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Rutgers Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Ricky Rahne

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10298565.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne talked to the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions travel to Rutgers on Saturday for a primetime game against the Scarlet Knights (8 p.m. on BTN). Take a look at a Q&A with Rahne leading up to Saturday's Big Ten opener.

Q: Being a former quarterback, can you talk about what it's like being able to relate to a guy like Christian (Hackenberg), who is always a tough critic of himself?
"I was like that as a player. It's one of those things where it is one of your greatest strengths and one of your greatest weaknesses at the same time. My wife would probably say that I am still like that. I don't think anyone is harder on me in terms of coaching than me. I do understand how it is. The one thing that I am not going to do, and Christian knows this, and he doesn't want me to do it - it doesn't mean I give him a pass when he makes a mistake...That's really one of his greatest strengths - despite his abundance of mental and physical talent, he still is not only willing to be coached, he wants to be coached. That's the thing that makes it easier for him and I to have a good relationship. I understand where he is coming from in a lot of aspects because we have similar personalities. We both want to be the best we can be at all times."

Q: Do you ever have to remind yourself that Christian is only 19?
"Every day. Every day. Not only because of his genetic gifts that he has, but also his maturity. Watching him deal with all of the pressures that he has every day, I have to remind myself in the rare instance that he acts like a 19-year-old kid, I have to remind myself that in fact, that is how old he is...Not only should we be thankful (as the Penn State community) that he is a great player, and he really is, that he is a great person. He has handled some pressure situations very well."

Q: Overall, through the first two games, how would you assess the way Christian has played?
"Christian has played very well. There have been a couple plays in each game where we've just had lapses in judgment, and that's my job to get that fixed. Overall, he has played very well. He has thrown the ball accurately. He's made the plays that were there. I've been pleased with that. The other thing, and just like the other guys on the team, we've been able to come out with two victories, and we are working on it every week to come out with another one. I've been pleased with his play. It's cleaning up those three to four to five plays a game that we need to clean up. Some of the plays are things you probably see, some of them you probably don't. Not only have I been pleased with his play, I've been pleased with how coachable he has been."

Q: When you look at film from the first two games, how do you think Christian has done in terms of going through his progressions and putting the ball where you want it to go?
"Like I said, there are probably three to four plays a game where he didn't. Other than that, he has been very good. He has been getting back to third and fourth progressions at times, which speaks to his knowledge of the offense and the offensive line playing well and giving him time to do so. I've been pleased with how he has been working through his progressions. I think the one thing it has allowed us to get done is get the ball to a bunch of different people. A bunch of different guys have catches this year, and that helps us to get a nice balance."

Q: What have you seen from the Rutgers passing defense leading up to this game?
"I think they are a well-coached team. They are talented. They play fast. A lot is given to yards and statistics, but sometimes that's who you are playing...I know their defense has helped their team go 2-0 to this point, and the defense has helped put them in a position to start the season off in the way that they want to start off. We have to be ready for them. They've got some good schemes, in terms of their pressure game. We have to be ready and able to adjust on the fly. I think our guys have really prepared well this week knowing they are about to play a good football team."

Q: How are Trace McSorley and Michael O'Connor progressing and are either one ready to play in a game right now?
"I feel very confident in both of them to be really honest. They both have a very good grasp of the offense, which I have been really pleased with. I have been really pleased with how both of them approach the mental aspect of it. I think they both go into every week thinking, hey, I'm going to play. They both have done a nice job of their approach. I'm very confident in those guys. I think they are ready to go. If their number is every called, they are going to go in there and help us win the game."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Rutgers 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 travel to Rutgers on Saturday for an 8 p.m. kick on BTN.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Opponent Previews - Rutgers

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10295908.jpegRutgers | High Points Solutions Stadium | 8 p.m. | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to New Jersey on Saturday to take on Rutgers in the Big Ten opener for both teams and the first ever Big Ten conference game for Rutgers. Get to know the Scarlet Knights in this week's scouting report.

Kyle Flood, who is in his third year leading the Knights, has a record of 17-11 at Rutgers. The Knights went 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference last year. They lost 29-16 to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Rutgers returns 44 letterwinners and 16 starters from a year ago.

Rutgers is 2-0 after last week's 38-25 win over Howard. The Scarlet Knights gained 397 yards of offense, including 288 through the air. Quarterback Gary Nova completed 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Paul James ran for 43 yards, a touchdown and caught two passes, both for touchdowns, including a 69-yard reception. Leonte Carroo and John Tsimis each caught a touchdown.

The Scarlet Knight defense allowed 427 yards, including 259 on the ground. Linebacker Steve Longa led the defense with eight tackles (five solo). Defensive end David Milewski recorded six tackles, two for loss, and forced a fumble. Milewski was one of five Knights to record at least half of a sack on the day. Cornerback Gareef Glashen intercepted a pass.

Through two games, Nova, a senior, has completed 67 percent of his passes for 563 yards, with six touchdowns and an interception. Nova leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency.

James, a redshirt junior, has 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 5.1 yards per rush. The six-foot, 205-pound James leads the Big Ten in scoring, with six total touchdowns. Desmon Peoples will also see time in the backfield. Peoples has 91 yards with a 4.8 yards per rush average.

Carroo leads the Rutgers receivers with eight catches for 195 yards and two scores. The 6-1 Carroo is fifth in the conference in receiving yards. Joining Carroo are 5-foot-11 sophomore Janarion Grant, who has seven receptions, and Tsimis, who has six receptions and two touchdowns. Grant also returns kicks and punts for the Knights.

The Scarlet Knight offensive line includes three seniors, led by Kaleb Johnson, a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection by Phil Steele.

So far in 2014, Rutgers has allowed 31.5 points and 482.5 yards per game, including 350 yards passing per contest. They rank 13th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 14th in total defense.

The Rutgers defensive line features a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors. Milewski leads the unit with seven tackles. He also has three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Kemoko Turay has 3.5 sacks.

Longa was named First Team All-Big Ten in the preseason by Phil Steele. The redshirt sophomore leads the team with 15 tackles, nine solo. Fellow linebacker Kevin Snyder has 12 stops and a forced fumble.

Glashen, a senior, leads the secondary with 13 tackles, 10 solo, and an interception. Safety Delon Stephenson has recorded 11 stops, while Justin Goodwin has a pick.

Kicker Kyle Federico has connected on three-of-four field goals, with a long of 42. Punter Joey Roth averages 38 yards per punt.

Penn State is 22-2 all-time against Rutgers. The schools last met in 1995, when the Nittany Lions earned a 59-34 win at Giants Stadium.

What Kyle Flood is saying about Penn State:

"It's still early in the year and I haven't seen all the quarterbacks around the country, but I find it hard to believe that there's a better quarterback in the country that we'll face as an opponent. Hackenberg is the prototype NFL quarterback, he has the prototype arm, and he has weapons all over the field to use. He's an excellent player. You can tell he's been coached very well."

"They are very good on defense and they're very good on the defensive front. They are difficult to run the ball against. They are very active. They do an excellent job pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run."

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

VIDEO: Rutgers Week Player Q&As - Angelo Mangiro & Geno Lewis

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with junior center Angelo Mangiro and sophomore receiver Geno Lewis leading up to the Rutgers game.

Week Three Press Conference Roundup - Rutgers Week

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10294110.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 9

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions head back on the road this week for the Big Ten opener at Rutgers on Saturday (8 p.m. on BTN).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the week three matchup against the Scarlet Knights on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Saturday will mark Franklin's first Big Ten game as a head coach. Franklin is looking for the team to continue making strides on both sides of the ball and on special teams following the victory over Akron.

"We have got to continue to improve each day and each week which is something that I think this staff historically has done a good job of," Franklin said. "...Offensively, we are going to have to develop a more consistent running game. I'm not telling you guys anything you don't know. We are going to have to keep doing that and we are going to keep investing in that every single day. That will happen... Defensively, continue to not give up big plays, stopping the run has been huge for us in making teams one‑dimensional. We want to continue to do that. And then on 'wefense', we need a little bit more consistency in our kicking. When I talk about kicking, I'm talking about our kickoff and our kickoff coverage, making sure the ball location is where we want it so our defense can start out with a better field position."

With the Akron game in the rearview mirror, Franklin and the team are focused solely on preparation for Rutgers. This is a big week for team. Every week is a big week for the Nittany Lions. Franklin noted that all 12 weeks on schedule are treated the same. The approach remains constant from the start of the year to the end. The next game on the schedule is the biggest game on the schedule, and one game is no bigger than the next.

"Our approach to this game is going to be exactly the same as it was for Central Florida, exactly the same way it was for Akron. It will not change," Franklin said. "We are just as motivated in this game as we were for Akron and we are just as motivated for this game as we were for Central Florida. Our approach will not change."

With it being a primetime kick on Saturday, Franklin said the team would stick to its normal routine on gameday. The group will sleep in Saturday morning before meetings and a walkthrough. Because of an extended day, Franklin said there would be two team meals instead of one.

While the Nittany Lion football program received very good news on Monday when the NCAA and Big Ten announced that Penn State is eligible to compete for a spot in a bowl game and the Big Ten Championship, the focus is solely on the task at hand this week. The team spent very little time talking about Monday's news before shifting immediately back into Rutgers game prep. The team is focused on one team this week.

"I do think this game from a regional perspective is good for Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "I do think it's good for New Jersey and I think it's good for the Big Ten and I think it's good for both institutions. I think it's going to be a fun game and we're looking forward to playing it. But we have got tremendous respect for Rutgers, for what they have done on the football field and what they have done in the classroom."

Saturday's game will mark the 25th time Rutgers will play at Penn State. The Lions are 22-2 against the Scarlet Knights. The squads last met in 1995 with the Nittany Lions knocking off Rutgers by a score of 59-34. Saturday's game is just the fourth time Penn State has played on campus at Rutgers.

Press Conference Notes
- Following the news on Monday of the sanctions modification, Coach Franklin called a team meeting inside the Lasch Building. After Franklin outlined the announcement, he called the players and staff members who stuck with the program through the entire duration of the sanctions to the front of the room. Franklin recognized the group for their dedication and efforts during the period.

- Coach Franklin announced that Geno Lewis (offense), Mike Hull (defense) and Chris Gulla (special teams) were the internal players of the week for the Akron game.

- Franklin on the Rutgers offense:
"Their coordinator Ralph Friedgen, in his 42nd year of coaching. He's made a noticeable difference in their offense and their confidence and consistency. They run a pro‑style offense, eight returning starters, five offensive touchdowns of 30 yards or more averaging seven yards a play, and they are No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring."

- Franklin on the Rutgers defense:
"Their defensive coordinator, Joe Rossi, has done a really, really good job for them. He's a guy that's been on the staff, left and has comeback. They have seven starters, five senior starters and they play a 4‑3 base defense. Quarter, quarter half in the secondary, very good movement up front, very disruptive, very aggressive, blue collar, hard‑nosed defense."

- Franklin on the Rutgers special teams:

"Their kick returner, No. 1, Janarion Grant we need to be aware of. I think last year as a true freshman, first time he touched a ball, he took it back for a touchdown and has done some really nice things. Then he's their kick return and punt return guy, so we are going to have to be aware of him and make sure he doesn't have too big of a factor in the game."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monday Notebook: Lions Set to Kick Off Big Ten Play

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10289937.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will have the honor of taking part in the first conference game of the 2014 season on Saturday when they travel to High Point Solutions Stadium to meet Rutgers (8 p.m. on BTN).

Penn State and Rutgers have played one another 24 times prior to this week's clash (22-2, PSU), but never before as members of the Big Ten. Saturday's sold out game will mark the first Big Ten contest for the Scarlet Knights. The rest of the conference season will begin on Sept. 27.

Following a superb performance from the Penn State defense, the Nittany Lions marched past Akron on Saturday in the home opener. The Lions held the Zips to 277 yards in a 21-3 victory. Through two weeks, the Penn State defense is ranked fifth in the NCAA in total defense at 261.5 yards per game.

Offensively, Christian Hackenberg leads the Big Ten in passing at 386.5 yards per game. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for 773 yards during the first two weeks, which broke the Penn State two-game mark. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton leads the conference in receptions with 18.

Saturday's game marks Penn State's first of three primetime games during the 2014 campaign. The Lions will also play under lights at Michigan (Oct. 11) and in Beaver Stadium against Ohio State (Oct. 25).

Big Ten Openers
Penn State will begin its 22nd season as a member of the Big Ten on Saturday night in New Jersey. The Nittany Lions are 9-12 on-field during Big Ten openers. Penn State's first season in the Big Ten came in 1993 when the Lions knocked off Minnesota in the season-opener by a score of 38-20.

No Strangers to the Road
Since joining the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have been road warriors in the opening game of the conference slate. Penn State has played away 13 times and home eight times during Big Ten opener. The Lions have been on the road to open Big Ten play during nine of the last 11 seasons, including each of the last five. Penn State opens the Big Ten season at home against Rutgers in 2015.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the home opener against Akron.

97,354 - Saturday's attendance mark was the highest total for a home opener since the 2010 season.

773 - Christian Hackenberg has thrown for 773 yards in two games. No other Penn State quarterback has thrown for more yards during a two-game span.

94 - More than 50 members of the undefeated 1994 team were honored during halftime of Saturday's game. The group held a reunion on Friday evening and had a chance to meet with some of the current team members during Friday's walkthrough practice.

93 - Penn State's defense has allowed a total of 93 rushing yards during the first two weeks of the season. The Nittany Lions rank fourth national in rushing defense.

40 - Junior tight end Jesse James has three touchdown catch and runs of 40 or more yards in the last nine games in Beaver Stadium. All three touchdown catches have been down the East sideling towards the South end zone in front of the Penn State students.

22 - Senior linebacker Mike Hull is second in the Big Ten in tackling with 22 stops this season. Hull has six career games with 10 tackles or more, including two-straight to open the season.

18 - DaeSean Hamilton leads the Big Ten with 18 receptions during the first two weeks. He tallied 11 catches against UCF. Hamilton notched seven receptions against Akron.

4.3 - The Penn State defense has limited its first two opponents to just 4.3 yards per play.

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

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Nittany Lion Defense Off to Strong Start in 2014

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blogstory_akron.jpgVIDEO: James Franklin Postgame - Akron | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Relentless pursuit has been the name of the game for the Penn State defense since the start of spring practice in March.

Head coach James Franklin, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the rest of the Penn State defensive coaching staff have preached aggressiveness. Through two weeks, the Nittany Lion defense has been a group attacking its opponent from the moment the team steps off the bus.

On the heels of a 21-3 victory over Akron in Saturday's home opener, the Lions sit among the nation's top 15 in two major defensive stat categories. Penn State is 15th in total defense, allowing its first two opponents just 261.5 yards per game. The Nittany Lions rank fourth nationally in rushing defense after allowing a total of 93 yards on 54 carries in the first two games (1.7 ypc).

"We played pretty well. I know we held (Akron) to around 270 yards," cornerback Jordan Lucas said. "We made some mistakes but the great thing about it is it's early in the season. We get to go watch film, have practice and go over corrections and we'll build from that."

The strong defensive start and stout play against the run begins in the trenches.  Penn State's front four has been the catalyst.

"Our defensive line will come after you and fight off the ball," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. "With an aggressive defense with play calling, I feel like we all benefit off it. I couldn't be happier playing with all the guys on the defense and Coach Shoop making great calls and having confidence in him."

Defensively, the Nittany Lions have allowed just one rush of more than 15 yards in the opening two games. Additionally, the group has made 14 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Mike Hull leads the unit with 22 tackles, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

"We are always in attack mode every play from beginning to end. We are fired up and aggressive," said linebacker Brandon Bell.

The aggressive nature is something the players have become accustomed to on the practice field. And it's something they enjoy on Saturdays.

"I love it. Our defense makes us pin our ears back and get after it," Bell said.

"We're playing fast this year. We're getting to the ball. We're swarming," said defensive end Deion Barnes.

Keeping Akron out of the end zone was a big goal of the Nittany Lions. The Zips threatened with three trips inside the red zone, but the Lions held strong and limited Akron to just three points.

"With Coach Shoop, that's one of his big things is keeping the offense out of the end zone," Lucas said. "If we can hold the team out from getting in the end zone, we must do that."

Two weeks in, the Lions are playing with great confidence on the defensive side of the ball. The players relish in the opportunity to attack and play with aggression on every snap. Now, the unit is looking to take the next step.

"I think they're playing well. Probably the focus I have is to create more three-and-outs and we have to create more turnovers. We have to do those two things," said Coach Franklin.

Penn State has forced just one turnover during the first two games. That's a figure Coach Shoop and the Lions will be looking to build on this week as the team prepares for the Big Ten opener at Rutgers. Nonetheless, the defense has a lot to build on after two stout performances to open 2014.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

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VIDEO: Coach Franklin Postgame Interview - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the winning locker room to hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 21-3 victory over Akron in the home opener.

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VIDEO: Postgame Interview with Coach Franklin - Akron

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Akron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with following Saturday's 21-3 victory over Akron in the home-opener. Penn State moves to 2-0 on the season with the win.

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Akron

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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' home-opener against Akron in Beaver Stadium.