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Bye Week Notebook: Coach Franklin Update on the Off Week

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10434098.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Oct. 14

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are idle this week for the second of two bye weeks during the 2014 season.

With the season at the midway point, head coach James Franklin and the coaching staff are focused on utilizing this week as an opportunity to improve on the practice field and in the film room before attention shifts to the Oct. 25 primetime matchup against Ohio State. Franklin updated the media on team's progress during the weekly Big Ten Teleconference on Tuesday.

"We are excited that we have a bye this week," Franklin said. "At practice, we are looking forward to getting some things corrected and giving some guys time off in terms of the banging and the running. We will look at refining some things and take a look at some of the things we need to be focused on more. It's coming at a good time for us."

Franklin said on Tuesday that field position in the second half of the Michigan game really stood out on film. Complementary football is essential for the Nittany Lions to be successful. That includes all three phases of the game functioning at a high level. Strong play on defense and on special teams contribute to good field position for the offense.

"We've got to play faster. We aren't playing as fast as we need to be playing right now," Franklin said. "I think that's really in all three phases. I think special teams and offense is probably what everybody is focused on. But I think in all three phases we can play faster and play more aggressive. Running the football consistently and protecting the quarterback are probably our biggest challenges right now."

The bye week has come at a good time for the team to focus on correcting some of the mistakes that have hindered the Lions during the first six weeks. Nonetheless, four wins in the first six games of the season is a positive step for the direction Franklin and the staff are leading the program in.

"We are 4-2 right now. There are a lot of teams across the country that would love to be 4-2," said Franklin. "We knew there were going to be some challenges and some issues coming into this season. But I couldn't be more positive and more excited about being at Penn State...We are excited about the opportunity to play a talented Ohio State team next week. We are as positive and optimistic (now) as we were going into the season."

Penn State returned to practice on Tuesday following the team's off day.

Defense Ranks Among Nation's Best
The Penn State defense has played superb football during the first half of the season. The Nittany Lions are ranked in the nation's top five in five different statistical categories, including three major categories. Allowing just 60.8 yards per game on the ground, Penn State is second in the nation and atop the Big Ten in rushing defense. At 15.2 points allowed per game, Penn State is fifth in scoring defense (No. 1 in the B1G). The Nittany Lions have allowed 283.3 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the nation in total defense (No. 1 in the B1G). Additionally, Penn State is second in the nation in first downs defense (85 allowed on the season) and No. 4 in red zone defense (63.2 percent). Penn State opponents have averaged 2.0 yards per rush this season.

With 64 tackles on the season, senior linebacker Mike Hull has been the catalyst for the Nittany Lion defense. Hull leads the Big Ten in tackles per game with 10.7. Additionally, Hull is 11th in the nation and ranks atop the Big Ten with 6.7 solo hits per game.

Jesse James Added to Mackey List
The Mackey Award is handed out to the nation's top tight end. Junior Jesse James was added to the Mid-season Watch List for the John Mackey Award on Monday. James is third on the team in receptions 18 this season. He has 203 yards (11.3 avg.) and two touchdowns. The Mackey Award semifinalists will be announced in late November.

Ohio State Under the Lights Up Next
The Nittany Lions will begin a string of six-straight weeks of football when Ohio State comes to Beaver Stadium for an 8 p.m. kick on Oct. 25. The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes will battle under the lights for the third-straight year. Six of the last 10 meetings between the two teams have been held under the lights. The Penn State White Out will air nationally on ABC. Penn State and Ohio State have met annually since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. As members of the East Division, the teams will continue to meet annually.

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame at Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Head coach James Franklin addresses the media following Saturday's game at Michigan.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks vs. Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Several Nittany Lions addresses the media following Saturday's game at Michigan.

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State at Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Welcome to's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Penn State's primetime trip to Michigan.


2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. Following a bye week, the Nittany Lions travel to Michigan Stadium for a primetime battle with the Wolverines.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Michigan

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2014 Gameday Preview - Nittany Lions Travel to Michigan

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GAME BLOG: Michigan

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

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Hand Q&A | Player Q&A Video

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a bye week, Penn State (4-1, 1-1) returns to action under the lights against Michigan (2-4, 0-2) on Saturday. Kick is slated for 7 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN2.

10418083.jpegThe Lions have posted four-straight on-field victories against the Wolverines, including a thrilling 43-40 four overtime win last season in Happy Valley. Michigan holds a 10-7 edge in the all-time series between the two schools, which both rank in the top 12 of all-time winning percentage in NCAA history.

