Game Notes | Gameday Central | Temple Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday
Press Conference Roundup | Coach Spencer Q&A | Player Q&A Video
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) will close out the non-conference schedule on Saturday when it meets intrastate foe Temple (5-4, 3-3 AAC) for a noon kick (ESPN2) inside Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions enter the penultimate home game of 2014 after topping Indiana, 13-7, on the road last week. The Lions moved to 3-1 in games away from home this season thanks to a stifling effort from the defense and a record-breaking 92-yard touchdown run from Bill Belton.
Belton reached 100 yards for the first time this season in the win over the Hoosiers. The senior tailback tallied 137 yards on 16 carries during the fourth 100-yard game of his Penn State career. Belton's 92-yard scoring play was the longest rushing touchdown in Penn State Football history.
Penn State's defense again turned in a outstanding performance against Indiana last week. The Lions are ranked No. 1 in the nation against the run (85.6 ypg). Additionally, the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 3 in the nation in total defense (267.6 ypg). Penn State is No. 6 in scoring defense at 16.6 points per game. Senior linebacker Mike Hull is ranked eighth in the nation with 11.2 tackles per game.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg continues to rank among the top signal callers in the Big Ten. He is second in the conference in passing with 245.1 passing yards per game. Hackenberg is leading the Big Ten in completions per game at 21.67. He became the eighth Penn State quarterback with 5,000 career passing yards in the Indiana game. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton is the leader in yards (761) and receptions (64) among freshmen in the nation.
Temple dropped to 5-4 overall last week with a 16-13 setback at Memphis. The Owls are led by a stout defensive unit that has forced 25 turnovers in 2014. Temple is ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense at 18.1 points per game.
Saturday is Military Appreciation Day and will feature the "Seats for Soldiers" campaign. Nearly 6,000 tickets were purchased for the "Seats for Soldiers" program and donated to active duty and veteran military personnel and their families, which is more than double the number of tickets sold in 2013.
The game will also include the "Parade of Champions," a celebration of team and individual successes from the 2013-'14 season. Penn State won NCAA Championships in fencing, women's volleyball and wrestling, its most NCAA titles since 1999-2000. For the second consecutive year, the Nittany Lions won a school record eight Big Ten Championships.
The third annual "Stuff a Bus" food drive will take place this weekend, as well. A Blue Bus will be parked outside the Bryce Jordan Center from Friday at 12 p.m. until Sunday at 12 p.m. for donations to help the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week 10 matchup against Temple.
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. The running back duo of Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch combined for 184 yards and 6.3 yards per carry during last week's game against Indiana. Belton talked with the media this week about the offensive line's ability to create seams for both head and Lynch to run through in Bloomington. Head coach James Franklin said the Nittany Lions will look for more consistency again this weekend against Temple. With senior Miles Dieffenbach back in the mix for playing time in the rotation, the Nittany Lions are confident in taking another step forward.
2. Penn State's defense is among the nation's leaders in three of the four main statistical categories. The Nittany Lions have tallied 65 tackles for loss and 26 sacks in 2014. While the starting unit deserves a tremendous amount of credit for its efforts, one group deserving of more praise is the second rotation on the defensive line. Ends Carl Nassib, Brad Bars and Garrett Sickels, along with tackles Tyrone Smith, Parker Cothren and Tarow Barney, have been productive every time they have stepped onto the field. Penn State's ability to play upwards of 10 guys on the defensive line is a big key to the defense's ability to limit opponents to just 267.6 yards per game. The Lions have held seven of their nine opponents to 10-plus points below their season average and six of the nine opponents to 150-plus yards below their season average in total offense.
3. Following the Indiana game, Coach Franklin singled out true freshman Grant Haley for his efforts on the Penn State coverage teams. A contributor on defense, Haley has been a central figure for the Penn State special teams units. Haley has made 14 tackles in 2014, and he is routinely among the first guys down the field on punt coverage. Haley's motor is relentless, and he is a critical member for the Nittany Lions on special teams when it comes to open field tackling.
What to Watch For - Temple
1. Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker is the primary playmaker for the Temple offense. Walker, who started seven games as a true freshman last season, has accounted for 14 of Temple's 22 offensive touchdowns this season. A threat with his arm and feet, Walker has thrown for 1,679 yards and rushed for 183 yards (three rushing touchdowns).
2. Temple's defense has been tremendous at forcing turnovers in 2014. The Owls have 25 forced turnovers, including 17 forced fumbles. Additionally, Temple has scored six defensive touchdowns this season. The Owls are among the nation's leaders in points off of turnovers. In nine games, Temple has scored 83 points off of turnovers (9.2 ppg off turnovers).
3. Junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich has been a superbly productive player on the Temple defense for the past three seasons. Recording 101 and 137 tackles, respectively, in his first two seasons on campus, Matakevich is well on his way to another stout season at the outside linebacker position. Matakevich has made 83 stops in 2014, and he is fifth in the nation with 7.2 solo tackles per game.
The Final Word:
Saturday's game will be a homecoming for Temple head coach Matt Rhule. After growing up in New York City, the second-year leader of the Owls moved to State College and attended State College High School when he was a junior. Rhule attended Penn State and walked on to the football team in 1994. He played four seasons at linebacker under head coach Joe Paterno. Rhule tallied a sack against Temple in the 1997 matchup between the two teams at the Meadowlands. Rhule earned a degree in political science from Penn State in 1997. He coached against the Nittany Lions as an assistant under former Temple head coach Al Golden, but this is his first trip back to Happy Valley as a head coach of the Owls. Penn State and Temple are slated to meet for the 44th time in the season-opener for 2015. Kickoff is set for 12:01 on Saturday with Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway and Paul Carcaterra on the ESPN2 broadcast.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony