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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 2 Penn State football (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is set to hit the road, traveling to No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) for a top 10 matchup Saturday. The Nittany Lions will make their first trip to Ohio Stadium since 2015, meeting the Buckeyes in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
While Ohio State enters the weekend fresh off a bye week, the Nittany Lions will look to channel the momentum from a spectacular 42-13 victory against Michigan, in yet another quintessential Penn State White Out at home in Beaver Stadium last weekend.
Led by head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State heads into the 18th meeting between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on a five-game winning streak. Well aware of the bonus of the bye week, Meyer-coached teams are currently 45-4 in games where he's had more than a week to prepare.
Since Penn State head coach James Franklin arrived at Penn State, matchups against Ohio State have been some of the most dramatic and thrilling in program history. From a 31-24 double overtime loss in 2014 to last year's magical 24-21 thriller, so much has changed from then to now.
"I think our team has steadily just grown over the last four years in a lot of different ways and a lot of different experiences to get to this point," Franklin said earlier this week. "But again, there are no moral victories, but I do think there are lessons. There are lessons that are learned in every win and lessons that are learned in every loss, as long as you're willing to look at them and be honest with yourself."
For both Franklin and senior tight end Mike Gesicki, when looking at where the Nittany Lions are now compared to 2014, it all comes down to maturity.
"We have guys like myself, Trace [McSorley], Saeed [Blacknall], Jason [Cabinda], Marcus [Allen] and DaeSean [Hamilton]. A bunch of guys who were either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen for that game and are now either seniors or a redshirt junior as guys who have played a lot of football for us. I think taking those experiences that we've gone through in our past and taking some of those losses that we went through earlier in our career and remembering what went wrong in those game and the little things, trying to improve from that and use that to our advantage now, I think that all goes along with being a mature football team."
Regardless of maturity, there's no doubting the impending challenge in this week's assignment.
"A tremendous challenge there, tremendous respect and a great history between these two schools, I think that's probably going to be one of the biggest differences in this game is being able to go on the road and play one of the best teams in the country on the road in a tough environment," Franklin said. "It's one thing to win at home in a whiteout. It's one thing to win at home with College GameDay and 110,000 [people in the stands]. It's another thing to go on the road and do that. That's a challenge for our entire program."
What To Watch For -
1. It comes as no surprise that Penn State's special teams have been on display this year. In his Tuesday press conference, Franklin noted he was particularly pleased with improvements in field goal protection, while also giving credit to Blake Gillikin at Irvin Charles.
"Obviously Blake has just been fantastic," Franklin said in his Michigan review. "I would make the argument that the punt out of our end zone, and then to pin [his second punt] on the sideline - and Irvin Charles I think is probably playing as elite of a level as you possibly could play as gunner. The combination of Blake's punts and Irv going down there, you see a guy who is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds running down the field like that, he's been tremendous."
2. Among few critiques following the win against the Wolverines, Franklin did not that the Nittany Lions would need to do a better job in caging the quarterback. When asked about containing Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett from beating the Nittany Lions with his legs, defensive tackle Curtis Cothran noted it will certainly present a challenge.
"Definitely just try to keep a good cage on him," Cothran said. "A lot of times with a lot of those good runs it's either the defensive linemen doesn't rush up the right angle, or the linebacker blitzes at the wrong angle, so it's just going to be trying to keep him caged. It's definitely a challenge, J.T. Barrett is a great athlete. He's been at Ohio State for a long time, he's seen a lot of football."
3. Penn State's improving offensive line will also be tested against the strength of a deep and experienced Ohio State defensive line. With 96 starts between seven Buckeyes, that also including returning freshman All-Americans Nick Bosa. With a team-high 10.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks, Bosa is part of an Ohio State defense that ranks sixth nationally with 8.5 TFLs per game, with the d-line accounting for 35.5 on the year.
"People were saying last week against Michigan that we were playing two good defensive ends and [Maurice] Hurst in the middle at nose tackle," offensive lineman Ryan Bates said. "They were saying that they are the best d-line in the country but personally, I think Ohio State, their d-line, they rotate a lot of people and I think they're the best d-line in the country per say, just from my perspective."
What To Watch For -
1. Earlier this week, Franklin noted that experienced Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is playing with a lot of confidence. Within the five-game winning streak, Barrett is completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,351 yards with an 18-0 touchdown to interception ratio. The Buckeyes are also averaging 53.1 points per game since a Sept. 9 loss to then-No. 9 Oklahoma.
"I mean you have to just completely respect everything that that guy's been able to do in his career and everything I know about him and have heard about him, he's a class act," Franklin said. "So that's going to be a challenge for us because he can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his mind."
2. Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer said Thursday the Nittany Lions would have to be conscious of true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. More than just Dobbins though, the Nittany Lions won't be singling anyone out.
While Dobbins is averaging 7.8 yards per carry with five touchdowns and 775 yards on 100 carries, Mike Weber has four touchdowns with 227rushing yards, sidelined only due to injury early in the season.
"We recruited J.K. Dobbins and I think Coach Huff said about two months ago that he'll be the starting running back before the season is over," Franklin said. "That's no disrespect to Mike Weber, we think he's fantastic too. I think that he's a special player. There's no doubt about it. He's playing behind a really good offensive line and a good scheme and just like us, they have a lot of weapons that you have to deal with, which is ideal for running backs."
3. As Franklin also mentioned earlier this week, Meyer has assembled a staff that's loaded with individuals who also possess head coaching experience. His take on a just a few of the former head coaching staffers, below.
"Their defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano, obviously very familiar with him and his reputation as a guy who's been a college and NFL head coach. Their offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, again you have a guy who was a successful college head coach in our conference," Franklin said.
The Final Word -
Saturday's matchup marks the eighth time the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes have meet as top 10 opponents and the all-time series within the stretch is quite close. As Penn State preps for its highest ranked Big Ten game since 1997, Ohio State leads top 10 matchups between the two teams 4-3. The last time Penn State and Ohio State met as ranked opponents though, it was the then-No. 3 Nittany Lions who emerged with a 13-6 win against then-No. 9 Ohio State Oct. 25, 2008 in Columbus.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer joined the weekly assistant coaches conference call during Ohio State week.
Talking everything from the Buckeyes to the Nittany Lion scout team, catch up on a few highlights from the teleconference.
Spencer on Dobbins
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins' 7.8 yards per carry currently ranks fourth best in the nation as the top number among freshmen. The true freshman has rushed for 775 yards in seven starts and the Nittany Lions have taken notice. With great feel and balance, Spencer tabbed Dobbins a tremendous player with the ability to make all the runs.
"When you continue to play teams, each week there is going to be a guy who presents problems," Spencer said. "Clearly we have to be conscious of him with our preparation throughout the week but we have to prepare for them as a unit because they're a great team. Not really singling out one person, but just focusing on gap control and doing those types of things and rush lanes so that we're where we're supposed to be when we need to be."
No Surprises with
For Spencer, there aren't exactly surprises when it comes to defensive end Shareef Miller who's currently eighth on the squad with 22 tackles and at least a half of a tackle for loss in all but two games on the year. While Spencer had seen flashes from Miller last year in a reserve role, he and the staff knew what Miller could do in practice and even in a game setting, but the question soon became if he could execute with the game on the line. Through seven games, Miller is meeting expectations.
"I'm not just talking about his two sacks at Pitt, I think one of his best plays of the game in my opinion, was the safety at Iowa where he's circling out, he's bending down the line, he circled out and made a tackle, made an unbelievable tackle on an unbelievable back in the end zone which I thought was a huge play in the game," Spencer said. "Those were the plays where we were wonder could he be like [Garrett] Sickels, [Evan] Schwan, [Carl] Nassib, [Anthony] Zettel, [Austin] Johnson, dating back to [Deion] Barnes, those guys who just made those plays, those game changing plays. Could he do that? And he has shown to this point that he can."
Givens' Biggest Jump
For Spencer, defensive tackle Kevin Givens' biggest jump from last year to this year is simply in his ability to make the most of his knowledge of the game. With the versatility to play end, nose guard or three technique, Spencer noted that it's his size that also adds an advantage.
"That gives us a changeup guy where you can go, from having, nothing wrong with our ends at 255-260 (pounds), but you play at 285-pound end that's strong and powerful and dynamic, I think you have a really good weapon there," Spencer said. "At the same point, he can rush in four down and affect the pocket. I think what people don't know about Kevin is that he's so good in the run game because he plays with such great leverage and he's so powerful. If you ever tap him on his back it's like hitting a wall. You're going to hurt your hand, I have to go see Tim Bream every time I tap him on the back because I bruised up my knuckle."
Looking at the Scout
Spencer is pleased with the looks the scout team his given the defensive line this year, especially when it comes to true freshmen offensive linemen C.J. Thorpe and Des Brown, or "Big Sweat" as he's called.
"I coach against all of the o-linemen in the conference and those guys are true Big Ten guard, tackle type players," Spencer said. "They are aggressive, they are athletic. They give us a tremendous, tremendous look week in and week out. I'm really excited about them and guys like Mike Miranda. They definitely help prepare us and better ourselves for the speed of the game. I'm excited about them."
On any given game, Spencer noted that he'll generally rotate in anywhere from eight or nine defensive linemen, but the number is much more strategic than random.
"I think I develop tremendous confidence with any of my guys going into the game at any point in time," Spencer said. "I get a feel for the game. Obviously as you guys know we chart the reps on the sidelines so it's really strategic and calculated in how many reps I want a guy to take. We plan it out on Saturday morning. Myself and coach Franklin and coach Pry, we just talk about how much we want to see a guy this and that. If I could play more guys, honestly in games where we're ahead and I can get guys valuable reps I'll certainly play my younger guys because there's nothing like game experience."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and running back Saquon Barkley met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening at the Lasch Building.
With Ohio State prep underway, Franklin noted he was pleased with the level of execution and energy in Wednesday's practice.
Catch up on a few highlights from the media sessions.
For Franklin, regardless of what the outside chatter might be, Penn State will rely in its usual routine and stand operating procedure ahead of Saturday's matchup, allowing the Nittany Lions to keep a level head, especially faced with the magnitude of critical situations.
"You don't change," Franklin said. "You don't overemphasize things, you keep teaching football the way you've taught football all year long. For us, we're going to stick to our routine. We've played very good, disciplined football and we're going to need to continue to do that. Everything's magnified obviously when you're on the road, but I think that's something I'm pretty proud of, how we've done so far."
Drawing on his first experience against Ohio State, Barkley paused to look back on a game where he rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries as a true freshman for his third 100-yard rushing game of the 2015 season.
"I was kind of in awe of being on the field with Braxton Miller and Ezekiel Elliott, obviously coming from high school watching their highlight tapes, especially Braxton," Barkley said. "What I remember from that game, obviously we lost that game, it was a blackout, Ohio State fans are amazing, the stadium is amazing but it's going to be a fun challenge for us.
Since then, Barkley said he's a smarter player and knows both the game and the playbook much better than he did when he first stepped on to the field at Ohio Stadium.
"I just think I've developed into an all-around player and I'm willing to do it all whether it's special teams, blocking or making the catch," Barkley said.
On the Buckeye Defense
Speed, athleticism and length were all words that Franklin used to describe Ohio State's defense.
"They're one of the more talented teams in the country, Franklin said. "They have recruited really well, they have developed really well. They're really a multiple defense, they do a lot of things and they do a lot of things well."
When asked about how safety Marcus Allen's leadership has developed, Barkley noted that it has come through his improvement as a more vocal leader on the team.
"Last year, he was always a lead by example type of guy but as the season went on last year and in the offseason and now, he's more vocal," Barkley said. "He's a guy who has to be vocal, he's one of the best defensive players in college football and it comes with the part. He's taken that role and accepted it and he's been doing a good job with it."
When it comes to who is the better dancer though, Barkley said he has that one on Allen.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In fifth grade, Jason Cabinda and his mother drafted a contract. Unlike most written contracts, this one doesn't have any signatures. It doesn't need them either. It's a contract between a mother and her son, one still in effect to this day, drafted to honor a commitment to education alongside an ardent love for the game.
For someone like Cabinda, the path from Pop Warner to "Linebacker U" isn't as simple as the straight shot on Interstate 78 from Hunterdon County, New Jersey to Happy Valley.
When the Cabinda family relocated to Flemington, New Jersey, he was a child, life was good.
"At at first my parents were together and between their good-sized incomes, we actually lived in a fairly big house," Cabinda said. "We had it pretty good for a few years there and when my parents got divorced, that's kind of when things went downhill."
Following the divorce, Cabinda spent a short period of time switching homes, alternating between one week with mom and one week with dad, until his father moved to Chicago.
Natalie Cabinda decided to remain in Hunterdon County though, moving Jason and twin daughters, Linda and Loretta, into a smaller townhome, where she would raise all three children.
"It was tough and it took big toll on my mom," Cabinda said. "That's why growing up, I wanted to be a good thing for my mom. I didn't want to cause her any stress, I didn't want to get in trouble or those types of things. For those first couple of years though, I was."
In school, Jason's grades plummeted. Struggling with anger issues, in third grade he was suspended for fighting another student.
At eight years old, Cabinda was 5-feet-3 inches tall and overweight.
"At that time, I was a very negative person," Jason said. "It was really, really hard for me growing up because my dad was my best friend.
As a single mother, Natalie knew she had to do something.
In fifth grade, Natalie signed Jason up for Pop Warner football with the Flemington Falcons.
"It was very, very hard," Jason recalled. "I was that kid, who, it was hard to finish the sprints, who came in last, who had asthma, who, when we had to do bear crawls, I would hide in the bathroom."
In week one with the Falcons, Natalie can remember watching her son and several of his teammates getting sick on the field during drills at practice. She considered taking him out of football all together.
"The coach said to me, 'don't worry that's how they all start out, they'll get better' and of course, Jason got better," Natalie said.
As the weeks turned into months, Jason improved. His body began transforming as the weight came shedding off his growing frame, while his passion for playing sports was only just beginning.
"It gave me perspective, I know how it feels to be at the bottom," Jason said. "I know how it feels to be last, to be that kid who is really struggling with workouts to being the kid who is leading because I've been there before. I don't think there are a lot of guys who can say they have been there. You see guys who always dominated workouts, they weren't ever really that kid, and I was."
At school, Jason started avoiding trouble and his grades started trending upward.
"Football saved me," Jason said.
Jason's love of the game soon expanded to more than just the football field, adding on basketball, AAU hoops and even lacrosse.
"It was a lot of work for me as a single mother because I was constantly running from one activity to the next, picking and dropping, picking and dropping," Natalie said. "When I look back, it was a very good decision, even though I almost died because it was so stressful. But it was a good thing for the kids, it was very good for him."
For Natalie, keeping up with Jason's schedule meant balancing games and practices in between working two jobs.
"All my life, my mom has been a teacher," Jason said. "Ever since I can remember."
Fluent in French and a pair of native Cameroonian languages, Natalie originally started her education career teaching French.
"When I moved to the United States, there weren't a lot of schools offering French, so I went in for the English certification," Natalie said.
Settling at Piscataway High School, Natalie made the nearly 40-minute commute so that her children could attend Hunterdon Central High School. Three days a week, Natalie also taught evening courses at Raritan Valley Community College.
"My mom put me in school at Hunterdon Central High School because the education was really good and her main thing when I was growing up was getting good grades," Jason said.
As quickly as Jason's life soon filled with football, Natalie's expectations for his performance in the classroom also grew. A poor academic performance was simply unacceptable and the tradeoff soon became football.
"Then there were multiple times when my mom threatened football," Jason said. "Anytime I would come home with a bad grade, mom would threaten football and that did it for me. I didn't need to hear anything else."
Together, Jason and Natalie forged a contract.
"He loves football and I love education and the only way he would play football was if he was doing well in school," Natalie said. "So I made sure that I never missed any practices or any of his games because he promised me that he would go to school."
A three-year letterman and starting linebacker and running back at Hunterdon Central High School, Cabinda put together an impressive high school resume, named a three-star prospect by all four major recruiting services.
During the recruiting process, his high school coach, Matthew Perotti, would often take him on campus visits.
"I'm lucky enough to be so close with my high school coach because a lot of those visits were during school days and my mom had to work," Jason said. "It was hard for her to take a day off of school unless it was a Saturday to go visit a school."
With a focus on academics at the forefront of the college football decision for both Natalie and Jason, mom's top choice quickly became Yale.
"We took a trip out to Yale and my SAT score was too low for Yale, so she made me take the ACT," Jason said with a smile.
Having successfully qualified to meet the academic requirements to attend Yale, Jason calls it his mother's proudest moment.
"Jason didn't want Yale because Jason wanted a big school," Natalie said.
Upon their visit to Penn State though, everything fell right into place.
"I spoke to one of the academic advisors and he presented some of the players who had graduated with their degrees and where they were," Natalie said. "They were all already working with companies, so that really encouraged me to see that Penn State wasn't only about football."
Walking through a year-by-year look at Jason's intended major, Penn State's academic staff detailed the path that he would take to earn a meaningful degree.
Flash forward a few years and Jason's in the midst of a standout career, now an All-Big Ten linebacker, a team captain and perhaps most importantly, on track to graduate with his degree in economics.
"I am most proud that he has stayed focused on his goal," Natalie said. "I'm also really proud because he's turning out to be this really humble, beautiful person that a lot people really seem to love. That love of humanity that he has, that makes me extremely proud."
For Jason, it all comes back to perspective - the kind that has time and time again defined his confident authenticity and magnetic personality.
"I have a lot of perspective because I've been around a lot of people and you can't really understand people unless you're around them and you hang out with them," Jason said. "I'm grateful for that because I think that's why I'm as social as I am because I've been around so many different types of people from all types of places who grew up in all different ways. From people who had a lot of money growing up to people who didn't have a lot of money at all, who were struggling."
It's Jason's radiant confidence, of course, that Natalie has instilled in not only her son, but all three of her children growing up."I believe that anything that you set your mind on you can achieve," Natalie said. "That was a statement that was very regular in my house. All you need to do is believe in who you are and the strength that you have."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As he does every week, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media Tuesday afternoon for his weekly press conference. Cornerback Grant Haley and offensive lineman Ryan Bates also joined him for a pair of additional media sessions.
The second-ranked Nittany Lions are fully underway in preparations for an upcoming road trip at No. 6 Ohio State.
"To get into Ohio State, we have so much respect for the university as a whole and the football program and their history and their tradition," Franklin said. "Obviously Urban Meyer is one of the most respected coaches in college football and has been very successful there and everywhere else he's been."
The transition from more than 110,000 cheering fans clad in white to nearly 104,000 fans cheering against Penn State isn't one that's unfamiliar for the Nittany Lions, as they prepare to enter another tough road environment at Ohio Stadium.
"I think we're going into a hostile environment, also something similar to the Beaver Stadium atmosphere," Haley said. "I think the coaches have a good game plan, good working practice with loud music and just the intensity that we're going to see on Saturday. I think from a leadership standpoint, we just have to keep everybody focused. Last week was last week and we're trying to stay focused on Ohio State and going 1-0 this year."
For Franklin the experience at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium is valuable and the Nittany Lions will draw on the same practice methods this week, cranking the music during practice to an often uncomfortable level.
"This week, we're going to do it starting today - Tuesday - we're going to do it all week long to make it as difficult as we possibly can make it," Franklin said. "As you guys know, I think I told you earlier in the year we went out and bought one of those decibel meters for practices and for games so we can literally replicate the type of music that's played in the stadium, crowd noise, chants, songs, how loud it is, the whole deal."
Even with the practice simulation though, experience certainly makes a different, especially for someone like Bates, who will make his first trip to Ohio Stadium Saturday.
"I think that us playing Iowa this year at Iowa they had the "stripe out" and it was a night game and it was loud," Bates said. "I couldn't hear myself think let alone hear [quarterback] Trace [McSorley] make some calls. Honestly, I think that if we could play the way we played versus Iowa in that environment, I think we can play anywhere."
On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on what he sees in Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ...
"I see J.T. playing with a lot of confidence right now and he's obviously surrounded by a lot of talent and he's doing a great job of distributing the ball to that talent. So, again, you got an experienced play making quarterback and playing in a scheme that really accents his abilities and his supporting cast."
- Bates on confidence ...
"Playing football, confidence is the biggest thing you can have really. If you're not confident in yourself, then who is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself really?"
- Haley on the combination of leadership styles between himself, linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen ...
"I think a video on Twitter or something the other day, Jason kind of put it perfectly - we mesh together well. Jason's that vocal leader, I'm more of the lead by example guy, and Marcus kind of combines the both like with his character and his goofiness."
- Franklin on the benefit of experiencing a hostile environment earlier in the season and how he'll prepare the team this week ...
"I think we all know it's tough to do. It's tough to come and play at Penn State. It's tough to go on the road and play at Ohio State. But that's the situation we're in and I want our guys to embrace it. I'm going to try to make practice as difficult as I possibly can. Typically we do light music on Tuesday, because there's still a lot of teaching going on from a game plan perspective and then Wednesday it is full throttle, piercing eardrums, headaches for the coaches at the end of practice, it's not a whole lot of fun."
- Bates on whether Michigan was the best game Penn State's offensive line has played this year ...
"I'm not sure. I know last week we played really well. I'm not sure if it's the best one we played all year. There are always corrections we have to make. After the game, you watch film and you see the mistakes you made on technique and the mental errors you made if you blocked the wrong guy, there's always places to grow."
- Haley on managing emotions when it comes to reflecting on his past performance against Ohio State ahead of this week's matchup ...
"I don't think I use last year as any advantage for me. I think that our coaches do a great job of keeping us level-headed, keeping us focused, keeping the outside world away from us in terms of like social media and TV. So I think that we're a mature group of guys, so I think that having guys like [DaeSean Hamilton], guys like even Trace [McSorley] and Saquon [Barkley], leaders on offense and leaders on defense, I think people can just reiterate the message of what we want to do each and every week."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 2 Penn State football will hit the road this week, opening a two-game road swing beginning with a trip to sixth-ranked Ohio State. Although solely focused on the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions hauled in the weekly awards this week, coming off a spectacular performance against Michigan in the Penn State White Out game.
Weekly Award Rundown
Following the victory, three different Nittany Lions earned five weekly awards for their performances against Michigan. Quarterback Trace McSorley earned the Rose Bowl Big Ten Player of the Week honor in addition to being selected as the Walter Camp National Player of the Week.
McSorley, who threw for 282 passing yards against the Wolverines, rushed for three touchdowns, tossing one touchdown reception to mark his 22nd consecutive game with a touchdown pass. Earning Walter Camp National Player of the week honors, McSorley is just the ninth Nittany Lion to earn the honor and the first offensive selection.
Running back Saquon Barkley and linebacker Jason Cabinda picked up a pair of Big Ten Weekly honors named offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively. Barkley was also selected to the Paul Hornung Award weekly honor roll.
Barkley has been a staple of the weekly awards releases this year, collecting his third offensive honor of the year with one Special Teams Player of the Week honor earlier this season. Cabinda's honor marks his first career Defensive Player of the Week award.
Meyer: 'He's the best
all-purpose guy we've probably faced in maybe my career'
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had high praise for Barkley, calling the midseason All-American probably the best all-purpose guy the Buckeyes have faced in his career.
"He's obviously a great running back but they do a good job using him and creating matchup issues," Myer said. "But his threat - no disrespect for the great running backs. You have different ways of bottling up great running backs. It's hard, especially this guy, really hard. But the fact that they motion him out and create matchup nightmares, that's what makes this guy. He's - I'd be careful to say this, but he's as good an all-purpose running back we've seen. And that's 30 years."
On the defense too ...
Meyer also made note of Penn State's defense, which executed at an elite level in Saturday's 42-13 win against the Wolverines.
"They just come after you," Meyer said. "They're very aggressive with - their defensive line, it's not a read-and-react, they're up the field and they menaced the team up north. They were all over the place."
The Nittany Lion defense racked up 7.0 sacks against the Wolverines, while also forcing a pair of fumbles. Cabinda, who led the team with 13 tackles, forced an O'Korn fumble on Michigan's first drive of the third quarter before cornerback Christian Campbell's strip sack early in the fourth quarter, which defensive tackle Robert Windsor picked up for his second career fumble recovery.
"The combination of him and that defensive line, like any very good team, that's what you notice right away, is the explosiveness of the defensive line and a guy like No. 40, great player," Meyer said.
In the statistical rankings, Penn State's scoring defense is tops in the conference and FBS, allowing an average 9.6 points per game, also sliding up to the top spot in team passing efficiency defense (94.02). A total of 27 different Nittany Lions have recorded at least a half of a tackle for loss this season as Penn State also enters the week leading the Big Ten and ranked fourth in FBS averaging 8.4 tackles for loss per game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Barkley continues to remain atop the national standings all-purpose yards, averaging 211.14 per game. Barkley logged 176 all-purpose yards against the Wolverines, rushing for 108 yards with 53 receiving yards and 15 yards on kick return.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From the moment head coach James Franklin checked the time at his postgame press conference, Penn State's 37 minutes of uninterrupted enjoyment are long over. While coaches grade out film and make corrections, the team returns to the grind, with week eight on the horizon.
Penn State unsurprisingly remained second in both releases of the AP and the Amway Coaches polls this week. In fact, there was hardly anything surprising to the Nittany Lions in Saturday's 42-13 win against Michigan.
In front of the largest Beaver Stadium crowd in program history, the second-ranked Nittany Lions silenced many of their critics, perhaps going one step further to prove just how little the opinions of those critics even mattered in the first place.
"One of the things we're doing, I haven't been around it very much, we're playing really good in all three phases and that doesn't happen very often where offense, defense, and special teams are all playing good enough to win," Franklin said.
While also noting room for improvement, it's only cause for excitement for Franklin. Looking back on an offense that racked up more total yards in the first half than any Michigan team coached by Jim Harbaugh has surrendered in any half, it's easy to see why. Complimented by its special teams, Penn State's defense rose to the occasion, shutting down the Michigan offense on drive after drive.
Penn State emerged with more than just its first 4-0 start to Big Ten play since 2011 and a 15th consecutive regular season win though.
The Nittany Lion offense accounted for 506 yards of total offense, led by a quarterback who rushed for a career-high three touchdowns, the first Penn State signal-caller to do so since at least 1982.
"I don't think people put enough value on toughness at the quarterback position," Franklin said. "The guy is going to stand in the pocket when you know the blitz is coming and you know you're going to get hit but you still deliver the ball and then being able to run the ball tonight way obviously helped us out."
McSorley went 17-for-26 against Michigan for 282 yards, targeting his receivers and utilizing his speed in a gusty display.
Leading by one in the second quarter, 14-13, McSorley engineered a 52-second scoring drive spanning 75 yards in seven plays. He found receivers Juwan Johnson and veterans DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki for three key receptions of at least 12 yards, before running in for the 3-yard touchdown.
"When you're able to complete long balls, shots down the field against a team that is trying to sack your quarterback and trying to play man coverage, you're going to be difficult to deal with," Franklin said.
The list of words and clever phrases to describe running back Saquon Barkley has been all but exhausted, as he added to the spectacular showing with three touchdowns, including a 42-yard scoring grab from McSorley, that he bobbled before finding control, gliding into the end zone with arm and ball high in the air.
Penn State's defense shined just as bright, highlighting the night with 7.0 sacks, marking the most for the Nittany Lions against at Big Ten team since 2011.
"All week long everybody was talking about Michigan's defense, we've got so much respect for Michigan's defense, their university, their defensive coordinator, Don Brown does an unbelievable job, but we play pretty good defense around here too."
The Nittany Lions opened the emphatic statement on the second play of the game after kickoff, as Barkley took a direct snap and ran the ball 69 yards for a touchdown.
That was wrinkle number one that took the Wolverines off their game from the start, something Franklin foreshadowed long before the fireworks lit up the sky to signal the start of the Penn State White Out game.
"It's stuff that we worked on in camp," Franklin said. "We had another play that Joe [Moorhead] wanted to call, and I just said I prefer you not, plays that we've been running in camp and then each week we kind of go back. What do we want to use from our overall playbook? What do we want to use that we ran in camp? The fact that we have some recall helps."
For Barkley, it's building on that recall with the bonus of the bye week, taking in as much film as possible to prepare for what's ahead.
"Obviously, we knew that they were aggressive, they're a great defense, they have a great defense coordinator," Barkley said. "Sometimes it's going to be like a heavyweight fight, they are going to get some and we get ours. When you get your opportunity you have to score, you got to get a chance to take the fours, take the twos, might even take a negative two, but when you get a chance to split it you got to find a way into the end zone. That's something watching of that I felt that I was capable of using my speed or find a way of finding anyway into the end zone, and we were able to do it and I was able to find a way."
the extras in the world hardly mean anything unless the Nittany Lions
can execute when the lights come on. Utilizing the bye week as added
preparation time, Penn State was able to draw on experience on both sides of
the ball to find success.
"They put together a great plan," Buchholz said crediting the defensive coaches postgame. "I know we threw in some stuff from the back of the playbook because they thought it would really help and it did help so it was beneficial for both the players and the coaches to prepare. I think it was good to mix things up. That was kind of our game plan to mix up our front and give them a different look to kind of get us on the other side of the ball and get us to trick them a little bit."
Eight different Nittany Lions accounted for at least a half of a sack against the Wolverines, while senior linebacker Jason Cabinda led the way with 13 tackles. Cabinda was quick to credit the defensive line though, especially when it comes to the season-high sacks total.
"It's huge," Cabinda said. "It's really getting the offense on third and medium, third and long and letting our d-line really get after them. Knocking them off schedule with negative or no yardage plays helps a ton."
Cabinda, Buchholz, Campbell
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