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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Michigan State Week

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11516786.jpegVIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talked with the media for the final time on a game week in 2015 when he addressed questions on Tuesday afternoon to preview Penn State's trip to No. 6 Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) will meet the Spartans (10-1, 6-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. inside Spartan Stadium. Franklin reviewed Penn State's game against Michigan and looked ahead to the regular season finale against Michigan State inside the Beaver Stadium media room.

Penn State kicked off the final week of the regular season with a good practice on Sunday afternoon. The team participated in community service efforts on Monday in advance of Tuesday's practice, and all eyes are looking ahead. There were lessons to be learned from the Michigan game, but Coach Franklin and the team are excited about what is coming this week.

"Michigan State is
an experienced football team, a talented football team, so it should be a tremendous challenge," said Franklin. "But I know our guys are fired up about it. We've got a great opportunity on Saturday. There will be no way to send these seniors out better than to find a way to get a win on Saturday and go into the postseason with a lot of momentum, so looking forward to the opportunity."

Moving into the final week of preparations for the regular season, Coach Franklin wants to see more physicality out of the Nittany Lion offensive line and tight ends. The games where the Lions have been successful on offense this season are the ones where the Blue and White has set the tone up front.

"We had our opportunities, didn't take advantage of it (against Michigan)," said Franklin. "I think the things that jumped out to me and probably to everybody else, we need to be much more physical on the O-line and at tight end. There was times where we did not win those match-ups, too many times that we were getting knocked back in the backfield and made it difficult to consistently run the ball for positive yardage."

Coach Franklin's point gets magnified in the red zone when physical play in the trenches is essential to score touchdowns. Penn State has been one of the best teams in the conference all season long in converting red zone visits into points (92 percent). But to beat teams like Michigan or Michigan State, the Lions know they need to put touchdowns on the board.

Penn State has scored 20 touchdowns and 15 field goals in 38 red zone visits this season.

"When you get down there, you need to make the most of your opportunities," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "You don't beat good teams by kicking field goals (in the red zone)."

Much has been talked about the magnitude of Saturday's game for Michigan State. Simply put, the Spartans will play in the Big Ten Championship Game with a win over the Nittany Lions. Franklin noted on Tuesday that the Lions have plenty on the line Saturday, as well.

"We've got a chance to win eight games in the regular season," said Franklin. "We've got a chance to go into a bowl. We've got a chance to continue to do special things on the field and continue to build our program and our culture and the things that we're doing, so we're playing for a lot. Trust me, we're playing for a lot."

The Michigan State game marks Penn State's third contest against teams ranked in the nation's top 12.

The Nittany Lions will practice in shells on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thanksgiving Day. Saturday's game inside Spartan Stadium will kick at 3:30 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN.

Press Conference Notes:
- The Nittany Lions used their off day on Monday to participate in community service at The Village where approximately 45 members of the team spent time with the elderly during lunch hour. Additionally, the team went bowling on Monday afternoon.

- Coach Franklin on defensive tackle Austin Johnson's leadership...

"Austin is a guy that's very well-respected. He's graduating. He's doing it in the classroom. He's been a great teammate. You know, he's been very, very productive on the field, so yeah, I wouldn't say he's really outspoken, but there's times where he does speak up. He's also a guy that I see in our offices all the time. He's always up kind of watching film and hanging out with the coach. He's got a great relationship with Coach Spencer."

- Coach Franklin on the Michigan State defensive line...

"They're big and physical and long on the defensive line. At linebacker they're very, very productive, and in the secondary they are athletic and long, as well. I mean, that's kind of their model. It's like their whole defense is six-foot or taller, and they challenge you. They challenge every yard. They challenge every route. They're going to be in your face with press coverage on the perimeter, no gimme throws, no easy throws, and then they're going to use their safeties. They're going to get very involved in the run game, which puts their corners in some challenging positions at times, but their philosophy is they're going to get to you before you can get the ball out, and that philosophy has worked very well for them for the last couple years, and that's exactly what showed up again on Saturday."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - talks with junior defensive tackle Austin Johnson, sophomore linebacker Troy Reeder and junior wide receiver Geno Lewis during Michigan State week.

Austin Johnson

Troy Reeder

Geno Lewis

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monday Notebook: Senior Class Bonded by Loyalty

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seniors.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday marked the final Beaver Stadium chapter for a group that has been paramount to Penn State football's storied history during some of its toughest times.

Nineteen senior student-athletes were honored prior to Saturday's kick during the Senior Day ceremony, giving the 107,000 fans inside the stadium an opportunity to say thank you for all they have done. The seniors have two more opportunities to suit up in the Blue and White, and the group will embrace its chance to remain together as a family for the next few weeks.

Alongside its predecessors in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the 2015 football senior class will go down as a group of individuals who deserve a special place in Penn State's illustrious history.

It's fitting that the group is a smaller in numbers. Under the circumstances, the size of the class enabled the seniors to forge a tight-knit connection with one another through some of the program's most challenging days. The 2015 seniors have seemingly been through everything, but their commitment never once wavered, and the special bond they have with one another will never be broken.

For the past three, and in some cases four years, this group's actions have spoken louder than any words. These seniors played for one another. They played for their families. They played for the players who wore the blue and white before them. They played for Penn State.

"I came here to get a college degree from one of the best schools in America," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. "I'm going to accomplish that. And I've always just wanted to give everything I had for this football program, not just on the football field but in the community. This opportunity is something no one will ever take away from us. It's something I will never forget. And I am forever grateful."

Where do you even begin to start when you think about what it must have been like to walk in the shoes of guys like Kyle Carter, Angelo Mangiro, Carl Nassib or Anthony Zettel. Despite the odds of competing in major college football with a roster of limited scholarships, the group's mindset never changed.

"It would have been easy to let things get to you, but that's not who we are. We had a job to do, and we did it because we love being a part of this family," Zettel said.

This group's college experience has been unique to say the least, which is why the group deserves the utmost respect from any supporter of the program or intercollegiate athletics. They worked hard for one another in the toughest of circumstances because that is the only thing they knew how to do.

The Lions will meet the Spartans at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) on Saturday in Spartan Stadium in the final game of the regular season.

Full feature story on the senior class will be posted on later this week.

Lions Lend a Hand to Begin Thanksgiving Week
Photo Gallery - Visit to The Village

The Nittany Lion football student-athletes have a lot to be thankful for as the calendar approaches the Thanksgiving holiday.

An opportunity to attend a world-renowned institution like Penn State and compete on the gridiron at the highest level is something the group takes very seriously. As figures in the community, the student-athletes understand the importance of giving back to the loyal supporters whenever the schedule permits.

With the academic calendar on Thanksgiving break for the week, Monday's off day was a terrific opportunity for the Nittany Lions to serve the community. Two buses filled with approximately 45 players traveled to The Village State College during the middle part of Monday to serve food, take photos, eat lunch and visit with the elderly.

"I just think it's a great opportunity for us to be with people who support us," said cornerback Grant Haley. "It's amazing to me. Some of these people are telling me that they have been coming to games since 1960. They are like, 'Your parents weren't even born.' I laughed. I think it just shows the support system we have. It's great to be here to give back to them."

The team will resume football game week duties on Tuesday.

Nassib Remains Nation's Leader in Three Categories
Despite very limited action against Michigan, senior defensive end Carl Nassib remains atop the NCAA rankings in three categories. Nassib will head into the final week of the regular season as the national leader in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (6).

The Penn State season record holder in sacks, Nassib has averaged 1.41 sacks per game. He has at least one sack in 10 of the 11 games this season. Additionally, Nassib has averaged 2.0 tackles for loss per game.

Nassib is 2.0 sacks clear of Maryland junior defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is second in the nation in sacks at 13.5 on the season. Clemson defensive lineman Shaq Lawson is second nationally in tackles for loss with 19.0.

Early Look at Michigan State
Led by head coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is the sixth-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25 this week. The Spartans turned in a masterful defensive performance in a road victory over No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday. Kicker Michael Geiger nailed a 41-yard field goal as time expired to knock off the Buckeyes, 17-14. The Spartan defense limited Ohio State to five first downs and 132 yards of total offense in the win.

With the victory in Columbus, Saturday's game will be a high stakes contest for the Spartans. A win this week would send Michigan State to the Big Ten Championship as the East Division champion against Iowa. Additionally, the Spartans are firmly in the mix for a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Offensively, senior quarterback Connor Cook headlines the group. Cook is averaging 282.2 passing yards per game and is tied for the Big Ten lead with 21 passing touchdowns this season. Those numbers come despite missing last week's game in Columbus with a shoulder injury. Cook has thrown for 2,482 yards this season. Wide out Aaron Burbridge is the Big Ten's top receiver with 69 receptions for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Defensively, Michigan State is ranked No. 26 in the nation in total defense. Linebacker Riley Bullough and defensive end Shilique Calhoun lead the defense. Bullough has made 83 tackles in 2015, while Calhoun is 18th in sacks with 8.5 on the season. The Spartans are No. 15 in rushing defense (117.8 ypg). The Spartans are No. 5 in turnover margin (plus-1.00) and No. 5 in fewest turnovers lost (10 on the season).

Penn State and Michigan State will meet for the 30th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 14-14-1 all-time against the Spartans and 5-8 in games at Michigan State. Saturday marks Penn State's first visit to Spartan Stadium since a 42-14 victory in 2009.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Press Conference - vs. Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with the media following Penn State's 28-16 setback to No. 12 Michigan.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks - Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Hear from several Nittany Lions as they talk with the media following Saturday's 28-16 decision against Michigan on Senior Day.

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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan inside Beaver Stadium on Senior Day. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Michigan

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan inside Beaver Stadium on Senior Day. Follow along for photos from gameday.


2015 Gameday - Nittany Lions Host Michigan on Senior Day

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup | Lions in NFL

Practice Update | Coach Smith Q&A | Notebook | 1995 Snow Bowl | Security Increase

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a bye week, Penn State returns home to Beaver Stadium for a Senior Day and Penn State White Out clash against No. 12 Michigan on Saturday.

11378288.jpegThe Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2) are slated to battle the Wolverines (8-2, 5-1) in a 12 p.m. (ABC) kick in the penultimate game of the season. Having won seven of its last nine games, Penn State enters the final home game of 2015 with a 6-0 mark in Beaver Stadium.

We're undefeated at home. We feed off of our fans," said head coach James Franklin. "It's a huge advantage for our defense, playing at home in front of our crowd. And excited about the opportunity to walk into that stadium and be able to play one last time in Beaver Stadium with these seniors and work really hard to send them out the right way."

Always a fan favorite, Beaver Stadium will play host to a complete stadium Penn State White Out on Saturday afternoon. A tradition stretching back to a student section white out in 2004, the Penn State White Outs have created an unrivaled atmosphere inside the 107,000-seat home of Penn State football.

Fans are encouraged to arrive earlier than normal on Saturday morning due to increased security screening measures in place at the gates. All Beaver Stadium gates will open at 10 a.m.

Led by Penn State's season sack record holder, Carl Nassib, the Nittany Lion defense enters the final two weeks of the season as the nation's leader in sacks. Penn State has averaged 4.2 sacks per game throughout 2015. Additionally, the Lions are No. 2 in the nation in tackles for loss at 9.3 per game. Nassib leads the country individually in sacks with 15.5.

Led by first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (8-2, 4-1 Big Ten) heads into the week having won its last three contests. The Wolverines topped Indiana in dramatic fashion on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington. Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock connected with wide receiver Jehu Chesson on a fourth-down touchdown in the final seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. Michigan outlasted the Hoosiers in double OT by a score of 48-41. Michigan's two losses on the season came at No. 18 Utah (24-17) and in a dramatic finish against No. 9 Michigan State (27-23).

The Nittany Lions and Wolverines rank among the Big Ten's best defenses. Michigan is ranked No. 1 in total defense (268.7 ypg) and the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 4 (311.2 ypg). In scoring defense, Michigan is No. 3 in the Big Ten (14.8 ppg) and Penn State is No. 5 (17.7 ppg).

In a series that dates back to 1993, Penn State and Michigan will meet for the 19th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 7-11 all-time against the Wolverines and 4-5 in games held at Beaver Stadium. Penn State has won the last three against Michigan in Beaver Stadium, including the thrilling 43-40 four-overtime win in 2013.

Penn State will close out its regular season next week with a trip to East Lansing. The Nittany Lions will battle Michigan State in Spartan Stadium during a 3:30 p.m. kick. From there, Penn State will await its bowl destination with the announcement coming on Dec. 6.

Welcome to the gameday preview for week 11 - Penn State vs. Michigan.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11500062.jpeg1. It will be a special day for 19 senior members of the Penn State Football family on Saturday. The senior day festivities will begin approximately 30 minutes prior to kickoff in Beaver Stadium with each member of the class being recognized in front of the fans. For the fourth and fifth-year seniors, Saturday marks the end of a remarkable ride in Beaver Stadium. The group faced tall odds throughout its journey in Happy Valley, but the senior class will forever be remembered for its loyalty and commitment to the betterment of the University and football program. Give a tip of the cap to the 2015 senior class: Matt Baney, Tarow Barney, Kyle Carter, Jordan Dudas, Jack Haffner, Albert Hall, Colin Harrop, Charles Idemudia, Brandon Johnson, Ben Kline, Jordan Lucas, Angelo Mangiro, Carl Nassib, Kevin Reihner, Dom Salomone, Anthony Smith, Trevor Williams, Anthony Zettel and Matt Zanellato.

2. It has been home sweet home for the Nittany Lion defense in 2015. Through six games, the Lions have allowed a total of 59 points inside Beaver Stadium. In Big Ten play, Penn State has yielded just 10 total points in three home games. The Nittany Lions are No. 3 in the nation in fewest points allowed in home games at 9.8 per game. Penn State's opponents have averaged just 250.7 yards per game. Penn State's defensive line has been a huge piece to the team's unblemished mark at home. Senior defensive end Carl Nassib has tallied 10.0 of his nation-leading 15.5 sacks in games played at Beaver Stadium this season. Additionally, the Lions are plus-7 in turnover margin in home games this season.

3. The Nittany Lion offense has made a living of creating big plays at timely moments in 2015. Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the passing attack have accounted for 31 plays of 20 or more yards this season. The running game has tallied 18 plays of 20 or more yards, as well. Against one of the nation's top defensive units, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a way to manufacture some plays down the field. Hackenberg has been superb in games at Beaver Stadium this season, tossing nine touchdown passes and just one interception.

What to Watch For - Michigan
1. Graduate senior quarterback Jake Rudock has been terrific down the stretch for the Wolverines. A starter in all 10 games, Rudock has completed 64 percent of his passes and 2,220 yards. Rudock became the first Big Ten quarterback to pass for 400 yards and six touchdowns in a game last week. The wide receiver tandem of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson and tight end Jake Butt are the top targets for Rudock. Darboh (45), Butt (38) and Chesson (33) have each eclipsed 450 yards on the season and account for 13 of Michigan's 15 touchdown receptions.

2. The theme around the Michigan defense is consistency. The Wolverines have been among the nation's top statistical units since the opening week of the season. In addition to being ranked in the top five in total defense (No. 2), scoring defense (No. 6), rushing defense (No. 8), pass defense (No. 6) and third down defense (No. 3), Michigan has limited its opponents to just 4.18 yards per play this season. The Wolverines are physical in the trenches and athletic in the secondary. Inside linebacker Joe Bolden leads the defense in tackling with 64 stops. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is leading the nation with 2.0 pass breakups per game. Michigan's defense has been outstanding on third down in 2015, as well, limiting its opponents to a 23 percent conversion rate.

3. Redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers is one of the most dynamic athletes in the Big Ten. Peppers will play on offense, defense and special teams for the Wolverines on Saturday. Peppers is fifth on the team in tackles (37), has scored two rushing touchdowns, caught six passes and is the team's top returner. He is ranked No. 13 in the nation in punt returns. As a team, Michigan is No. 2 nationally in kickoff returns.

The Final Word:
Saturday's game will mark the eighth time the Nittany Lions will host a full stadium Penn State White Out. The history of the event began on Oct. 9, 2004 when the first student white out was held when the Nittany Lions hosted Purdue. Since then, there has been either a student section white out or full stadium white out in each of the past 11 seasons.

