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Bye Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Sean Spencer

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10394418.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer spoke with the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions travel to Michigan on Oct. 11. Take a look at a Q&A with Spencer during the bye week.


Q: How do you feel like your unit has played thus far in 2014?
Spencer:
"I think we started out of the gates pretty fast, especially one guy in particular, Anthony Zettel. The group is doing a good job. I wouldn't say great, but we are doing a good job. They know the level of expectation has risen every week. We want them to continue to get better. I think areas of improvement would be consistency in our pad level and gap control. Sometimes we try to make plays, but sometimes we get out of our gap when we are trying to make the plays. We have to continue doing things within the framework of the defense and those things will happen."

Q: How do you break down which techniques are better for different guys?
Spencer:
"When you are around the guys and practice with them and take them through different things you see that skill set. Like Austin Johnson is a power to finesse guy - power first and then finesse. He's got a unique skill set in the fact that he can play like a guy who is 280 pounds, but he is 315 pounds. Just never limiting those guys to, alright, this is the way we do it or this is the way you have to do it. Deion (Barnes) is a different type of pass rusher than C.J. (Olaniyan). So what I try to do is maximize Deion's ability through the framework of the defense by letting him do things that he is good at. And then let C.J. do things he is good at...You learn that every player has a different skill set. In order to maximize that, you have to allow him to do things that are beneficial to his skill set."

Q: Can you talk about how your nickname 'Chaos' fits you and the position you coach?
Spencer:
"Coach Galt kind of gave me that nickname. It was always part of my D-Line catchphrase. Playing with organized chaos. I always kind of used that word. If you get a chance to meet me, I'm kind of hyper (laughter). I'm running around all the time. When we were at Vanderbilt, Coach Galt said one day for the guys to follow Coach Chaos running around on the field. From then on, the guys called me that. For the position, you have to have that. I always talk to the guys about matching my intensity every day. I'm not going to come onto the field without great energy. The guys kind of feed off of that. That's not a position where you can chill and hang out. Those guys gotta go all the time. When they see their coach, they feed off of that."

Q: What can you say about C.J. Olaniyan and his strengths as a player and as a captain?
Spencer:
"An unbelievably mature individual. One thing, C.J. is a father. He has a little daughter. When you have that situation that automatically makes you gain maturity. He's a guy that I bounce things off of when I want to talk to the group. I'll go to him and talk to him about leadership and where some things are that he can help me with. When you start giving a guy a leadership role and you start talking to him and including him in the process, he takes it to heart and is able to project it onto the field. It is a pleasure to coach the guy. He is very intelligent. He takes unbelievable notes. He asks great questions. He is very detailed in his analyzing of each opponent."

Q: Anthony Zettel's personality kind of matches yours. What is it about the way he plays the game that makes it so similar?
Spencer:
"He goes hard from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. He's got unbelievable work ethic. He loves football. He loves what he does. He plays hard. He's a real disciplined guy. I let him be himself much like Coach Franklin lets me be myself. And I think that helps me, and that helps Anthony...He's so intense. He's going to come with great energy. It's a pleasure to coach a guy like that."

Q: You had a chance to scrimmage with some of your younger guys this week. Did any of those guys pop out to you?
Spencer:
"I think Antoine White has a bright future here. He has unbelievable twitch. He gets off the football. He can be a really good pass rusher. He's going to be a guy you are talking about for years to come here. We are really excited about him. Also, Torrence Brown is another guy that we had recruited when we were at Vanderbilt...He is a pleasant surprise. He's very dynamic. He was a small school state basketball player of the year in Alabama, so he is a great athlete. He has a vertical better than 34 or 35 inches. He's going to give you that dynamic pass rusher that you need. And then Curtis Cothran as a guy I'm very excited bout. As the future goes on, I think I've got some guys who can do some things and make some noise in this conference."



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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Bye Week No. 1

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin provided an update to the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex. The Nittany Lions are off on Saturday. Penn State travels to Michigan on Oct. 11 (7 p.m. on ESPN2).




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James Franklin Bye Week Media Roundup

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10389166.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 30

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are idle on Saturday for the first time in 2014. Head coach James Franklin addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon during the weekly Big Ten conference call to provide an update on the team's bye week.

"We are in a bye week this week, so we are excited to get out on the field today and make some corrections," Franklin said. "We will practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then go on the road recruiting Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And then get back going again on Sunday with our next opponent. We are looking forward to it. Probably, the bye week came at a great time for us with our lack of depth at some positions. We are banged up, and this is coming at a great time for us."

The Nittany Lions watched film and practice on Sunday before the players had their normal day off on Monday. The team resumed its practice week on Tuesday with meetings and practice. The squad will do the same on Wednesday before having a few days off. The coaching staff will hit the road recruiting while the players finish the week academically. The team will then have the weekend off and reconvene on Sunday to begin preparations for Michigan.

The bye week is a great chance to spend more time and reps on correcting the issues the team is looking to fix after five weeks of football. Additionally, it is an opportunity to get the young players on the roster more experience.

"We are going to try and get our young guys as much work as possible this week to continue their development," Franklin said. "We will try to make our corrections with the older guys while still taking some of the banging off of their bodies so that we can get into our next game being as fresh as we possibly can and be as healthy as possibly can. That's kind of our priority this week. We have a lot of things to correct and a lot of things to work on. You know, let's do those things and then move on."

Franklin often says that winning minimizes a team's issues and losing magnifies the issues. However, regardless of the outcome, the issues are still there. That being said, the team has approached the week with the mindset that it is a great opportunity to get better.

"If you handle this the right way, it can turn into a positive," Franklin said. "It forces you to deal with some of the issues that you have."

Senior linebacker Mike Hull said it best on a Tuesday morning conference call.

"You are going to face adversity. It's how you respond to it," Hull said.



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Monday Notebook: Nittany Lions Begin First Bye Week

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10384729.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions went back to work with a normal schedule on Sunday afternoon with meetings and practice at the Lasch Football Complex.

Penn State reviewed the Northwestern game before turning the page onto the first of two bye weeks during the 2014 season. The Lions take a 4-1 overall record (1-1 Big Ten) into the week following Saturday's game against Northwestern.

"The bye week couldn't come at a better time," said head coach James Franklin. "We have to spend some more time cleaning some things up there. Special teams, I did not think we were consistent. We had a chance to flip the field on punt team a couple times and weren't able to do that. On defense, I thought overall, we played solid, but we did not tackle as well as we have in previous weeks. We were throwing shoulders, not wrapping up, things like that. Again, I take full responsibility and we will get it fixed."

The Nittany Lion defense remains among the nation's elite in the NCAA stat rankings. Through five weeks, Penn State sits No. 2 nationally in rushing defense. The Lions have allowed just 60.2 rushing yards per game. Penn State leads the Big Ten in rushing defense.

Additionally, the Nittany Lions sit 10th in total defense (288.8 ypg), 12th in scoring defense (14.6 ppg) and eighth in red zone defense (0.647).

Penn State will focus on corrections and improvements during the bye week before shifting gears into preparations for Michigan. The Nittany Lions collide with the Wolverines inside Michigan Stadium on Oct. 11 in Ann Arbor (7 p.m. on ESPN2).


Lions in the Stat Rankings
In addition to the defensive stat rankings, several Nittany Lions are among the leaders in national and conference statistical categories. Here is a weekly breakdown of Penn State players in the stat rankings:

QB Christian Hackenberg - Hackenberg is sixth in the nation in passing yards (1,477) and 19th in the nation in passing yards per game (295.4 ypg). He leads the Big Ten in passing yards.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 11th nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receiving yards with 502. He ranks 17th in the nation and first in the Big Ten with 7.2 receptions per game.

WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks 12th in the nation in receiving yards and second in the Big Ten with 495 on the season. He is third in the Big Ten with 5.8 receptions per game.

DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel ranks second in the Big Ten 1.4 tackles for loss per game.

LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten in solo tackles per game at 6.4. He ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles at 10.6 per contest.

K Sam Ficken - Ficken is seventh in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the Northwestern game.

102,910 - Saturday's attendance (102,910) was the largest figure for a non-primetime game in Beaver Stadium since Nov. 12, 2011.

4,398 - With 221 yards of total offense, Christian Hackenberg now has 4,398 yards of total offense, which is the 10th highest mark in Penn State history.

213 - Kicker Sam Ficken now has 213 career points. He sits eighth on the all-time Penn State list.

41 - Jesse Della Valle notched the longest punt return of his career on Saturday. His 41-yard burst topped his previous career-high of 31 yards against Syracuse in 2013.

16 - Senior linebacker Mike Hull set a new career-high with 16 tackles against Northwestern. It marked the highest total by a Penn State player since Gerald Hodges had 19 against Illinois in 2011.

8 - Linebacker Jason Cabinda became the eighth true freshman to play for the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

6
- Defensive end Deion Barnes equaled his career high with six tackles against Northwestern on Saturday.

1 - Walk-on Von Walker made his first career start for the Nittany Lions at linebacker on Saturday. He had three tackles against Northwestern.



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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addresses the media following Saturday's game against Northwestern.




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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Several Nittany Lions addresses the media following Saturday's game against Northwestern.








2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' Big Ten home opener against Northwestern in Beaver Stadium.

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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Northwestern

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. Today, the Nittany Lions open the Big Ten home schedule with a matchup against Northwestern.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. Northwestern
 



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Beaver Stadium Pictorial: Northwestern Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One of the many traditions of the Penn State football program's gameday experience is the Beaver Stadium Pictorial, the official gameday magazine of the Nittany Lions. The publication originated in the 1920s and continues to evolve, bringing fans closer to the football program, its student-athletes and the entire Penn State athletic department.

Each week throughout the home portion of the of the Nittany Lions' schedule you can find a preview of the content for the upcoming Beaver Stadium Pictorial on GoPSUsports.com.

Here is a preview of the feature content inside the Penn State vs. Northwestern BSP that will be sold during the 95th Homecoming game.

Pick up your copy on each home game day for just $5.00.

14-09-27-FB-BSP_Cover_Northwestern.jpg
Upholding the Linebacker U. Tradition
BY: Paul Marboe, Penn State Athletic Communications
For anyone who watches senior Mike Hull, it is easy to see the traits and work-ethic that make him the player next in line to leave his mark at "Linebacker U." and add to its superlative legacy.

On fall Saturdays, Hull can be seen flying around the field, making plays from sideline to sideline on defense and special teams. The 6-0, 225-pound Hull contains that blend of toughness, discipline, instincts, speed and playmaking ability that makes the Penn State linebacker tradition so special.

After three years playing alongside some great linebackers, Hull has emerged as the clear leader of the 2014 unit and the Penn State defense.

Dan Radakovich: The Man Behind "Linebacker U."
by: Lou Prato, Penn State Sports Historian
The man most responsible for the creation of "Linebacker U." doesn't know when the nickname started or who came up with it, but it's the perfect and succinct description for the bevy of talented linebackers at Penn State over the last four decades.

Dan Radakovich is certain that the name evolved after he became Penn State's first linebacker coach in 1958 and helped develop All-Americans Denny Onkotz and Jack Ham and NFL stalwarts Ralph Baker and Bill Saul.

It wasn't just what the linebackers did at Penn State that gave the school its initial reputation in the 1970s. What they did in professional football had even more influence on the conception of the nickname.

Men's Hockey Looks to Build on Last Year's Late Season Success
By: Matt Caracappa, Penn State Athletic Communications
Under the direction of third-year head coach Guy Gadowsky, the Nittany Lion men's hockey team will look for continued success during the 2014-15 campaign. After an impressive run to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Penn State returns 24 lettermen from last year's squad while welcoming three newcomers to the fold.

The Nittany Lions opened the 2013-14 season with heightened anticipation and excitement throughout the Centre Region as the campaign commenced with a 4-1 victory over Army at the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State also began its first foray into the Big Ten Conference, as the conference sponsored the sport for the first time.

The Nittany Lions battled through the second-hardest schedule in college hockey a season ago and came away with many monumental firsts for the program. Penn State defeated Michigan for both its first Big Ten win, which occurred at home, and its initial Big Ten road victory. The Lions also defeated the Wolverines for a third time during the Big Ten Tournament.

The Penn State vs. Northwestern BSP also features;
Expanded Game Notes
Unrivaled Moment: vs. UMass
Player Q&As w/ Ryan Keiser, Deron Thompson & Matt Zanellato
University Feature: Nittany Lion Bonds All Penn Staters
2014 Penn State Football Team Photo
Penn State Athletics Sports Planner

2014 Gameday Preview - Lions Meet Northwestern on Homecoming

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GAME BLOG - Northwestern

Game Notes | Gameday Central | Northwestern Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Gattis Q&A | Player Q&A Video | BSP Preview

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (4-0, 1-0)) welcomes Northwestern (1-2, 0-0) to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for the 2014 Big Ten home opener and Homecoming. The Nittany Lions and Wildcats are slated for noon kick on BTN.

10369524.jpegThe Lions marched to their fourth-straight win to open the season last week with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball against UMass. Thanks to strong play in the trenches, Penn State rushed for 228 yards and five touchdowns. Seniors Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak each visited the end zone twice and Akeel Lynch scored once in a 48-7 victory.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions turned in another strong effort against the Minutemen. Limiting UMass to just three rushing yards, Penn State leads the nation in rushing defense at 45.9 yards per game.
The Nittany Lions rank sixth in scoring defense (11.0 ppg) and 10th in total defense (270.8 ypg). In the past 12 quarters of football, Penn State has allowed just two offensive touchdowns. Collectively, the Nittany Lions have yielded 12.38 rushing yards per quarter during the 2014 season.

Northwestern enters Saturday's game following a 24-7 home victory over Western Illinois. The Wildcats opened the season with two one-score losses against California (31-24) and Northern Illinois (23-15). Led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats return 18 starters from the 2013 squad. That list includes senior quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Saturday's gameday marks Penn State's 95th Homecoming game. The Alumni Blue Band will be featured as they join the Blue Band performance at halftime. The Homecoming court will parade onto the field and the 2014-'15 King and Queen will be announced during halftime. The annual Homecoming Parade will be held on campus and downtown State College on Friday night.

Also, a Varsity "S" tunnel will take place for team entrance against the Wildcats, with hundreds of former student-athletes lining up on the field just prior to kickoff.

The Penn State and Northwestern coaching staffs will be wearing Coach to Cure MD patches this week to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. More than 110 FBS schools will be wearing a Coach to Cure MD patch in this the seventh year of the annual initiative. Fans are encouraged to donate online at www.CoachtoCureMD.org or donate $5 by texting CURE to 90999.

Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week five matchup against Northwestern.

PreviewGraphic_Northwestern.jpg
Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10369526.jpeg1. The Penn State ground attack played its best football of the season against UMass last week. Junior Akeel Lynch said this week that the performance against the Minutemen gave the running game some confidence, but now it is up to the group to improve. Lynch, Belton and Zwinak are a formidable trio when the offense is executing at a high level. In addition to the importance of consistency from the running game, the success of the Penn State running backs opens the door for play-action passing from Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg is leading the Big Ten in passing at 315.2 yards per game. Geno Lewis leads the conference in receiving yards per game at 115.5. DaeSean Hamilton leads the Big Ten in receptions per game at 7.5. When all of the offensive units are playing well, they complement one another.

2. Penn State's run defense has been lights out in 2014. Holding its opponents to less than 50 yards per game speaks to unit's ability to swarm to the football. The strong run defense begins with stout play in the trenches, but the second level of the Penn State defense deserves a great deal of credit, as well. The linebacker trio of Mike Hull, Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman has played at a consistently high level since the season began in Ireland. Hull leads the Nittany Lions in tackling with 37 stops on the season. Wartman, who was named Defensive Player of the Week for the UMass game by the coaching staff, has come on strong in recent weeks. He has 20 tackles. Bell has nine stops on the season, but his impact on the defense goes far beyond the tackle numbers. The New Jersey native has been a disruptive player for the Nittany Lions throughout the 2014 season.

3. No player has been more consistent for the Nittany Lions since the end of spring practice than kicker Sam Ficken. A perfectionist when it comes to mastering his craft, Ficken is off to a strong start for the Nittany Lions this season. He is 8-of-9 on field goal attempts and is 12-of-12 on PATs. Ficken has also been a weapon on the kickoff unit. He has 12 touchbacks this season, including eight touchbacks on nine attempts last week against UMass.

What to Watch For - Northwestern
10369570.jpeg1. Northwestern senior quarterback Trevore Siemian is a veteran of 36 career games for Northwestern. Ranked ninth on the school's all-time passing list, Siemian entered 2014 third on the active passer list in the Big Ten. He has completed 59 percent of his passes this season. Siemian has thrown for 614 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His top target thus far has been superback (TE/HB) Dan Vitale, who has 11 catches for 103 yards. Senior wide receiver Kyle Prater has 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown.

2. Defensively, Northwestern is a fundamentally sound unit led by a veteran cast of players. In all, eight of Northwestern's 11 starters on defense are juniors or seniors. That list includes the linebacker duo of Chi Chi Ariguzo (30) and Collin Ellis (28), who have combined for 58 career starts for the Wildcats. Ariguzo and Ellis are the anchors of the Northwestern defense. The two linebackers lead the Wildcats in tackling with 28 and 26 hits, respectively. Ellis, however, was listed on the final injury report as out for the game on Saturday. Sophomore defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo has been disruptive this season, as well, with 2.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.

3. Sophomore punter Chris Gradone was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts in week four. Gradone averaged 44.1 yards on seven punts. Six of his seven kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line, including two kicks inside the 5-yard line. Junior wide receiver Miles Shuler has been Northwestern's top returner. Shuler is averaging 21.2 yards per return on kickoffs.


The Final Word:
Penn State played its first Homecoming game on Oct. 9, 1920 against Dartmouth (W, 14-7). All-time, the Nittany Lions are 68-21-5 in games contested on Homecoming. That list includes eight on-field victories in the last 10 Homecoming games, including last season's thrilling 43-40 triple overtime win against Michigan. Saturday's game marks the third time the Nittany Lions will host Northwestern on Homecoming. The Nittany Lions topped the Wildcats in 2002 (49-0) and 2012 (39-28). Dating back the latter stages of 2013, head coach James Franklin and the seven members of the coaching staff who were with him at Vanderbilt last year have won nine-straight games heading into the Northwestern game.  Kickoff is slated for 12:01 p.m. on BTN.



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