Through five games, the Penn State defense has been tremendous. The Nittany Lions rank among the top-25 nationally in six defensive categories, including the top 10 in rushing, scoring and total defense. Additionally, Penn State is leading the Big Ten in scoring defense at 14.6 points per game. The unit has allowed 300 yards of total offense in just one game this season.

Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg continues to rank among the top signal callers in the Big Ten. He is ranked second in the conference with 295.4 passing yards, 22.6 completions and 302.2 yards of total offense per game. The wide receiver duo of DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lews is only the only set of teammates to rank among the top-25 nationally in receiving yards per game at 100.4 and 99.0, respectively.

Michigan enters Saturday's game looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Wolverines suffered a narrow 26-24 setback to Rutgers last week. The Wolverines average 354.0 yards per game and remain the Big Ten's only offensive unit to convert all 15 of its red zone chances into points (12 TDs and 3 FGs). Michigan leads the Big Ten and is second nationally in fewest penalties per game at 3.33.

Saturday's game will feature two of the nation's premier college football programs. In addition to ranking among the top 12 in winning percentage, Penn State and Michigan are two of the winningest programs in NCAA history. The two teams are also among the most ranked programs in AP poll history, with the duo combining for 1,378 weeks in the national rankings.

Get primed for the 18th meeting between the Nittany Lions and Wolverines. Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week six matchup against Michigan.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10418072.jpeg1. Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, the Nittany Lions are 15-11 in games contested after a bye week. The Lions took full advantage of maximizing last week's practice days. In addition resting the bodies of the primary contributors, head coach James Franklin and the coaching staff stressed film review and corrections as a mode of self-scouting the Nittany Lions as the season nears the mid-way point. Penn State lifted weights and practiced three times before taking a few days off at the latter stages of the week. The Lions returned to practice on Sunday refreshed and focused on the practice week at hand.

2. A big point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions leading up to the sixth game on the schedule is consistency. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg talked to the media earlier this week about the importance of each player on both sides of the ball doing his job on each play. From the pre-snap reads to the play itself, the Nittany Lions are seeking more consistency from each member of the depth chart. With consistency across the starting lineup comes a higher level of execution, which is what the Lions are focused on this week at Michigan.

3. Senior linebacker Mike Hull has been among the most productive defensive players in the Big Ten thus far in 2014. Leading the conference in tackling at 10.6 hits per game, Hull has been a disciplined and effective player throughout Penn State's first five games. The Pittsburgh native has a nose for the football and is a fundamentally sound player when it comes to tackling and putting himself in the proper position to make tackles. The quarterback of the defense, Hull has made 53 tackles in 2014, including 32 solo hits.

What to Watch For - Michigan
10418131.jpeg1. Without the services of starting running back Derrick Green (collarbone), quarterback Devin Gardner and sophomore running back De'Veon Smith become the focal points of the Michigan running game. Gardner is a dynamic player with good size (6-4, 216) and playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. Gardner has completed 63 percent of his passes in 2014, to go along with 131 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

2. The Michigan defense has been stout during the first six games of 2014. The Wolverines are ranked 19th in the nation in total defense, allowing 315.5 yards per game. That figure includes 100.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 12th in the nation. Michigan has allowed just three rushing touchdowns this season and is holding its opponents to 2.93 yards per rush. Linebackers Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan lead the Wolverine defense with 48 and 46 tackles, respectively.

3. Junior Dennis Norfleet is ranked second in Michigan history in kickoff return yards at 1,977. He is one of just three players in Michigan history with more than 2,000 total return yards. Norfleet is averaging 23.6 yards per return on kickoffs this season. Norfleet also handles the punt return duties for Michigan.

The Final Word:
The Nittany Lions will play their second of three primetime games on Saturday in Michigan. Following the game, Penn State will have played in two road night games for the first time since 2008 (Wisconsin and Ohio State). The 2014 season marks the seventh time since 2000 that the Lions will play multiple night games in the season. It is the 15th-straight season that Penn State has played in at least one night game. Penn State owns a 40-26 on-field record in night games. That includes a 20-10 mark in road games under the lights. This week is just the third night game in Michigan Stadium history, but the first Big Ten night game. This game marks the fourth night game between Penn State and Michigan since 2000. Kick is slated for 7:02 p.m. on ESPN2.

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Michigan Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Herb Hand

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10417665.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State running game coordinator and offensive line coach Herb Hand spoke with the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions travel to Michigan on Saturday Take a look at a Q&A with Hand during the bye week.

Q: What do you think the bye week did for the offensive line and how much progress have you seen from the group since the start of camp?
"When you watch guys on a daily basis, sometimes it is good to go back and turn on the film from the first day of practice and see the progress the guys have made, not only individually, but collectively. Even going back to the beginning of the season. What we were able to do during the bye week as coaches was a lot of self-scout. We took time to get into what we were able to accomplish during the first five games. And then look at what we needed to get better at...We were able to do that during the bye week. And then go back in from a practice standpoint and really hone in on, again, those fundamentals and techniques that each guy has to execute for us to be successful collectively as a unit, which is obviously going to help us an offense and help us be the best team we can. During that open, those opportunities for self scout were very valuable for us."

Q: How would you assess the play and development of the offensive line?
"We're not there yet, obviously. We've gotten a lot better. Sometimes it's hard to see, but we have gotten better. We don't temper our expectations and our standards. We have a standard that we want to play at as a unit because we know the standards that are here at Penn State. We are working hard to achieve those. We are being very demanding to the guys to be attention to detail players. Is there a process that goes along with it? Yes. At this point in the season, there are no more rookies. Guys have played in games. There are no more rookies. No one cares about that stuff, to be honest with you. I've told the guys from the get go that nobody cares we had to replace four guys. Nobody cares that we have inexperience or some of the guys were playing defense (last year). No one cares if you are banged up or bruised up. What they want to see is results. That's what we are striving for and that's what we are working hard for. I can tell you this that the work ethic of this group is tremendous. But hard work doesn't guarantee you success. There are a lot of other factors that go into it. But without hard work, you have no shot. These guys work. When is that going to come to fruition for us? Hopefully sooner rather than later, but it is a process and the guys are working extremely hard to paly up to standards they have set for themselves."

Q: What have you seen from the communication across the group?
"We always talk in terms of wanting our guys to play with one set of eyes. When you think about it, from tackle to tackle, you have five guys in there. Statistically, that is almost half of the offense from a numbers standpoint. We want all five of those guys to play with one set of eyes and what we call one heartbeat, as well, so that we are all on the same page. We have got to be able to talk across the board, echo calls, make sure everybody is on the same page. Even if we are wrong, if we are all wrong together, we have a chance to be right. But if the right side and the left side are not working in coordination together, we have no shot. It starts with our center. Angelo (Mangiro) has done a great job with identifying fronts and the communication progression on every single play...There is a process that goes along with communication (across the line). And each week that has improved. We hope that we will continue to improve that as we go through the season. And we hope that it will be a big part of the improvement that people see on Saturday."

Q: How have some of the younger guys behind your starters progressed as the season has gone on?
"Those guys are doing good. We have several freshmen who are in our two deep and travel squad. James (Franklin) has kind of talked to you guys about green lighting, yellow lighting and red lighting younger guys. We have a few freshmen who are yellow lighted guys right now that are taking reps in practice and developing. They are getting closer to being guys that we could use if we needed to. We don't necessarily want to use those guys unless we have to. The other guys, we basically have about eight guys who have taken the majority of the reps for us. Wendy Laurent, Derek Dowrey and Albert Hall are kind of our three main backup players. They have to be able to play multiple positions, which they do. Dowrey has repped at both guard positions. Wendy has repped at all three inside positions. Albret has repped at basically every position but center. When you are preparing for a game, you are getting eight guys ready. Those guys have to be multiple. And those guys are developing nicely. We'll see how that works out for us this weekend if we need to work some of those guys in. They are certainly ready, repping and preparing like the starters."

Q: You are cooking for the group next week. Are you looking forward to that and what do you have planned for the meal?
"We are either going to do it on Monday or Wednesday, probably leaning more towards Wednesday. I'm going to fire up my smoker and throw down some pork shoulders and brisket. We are going to do a nice little barbecue deal with some fixin's - coleslaw, baked beans, corn on the cob - kind of a meat and potatoes type of meal. Nothing real fancy, but it's going to be made with a lot of love and it is going to be delicious. I'm looking forward to cooking for these guys."

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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Michigan 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 at Michigan on Saturday (7 p.m. on ESPN2) following a bye week.

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2014 Opponent Previews - Michigan

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10415273.jpegMichigan | Michigan Stadium | 8 p.m. | ESPN2

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to Ann Arbor on Saturday to take on Michigan in the first ever Big Ten night game at the "Big House". Get to know the Wolverines in this week's scouting report.

Brady Hoke, who is in his fourth year leading the Wolverines, is 75-67 overall and 28-17 at Michigan. The Wolverines went 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten in 2013. They lost 31-14 to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Wolverines returned 46 lettermen and 16 starters from 2013.

The Wolverines enter this Saturday with a 2-4 mark and currently have a three-game losing streak. Michigan dropped a 26-24 contest to Rutgers last Saturday. The Wolverines compiled 336 yards of total offense, including 178 yards through the air. Quarterback Devin Gardner completed 13-of-22 passes for 178 yards and an interception. Gardner also rushed for 40 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. Derrick Green gained 74 yards on 12 carries, but suffered a collarbone injury. De'Veon Smith added 31 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Receiver Devin Funchess caught five passes for 71 yards. Kicker Matt Wile converted a 39-yard field goal.

The Michigan defense allowed 476 yards, including 402 passing yards against the Scarlet Knights. Linebacker Joe Bolden recorded a team-high 10 tackles, including nine solo. Fellow linebacker Jake Ryan made eight stops, two for loss, and broke up a pass. Linemen Willie Henry and Taco Charlton each had two tackles for loss and a sack.

The Wolverine offense ranks 14th in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 22.3 points per game. They average 354 yards per game to rank 12th in the conference in total yards. The Wolverines rank 7th and 12th in the conference, respectively, in rushing and passing offense.

Gardner has completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 911 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. The senior has also run for 131 yards and three scores. Sophomore Shane Morris has also seen time at quarterback. Morris has completed 36 percent of his throws for 128 yards and three interceptions.

With Green's injury, Smith will take over the top running back spot. Smith, 5-foot-11, has rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging six yards per carry. Junior Justice Hayes, 5-foot-10, has 101 yards on 19 carries this season. Hayes also has five catches for 47 yards.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Funchess leads the receiving corps. The converted tight end leads the team with 29 catches for 392 yards and three scores. Funchess is eighth in the conference in receiving yards per game. Sophomore Jehu Chesson has 13 catches for 151 yards, while Amara Darboh has 11 receptions for 148 yards and a score. Tight end Jake Butt has 96 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

The offensive line includes two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.

The Michigan defense has allowed 22.8 points per game and 315.5 yards per game, ranking 10th and sixth in the conference, respectively. The Wolverines have given up just over 100 yards rushing and 215 yards passing per game.

Senior defensive end Frank Clark leads the line with 20 tackles, 15 solo, 6.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Fellow end Brennan Beyer has made 16 stops, including two sacks, while Charlton has 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Henry, a tackle, has 17 tackles, with 4.5 for loss and two sacks.

The Wolverines have a strong linebacker group, led by Bolden and Ryan. The junior, Bolden, leads the defense with 48 tackles, 23 solo. He also has two tackles for loss and a sack. Ryan has recorded 46 stops, 26 solo, six for loss, a sack, and two pass breakups.

Sophomore cornerback Jourdan Lewis leads the secondary with 22 tackles and an interception. Junior Blake Countess has made 13 tackles, 10 solo, and two pass breakups. Safety Jarrod Wilson has 16 tackles this year.

Kicker Matt Wile has converted on 5-of-9 attempts, with a long of 42. Punter Will Hagerup averages 45 yards per punt, placing seven inside the 20-yard line. Dennis Norfleet is a talented return man, averaging 23.6 yards per kick return. He also handles the punt return duties. Norfleet ranks second in program history in career kick return yards with 1,977.

Michigan leads the all-time series against Penn State, 10-7. On the field, Penn State has won the last four meetings against the Wolverines, including last year's thrilling 43-40 win in four overtimes in Beaver Stadium.

What Brady Hoke is saying about Penn State:

"We have our work cut out for us. Defensively, they are first in the conference in rushing yards allowed. Christian Hackenberg is one of the great quarterbacks in the country. They have two receivers that seem to catch everything."

"I think [Hackenberg's] accuracy with the football is impressive. He can make all the throws. When a throw requires touch, he has nice touch. When a throw requires some zip, he can power it in there. I think his progression, when he's gone through it, is very accurate and very successful."

"I think their front is very good. They do a nice job. When they need to bring pressure, they've been able to do that and be successful. They get off blocks and have good integrity with their gaps."

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

VIDEO: Michigan Week Player Q&As - C.J. Olaniyan & DaeSean Hamilton

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with defensive end C.J. Olaniyan and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton leading up to the Michigan game.