The first full stadium Penn State White Out took place on Sept. 8, 2007 when the Lions defeated Notre Dame, 31-10. Saturday will mark the second time Penn State has played Michigan in a full stadium Penn State White Out. The Lions outlasted the Wolverines in a thrilling four-overtime game (43-40) during Michigan's last visit to Beaver Stadium on Oct. 12, 2013.

Penn State will be looking to finish off its first unbeaten season at home since 2008. Additionally, the Lions are 20-5 on Senior Day since 1990. ABC's live coverage of the Michigan game begins at 12 p.m. ET with kickoff slated for 12:01 p.m. Bob Wischusen (Play-by-Play), Brock Huard (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline) will call the game.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Michigan Week Q&A - Terry Smith

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions host Michigan on Senior Day and the Penn State White Out on Saturday at noon (ABC).

Leading up to the contest against the Wolverines, defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith talked with the media on Thursday. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Smith.

Q: How will the loss of Jordan Lucas impact the secondary moving forward?

Smith: "Well, clearly the loss of a senior captain is going to hurt any unit. He was the leader of the secondary. He was the leader on the back end of our defense. He was a guy all of the players in the locker room respect and look to. We are going to lose big time leadership and a big time player who could make plays. Like anything and any organization in football, we have to have the next guy step up, and that's Malik Golden. We have a really good defense, and we expect Malik to step in and fill Jordan's shoes and play equally or better. That's just the way we are shaped and molded as a defense. Malik will be ready to step in and play well on Saturday."

Q: Can you evaluate the progress that John Reid has made during his freshman season?

Smith: "John Reid is an exceptional talent. He is one of our best cover guys. He is really, really smart. He's an exceptional worker. He gets every ounce of his ability out of himself. The game is important to him. He plays that way. He plays intense. He asks a million questions in meetings, which are all good questions. That's why he is prepared on Saturdays. And that's why he makes very few mental mistakes. And to do that as a true freshman, that's a testament to himself and his high school coach who prepared him really, really well when he walked in the door here."

Q: How have you seen Grant Haley improve this season?
Smith: "He has great maturity. He doesn't get too rattled. He doesn't get too high. He doesn't get too low. Even in a situation like Northwestern, he maintains a levelness you need at the position. Grant is poised to be a very consistent player. He's been a very good leader for us. He's played some really good football for us, and he is a very important piece on our defense."

Q: What have you seen from the Michigan passing game during the past two weeks to make it click?

Smith: "I think the quarterback, Jake Rudock, is really coming into his own. I think he is really comfortable in the system. I think he is taking command of the offense. And I think he is executing the plan that their coaching staff has in place. And then they have some big-play targets. The two receivers - (Jehu) Chesson and (Amara) Darboh - they are making plays. And the tight end (Jake) Butt is making plays. And you can't throw out the x-factor in Jabrill Peppers. They just have a number of weapons that you have to account for on each play. And they are starting to spread it, and it's making them a little more dangerous each week as the season goes on."

Q: You are focusing on your defense, but if you have had a chance watch any film of Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis, what is your take on him and the matchup between the Michigan cornerbacks and your receivers?

Smith: "We get to watch some film in previous weeks that's like crossover film, so we've had an opportunity to see two or three of their crossover games. I think he is exceptional. He's one of the best corners in the Big Ten, if not the nation. He has really good feet and loose hips. He's an ultimate competitor. He challenges releases. He challenges the 50-50 balls. He's a good matchup for our receivers. We've got some good receivers on this team, and it will be a good challenge for those guys on Saturday."

Q: How important is it for a cornerback to play with some swagger and what type of personality does your group play with on the field?
Smith: "Each individual guys is his own guy...My guys in particular and when you look at Grant (Haley) and Trevor (Williams) and John Reid and Christian (Campbell), John Reid is probably the most talkative, but he only talks when the ball is coming at him. And he doesn't really talk to the receiver, he kind of talks to himself to get himself going. The other guys don't really say too much. They are just business-oriented guys. And they understand that each play is important, and they are ready to strap up and play 60 to 70 plays if needed."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Michigan Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

The Nittany Lions host No. 12 Michigan for a 12 p.m. (ABC) kick on Senior Day in Beaver Stadium. Take a look at the practice update from Michigan week.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony