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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.


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.


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.


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."

Tim Banks Q&A: Rutgers Week

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12959404.jpeg UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks joined the weekly assistant coaches conference call Thursday afternoon during Rutgers week. 

As the Nittany Lions prepare to head into the first of their final three games of the season, Banks fielded questions from media members spanning everything from defensive improvements to the scout team.

Catch up on a few updates from the teleconference.

Veteran Leadership
Banks of course pointed out the tremendous benefit that two senior safeties leading the unit provides for the Nittany Lions. Between Marcus Allen and Troy Apke, Banks noted there isn't much someone like Allen hasn't seen on the field, with Apke also bringing valuable game experience.

After their departures though, Banks is confident in who the Nittany Lions return.

"When you lose Marcus [Allen] and that many starts, it can be challenging but I can kind of look at it a little bit different," Banks said. "I feel like we've done a really good job recruiting around here and I feel like we have some guys who will be ready to step in and pick up where these guys have left off."

Speaking of Allen ...
Banks called Allen one of the best he has ever coached at the position in terms of how his sheer athleticism combines with his 6-foot-2 frame

"I've had guys his size who maybe weren't quite as athletic or guys that are a little smaller that may be a little bit faster, but when you start talking about overall combo guy, I don't know if I've had a combo guy with that type of skillset with that type of size," Banks said. "He can do it all. You can drop him in the box and he can play as a linebacker or you can play him on the hash and he can play as a regular safety. You can actually put him in coverage so he can cover."

Defensive Improvements
Regardless of what the stat sheet says, Banks noted that when a team isn't experiencing success it's common to continuously evaluate everything from practice to game situations - leaving no stone unturned until success is attained. As Penn State head coach James Franklin noted more generally this week, the Nittany Lions spent some time self-scouting ahead of Saturday's noon matchup against Rutgers on the heels of a pair of conference road losses.

"Obviously we've made adjustments that we felt needed to be adjusted and some things we thought we were doing well, we'll continue to do," Banks said. "We've obviously played against some really good opponents the last two weeks and some things that we would like to do better, we've addressed, and hopefully we'll be able to do those things moving forward." 

Scout Team Update
Banks mentioned named like KJ Hamler and Des Holmes when asked about a few Penn State scout team members who are stepping forward.

"KJ [Hamler] is one who comes to mind," Banks said. "He works extremely hard, he's a fast kid, a quick kid, has great energy during practice. He's really given us a great look in practice week in and week out. Des Holmes does a great job for us up front, very physical."

He wrapped up though, point out that it's an entire unit of young guys who have stepped up to play at a really high level to give the Nittany Lions the best looks during game week. 

"It takes a lot to go out there and understand that you may not go out and play on Saturday's and still give your all," Banks said. "That whole freshman class has been awesome. They treat Tuesday and Wednesday like gameday and that's paid a lot of success to how well we've played throughout the year defensively, because of how hard those guys have worked on scout teams."

Practice Report: Rutgers Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a few days separate Penn State football from its return to Beaver Stadium following back-to-back road trips.

Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening. Catch up on a few highlights from the media session.

We Salute You
The Nittany Lions welcomed members of Penn State's ROTC programs for the final few periods of practice. Following practice, coach Franklin and the team took time to shake hands and briefly meet with the practice visitors. 

"We just want to be appreciative and respectful and obviously there are so many different groups and organizations on campus and in the community and with it being our military appreciation game this weekend, we wanted to make sure we connect with those guys," Franklin said.

Something that has now become yearly tradition, Franklin noted the Nittany Lions have forged relationships with the group, now exploring possibilities for teambuilding and leadership projects in the future.

Throwback Game
Growing up in New Jersey, Blacknall noted that he has plenty of connections and relationships with individuals on the Rutgers roster. While he's not communicating with them during game week, he noted it's kind of like high school when they actually line up on opposite sides of the field. 

"It's like a throwback, like a high school reunion and you're just coming back and you know how they play and they know how you play," Blacknall said. "Obviously you've gotten better because you're in college but it's just one of those things that's cool to me."

Speaking of High School ...
During playoff season, Blacknall's high school team only lost three games. The final loss of course came against now current teammate Jason Cabinda's high school team. 

"It was snowing, it was a terrible day," Blacknall said. "My quarterback couldn't even drop back to throw a pass to me. I was open so many times and you just had him bull-rushing through the line sacking my quarterback probably 10-15 times and then they handed the ball off to him every play. I think it ended up 21-0, it's something I don't like to think about, he always jokes about it too." 

Blacknall of course noted that in his junior year, it was his team that sent Cabinda's high school team off the field with the loss to get to the state championship. 

Focus on Physicality
Franklin noted that playing with more physicality is more of a mindset than it is something that can be drilled in practice.

"I think sometimes we're happy with just blocking the guy as well as we think we need to, to get the job done rather than sending a message and trying to finish a guy and pancake blocks and things like that," Franklin said. "I had a talk with a number of guys this week, these guys have done this. They've done it in their careers and they've done it in high school, I've seen it but they've kind of just been satisfied with what we've been doing."

Tuesday Roundup - Rutgers Week

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RELATED LINKS: Franklin Transcribed I Thompkins, Gonzalez Transcribed I Watch - Full Press Conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football returns to action Saturday, returning from the road to host Rutgers in Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media in his weekly press conference. Offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez and wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins also joined for a pair of media sessions.

Following back-to-back road trips, Beaver Stadium is a welcome atmosphere for the Nittany Lions.

"It's great to be home. It's great to be back for homecoming," Franklin said. "It's great to be hosting military appreciation. It's great to be in our own surroundings and in front of our fans and loved ones and things like that. That's great."

For wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins, returning to Beaver Stadium is all about the comforts of home. 

"There's no environment like here. The fans are great," Thompkins said. "The environment is great. We feed off it as a team. We do a great job at home, as you know. It's just good to get back to your bearings. And being in an environment that you're comfortable playing in."

An area of improvement identified by Franklin has been increasing physicality up front. For Gonzalez, that's an area that comes down to mindset and the way the Nittany Lions approach practice. More specifically, it's incorporating everything into more of a finishers mindset, working through the whistle the entire week of practice rather than holding out for gameday.

"I think it's a huge challenge not only for me, but for the rest of the offensive line and I think that's the real emphasis this week, to try to improve that. That's what we do every week to try to improve our physicality. I think that will be our mindset this week, and just try to be as physical as we can against Rutgers."

On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on improvements to handling in-game momentum shifts.

"On a positive note, 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. 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." 

- Thompkins on blocking.

"I knew that the biggest thing coming into Division I football is blocking. People are big. They're strong. And I'm for the that big. I'm not that strong. But blocking is all about Hart. That's the one thing Coach Gattis tells us is you can train all you want, blocking drills, all this and that, but is it comes down do you want the person behind you with the ball want to score. And I want receiver person on offensive to score. I go all out for blocking and my teammates. 

- Gonzalez on Rutgers.

"It's a challenge every week to try to face a defense like them. They're physical. They're a big group. And they're coming off a few games where they've won. Obviously they're coming off a hot streak. It's always going to be tough. And they're going to come in and try to knock us off. And they're going to come in with a lot of momentum, so we just have to be prepared for it."

- Thompkins on how running back Saquon Barkley has handled himself in the last few weeks.

"One thing that I admire from him [Barkley] is he's a team player, he's not one of those guys that goes in demands the ball. He knows the type of players we are as receivers. He knows the type of player Mike is at tight end, he knows Trace and et cetera. But that's one thing that he handles very well is he knows he's not the only piece to the puzzle and he's willing to sacrifice that for the success of the team."

- Franklin on Barkley

"Saquon is one of the better football players, if not the best football player I've ever been around. He's able to be explosive in so many different ways, and that's what we want to do. We want to get the ball into his hands in a lot of different ways. I think that gives us the best opportunity to be successful."

- Gonzalez on where his game has grown the most this season.

"I think I've just gained more confidence in my game. I think last year, toward the beginning, I wasn't really confident. It took a while to build it up and I wasn't really clicking with the offensive line, I was kind of a lone wolf. I think this year I just made a lot of changes. Obviously with my faith, just believing in the process and believing in my abilities and the confidence grew. It's a product now and I've been playing pretty decently." 

- Thompkins on dealing with adversity.

"One thing I would say is that even though it's a tough loss you also learn from wins as well. Just because you win a game doesn't mean you didn't have mistakes. Whether it's a win or a loss, with maturity it becomes even though we've won, hey, I did not play a perfect game. There's things that I need to work on and improve. That just comes with, like you said, maturity. That's something we have as a team, is we know that no matter how much we win by or how much we lose by, the mistakes will show. And that's something that you have to take into account, understand what happened, why it happened, and then just go on to the next week."


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