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Week Five Press Conference Roundup - Northwestern Week

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10364016.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 23

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will cap off a two-game homestand on Saturday with its Big Ten home opener against Northwestern (12 p.m. on BTN).

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

Franklin opened the weekly press conference by delivering a birthday cake to legendary radio announcer Fran Fisher, who turned 91 on Tuesday. Fisher is a fixture at the weekly press conferences and at practice during the week. Fisher began his association with Penn State Athletics in 1966 when he joined the Penn State Football Radio Network as color announcer.

"Like to obviously start by wishing happy birthday to Fran Fisher," Franklin said. "A legend when it comes to Penn State Athletics, a legend when it comes to this community, and he's earned it. So I wanted to take some time and let him know how much we all appreciate all his years of service to Penn State."

Moving to the review of the UMass game, Franklin highlighted the improvement of the Penn State running game. The Nittany Lions rushed for a season-high 228 yards, including 134 rushing yards in the second quarter alone. Franklin addressed a few areas that he is looking for more gains out of the offense this week, namely cutting down on the number of penalties.

"Offensively, details in our foot work, I think our foot work can be a lot better across the board at every position," Franklin said. "Coordination of our protection, there's still some times that we're not coordinated, and then we already talked about the elimination of penalties."

The Penn State defense shined in Saturday's 48-7 win over UMass. Now, the focus is solely on Northwestern and building upon the first four weeks of action. Penn State leads the nation in defending the run heading into this week. The centerpieces of the defensive line, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel, have been big reasons why. Franklin noted Johnson's workmanlike play in the middle.

"Well, it's funny, because a lot of times he may not get the stats that maybe our linebacker or our other defensive linemen are getting, but a lot of it is, he's the cause of it," said Franklin. "I think he's got a chance to continue to be a special player for us and we're going to need him to be. When you can dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive line or the offensive line, you have a chance to be successful. Him and Zettel make a really nice one two punch for us inside."

Franklin will be facing the Wildcats for the second time during his career on Saturday. He coached against Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern in 2012 when Vanderbilt played in Evanston.

"Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that having history with people, with teams, with coaching staffs, with players and things like that, there comes a little bit of a comfort level there or an understanding," said Franklin. "I don't know if one game really does that, but it's better than none."

Saturday's game will be the 17th game between Penn State and Northwestern. The Nittany Lions own a 13-3 edge in the series on the field.

Press Conference Notes
- Coach Franklin announced that the team's internal players of the week for the UMass game were Angelo Mangiro on offense, Nyeem Wartman on defense and Sam Ficken on special teams.

- Franklin on the Northwestern offense:
One of the things that we're going to have to be aware of and have to do a good job with and this is where our fans are going to be huge with a sold out stadium is they are a no-huddle tempo team that does a lot of communication at the line of scrimmage."

- Franklin on the Northwestern defense:
"Their defense and Mike Hankwitz, who is in his seventh season there, 44 years overall. They got eight starters on defense that are juniors or seniors, so you're talking about a veteran defense. They play base 4-3, fundamentally sound and in a lot of way he's they're similar to us, maybe a little bit less pressure in their scheme."

- Franklin on the Northwestern special teams:

"On special teams, Pat Fitzgerald runs their special teams. A guy that shows up to us over and over again is a kid out of New Jersey, No. 21, Kyle Queiro."

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Monday Notebook: Nittany Lion Defense Off and Running

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10359507.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense played its most complete game of the season against UMass on Saturday, but the story from the first month of football in 2014 has been the standout play from the Nittany Lion defense.

Penn State (4-0) will take a great deal of momentum on the defensive side of the ball into Saturday's Homecoming clash against Northwestern (1-2).

The outstanding start to the season on the defensive side of the ball begins with Penn State's ability to stop the run. The Lions lead the nation in rushing defense at 49.5 yards per game. UMass had just three rushing yards on Saturday.

"I think our D-line has been playing really well all year," said head coach James Franklin. "The fact that we're able to make teams one-dimensional is huge on defense."

In addition to leading the nation in rushing defense, the Nittany Lions rank sixth in scoring defense (11.0 ppg) and 10th in total defense (270.8 ypg). In the past 12 quarters of football, Penn State has allowed just two offensive touchdowns. Collectively, the Nittany Lions have yielded 12.38 rushing yards per quarter during the 2014 season.

The Lions have also been strong on defense in the red zone. Opponents are scoring at a 63.6 percent rate on red zone visits, which ranks eighth in the country.

Penn State is one of 25 teams unbeaten in the FBS after four weeks of football.

Saturday's game marks the final contest in a string of five-straight weeks of games.

Lions in the Stat Rankings
In addition to the defensive stat rankings, several Nittany Lions are 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 eighth in the nation in passing yards (1,261) and 13th in the nation in passing yards per game (315.3 ypg). He leads the Big Ten in both of those categories.

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks seventh in the nation in receiving yards and tops the Big Ten with 462 on the season. He is 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten with 115.5 yards per game.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 14th nationally (second in the Big Ten) in receiving yards with 402. He ranks 13th in the nation and first in the Big Ten with 7.5 receptions per game.

DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel leads the Big Ten and is 12th in the nation with 1.8 tackles for loss per game.

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

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the victory over UMass.

99,155 - Saturday's attendance (99,155) was the largest figure for a non-conference home game since 2011 (Alabama).

228 - The Nittany Lions entered Saturday's game with 227 rushing yards on the season. The Lions rushed for 228 yards on Saturday, alone.

207 - Kicker Sam Ficken now has 207 career points. He is the 11th player in school history to have scored at least 200 points.

198 - Through four games, Penn State has allowed a total of 198 rushing yards.

48 - The Nittany Lions scored 48 points on Saturday, marking their most since 52 against Eastern Illinois in 2009.

46 - Akeel Lynch's 46-yard rush during the first quarter was the longest of his career and the longest for Penn State this season.

20 - Penn State has outscored its opponents by a margin of 20-0 during the first quarter this season.

8 - Penn State scored on eight-straight possessions during the UMass game, stretching from the first quarter to the third quarter.

7 - Punter Daniel Pasquariello became the seventh true freshman to play for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet Northwestern.

UMass Extended Game Highlights

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Offense Looking to Build on Strong Outing vs. UMass

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10356689.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass | VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering Saturday's game against UMass, the Nittany Lion offense had tallied 227 rushing yards during the 3-0 start to the season.

Yes, the Lions were pleased with victories during the first three weeks of the season, but the offensive unit knew it needed to take another step forward to become the offense it wants to be in 2014.

Thanks to another tremendous performance from the Penn State defense, the Nittany Lion offense found another gear on Saturday afternoon in a 48-7 route of the Minutemen. Penn State rushed for 228 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground in the unit's most complete performance thus far in 2014.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's great to establish a running game and be able to make some plays with multiple backs and multiple people," said head coach James Franklin. "I don't know what our total yardage was, but we were able to be balanced. We were able to take some pressure off of [Christian Hackenberg], which is great."

A focused week on the practice field fueled the offensive line's effort on a day where the running back trio of Bill Belton (two), Zach Zwinak (two) and Akeel Lynch each visited the end zone.

"We were working hard for a long time and when you keep working and working and working the success is going to come," said Belton. "We just continued to go out there and work hard each day and we came today to show what we've been working on all week."

Penn State's big afternoon on the ground was a collective effort from each member of the offense.

"First, it is definitely a full team effort," freshman tackle Andrew Nelson said. "I think the line played better than we usually do but it takes the entire offense to do well. All practice long we have been stressing the run game and throwing the ball when we had to throw it. I think all week in practice Coach Hand was just really stressing that we would get better this week and I think we did."

Lynch kick-started the strong ground day with a 46-yard burst off the right side of the line. The junior led the rushing attack with a stellar 10.1-yard average on eight carries. Lynch finished with 81 yards, which included a 15-yard touchdown run mid-way through the third quarter.

"It's a stepping-stone for all of us. As you see, we did well with more than 200 yards as a group," Lynch said. "It's always good to have that as a stepping stone into the next game."

Following a stand from the defense on a fourth-down play at the start of the second quarter, Belton capped off an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run to put the Lions up 13-0. Linebacker Mike Hull forced a fumble on next UMass possession, which put the Nittany Lion offense in a great position to strike again.

Belton, who finished the day with 76 yards, scampered 20 yards for a score to make it a 20-0 lead. Belton's two rushing touchdowns ignited Penn State's first 28-point quarter since the 2009 season. The Nittany Lions had 134 yards on the ground in the second quarter alone.

"It was the focal point for us all week at practice," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "It has been the theme for us and just being able to get that going and get those guys clicking was really good. It was really good hearing the offensive line making calls and making the right calls and getting everything going in the right direction to be able to some of those runs off."

With the Northwestern game on the horizon, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build on following a strong team effort in a dominant performance against UMass.

"I think it definitely helps us confidence wise because we knew what kind of line we could be but we just weren't executing," said Nelson. "Today we executed it and it showed us that we can be the guys that we want to be."

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

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VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass.

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VIDEO: Postgame Interview with Coach Franklin - UMass

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - UMass

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with following Saturday's 48-7 victory over UMass. Penn State moves to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2008.

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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to'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 face UMass inside Beaver Stadium, today, in the fourth game on the schedule.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Massachusetts

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UMass

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' matchup against UMass in Beaver Stadium.

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Beaver Stadium Pictorial: UMass Preview

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One of the many traditions of the Penn State football program's gameday experience is the Beaver Stadium Pictorial, the official gameday magazine of the Nittany Lions. The publication originated in the 1920s and continues to evolve, bringing fans closer to the football program, its student-athletes and the entire Penn State athletic department.

Each week throughout the home portion of the of the Nittany Lions' schedule you can find a preview of the content for the upcoming Beaver Stadium Pictorial on

Here is a preview of the feature content inside the Penn State vs. Massachusetts BSP.

Pick up your copy on each home game day for just $5.00.

Sam Ficken was just a laid-back high school kid awaiting the start of his junior season when a coaching change prompted a decision that would alter his athletic career and ultimately his future.

The season Ficken was preparing for was soccer. It was the sport he grew up playing. The sport his mother had coached him and his older brother in when they were younger. But coaching changes just days before the season made him re-think things.

"Football wasn't on my radar until my junior year of high school," said Ficken. "A coaching decision right before the first (soccer) game of my junior year changed my view on some things. So, I called the football coach and said, 'I'm thinking about playing football.'"

A Lasting Impact: A Journey Through 50 Years Of Women's Athletics
by: Char Morett-Curtiss, fIELD hOCKEY hEAD cOACH; Class of 1979
I first traveled the road to Penn State from my hometown of Aden, a quiet and quaint suburb of Philadelphia, back in the summer 1975. The trip, primarily on the single-lane winding road that was Route 322 West, took four hours. It was a journey of -- and for -- a lifetime.

The middle-class family I was leaving behind included five boys and two girls, who spilled out onto Sycamore every day to play street hockey, pick-up basketball and steal the bases, often under the streetlights. We were tight-knit, but competition was 24/7.

The Penn State family I was joining was largely an unknown. In the summer of '74, I attended the Pocono Mountain Field Hockey Camp with my teammates from Lansdowne-Aldan High School. It was there that my field hockey skills caught the attention of Gillian Rattray, Penn State's head coach for both field hockey and lacrosse (what a bargain she was!).

A Look Inside The Penn State Blue Band In Its 115th Year
By: Christine Kilbride, Third-Year Blue Band Member, Piccolo; Class of 2016
"For the Glory of Old State, for her founders strong and great, for the future that we wait, raise the song."

These lyrics ring true especially for members of the Penn State Blue Band. The 315-member band has become a staple of Penn State football and the gameday experience.

Like most Penn State students, band members anxiously await the first home game each season. But home games for members of the Blue Band are not as simple as filing into the student section.

The Penn State vs. Massachusetts also features;
Expanded Game Notes
Unrivaled Moment: at Rutgers
Player Q&As w/ Bill Belton, Jordan Lucas and Angelo Mangiro
University Feature on Penn State College of Nursing
2014 Penn State Football Team Photo
Penn State Athletics Sports Planner

2014 Gameday Preview - Nittany Lions Host UMass

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Game Notes | Gameday Central | UMass Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Smith Q&A | Player Q&A Video | BSP Preview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After playing two out of its first three games on the road, Penn State (3-0) returns home on Saturday for its first game against UMass (0-3). The Nittany Lions and Minutemen will collide at 4 p.m. inside Beaver Stadium (BTN).

10323244.jpegThanks to a superb defensive performance in the second half and a game-winning drive orchestrated by sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the Nittany Lions moved to 3-0 in a dramatic victory at Rutgers last week. Senior Bill Belton scored a game-winning touchdown with 1:13 to play inside sold out Highpoint Solutions Stadium to lift the Lions past the Scarlet Knights, 13-10, in the first Big Ten game of 2014.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions have been tremendous to start the season. Penn State ranks among the nation's elite in three major statistical categories heading into this weekend. Penn State is seventh in the country in rushing defense at 68.3 yards per game allowed. The Lions are 11th in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) and 13th in total defense (275.7 ypg). Thanks to five interceptions on Saturday night, Penn State is also sixth in the nation in passes intercepted.

UMass enters the game following back-to-back three-point losses to Colorado and at Vanderbilt. Led by veteran head coach Mark Whipple, the Minutemen, took the Commodores down to the wire in Nashville last week. UMass led for most of the game before a late score from Vanderbilt and a missed field goal in final seconds sealed a 34-31 setback.

Saturday's gameday will feature two major events off the field. Throughout the 2014-15 academic year, Penn State will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Women's Athletics on the University Park campus. Some of Penn State's current and former head coaches and student-athletes will be recognized at the UMass games for their accomplishments during the past 50 years of varsity women's sports.

Additionally, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics and the Penn State Marching Blue Band will host the Unrivaled Band Jam, which will highlight Band Day activities on Saturday. Several high school bands will perform with the storied Blue Band and the UMass Minuteman Marching Band pre-game in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Unrivaled Band Jam will begin at 2 p.m. in the Jordan Center. There is no admission fee.

Welcome to the Gameday Preview for week four matchup against UMass.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10323164.jpeg1. So much has been written about the talent and skill level of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. And it is deservedly so. Hackenberg is an incredibly gifted athlete with all the things you look for in an elite quarterback. But his leadership and maturity level for a player his age cannot be overstated enough. Sure, Hackenberg has already etched his place in the Penn State record book with a plethora of accolades, but his demeanor in the huddle, leadership on and off the field and poise are all attributes that a coach cannot teach a player. Hackenberg has been terrific during the first three games of the season, throwing for 1,082 yards and four touchdowns. But his impact on the team goes far beyond the numbers and two game-winning drives in the final minutes.

2. Penn State's defense has been stout during the first three weeks of the season, allowing opponents just 12.3 points per game and 272.3 yards of total offense. A big piece to the Nittany Lions' success on the defensive side of the ball is the standout play from the group in the trenches. Junior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel has been the catalyst along the front line. The Michigan native enters the UMass game ranked fifth nationally with 7.0 tackles for loss. Zettel has been disruptive constantly during the first three weeks. He leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss and also has 3.0 sacks this season. What he lacks in prototypical defensive tackle size, Zettel makes up with a tenacious attitude, relentless motor and standout quickness. Keep a close eye on No. 98.

3. Prior to last week's game at Rutgers, the Nittany Lions had gained just one turnover during the first two games. However, the defense answered coordinator Bob Shoop's challenge by snagging five interceptions against the Scarlet Knights, including two from Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Trevor Williams. The five interceptions in the Rutgers game from the Nittany Lion are most by one team in a game this season. It was the first time Penn State had notched five interceptions in a game since 2004 against Michigan State. Turnovers will continue to play a paramount role in Penn State's success on both sides of the ball. Keep an eye on the turnover battle.

What to Watch For - UMass
10323188.jpeg1. Graduate student Blake Frohnapfel leads the UMass offense. A Marshall transfer (undergrad degree from Marshall), Frohnapfel was named the starting quarterback for the Minutemen during training camp. He has led UMass to 34.5 points per game during the last two games and an average of 358.5 yards. Frohnapfel has thrown for 619 yards and five touchdowns this season.  Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe and 6-foot-7 tight end Jean Sifrin are among Frohnapfel's top targets.

2. The UMass defense enters the week looking to take a step forward defending the run. The Minutemen have allowed an average of 218 rushing yards per game during the first three weeks. Sophomore linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox leads the nation in tackling at 14.0 hits per game. Santos-Knox had a career-high 15 stops at Vanderbilt last week. Senior Stanley Andre is the leader of the UMass defense. The fifth-year player has started in 27 consecutive games.

3. On the heels of a narrow loss at Vanderbilt last week, head coach Mark Whipple will take over the duties of special teams play for the Minutemen. Junior Trey Dudley-Giles is second the nation in kickoff return yardage (35.4 yards per return). Another player to keep an eye on when UMass takes the field on offense and special teams is hybrid fullback/tight end Rodney Mills. Mills has three touchdowns to start the season, including a 53-yard touchdown reception on a fake punt at Vanderbilt last week. Coach Franklin noted earlier in the week that UMass provides a number of different looks on offense. Mills is a player to keep an eye on in the formations.

The Final Word:
Dating back to 1887, Penn State's football tradition stretches 128 years. During that time frame, the Nittany Lions have played 153 different teams on the gridiron. UMass will become the 154th squad the Nittany Lions have played against when the two teams take the field on Saturday. Penn State is 112-33-8 in first games against opponents. The Minutemen mark the first new team on the Penn State schedule since the Lions played against Indiana State in 2011. Saturday's game also marks the second in a string of three-straight contests televised by Big Ten Network. Kickoff is slated for 4:01 p.m. in the first of two-straight Saturdays inside Beaver Stadium.

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UMass Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Terry M. Smith

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10322810.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith talked to the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions host UMass on Saturday at 4 p.m. (BTN). Take a look at a Q&A with Smith leading up to Saturday's home game.

Q: What have these first few months been like for you coaching back at your alma mater?
"It's been really, really exciting. You couldn't dream of such an outcome for myself career-wise. It's been an exciting opportunity for me to work with such a great staff. Obviously, coming back to Penn State has been so good for not only me, but my entire family, as well."

Q: What have you seen from this group of freshmen cornerbacks so far?
"I think we've got a group of tremendously talented freshmen at corner. They are all a little bit different. Amani (Oruwariye) is a big, long guy. Christian (Campbell) is kind of long and athletic. Grant (Haley) is more of a smaller, more explosive athlete. Daquan (Worley) is kind of that type of athlete, as well. They bring something different. I think they are all quality players for us. Clearly, Grant is having a really good freshman season so far. We got Christian in a little bit last week. Our plans are for him to have a little more action this week. They are all guys we think will be very successful in the program."

Q: How do you feel like your guys at corner have done at tackling so far this year?
"This past game, as a defensive unit, we had some struggles with missing some tackles. The running back we played this past week was a pretty good running back. We do tackling drills each day on Tuesday and Wednesday when we are in pads. We do some angle tackles, some sideline tackles, some form-fit tackles. It's an area of emphasis for us. As we move forward into the heart of the Big Ten season, the backs are bigger and stronger, so we can't afford to have missed tackles."

Q: Were you frustrated at all during the first couple weeks not coming away with interceptions? And then after last week, what was the feeling after getting so many?
"We weren't frustrated. You are calculated as to when you have your opportunities. The critical piece is when you get your hands on the ball, you have to make the play that is there. You've got to be patient. Sometimes it's there; sometimes it's not. Obviously, as the season has gone on, we are getting better. We are a lot better this week than we were UCF week. That's a critical piece. Are we improving week to week? And right now, we are making those improvements, and hopefully we'll take another step this week."

Q: What can last week do for Trevor Williams and what level is he playing at right now?
"Tremendous confidence boost for him. Two interceptions. He had a tremendous night. Obviously, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. I think this could take Trevor to another level. He's been practicing really well for the last few weeks. It wasn't any surprise that he played well because he has been practicing well. I think Trevor could potentially be one of the top corners in the league. Obviously, he has to continue to get better and provide consistency at the corner. But we are very happy with his approach to practice and games each day."

Q: What did you learn at your last stop coaching wide receivers that has helped you in teaching your guys at corner?
"The biggest thing is route recognition. When guys have certain splits or when guys take certain stems towards our cornerbacks, I can tell our guys basically on the first three steps that it is one of three routes. And then based on the next couple steps, I can tell my guys (what I think is coming). So, we've got better route recognition of what is coming at you, so it can be easier for our guys to know what is coming and defend. The route recognition is first and foremost."

Q: What are some of the nuances that go with blitzing from the cornerback position?
"Well, depending on what the blitz is - if it's just a corner crasher coming off the side, you've got to time it. You've got to disguise your look. Once you show it, they will slide the protection to you and you will have a big 330-pound tackle on a corner, which isn't fair. So, we work on our hedge and release. There are also certain blitzes where we send a backer up the field and a corner comes underneath. We work on that technique, as well. It takes a lot of time and effort at practice to get it right. We've got to make sure we get it right because each Saturday it has to be perfect to execute and be right."

Q: What have you seen from the UMass offense and the passing game in particular?
"They do some things that make you think about what you are doing. They want you to prepare for a lot of different looks. They do some formational things with unbalance. They do a little bit of wildcat, just enough to make you prepare for it. They've got a big, strong quarterback behind center. They've got three good targets that they want to get the football to. So, they try to make plays to get those three guys the football. And they do it in some unorthodox ways with bubble screens, some motions, some shifts and just a lot of things you have to prepare for. They are just looking for that one breakdown to exploit."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony