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Highlighting Penn State's 2015 All-Big Ten Defensive Selections

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2015 regular season in the books, a host of Nittany Lions were honored on Monday evening when the conference unveiled its 2015 All-Big Ten selections for the defensive side of the ball.

Headlining the list is Carl Nassib, who was tabbed as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Take a look inside Penn State's All-Big Ten selections for 2015.

First Team All-Big Ten (Media and Coaches):
DE Carl Nassib - Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

Senior Carl Nassib has etched his place among the all-time greats in Penn State lore following a record-breaking season where he became the program's all-time season leader in sacks. Nassib's statistics speak for themselves, but it has been the approach to every snap on the practice field, in the weight room and on the game field that has separated him from the best in the conference. Simply put, Nassib is a relentless worker with a never-ending drive to do everything in his power to ensure the Penn State defense is among the nation's elite. A former walk-on, Nassib has the utmost respect from all of his peers in the locker room for his efforts on and off the field. He will head into the bowl season as the nation's leader in sacks and forced fumbles. Nassib is a deserving recipient of the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year honor, but he would be the first to tell you that he doesn't play for individual accolades. Always humble, Nassib's preparation, effort, intensity and production put him a cut above the rest of the defensive players in the Big Ten this fall. And in doing so, Nassib joins an elite list of Nittany Lions who hold the honor of being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

"It's incredible. I'm so happy to be here and represent Penn State the right way," Nassib said. "I'm happy to show that hard work does pay off, and I couldn't be happier (to receive the award)."

- While making his first career start (high school or college), Nassib made a career-high 10 tackles with a sack and 2.5 TFLs in the season opener at Temple.
- Nassib had at least one sack in 10 consecutive games, which is the longest streak by a Penn State player since sacks became an official NCAA statistic in 2000.
- His 19.5 tackles for loss this season are the most by a Nittany Lion since Aaron Maybin had 20 in 2008. Nassib's TFL total is the fourth-most by a Penn State player since 2000.
- Nassib's six forced fumbles are the most by a Penn State player since Michael Haynes had a school-record seven forced fumbles in 2002.
- Nassib is the first Penn State player to force two fumbles in two games in the same season since Maurice Evans did it in 2007.



Second Team All-Big Ten (Media); Third Team All-Big Ten (Coaches):

DT Austin Johnson
One of the most dominant interior defensive lineman in America, Austin Johnson has been disruptive every snap in 2015. Johnson is among the most unsung players in the conference. A tremendously athletic individual for a player his size, Johnson is the top tackler among all defensive tackles in America and No. 3 in the nation among all defensive linemen. The team's third leading tackler with 70 stops, Johnson has made 13.0 tackles for loss and has 5.5 sacks. The numbers are remarkable for a defensive tackle, but they don't do his impact on games justice. When opposing coaches flip on the film of the Nittany Lion defense, Johnson's blend of quickness and power stand out. The New Jersey native made arguably the top play on the defensive side of the ball against San Diego State when he raced 71 yards for a touchdown after scooping up a fumble caused on a Nassib sack. Simply put, Johnson is a rare talent on defense and a deserving honoree of all-conference recognition.

- Johnson is second among defensive tackles in FB with 70 tackles, which is third on the team.
- He is second on the team with 13.0 tackles for loss.
- Johnson has the most tackles by a Penn State defensive tackle since Jordan Hill had 64 stops in 2012.

- He has four outings this season with at least nine tackles.
- Registered his first career touchdown with a 71-yard fumble return. The fumble recovery was Penn State's first fumble recovery for a touchdown since Mike Hull's 74-yard return vs. Navy in 2012
- Johnson tallied a career-high 10 tackles, including eight solo stops, at Northwestern.





Third Team All-Big Ten (Coaches & Media):
DT Anthony Zettel
Alongside Johnson, Anthony Zettel is an All-Big Ten honoree for the second-straight season. It would be hard to find a more disruptive pairing of interior lineman than the duo in blue and white. Zettel and Johnson embody every facet of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's mantra of never-ending pressure and relentless pursuit. The Michigan native found a home at defensive tackle after playing at defensive end during his first two years on the field. However, the senior demonstrated his versatility by starting at defensive end in the regular season finale on Saturday in East Lansing. Zettel's motor never stops when he is on the field. Opposing coaches throughout the season pinpointed Zettel as a guy who needed consistent attention. Heading into the bowl season, Zettel has 10.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, five pass break-ups and a fumble recovery. Those figures speak volumes about No. 98's importance to one of the Big Ten's top defensive units.

- Zettel ranks third on the team in sacks (3.0) and fourth in tackles for loss (10.0).
- He is tied for eighth on Penn State's career sacks list (19.0).
- Zettel is 10th on the program's career tackles for loss chart (37).
- Zettel registered seven tackles, including 2.5 TFLs and recovered his second career fumble against San Diego State a day after his father passed away. He was selected as Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
- He had a career-high eight tackles against Maryland.


All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
S Marcus Allen

 
LB Jason Cabinda

 
CB Grant Haley

 
CB Trevor Williams



The All-Big Ten offensive awards will be announced on Tuesday.



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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Press Conference - at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Head coach James Franklin talks with the media following the regular season finale at Michigan State.






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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks - at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Hear from several Nittany Lions as they talk with the media following Saturday's regular season finale at Michigan State.




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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in the final regular season game. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Michigan State
 

 

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in the final regular season game. Follow along for photos from gameday.


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2015 Gameday - Lions Travel to Michigan State for Regular Season Finale

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup

Wednesday Practice Update | Monday Notebook | Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will wrap up its 2015 regular season with a trip to No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

Looking to snap a two-game slide after winning seven of their previous eight games, the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) will battle the Spartans (10-1, 6-1) in a 3:30 p.m. kick (ESPN) inside Spartan Stadium.

11518686.jpeg"We've got another really good opportunity, you could make an argument maybe the top program in the conference right now (is Michigan State)," said Franklin. "They've got a culture of winning that they've established now. Again, they have talent on offense, defense and special teams and at each level, and they play smart. This is a tremendous opportunity for us. Looking forward to the opportunity to compete."

For the second-straight week and third time in 2015, the Nittany Lions will collide with a team ranked in the Top 12 of the national rankings. Penn State's trip to East Lansing on Saturday will mark its first since a 42-14 victory over the Spartans to close out the 2009 season.

Saturday's matchup will pit two of the nation's best defensive ends on the field in Nittany Lion Carl Nassib and Spartan Shilique Calhoun. Despite playing only three snaps against Michigan due to injury, Nassib still leads the country in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (6). Calhoun is 18th in FBS in sacks with 8.5 and has 15 quarterback hurries.

Additionally, the game will feature two of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks in Christian Hackenberg and Michigan State's Connor Cook. Hackenberg has become PSU's career leader in passing yards (8,061), touchdown passes (46), completions (663), attempts (1,182), 200-yard passing games (20) and 300-yard passing games (9). Cook is the winningest quarterback in school history with a 32-4 record (.889) as the starter, including a 21-2 (.913) mark against Big Ten opponents. He is a finalist of the Unitas Golden Arm Award.


Led by head coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is the fifth-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings this week. The Spartans turned in a masterful defensive performance in a road victory over No. 3 Ohio State last week. Kicker Michael Geiger nailed a 41-yard field goal as time expired to knock off the Buckeyes, 17-14. The Spartan defense limited Ohio State to five first downs and 132 yards of total offense in the win. Michigan State's lone setback in 2015 came in the final seconds in a 39-38 decision at Nebraska.

In a series that dates back to 1914, Penn State and Michigan State will meet for the 30th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 14-14-1 all-time against the Spartans and 5-8 in games at Michigan State.


Following the trip Michigan State, Penn State will await its bowl destination with the announcement coming on Dec. 6. The Nittany Lions are eligible to compete in their 46th bowl game.

Welcome to the gameday preview for week 12 - Penn State at Michigan State.

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Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11518683.jpeg1. Coach Franklin was very clear this week in that he wants to see a more physical approach from the offensive line and tight ends when blocking in the trenches. Penn State's offensive success in East Lansing will hinge on the play up front. Additionally, the Lions will be looking to get Saquon Barkley open space in the running game. In Penn State's four Big Ten victories, the Lions have rushed for an average of 163 rushing yards per game. Success on the ground also opens up opportunities for quarterback Christian Hackenberg down the field. The Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten lead in passing plays of 30 or more yards with 23 on the season.

2. Like the offensive line, Penn State's defensive line will be looking to control the line of scrimmage when Michigan State has the ball. The combination of the starting line - Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel - has spearheaded a season filled with 97 tackles for loss through the first 11 games. The Spartans have only allowed 15 sacks this season. Penn State has tallied 44 sacks as a defense.


3. The Nittany Lion offense has been terrific at turning red zone visits into points this season. The Lions are ranked No. 10 in the nation in conversion percentage (92.3 percent). However, scoring touchdowns inside the 20 has been a big point of emphasis. The Nittany Lions have ended red zone visits in the end zone 53 percent of the time in 2015. Against a team like Michigan State, the Lions know they need to get the ball in the end zone when presented with opportunities. Coach Franklin said scoring touchdowns in the red zone is a byproduct of being able to run the ball. Keep an eye on Barkley inside the 20.
 

What to Watch For - Michigan State
1. The stakes are high for the Spartans on Saturday. A win from Michigan State would send it to Indianapolis for a date with Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Additionally, the victory would crown the Spartans as the East Division champion for 2015. Going a step further, Michigan State is firmly in the picture for the College Football Playoff as the season nears conclusion. Simply put, the Spartans have a lot on the line during Senior Day in East Lansing.

2. Connor Cook missed last week's game in Columbus due to a shoulder injury, but head coach Mark Dantonio said earlier this week that Cook was close to a return. The veteran signal-caller is among the best players in the Big Ten. An accurate passer with great field awareness, Cook is averaging 282.2 passing yards per game and is tied for the Big Ten lead with 21 passing touchdowns this season. Cook has thrown for 2,482 yards this season. Wide out Aaron Burbridge is the Big Ten's top receiver with 69 receptions for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns this season. Burbridge is an exceptional receiver when it comes to make contested catches in traffic. R.J. Shelton and Macgarrett Kings have made 34 and 33 receptions, respectively.

3. As is the theme throughout most of the Big Ten, the Michigan State defense is led by a stout front seven. Linebackers Riley Bullough, Darien Harris and Jon Reschke are MSU's top three tacklers with 83, 71 and 67 stops, respectively. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun and nose tackle Malik McDowell have combined for 22 tackles for loss and 12 sacks thus far in 2015. Michigan State's defense is tied for the Big Ten lead with Iowa and Penn State in turnovers forced at 21 on the season.


The Final Word:
When the Penn State-Michigan State series was renewed with the Nittany Lions' entrance into the Big Ten in 1993, the Land Grant Trophy was established to go to the winner in what was each school's annual season finale from 1993-2010.  The Land Grant Trophy honors Penn State's and Michigan State's unique places in history as the two pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.

Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on February 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the land-grant system was patterned. The Land Grant Trophy joins the Governor's Victory Bell, presented to the Penn State-Minnesota victor, as the other trophy the Nittany Lions play for in Big Ten competition.

The Lions and Spartans will be meeting in the regular season finale for the 20th time since 1993. ESPN's live coverage of the Michigan State game begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with kickoff slated for 3:35 p.m. Bob Wischusen (Play-by-Play), Brock Huard (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline) will call the game.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unwavering support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Michigan State Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

The Nittany Lions travel to No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) kick in East Lansing. Take a look at the practice update from Michigan State week.



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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Michigan State Week

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11516786.jpegVIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talked with the media for the final time on a game week in 2015 when he addressed questions on Tuesday afternoon to preview Penn State's trip to No. 6 Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) will meet the Spartans (10-1, 6-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. inside Spartan Stadium. Franklin reviewed Penn State's game against Michigan and looked ahead to the regular season finale against Michigan State inside the Beaver Stadium media room.

Penn State kicked off the final week of the regular season with a good practice on Sunday afternoon. The team participated in community service efforts on Monday in advance of Tuesday's practice, and all eyes are looking ahead. There were lessons to be learned from the Michigan game, but Coach Franklin and the team are excited about what is coming this week.

"Michigan State is
an experienced football team, a talented football team, so it should be a tremendous challenge," said Franklin. "But I know our guys are fired up about it. We've got a great opportunity on Saturday. There will be no way to send these seniors out better than to find a way to get a win on Saturday and go into the postseason with a lot of momentum, so looking forward to the opportunity."

Moving into the final week of preparations for the regular season, Coach Franklin wants to see more physicality out of the Nittany Lion offensive line and tight ends. The games where the Lions have been successful on offense this season are the ones where the Blue and White has set the tone up front.

"We had our opportunities, didn't take advantage of it (against Michigan)," said Franklin. "I think the things that jumped out to me and probably to everybody else, we need to be much more physical on the O-line and at tight end. There was times where we did not win those match-ups, too many times that we were getting knocked back in the backfield and made it difficult to consistently run the ball for positive yardage."

Coach Franklin's point gets magnified in the red zone when physical play in the trenches is essential to score touchdowns. Penn State has been one of the best teams in the conference all season long in converting red zone visits into points (92 percent). But to beat teams like Michigan or Michigan State, the Lions know they need to put touchdowns on the board.

Penn State has scored 20 touchdowns and 15 field goals in 38 red zone visits this season.

"When you get down there, you need to make the most of your opportunities," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "You don't beat good teams by kicking field goals (in the red zone)."

Much has been talked about the magnitude of Saturday's game for Michigan State. Simply put, the Spartans will play in the Big Ten Championship Game with a win over the Nittany Lions. Franklin noted on Tuesday that the Lions have plenty on the line Saturday, as well.

"We've got a chance to win eight games in the regular season," said Franklin. "We've got a chance to go into a bowl. We've got a chance to continue to do special things on the field and continue to build our program and our culture and the things that we're doing, so we're playing for a lot. Trust me, we're playing for a lot."

The Michigan State game marks Penn State's third contest against teams ranked in the nation's top 12.

The Nittany Lions will practice in shells on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thanksgiving Day. Saturday's game inside Spartan Stadium will kick at 3:30 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN.


Press Conference Notes:
- The Nittany Lions used their off day on Monday to participate in community service at The Village where approximately 45 members of the team spent time with the elderly during lunch hour. Additionally, the team went bowling on Monday afternoon.

- Coach Franklin on defensive tackle Austin Johnson's leadership...

"Austin is a guy that's very well-respected. He's graduating. He's doing it in the classroom. He's been a great teammate. You know, he's been very, very productive on the field, so yeah, I wouldn't say he's really outspoken, but there's times where he does speak up. He's also a guy that I see in our offices all the time. He's always up kind of watching film and hanging out with the coach. He's got a great relationship with Coach Spencer."

- Coach Franklin on the Michigan State defensive line...

"They're big and physical and long on the defensive line. At linebacker they're very, very productive, and in the secondary they are athletic and long, as well. I mean, that's kind of their model. It's like their whole defense is six-foot or taller, and they challenge you. They challenge every yard. They challenge every route. They're going to be in your face with press coverage on the perimeter, no gimme throws, no easy throws, and then they're going to use their safeties. They're going to get very involved in the run game, which puts their corners in some challenging positions at times, but their philosophy is they're going to get to you before you can get the ball out, and that philosophy has worked very well for them for the last couple years, and that's exactly what showed up again on Saturday."




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VIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with junior defensive tackle Austin Johnson, sophomore linebacker Troy Reeder and junior wide receiver Geno Lewis during Michigan State week.


Austin Johnson


Troy Reeder


Geno Lewis




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