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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in the final regular season game. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Michigan State
 

 

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in the final regular season game. Follow along for photos from gameday.


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2015 Gameday - Lions Travel to Michigan State for Regular Season Finale

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup

Wednesday Practice Update | Monday Notebook | Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will wrap up its 2015 regular season with a trip to No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

Looking to snap a two-game slide after winning seven of their previous eight games, the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) will battle the Spartans (10-1, 6-1) in a 3:30 p.m. kick (ESPN) inside Spartan Stadium.

11518686.jpeg"We've got another really good opportunity, you could make an argument maybe the top program in the conference right now (is Michigan State)," said Franklin. "They've got a culture of winning that they've established now. Again, they have talent on offense, defense and special teams and at each level, and they play smart. This is a tremendous opportunity for us. Looking forward to the opportunity to compete."

For the second-straight week and third time in 2015, the Nittany Lions will collide with a team ranked in the Top 12 of the national rankings. Penn State's trip to East Lansing on Saturday will mark its first since a 42-14 victory over the Spartans to close out the 2009 season.

Saturday's matchup will pit two of the nation's best defensive ends on the field in Nittany Lion Carl Nassib and Spartan Shilique Calhoun. Despite playing only three snaps against Michigan due to injury, Nassib still leads the country in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (6). Calhoun is 18th in FBS in sacks with 8.5 and has 15 quarterback hurries.

Additionally, the game will feature two of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks in Christian Hackenberg and Michigan State's Connor Cook. Hackenberg has become PSU's career leader in passing yards (8,061), touchdown passes (46), completions (663), attempts (1,182), 200-yard passing games (20) and 300-yard passing games (9). Cook is the winningest quarterback in school history with a 32-4 record (.889) as the starter, including a 21-2 (.913) mark against Big Ten opponents. He is a finalist of the Unitas Golden Arm Award.


Led by head coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is the fifth-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings this week. The Spartans turned in a masterful defensive performance in a road victory over No. 3 Ohio State last week. 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. Michigan State's lone setback in 2015 came in the final seconds in a 39-38 decision at Nebraska.

In a series that dates back to 1914, 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.


Following the trip Michigan State, Penn State will await its bowl destination with the announcement coming on Dec. 6. The Nittany Lions are eligible to compete in their 46th bowl game.

Welcome to the gameday preview for week 12 - Penn State at Michigan State.

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Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11518683.jpeg1. Coach Franklin was very clear this week in that he wants to see a more physical approach from the offensive line and tight ends when blocking in the trenches. Penn State's offensive success in East Lansing will hinge on the play up front. Additionally, the Lions will be looking to get Saquon Barkley open space in the running game. In Penn State's four Big Ten victories, the Lions have rushed for an average of 163 rushing yards per game. Success on the ground also opens up opportunities for quarterback Christian Hackenberg down the field. The Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten lead in passing plays of 30 or more yards with 23 on the season.

2. Like the offensive line, Penn State's defensive line will be looking to control the line of scrimmage when Michigan State has the ball. The combination of the starting line - Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels, Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel - has spearheaded a season filled with 97 tackles for loss through the first 11 games. The Spartans have only allowed 15 sacks this season. Penn State has tallied 44 sacks as a defense.


3. The Nittany Lion offense has been terrific at turning red zone visits into points this season. The Lions are ranked No. 10 in the nation in conversion percentage (92.3 percent). However, scoring touchdowns inside the 20 has been a big point of emphasis. The Nittany Lions have ended red zone visits in the end zone 53 percent of the time in 2015. Against a team like Michigan State, the Lions know they need to get the ball in the end zone when presented with opportunities. Coach Franklin said scoring touchdowns in the red zone is a byproduct of being able to run the ball. Keep an eye on Barkley inside the 20.
 

What to Watch For - Michigan State
1. The stakes are high for the Spartans on Saturday. A win from Michigan State would send it to Indianapolis for a date with Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Additionally, the victory would crown the Spartans as the East Division champion for 2015. Going a step further, Michigan State is firmly in the picture for the College Football Playoff as the season nears conclusion. Simply put, the Spartans have a lot on the line during Senior Day in East Lansing.

2. Connor Cook missed last week's game in Columbus due to a shoulder injury, but head coach Mark Dantonio said earlier this week that Cook was close to a return. The veteran signal-caller is among the best players in the Big Ten. An accurate passer with great field awareness, Cook is averaging 282.2 passing yards per game and is tied for the Big Ten lead with 21 passing touchdowns this season. 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. Burbridge is an exceptional receiver when it comes to make contested catches in traffic. R.J. Shelton and Macgarrett Kings have made 34 and 33 receptions, respectively.

3. As is the theme throughout most of the Big Ten, the Michigan State defense is led by a stout front seven. Linebackers Riley Bullough, Darien Harris and Jon Reschke are MSU's top three tacklers with 83, 71 and 67 stops, respectively. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun and nose tackle Malik McDowell have combined for 22 tackles for loss and 12 sacks thus far in 2015. Michigan State's defense is tied for the Big Ten lead with Iowa and Penn State in turnovers forced at 21 on the season.


The Final Word:
When the Penn State-Michigan State series was renewed with the Nittany Lions' entrance into the Big Ten in 1993, the Land Grant Trophy was established to go to the winner in what was each school's annual season finale from 1993-2010.  The Land Grant Trophy honors Penn State's and Michigan State's unique places in history as the two pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.

Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on February 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the land-grant system was patterned. The Land Grant Trophy joins the Governor's Victory Bell, presented to the Penn State-Minnesota victor, as the other trophy the Nittany Lions play for in Big Ten competition.

The Lions and Spartans will be meeting in the regular season finale for the 20th time since 1993. ESPN's live coverage of the Michigan State game begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with kickoff slated for 3:35 p.m. Bob Wischusen (Play-by-Play), Brock Huard (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline) will call the game.



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Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unwavering support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Michigan State 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 travel to No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) kick in East Lansing. Take a look at the practice update from Michigan State week.



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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."




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VIDEO: Michigan State Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com 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




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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 GoPSUsports.com 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.

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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.


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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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