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Practice Report: Nebraska Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening. Nittany Lions Marcus Allen and DaeSean Hamilton also took time for a pair of post-practice media sessions during Nebraska week.

Check in for a few updates from Penn State's final mid-week media availability before Saturday's home finale.

A Legacy in Terms of Work
For Franklin, there's isn't one particular story that he'll remember Hamilton by, rather pointing out that he'll leave behind a legacy surrounding an impressive work ethic. 

"He's a guy, as much as any guy I've been around in my career, that has maximized his potential through work ethic, through preparation, through attitude," Franklin said." I mean, I think I've told you guys stories, when I was a bachelor living here by myself for nine months and I'd come out at 6 a.m. and he'd be out on the turf running routes by himself or on the JUGS machine or what else." 

Marcus Allen Then and Now
When asked to describe himself looking back at when he was a freshman to where he is now as a senior, Allen was both reflective and appreciative of those who have helped him along the way. 

"Raw talent, a gullible kid, just playing with straight emotion. I didn't really know the game of football." Allen said describing his freshman self. "Senior Marcus, still play with emotion and passion, but really I learned way more about football in general. I got taught the ins and outs of football. Down and distance, formation recognition, checks, calls." 

It Was a Scramble
Franklin also detailed a bit of the hectic process related to tying up a recruiting class having just barely arrived on campus.

"It was a scramble, we were locked up in the Penn Stater," Franklin said. "We lived in the Penn Stater and going through HR and everything. Half of our staff wasn't even allowed to come to Lasch until we cleared all the background checks and all that kind of stuff. Legitimately we were sequestered in the Penn Stater and it was basically me coming over, walking around Lasch Building by myself. But it was a scramble, calling all those kids."

Nebraska Secondary
When asked about the Husker secondary, Hamilton noted that it's probably among the biggest he's faced. 

"A lot of teams in the Big Ten west, their DB's and their whole team is huge," Hamilton said. "We approach them the same way, we are aware of who our matchup are and things like that. We know they are a pretty skilled group, they've been playing together for I'm pretty sure a long time and they're real disciplined as well so that's the main thing we're focusing on.

Program Spotlight: Going For It

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If Andrea Smith had a dollar for every time someone asked her how her husband could transform into a fierce and ferocious competitor on Saturday's in the fall, she'd likely be rich.

Her husband of course, is 6-foot, fifth-year senior linebacker Brandon Smith.

"We've been together for seven years and I've honestly never seen him actually angry," Andrea said. "For example, his barber, they are all so shocked when he tells them that he plays football because he seems like the kindest, most gentle person. I guess people have a hard time imagining that he isn't like that on the football field, which is funny."

As Winfield, Pennsylvania natives, both Brandon and Andrea grew up fewer than 80 miles from University Park. A standout linebacker at Lewisburg High School, Brandon always had his mind set on Penn State.

"I always dreamed of coming here and I never really thought that would happen," Brandon said.

While accumulating college football offers, Smith was eventually recruited as a preferred walk-on at Penn State, which made his decision to turn down Ivy League scholarship opportunities, an easy one in pursuit of his lifelong dream.

"I always knew he wanted to go to Penn State," Andrea said. "When he was trying to decide, I think everyone in his family knew that was where he wanted to go. When he told me, I wasn't super shocked, but I guess I was more excited because you realize this is a dream, and he had the opportunity to pursue that."

While deliberating, Brandon knew that choosing Penn State wouldn't be the easiest path, but through personal prayer he found there was simply something about the challenge that was drawing him to Happy Valley. 

"I think ultimately I just looked at it and I didn't want to look back and say that I didn't try it or think to myself, could I have done that or not," Brandon said. "Instead, I decided to go for it and find out." 

In what will soon the end of a five-year career at Penn State, there's a lot he has accomplished along the way, most recently being named to the Allstate AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Good Works Team.

"I don't think I would have been challenged the same way football-wise at the other places but I definitely don't think I would have been challenged the same way spiritually in those places, and that's one of the biggest things I've taken away after five years being here," Brandon said.

Following a redshirt season in 2013, Brandon did not play in any games during the 2014 season. He made his collegiate debut against Indiana in 2015, but only played in two other games during the year.

By 2016, Brandon burst on to the scene against Temple, having played just 44 career snaps entering the game, he finished with eight tackles, his first career tackle for loss and his first career pass breakup in 68 total snaps against the Owls. 

As injuries took their toll on the Nittany Lion linebackers, Brandon made his first collegiate start on the road at Michigan.

Playing in all 14 games during the 2016 Big Ten Championship season, he highlighted the year with a career-high 14 tackles against Maryland, grabbing his first interception to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

He hasn't looked back since, now a regular face on the field, most recently stepping into a starting role at Will linebacker, atop this week's depth chart.

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Through his rise to success on the field, what makes his high school sweetheart most proud though, is the character he has kept throughout the process.

"When he wasn't playing the first couple of years, versus last year when he did have the opportunity to be on that big stage, it hasn't changed who he is as a person," Andrea said. "He didn't let any of that affect him - the hard times or the good times, he always remained true to who he is. For me, that's just an incredible husband and best friend, but to so many other people, his teammates, his coaches, I think they've seen that in him, that he's just true and true the same person and they can always rely on him to be who he is. He's just always going to show up and be the Brandon Smith that everyone knows him as."

The same Brandon Smith that everyone knows though, is known for much more than what he contributes on the football field.

A seven-time Dean's List honoree, Smith has already earned one degree in kinesiology and is on track to graduate with a second degree in health, policy and administration. Helped out by a few perfect semesters, Brandon earned a 4.0 GPA in the 2017 spring semester to bring his cumulative GPA to a 3.81. 

While managing academic and football responsibilities, Brandon prioritizes being a husband too, and that means he needs to be diligent with his time.

"I just have to be focused and make the most out of the time that I have," Brandon said. "Sometimes it's easy to get lazy like between classes maybe trying to watch Netflix or something. Instead, I have to try to get my work done during the day and in between classes, take advantage of that time more and try to watch film so when I'm home at night I have as little to do as possible to be fair to my wife and not just come home, do work and go to bed. 

Andrea and Brandon also both recently applied to medical school, a process that is anything but brief.

For Brandon, that meant spending all spring and summer studying for the MCAT, a more than seven-hour test that's a key part of the application process. After passing the MCAT, it was time for applications. 

"The application process was pretty difficult because I was in training camp trying to finish them," Brandon said. "You have to get letters of recommendation from your teachers. I got one from Coach Franklin, he was nice enough to do one for me." 

After completing another round of secondary applications featuring more essays and personal statements, it's now a waiting game for both Andrea and Brandon, who await interview rounds from interested medical schools. 

While they didn't study together, when they do get time to spend together, helping others is something they can both do as a family. 

In 2012, Andrea and her sister Emily founded Honduran Soles, a nonprofit shoe organization designed to provide adequate footwear to those in need all over the world. 

"We kind of had this goal where we wanted to raise 200 pairs of shoes and send them to Honduras," Andrea said. "In a matter of months, we had 3,000 pairs of shoes and it just kind of grew from this small dream to this summer, we have sent out over 14,000 pairs in 22 countries."

Andrea's parents graciously offered up their garage, which serves as shoe warehouse for the operation, which she and Brandon, when he has time, dedicate to packing shoes to be sent out with different groups traveling to areas of the world in need.

Together, they traveled to Honduras during spring break in 2015 to spend time with children in an orphanage and build a soccer field.

"When we went there, we were handing out fruit and sandwiches and had some candy," Brandon said. "These kids were going absolutely berserk just to get a lollypop and it probably costs two cents there. Just seeing that level of desperation, in little kids none the less, it makes you realize how blessed we are to live here and how blessed we are to have all our needs met. Most people here have an abundance, way more than they need so it doesn't take much to try to give back and try to improve someone else's quality of life."

Their impact on others spans further than Honduras, as Andrea and Brandon's flower girl in their wedding was a young girl he met during one of Penn State Football's annual visits to the Penn State Children's Hospital.

"Brandon had met her in 2014 when the team went to Hershey over the summer," Andrea said. "I went to Messiah College, which is really close to Hershey, so I started volunteering at Hershey and I got to meet her." 

From a friendship, it grew into a truly special relationship, just one small example of the type of opportunities Brandon is proud to have at Penn State. 

"We just have tons and tons of opportunities and if you just take one minute extra to spend time with one of these people, you see how much of an impact is has on them," Brandon said. "We have this opportunity where people look up to us here and we're just normal people. People love Penn State Football and love the players, it doesn't take much at all to give back to those people."

From academics and community service to marriage and football, it wasn't always easy to find contentment with his role on the team.

"I said this in the team meeting when Coach Franklin had me share with the team one time, I really made a switch, even before I started playing, from woe-is-me to I'm not getting a chance, and this is and that," Brandon said. "I started just loving my teammates and loving the coaches and that changed my whole perspective." 

With a new perspective, how he viewed his Penn State experience, was immediately transformed.

"It wasn't that I didn't work hard, but just little things that I would say to other people or to myself, they weren't good for myself or the team," Brandon said. "When I could make that switch and just love myself, love the players and love the coaches, I started enjoying being here and I think I became a much better teammate during that time."

Now at peace in any circumstance, when looking back on the entire experience, it's his decision to go for it, that has truly made him proud.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people take their opportunities and circumstances for granted," Brandon said. "It's easy to be ungrateful when you're so focused on yourself. I think I'm most happy that I was able to grow out of that immaturity and see that there's a bigger picture here. I get to be a part of one of the best program's in the country at one of the best institutions in the country. I get to help out in great causes. It's just an amazing opportunity and I'm glad that I was able to make the most out of it.

Tuesday Roundup - Nebraska Week

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RELATED LINKS: Transcripts - Franklin I Gesicki, Smith I Watch - Full Press Conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football returns to action Saturday, hosting Nebraska in its regular season home finale at Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media at his weekly press conference joined by linebacker Brandon Smith and tight end Mike Gesicki.

For Gesicki and Smith, Saturday marks the final time they'll take to the field at Beaver Stadium alongside members of the 2017 senior class. With the emotions associated with a final outing on the home field, both Gesicki and Smith were reflective Tuesday afternoon, looking back at their Penn State careers.

"This is going to be a game filled with a bunch of emotions," Gesicki said. "It is the last game ever playing in Beaver Stadium, and I can still remember the first time I was here in Beaver Stadium. My junior year of high school, I visited for the White Out game against Ohio State, and I remember the atmosphere, the fans, and everything about Beaver Stadium."

Across his four years, Gesicki noted he'll cherish everything, specifically mentioning how much the program has changed since he first stepped foot on campus.

"When I first got here coach Franklin had been here for about five months," Gesicki said.
"There's been some guys on these teams that played for a few coaches. Finally over the past two years, we've had complete buy in by all 125 players on the team. We all have the utmost respect for coach Franklin and trust him, the scheme, and what he preaches to us day in and day out."
 

For someone like Smith, it's this year that has been the most meaningful to him.  

"This is my fifth season and I've just enjoyed all of it," Smith said. "I'd say patience has been one of the biggest things for me, just waiting for an opportunity, and preparation. Just having the right attitude. I talked to the team a couple weeks ago about my perspective switch of just being less selfish and more cheering my teammates on and being happy for the guys who got to play in front of me. Just being able to support them and that shift just lets you work harder, lets you have better focus, and so when your opportunity does come, you're ready."

On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on the unwavering commitment from this year's senior class.

"Those guys should be very proud," Franklin said. "I would hope that we sell out the stadium on Saturday for no other reason than to show these seniors how much we appreciate all their hard work and sacrifices that they've made."

- Gesicki on who will take his place as well as DaeSean Hamilton's in the post practice pass catching group including Juwan Johnson.

"Juwan always says, 'Man, we've got a few more weeks and then I'm going to be out here throwing the ball to myself,'" Gesicki said. "I'm not sure who Juwan is going to let enter this prestigious club of ours but whoever it is, they're going to go out there and get in a bunch of extra work and prepare for Saturdays, just like we have been for the past two years."

- Smith on his transition to linebacker.

"I knew I could play linebacker, so I'd talk to coach Pry and I'd talk to coach Franklin. Once a week, every other week, I'd be up in one of their offices telling them I can do this. I'm not pulling your leg or anything like that. I was thankful to have guys like Ben Klein or Nyeem Wartman who were older guys who were there while I transitioned to linebacker, and they vouched for me. I appreciate them because ultimately they let me switch and I'm really thankful for that opportunity. Who knows, they probably might have cut me if I stayed a tight end. So just thankful for that opportunity."

- Gesicki on the latest member to join the "DaeSean Hamilton friends club."

"The latest addition would be Andre Robinson," Gesicki said. "Andre has, for the past year and a half, literally - because I live with Andre, been like, 'dude, I wish DaeSean would talk to me.' I'd tell him 'maybe go up and say what's up?' Then Andre actually went through my phone and got DaeSean's number when I wasn't looking. He texted him and DaeSean responded with, 'Who is this?' And Andre was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's Andre.' So then Andre would text him like a hundred times a day, really just annoy him to be his friend. Now he knows that Andre's a funny dude and likes hanging out with him. I would say Andre is the new addition."

- Smith on what this year has meant to him.

"I think this season in general, even though I've been a back-up for most of the season, I've just enjoyed this more than any other season and made an extra effort to build relationships with my teammates," Smith said. "I don't even know if I'll remember actually playing in games. I think just the team and the locker room and things like that. I think this year, more than any, has been the most meaningful to me."

- Gesicki on how much pride he takes in the fact that he didn't give up dealing with adversity early in his career. 

"Ultimately I could have packed it in," Gesicki said. "That's not who I am. I'm a competitor. I had goals and aspirations. Then, going into that spring ball, I would write in my notebook every day. The first thing I'd write is I'm the best tight end. Every single day. If anybody ever read that, they would have laughed at me at that point in my life. Just because they would think you're not even close to that. I knew what I was capable of. That's something that I'm very proud of, how I grew and developed and become the player I am."

Monday Notebook: Nebraska Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football has turned its focus toward Nebraska, prepping for its final home outing of season Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley took the podium this afternoon in his weekly press conference giving early props to the Penn State defense as well as quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley.

"I think you all know Penn State has a great football team all around with a great runner, very versatile," Riley said. "I really like the quarterback. I think he's a great fit for what they do and their defense is physical, lots of movement. It's a good defense so we'll have our work cut out for us for sure." 

As Franklin noted postgame following the win against Rutgers, he was pleased with the defensive effort, especially in its ability to remain patient and adapt to mid-game adjustments. Penn State senior linebacker Jason Cabinda led the team with 11 tackles, while fifth-year senior linebacker Brandon Smith followed close behind with 10 tackles.

With Penn State leading 21-6 in the third quarter, linebacker Cam Brown broke up a Rutgers pass attempt before Cabinda came through with a fourth-and-2 stop on a Scarlet Knight fake punt attempt, setting the stage for a Nittany Lion scoring drive.

In total, Penn State surrendered 101 rushing yards in the first half, but held Rutgers to just 56 yards on the ground in the second half. The Nittany Lion air defense limited the Scarlet Knights to just 43 passing yards, marking its fewest allowed in a conference game since becoming a member of the league.

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Kicking Up the Record Lists
Penn State kicker Tyler Davis continued his rise through the Nittany Lion record book against Rutgers. With five PAT kicks, he surpassed Brett Conway (119 - 1994-96) for the most consecutive PAT kicks at Penn State with 122.

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He also moved to fifth in the Big Ten's consecutive extra points chart, kicking his first of the day to give the Nittany Lions the lead, 7-6, in the second quarter and his fifth of the day to lock up the 35-6 win.

He Said It
Riley also noted his admiration for the way McSorley plays the game.

"I think McSorley is a versatile, competitive guy, makes plays, feet, on the run, throwing," Riley said. "I think that as I've watching him through the year's he's never out. Their comeback came in the championship game was interesting and I think his play was outstanding in that game." 

Statistical Snapshot
Allowing just six points against Rutgers, Penn State's scoring defense is ranked second in the conference and fourth in FBS allowing 13.9 points per game on the year. The Nittany Lions are also plus-13 in the turnover margin, something Franklin continues to highlight in weekly press conferences.

Individually, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is ranked atop the conference standings and second in FBS with 184.60 all-purpose yards. Barkley set a career record against Rutgers, climbing to the top spot on the all-purpose yards chart with 5,055 in his career, surpassing both Larry Johnson and Curt Warner.

Looking at Nebraska
The Huskers head to Happy Valley for the first time since 2013, set to close out a two-game road swing at Beaver Stadium. Nebraska enters Saturday's matchup coming off a 54-21 loss at Minnesota. 

McSorley Shines in Rutgers Win

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, nothing else mattered this week besides beating Rutgers on Saturday.

He wasn't the only with the same laser-like focus, as the Nittany Lions fought through adversity to arrive at their intended objective - to be 1-0 this week.

Saturday's game in a few ways mirrored something Nittany Lion fans had all but perhaps forgot, looking eerily like a few outings from the 2016 season.

"I saw a lot of different areas that we have to get improved, obviously the weird kickoff to start the game," Franklin said.

Not the most ideal way to start the game he added, but nonetheless, Penn State pushed forward.

Trailing 6-0, the Scarlet Knights managed two field goals for the early first quarter, one coming as a result of the opening kickoff mishap.

Sticking to the plan, Penn State did not panic, instead responding with a four-play, 65-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter engineered by none other than McSorley.

McSorley found tight end Mike Gesicki for a 19-yard grab, sparking a four-play, 65-yard scoring drive. On second-and-9, McSorley threw to wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who caught a 25-yard reception. McSorley then dashed into the end zone for a 20-yard rushing touchdown. Tyler Davis followed with the ensuing extra point to give the Nittany Lions the edge, 7-6.

Penn State's offense quickly found its footing as McSorley threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton to send the Nittany Lions into halftime leading 14-6 with time to make adjustments.

"It wasn't really too many adjustments, we weren't really executing," Gesicki said. "They gave us a few different looks that we weren't - not prepared for, but that we weren't really expecting. Just kind of understanding that and trusting that coach Moorhead is going to put us in the best situation to be successful."

At halftime, McSorley was 7-for-10 with 106 passing yards and 32 rushing yards. With both a rushing and passing touchdown for his 14th career outing with a score of each kind.

Both patient and resilient, it was Barkley who came out with back-to-back third quarter touchdowns for the Nittany Lions. Like his familiar boxing analogy, throw the jab, throw the jab and then hit 'em with the haymaker.

Barkley went untouched into the end zone twice, including once on a hook-and-ladder play that ignited the Beaver Stadium crowd.

 

"For me, it's pretty simple. Just take a couple of steps, throw Ham [DaeSean Hamilton] a catchable ball," McSorley said recounting the play. They did a really good job, kind of as we were coming we knew we had a free blitz off the edge so pointed him out, Saquon had to go kind of bluff him, give him a hit, escape and get out clean."

If you ask Hamilton, he'd say that it was Barkley who did all the work, but much to Barkley's personality, he begs to differ.

"I would disagree with that," Barkley said with a laugh. "Hammy did a great job. First of all, it was a great call by JoeMo [Joe Moorhead] seeing the defense, obviously we could see that they were blitzing. Hammy did a great job doing his responsibility and I was just trying to focus on keeping the width, so I was able to keep the pitch length and got the ball and that play, got to find a way to get in the end zone."

McSorley finished 16-for-21 with 214 yards. Responsible for three touchdowns, he moved to the top of the Nittany Lion record books passing Daryll Clark with 68 in his career.

"As a high school kid when you come to a place like this, you come here to compete and you dream of having success," McSorley said. "No one has the vision that they are going to come here and be mediocre. As a competitor, you hope to be great, win games, and have the big numbers. All of that stuff is great, and definitely something I'll be able to look back on and enjoy. It's definitely an honor from all the great players who've come to this program, and all of the tradition. To have my name in that conversation is a tremendous honor. A lot of that goes to the team and the coaches. Personal accolades and individual stuff doesn't happen without the team having success." 

VIDEO: Rutgers Postgame (Players)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 14 Penn State football topped Rutgers 35-6 Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of more than 107,000 in its military appreciation game. Catch up with several of the Nittany Lions following the win.

Barkley, Hamilton, Johnson

Cabinda, Smith, Cothran

VIDEO: Rutgers Postgame (James Franklin)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 14 Penn State football topped Rutgers 35-6 Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of more than 107,000 in its military appreciation game. Catch up with Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin following the win. 

Beaver Stadium Extra - Rutgers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Go behind the scenes and inside all things Beaver Stadium on Rutgers gameday with the Nittany Lions. Check in for exclusive interviews and content throughout the entire afternoon. 

Honorary Captain Col. James Harding Joins Beaver Stadium Extra
Penn State alum and former Nittany Lion lineman Col. James Harding, one of the most decorated members of the military is honored pregame as an honorary captain during the coin toss. 


Homecoming Grand Marshal John Urschel Joins Beaver Stadium Extra 
NFL veteran and Nittany Lion offensive line alum John Urschel returned to Happy Valley to be recognized as the 2017 Penn State Homecoming Grand Marshal.

Track & Field's Megan McCloskey on Homecoming Court 
Penn State track & field student-athlete Megan McCloskey shares her experience selected to the 2017 Penn State Homecoming Court.

Penn State Welcomes Back former Nittany Lion Mascots 
Michael Valania, Penn State's Nittany Lion mascot from 2013-15 roared again with a special performance during a break in the action.

2017 Gameday Live - No. 14 Penn State vs. Rutgers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 14 Penn State football (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) returns home from the road, set to host Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten) Saturday in a noon outing at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions will welcome home alumni for homecoming, in addition to 7,500 service members in attendance courtesy of Penn State's Seats for Servicemembers program. In honor of Veterans Day, Penn State will honor all active duty and veteran service members and their families in a Military Appreciation game.

Follow along with our live blog for up-to-the-minute information and join the conversation for in-game updates and exclusive content. 

Live Blog No. 14 Penn State vs. Rutgers
 

2017 Gameday - No. 14 Penn State Welcomes Rutgers

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RELATED LINKS: Gameday Central I Live Blog I Game Notes I Depth Chart I Tuesday Presser Roundup I Wednesday Practice Report I T. Banks Q&A I Monday Notebook I Nittany Lions in the NFL - Week 9 I Gameday promotions and reminders

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 14 Penn State football (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) returns home from the road, set to host Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten) Saturday in a noon outing at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions will welcome home alumni for homecoming, in addition to 7,500 service members in attendance courtesy of Penn State's Seats for Servicemembers program. In honor of Veterans Day, Penn State will honor all active duty and veteran service members and their families in a Military Appreciation game.

"Going to be some challenges [for us] with balancing homecoming, military appreciation day, which is always a great opportunity for us to make sure that the people that serve our country know how much we appreciate it, and Penn State does an unbelievable job with that," Penn State head coach James Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions enter Saturday's matchup coming off a pair of tough losses on the road by a combination of four total points.

While returning to the comforts of the home crowd offers a sigh of relief, Penn State is by no means taking even a mere second to exhale.

"I'm a huge believer in, you take care of today and that will take care of tomorrow," Franklin said. "We are going to make sure that we get back to the formula that got us here in the first place and I believe so strongly in that." 

Poised to get back to basics, not much change was needed for the Nittany Lions this week, beginning with film corrections on Sunday.

"I would say mostly just understanding what mistakes we've done, why they happened, how can we capitalize on them and eliminate them going forward," wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins said. "After that, just erasing it. It's already done. Nothing you can do about it and just attack the next week, one week at a time." 

With the past in the past, Penn State has turned its full focus toward the Scarlet Knights, who arrive in Happy Valley with wins in three of their last four conference games, most recently topping Maryland, 31-24 at home.

"Offensively they're a pro style offensive that mixes some spread concepts in there a little bit," Franklin said. "We have a lot of respect for Jerry Kill, as Matt Limegrover and Jerry were together for 17 years, and we have a lot of respect for him. Defensively, they've moved to odd- front defense, which is different. We don't see that very often. It changes how you have to game plan."

Led by second-year head coach Chris Ash, Rutgers will also begin a two-game road stretch beginning with the Nittany Lions, having already matched its team-high mark for Big Ten wins in just the last few weeks.

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What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Earlier this week, Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann noted the matchup problem that someone like tight end Mike Gesicki creates. Noting both size and length, Niemann said mixing coverages would be key to limiting Gesicki's impact.

Coming off a career-high outing at Michigan State (8 catches for 89 yards), he's second on the team with 38 receptions on the year. With four receiving touchdowns this year, he's also tied for 12th in the Big Ten, also owning the team's longest active reception stretch with one catch in 23 consecutive games.

2. Physicality up front was a major takeaway Franklin expressed postgame at Michigan State. For Franklin though, it's not something that happens overnight, as it's an issue spanning more than just the last two weeks, and more of a mentality than it is an action item in practice.

"We have been saying internally and externally, that we want to be a more physical team up front," Franklin said. "When I say that I'm not just talking about the offensive line. I'm talking about tight ends. I'm talking about all of it. I think it's something that we can do a better job of and need to do a better job of to take that next step as a program." 

3. Penn State is plus-12 in the turnover margin, which is tied for fifth in FBS. Having forced at least one turnover in the last 10 consecutive games, the Nittany Lions have hardly struggled when it comes to creating opportunities off of turnovers. On the other side of things though, Franklin made specific note of the impact the three turnovers the Nittany Lions committed at Michigan State made. It's not all a total negative though.

"One of the areas that I thought we've been struggling on defense this year with sudden change and I thought our defense handled the three turnovers extremely well," Franklin said. "Those three turnovers came out to be two punts and one take away. So that was a real positive. We want to build on that."

What to Watch For - Rutgers
1. During his weekly press conference, Franklin pointed out the Rutgers odd-front defense, something that will dictate Penn State's blocking schemes in the running game and in the passing game from a protection standpoint. 

For someone like tight end Jonathan Holland, it's a challenge the Nittany Lions are looking forward to.

"I feel like playing college football I've seen a lot of teams with a lot of different defenses," Holland said. "Their defense is definitely very different from ones that we've seen but I feel like it's just a great matchup and I feel like our entire team, position by position, is really eager for the matchup that's coming up this weekend. I feel like we're all going to be very prepared for it. It comes down to us being able to execute."

2. The Scarlet Knights have three running backs averaging at least 4.9 career yards per carry. Among the unit, Franklin made specific note of Gus Edwards, a fifth-year senior transfer from Miami.

"I think the big this is the back," Franklin said. "The running back who transferred from Miami is a really good player. He's 235 pounds and he's a downhill guy and I think he's a redshirt senior so he's kind of been there and has that experience, gets behind the offensive line and they run the inside zone and it's almost like wedge play. They just kind of cram it in there." 

Edwards leads the team with 630 rushing yards and 732 all-purpose yards, ranking 10th in the Big Ten with seven total touchdowns on the year. He's also coming off a season-high outing against Maryland with 109 rushing yards to record his first 100-yard rushing game in a Rutgers uniform.

3. Last year Rutgers went 0-9 in Big Ten conference play. At 3-3, a fourth conference win would be the most for the Scarlet Knights since securing five wins as a member of the Big East conference in 2012. With three wins following a winless conference season, Rutgers is one only six of the past 30 Big Ten teams since 1960 to win at least three league games the following year. 

"Obviously they're coming off a hot streak," offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez said. "It's always going to be tough and they're going to come in and try to knock us off. They're going to come in with a lot of momentum, so we just have to be prepared for it."

The Final Word -
Penn State has claimed a win in 10 of its last 12 homecoming outings. With a 70-22-5 record in nearly 100 outings in front of the alumni crowd, the Nittany Lions have won their last two consecutive homecoming games. Homecoming success aside, Penn State has won its 12 straight games inside Beaver Stadium, in arguably the best atmosphere in all of college football. 

"We have a distinct advantage here at our stadium and we want to continue that, and we need our fan support come Saturday, and to find a way to be successful," Franklin said. "It's going to take all of us. I said that in my opening press conference and I believe that more today. It's going to take all of us together to go to the stadium, and make it a very challenging environment for people to be successful."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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