple groupings, trades, shifts, motions, probably very similar to a Michigan, similar to a Stanford-style of offense."
Much like Michigan State, the Nittany Lions are also a much different team than last year, especially when it comes to confidence - even after experiencing some adversity.
"I think the best thing about this team is we're very aware of what we're capable of," linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "We're very aware of our potential and how good we can be. I think that's the reason we're not really losing any confidence."
With a fresh mindset, the Nittany Lions have concentrated only on their preparations for Michigan State, debuting at No. 7 in the first release of the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings.
"I think like most things in life, when tough times come, in human nature the initial reaction is to get defensive and to rationalize it and make excuses and we're not going to do that," Franklin said. "We're all going to take a hard look in the mirror, ask the tough questions, challenge ourselves and grow. That's life and that's what we're going to do."
What to Watch For -
1. Franklin called Spartan quarterback Brian Lewerke perhaps Penn State's biggest challenge come Saturday, keying in on limiting his mobility as a top priority for the Nittany Lion front seven. Lewerke is coming off a record-setting performance in triple overtime loss at Northwestern. Last weekend, Lewerke set a Spartan single-game record for passing yards (445), total offense (475) and completions (39) against the Wildcats, marking the most for Big Ten quarterback in a single game this year.
"Their quarterback, I think he's in his first year starting for them, is having a really good year and I think that's the biggest difference for them between last year and this year's team, is how well he's playing," Cabinda said.
2. Penn State is plus-14 in the turnover margin, which ranks tied for second in FBS alongside USF. The Nittany Lions have forced 20 turnovers in the first eight games, which is the most turnovers forced in and eight game span since 1993. Key in creating those turnovers has been Penn State's veteran secondary, which is an area Franklin noted has been right where he and the staff would like it to be this year.
"I think we've played really well," Franklin said. "I think Amani [Oruwariye] is leading the conference interceptions, we've got a bunch of guys doing great when it comes to pass breakups. Marcus has always been really physical. I think [Troy] Apke's been more physical this year than probably anticipated, and doing a great job with his fits."
Oruwariye ranks eighth in FBS, averaging a Big Ten-best 0.5 interceptions per game, while Apke is coming off a career high performance at Ohio State with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and one pass breakup.
3. Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki noted earlier this week that his observation of the Michigan State defense this year hasn't only yielded familiarity in terms of the usual tough, physical traits that Franklin mentioned.
"They are playing a little more man coverage than they have in the past three years that we've played them, which is exciting," Gesicki said. "Being a receiver in football, it's something you look forward to. I think their defense is extremely talented, extremely physical, but it's a challenge we're excited for."
What To Watch For - Michigan
1. As an entire unit, Michigan State's defense ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in FBS in rushing defense (89.8 yards per game). Having limited four conference opponents to less than 100 yards rushing this year, the Spartans have allowed just three rushes of 20-plus yards, which is tied for the third fewest in FBS.
Franklin made specific note of the Spartan linebackers, including starting middle linebacker Joe Bachie. Bachie has started all seven games this year, leading the team in tackles with 71, averaging 8.9 per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.
"I think on defense it's their linebacking unit as a whole," Franklin said. "Those guys have been very productive, they've made a bunch of plays for them."
2. Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis noted the increased experience in the Michigan State secondary when sizing up the Spartans from 2016 to 2017. Having forced just two turnovers in the first three games of the season, Michigan State is now plus-four in turnovers in conference play, having forced 10 turnovers on defense. Safety David Dowell is atop the team standings, owning two of Michigan State's six total interceptions on the year.
3. With one of the youngest teams in the nation, the Spartans have played 13 true freshmen in 2017. Among the group is wide receiver Cody White, who is also coming off of a career performance against Northwestern. White's 165 receiver yards marked the most for a Spartan freshman in a single game in program history, as he recorded a career-high nine catches and two touchdowns to earn Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors.
The Final Word -
Franklin postgame last weekend and throughout the week that the Nittany Lions would need to improve in momentum changing situations, especially defensively.
"A lot of people, when they get a sudden change, have the momentum, they're going to try to keep the momentum by taking a shot," Franklin said. "We talk about that, the importance of not allowing them to get the big play in that situation, keep the momentum."
Regardless of momentum though, Penn State will meet Michigan State under a bit of different circumstances this year, as the Nittany Lion-Spartan matchup will be the first time since PSU joined the Big Ten that it's not the regular season finale.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wide receivers coach Josh Gattis joined this week's assistant coaches conference call during Michigan State week.
Covering everything from the Spartan secondary to the future of the Nittany Lion wide receiver unit, catch up on a few highlights from today's teleconference.
Youth Status Update
When asked about a few of the younger wide receivers on the team, Gattis noted he has been tremendously pleased with that he has seen in Sunday scrimmages and even during the bye week developmental practices.
"It's exciting to see all those guys," Gattis said. "To see how hard those guys compete and how hard they take coaching and how their development has been."
"When you specifically talk about our receivers, it excites you when you think about KJ [Hamler], Mac [Hippenhammer] and also Cam Sullivan-Brown. I think all three have unique traits that they are going to bring to the table."
"KJ obviously his speed, I think he's a difference maker with his speed and his quickness. I think he's a guy that could possibly be our fastest wide receiver on the field. He's going to be an exciting player and so is Mac Hippenhammer as he continues to physically develop, he's got a great skillset. He's a very pure wide receiver. Reminds me a lot of DeAndre Thompkins in his ability to play inside and outside. I'm really excited about those guys as well as Cam Sullivan-Brown, who I think is going to have a very bright future for us, a kid who was very mature early on in camp and really had a great camp as far as training camp."
Turning a Weakness into
Gattis is also pleased with the progress that Thompkins has made since he arrived on campus, calling him probably the Nittany Lions' best pure wide receiver on the field at this point in the season.
"When DeAndre came in he was more of a pure, fast athlete," Gattis said. "He was a kid who could run in a timing standpoint, but I don't know if he played up to that speed on the field. Physically, he was more of a wildcat quarterback, played a little bit of the position in high school and he had to get caught up a little at the position. We've seen the guy develop. I have a thing when DeAndre came in, his weakness was his physicality and I think DeAndre has taken his greatness weakness and turned it into his greatest strength."
Looking at Charles
Outside of the tremendous impact he's had on special teams this year, Gattis noted that in his role as a wide receiver, there's still a bright future for Irvin Charles.
"Irv's going to continue to play a lot of football for us," Gattis said. "Obviously, I think he's a difference maker right now from a special teams standpoint. When you think about the things his is blessed with, his speed, his strength and his size. There are only so many guys who are 6-4, 220-pounds-plus who can run like he can."
"Irv's going to have a great feature here. He's going to be ready for his opportunities when they come and he's going to be ready for them. Obviously, he is in his role now, but even more so in his role as a receiver. I wish we could play just three or four guys but unfortunately, we can't and when you're dealing with six guys you can't have them all have 30-plus catches and 700 yards, it just doesn't work out that way, there's only one football."
On the Michigan State
When asked to compare and contrast Michigan State's secondary from 2016 to where it's at in 2017, Gattis made note of last year's youth at the position. Looking beyond just the secondary though, Gattis made it clear that the Nittany Lions will have to prepare for the challenge the entire Michigan State defense presents.
"When you look at last year's secondary, they were playing with a lot of true freshmen," Gattis said. "They had true freshmen at corners and playing with some young guys in the back end. They play with a very aggressive style defense, committed to stopping the run, trying to outnumber you in different ways."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and quarterback Trace McSorley met with members of the media Wednesday evening following practice.
The seventh-ranked Nittany Lions will travel to Michigan State this weekend to meet the Spartans in a noon matchup at Spartan Stadium.
got a real good challenge going on the road against a really good program,"
Franklin said. "They're always tough on defense, they're always going to have a
few wrinkles that cause some challenges from a protection standpoint or on
offense, play action pass perspective."
Check in on a few more updates from the media sessions.
Benefit of Familiarity
When asked about having already experienced playing a similar style team in Michigan earlier this year, Franklin pointed out that it certainly helps in game week planning.
"I think it always helps when you've played someone that has a similar style and we've game planned for that style already during season," Franklin said. "The different responsibilities that we're asking guys to do, all the things, the recall is important. I think our guys, our coaches and our players feel better after this being our second opponent like this but obviously each team has got their own little wrinkles or things that they try to emphasize that can still be problematic. That will be a challenge."
McSorley: 'It means a
Earlier today, McSorley was recognized as one of 10 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the nation's top quarterback. For McSorley though, he's more pleased with those surrounding him that have helped him get to the point where he would be considered for such recognition.
"It means a lot," McSorley said. "Obviously a lot of credit goes to my teammates and coaches because as we've been preaching, those kinds of individual awards come with team success. A lot of that doesn't happen without the team being successful."
Feeling the Grind
Franklin noted that there certainly comes a time when he notices redshirt freshmen and true freshmen typically starting to feel the grind of the season. Thanks to the support of the athletic training and sports science staff members though, he's confident that the Nittany Lions who are in those positions this year, are able to handle it.
"The redshirt freshmen are more prepared for it," Franklin said. "I think the true freshmen typically hit a wall and you've got to fight through that. The redshirt freshmen, once again, I think depending on position and who they are, they are a little bit more prepared. Fortunately, we don't have too many of those guys that are having to have significant roles. They are rotating in and gaining experience. We've got a few of them, but overall, I think our guys have been good."
Franklin and linebacker Jason Cabinda both noted the Nittany Lions held a players only meeting on Sunday to regroup. From the meeting, McSorley noted that he was incredibly pleased with the way Penn State returned to practice on Tuesday.
came out, it was a really good practice. It was really energetic, guys were
jumping around. It was actually, it kind of surprised me more than I kind of
expected. The guys really bought into what we were talking about."
First and Second Year
Franklin noted he'll have a meeting with all the first and second year Nittany Lions to revisit the Ohio State game, to ensure that in a few years when they might be in the same position, they'll have learned as much as possible from the experience.
"I think it's just constant development," Franklin said. "When you have programs that 100 percent of their focus is on playing the game that week, that's where you see dips. That's where you see a program that has a really good year every four years because they build on it but they're not developing the redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores and when the time comes, they're not ready because they're so invested in just that year."
PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and linebacker Jason Cabinda
highlighted the Nittany Lion weekly press conference this afternoon at Beaver
Preparations are well underway for a second consecutive road trip, as Penn State travels to Michigan State for a noon matchup Saturday.
Since touching down in Happy Valley last weekend, the Nittany Lions have remained confidently focused and positive approaching the upcoming outing against the Spartans.
"I could not have more confidence in our players," Franklin said. "They had a player-only meeting on their own on Sunday. Sometimes I have a hand in those. I did not have a hand in this one. It was not a long meeting at all. The feedback I got, it was really good. Some things I think they just wanted to get off their chest."
Among the Nittany Lions responsible for the players only meeting, was Cabinda, who texted with quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. Together, they decided to call the meeting to reiterate the mindset headed into Michigan State week.
"We just felt like there were just some things we had to get off our chest," Cabinda said. "Making sure the mentality of the team was the same. Be sure that we were [all] still taking the same approach. Knowing there's a ton of football left and a lot still left to be accomplished. We kind of just reiterating those things really."
For Cabinda, his confidence was reassured knowing that at this point, there really wasn't much convincing that anyone in the room needed when it comes to keeping the confidence alive.
"I know the kind of kids we have, the kind of guys we have in that locker room," Cabinda said. "It was really to reiterate and make sure the mentality was set. Get anyone who was doubting that and make sure we are all pulling the rope in the same direction, which we are."
On The Quote Board
- Franklin on how the team and staff handled Sunday's practice following the loss at Ohio State.
"We were able to learn from it, grow. We got a resilient group of guys with tremendous character and heart and belief in themselves and belief in what we're doing. We'll have a great week of practice and go play a tough opponent on the road."
- Cabinda on his experiences keeping confidence after a loss.
"I think the best thing about this team is we're very aware of what we're capable of. We're very aware of our potential and how good we can be. I think that's the reason we're not really losing any confidence. I think it's more feeling as though we just didn't play our best football. It's more disappointing really than anything."
- Franklin on Troy Apke following a career performance at Ohio State.
"I'm really pleased with Troy and his development. He's been a great teammate. He's kind of earned his role and worked up the ladder in terms of his role on special teams, on defense, now as a starter, a leader. He's very well-respected. The coaches trust him. He's making the plays that he's supposed to make from a force perspective in terms of tackling in the run game. He's making plays in the passing game from a coverage, pass breakup from an interception perspective. I couldn't be any more pleased with Troy."
- Cabinda on the strengths of defensive tackle Kevin Givens.
"To me, it's his leverage. If I had to compare him to a player, he is kind of like an Aaron Donald. He just plays with leverage. He gets low, he's strong and twitchy. He comes off the ball and drives people back. He lives in the backfield. He's always in the backfield, creating a new line of scrimmage. That's why he's so effective both inside and outside."
- Franklin on the positives following the loss at Ohio State in his opening statement
"Offensively we were able to score 31 points. Didn't turn the ball over at all. That's been one of our real secrets to success this year. We're plus 14 in turnover ratio, that's number two in all of college football."
- Cabinda on improving the way the Nittany Lions handle momentum shifts in the game, especially defensively.
"Those situations, sudden change, whether it's an interception, a blocked kick, some type of turnover on downs or any unfortunate situation. A lot of times you're put in bad field position and are asked to make a stand. We need to make that stand. It's as simple as that."
PARK, Pa. - With film reviewed and corrections made, Penn State football has
turned its full attention toward Saturday's assignment. Hitting the road for
the second consecutive week, the No. 7 Nittany Lions travel to No. 24 Michigan
State for a noon kickoff.
Saturday's matchup also marks Penn State's only Big Ten regular season trophy game of the 2017 season. The Nittany Lions currently own possession of the Land Grant Trophy, having captured it for the first time since 2010 in last year's regular season finale.
Established in 1993, the Land Grant Trophy is presented to the winner of the Penn State-Michigan State game, initially established to honor a pair of pioneering land-grant institutions.
With a win on Saturday, Penn State would maintain possession of the Land Grant Trophy in back-to-back outings for the first time since 2008-09. The Nittany Lions are currently 14-7 in Land Grant Trophy outings.
Like Penn State, the Spartans enter the matchup coming off their first conference loss, falling in a 39-31 triple overtime decision on the road at Northwestern.
Looking at the statistics, Michigan State is ranked among the best nationally in rushing defense, allowing opponents an average of 89.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in FBS and tops in the Big Ten. In total defense, the Spartans are ranked eighth nationally (283.4) and third in the conference.
Before officially moving toward Michigan State though, take a quick look back at a few more bright spots from the weekend.
Not-So-Retired Kickoff Returner
Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer joked postgame that he might not be the retired kickoff returner he joked he was back in mid-September. Between running back Saquon Barkley and Farmer, two accounted for 175 of Penn State's 185 kick return yards against Ohio State.
A large part of that yardage of course came by way of Barkley's stunning 97-yard kick return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game. Farmer made the most of his opportunities when Ohio State did opt to kick it to him though, highlighting the day with a career-long 59-yard kickoff return in the second quarter that led to a Nittany Lion touchdown drive.
Even with his success Saturday though, when asked about the kick returns, Farmer was quick to give credit to Barkley, although smiling at the notion he might not be retired anymore.
"He's probably the best player in the country," Farmer said. "He is the best player in the country. If I was a kicker or a coach, I probably wouldn't kick it to him too."
Honors and Awards
For his 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Barkley earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors, marking the second time he's earned special teams laurels and his fifth overall Big Ten weekly award this year.
As the major national awards begin narrowing down semifinalists and finalists, Barkley was selected as one of 18 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, presented to the collegiate player of the year.
In the statistical standings this week, Barkley is still atop the FBS and conference rankings averaging 206.25 all-purpose yards per game. Having scored a touchdown in a school-record and FBS leading 15 consecutive games, Barkley has tallied nine rushing scores, good for third in the Big Ten standings.
Career High Day
Penn State safety Troy Apke posted a career-high eight tackles at Ohio State, halting several potentially big Buckeye plays that didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, especially near the end of the first quarter. Apke added one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Apke has posted at least four tackles in every Big Ten outing this year.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been nearly 10 months since Penn State felt the uncomfortable pang of the emotions surrounding a bitter loss. Experiencing seemingly some of its most excitable highs and even the lowest of lows in a 3:42 stretch Saturday, the result came in an excruciating one-point loss.
While the stat packet tells one story, as Penn State head coach James Franklin noted postgame, that's not the full story this time around.
Regardless of what the stats say, Saturday's 39-38 loss at Ohio State was perhaps decided by a final shift in momentum, a proverbial pendulum swing that sent a jolt of energy straight into a ferocious crowd, and one that Penn State could not overcome.
"The margin of error is very small when you play these types of games," Franklin said. "I thought the blocked punt was a huge play in the game."
With a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, defensive end Shareef Miller dove on a loose ball following a J.T. Barrett fumble for his first career fumble recovery to give the Nittany Lions a prime opportunity to widen to finish the Buckeyes.
"I don't think we've handled sudden change really well this year, defensively," Franklin said. "If the offense turns the ball over or something, like the blocked punt, our defense has not handled sudden change well. That's an area we've got to get better. I have to take a hard look at that."
In the three quarters prior to the final one Saturday, Penn State engineered its highest point-scoring total in Columbus ever, opened by yet another sizzling start, when running back Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to mute an anxious crowd packed inside Ohio Stadium.
"The reality is we didn't win the game against a really good opponent on the road and we have to learn from this and get better," Franklin said.
As the clock ticked down to zero and Ohio State fans poured on to the field, Penn State's first loss in more than 300 days was most definitely a reality.
Tight end Mike Gesicki was the first Nittany Lion to exit the field, jogging alone up the cement gray tunnel to the locker room, where he, the rest team and the coaching staff would soon gather to reflect.
"Coach Franklin came in and told us that he loved us and that he was so proud and happy to be the head football coach at Penn State, and told us to keep our heads up because everything's out there still in front of us that we want," Gesicki said.
As the small visiting media room flooded with media members, the Nittany Lions entered with a much different message than the one that resounded throughout the Rose Bowl locker room the last time the Nittany Lions were faced with adversity.
"For us, anything can happen," quarterback Trace McSorley said. "At this point last year, we thought maybe we have a chance at the Rose Bowl and by the end of the year we had a shot at the College Football Playoffs. Teams lose, upsets happen. We don't control our own destiny but we can focus on the only things we can control which is coming in each day, working harder than ever, playing harder than ever on Saturday's and doing whatever it takes to get wins from here on out."
For McSorley, it's not only what happens on Saturday's that dictates the outcome of the all the little things built magnified in the tiny margin of error.
Rather, it's what happens on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that really makes the difference.
That's precisely what the Nittany Lions are ready to turn toward.
"You just watch film and think about the corrections, what you did wrong, what you did right," wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins said. "You talk about that as a unit and as an individual, you watch the film and question what you would have done on each play to help the team."
For Thompkins, the message he took in from the coaches and seniors who stood up to speak in the locker room was clear, that adversity strikes every team and the opportunity to capitalize on an even stronger bounce back is now.
As Gesicki noted, the bounce back begins at the end of the 20-minute correction period on the field today, with the conclusion signaling only one thing - Michigan State.
Marcus Allen, S. Miller, Farmer
MOST RECENT POSTS
- VIDEO: 2018 THON Pep Rally Dance
- Nittany Lions Host THON Explorers
- THON Features: Teammates Unite For The Kids
- Seniors Cap Careers on Top
- VIDEO: Fiesta Bowl Postgame (Players)
- VIDEO: Fiesta Bowl Postgame (Franklin)
- 2017 Gameday Live - No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 11 Washington (Fiesta Bowl)
- 2017 Gameday - No. 9 Penn State, No. 11 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl
- Fiesta Bowl Media Day Highlights
- All-Sports Blog (6385)
- Baseball (195)
- Coaches Caravan (55)
- Cross Country (85)
- European Tour 2012 (14)
- Fencing (15)
- Field Hockey (153)
- Football (1946)
- General (7)
- Men's Basketball (641)
- Men's Basketball 2013 European Tour (16)
- Men's golf (5)
- Men's Gymnastics (112)
- Men's Hockey (476)
- Men's Lacrosse (196)
- Men's Soccer (157)
- Men's Volleyball (180)
- PSU Road Warriors (16)
- Softball (111)
- Swimming & Diving (110)
- Track & Field (132)
- Women's Basketball (555)
- Women's Golf (12)
- Women's Gymnastics (136)
- Women's Hockey (202)
- Women's Lacrosse (160)
- Women's Soccer (275)
- Women's Soccer Player Blog (44)
- Women's Volleyball (411)
- Wrestling (440)