Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 9

After our first eight Penn Staters At The Next Level recaps were dominated by offensive players, Week 9 saw defensive players take the spotlight. 

DaQuan Jones, DL, Tennessee Titans 

The Titans defense had struggled mightily in recent weeks, but had a nice performance against the Bears in Week 9.

At the heart of this improved effort was former Nittany Lion DaQuan Jones. The seven-year vet was a force along Tennessee’s defensive line, recording five solo tackles, two assisted stops and a half sack. 

Jones and the Titans D held Chicago to just 56 yards rushing. 

Adrian Amos, S, Green Bay Packers

It was another strong showing for Adrian Amos as Green Bay got a little bit of revenge on a depleted 49ers squad with a 34-17 win. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

Amos recorded five tackles (second highest on the team) and Green Bay turned the tables on San Francisco after an embarrassing loss to the same foe in the NFC Championship Game just over 10 months ago.  

Amos and the rest of the Packers defense will look to keep this momentum going against a bad Jacksonville team in Week 10. 

Carl Nassib,  DL, Las Vegas Raiders

Don’t look now, but the Raiders are 5-3 and look to have a very good shot to make the playoffs in this year’s expanded format.

Former Lion Carl Nassib had two tackles and a sack in Las Vegas’ 31-26 win over the division rival Chargers on Sunday.

Photo By Steve Manuel

Two more clashes with AFC West Opponents — the Broncos and Chiefs — loom large in the Raiders’ quest to make the postseason for the first time since 2016. 

KJ Hamler, WR, Denver Broncos

A week after snagging the game-winning touchdown for Denver against Los Angeles, Hamler turned in another strong showing for the Broncos in Week 9.

The rookie wideout hauled in six receptions for 75 yards on a team-high 10 targets. 

He seems to be developing a good rapport with Denver QB Drew Lock, and assuming the pair can stay healthy, that bodes well for the team from Mile High.

Photo By Steve Manuel

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller 
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams, Shareef Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant

‘Powerful’ Adam Taliaferro Special to Air on BTN

In one of the most inspiring moments in Beaver Stadium history, Adam Taliaferro walked onto the field prior to the team’s season opener in 2001. (Photo by Penn State)

An inspiring member of the Penn State football family will be featured tonight on The Big Ten Network.

The station will air a one-hour special titled, “The B1G Moment: Adam Taliaferro” this evening at 7. BTN will re-air the special multiple times, including 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Friday. Fans can find more listings at btn.com/shows.

Many fans are familiar with Taliaferro’s incredible journey. As a true freshman, he suffered a life-threatening spinal cord injury at Ohio State in 2000, absorbing a hit that left him with no movement in his extremities from his neck down.

He was given a 3 percent chance to ever walk again.

That 3 percent came through in a big way, as Taliaferro jogged onto the Beaver Stadium field less than a year later, before Penn State’s home opener against Miami (Fla.).

Chuck Kimball was the Nittany Lion mascot that game, and Kimball talked about that experience earlier this season on The Football Letter Live. He even has the jersey that Taliaferro wore that evening. You can watch the episode online, with Kimball talking about Taliaferro beginning around the 30-minute mark.

We also spoke with letterman Justin Kurpeikis last year. Kurpeikis talked about the game following the Ohio State contest in 2000, an emotionally charged home victory over a Purdue team led by future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees.

Today, James Franklin talked about Taliaferro’s impact during his weekly news conference. The head coach had an opportunity to see the video ahead of time, leading him to call Taliaferro and share how much he enjoyed watching the special.

“As you guys know, I’m an emotional guy,” Franklin said. “Actually, Michael Hazel (senior director of football operations) and Nacho (Jim Natchman, assistant AD, media and video production) sent that to me last week before it was public. I got the hot peek at it and got emotional watching it. I called Adam and Adam hadn’t seen it yet, and I just told him, I said, ‘You’re going to love this thing. It is powerful.’”

Franklin continued:

“I think Adam represents everything that Penn State is all about. It’s interesting, the other thing that kind of hit home for me watching that is the challenges that that team had that season and the timing of it all (Taliaferro ran onto the Beaver Stadium field 10 days before 9/11). So, I had a really good conversation with Adam. He’s been phenomenal, not only with his time as an undergraduate student here, and how the Penn State community rallied around him and behind him is special. I know that at a point, Adam was on the board of trustees here, and he’s very successful back in New Jersey. I’m a big Adam fan and we couldn’t be more proud of him, and I think everybody’s going to love the show. And I strongly recommend, again, everybody take an hour and watch that and get away from your frustrations with other things right now.”

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Penn State’s Most Memorable Teams (2005)

Editor’s note: Throughout the season, we’re looking at Penn State’s most memorable teams from the past 40 years. This week, we spotlight the 2005 squad that won 11 games and ended the season with an Orange Bowl victory. In the video below, defensive back Calvin Lowry discussed the mindset of that team, his interception in the White Out game against Ohio State, and much more.

A lot can change in a year. Don’t believe that? Just ask the players and coaches on the 2005 Penn State football team.

After enduring an uncharacteristic down stretch, Penn State won 10-plus games in a season for the fifth straight decade under Joe Paterno, signaling a return to the top of the polls and coming within a whisper of playing for the national title.

The Nittany Lions closed out their 10-1 regular season with a 31-22 win at Michigan State, where defensive co-captain Alan Zemaitis picked of three passes — twice turning around the Spartans near the goal-line — and returning a third to set up a Penn State touchdown.

The Football Letter editor John Black was on the scene and included Zemaitis’ apt summary of what the 2005 season meant for he and his teammates.

“If you were a player on this team, you would understand that we went through hell,” Zemaitis said, as chronicled in that game’s edition of The Football Letter. “When we’d lose, people would point fingers, saying we brought Penn State down. Well, these same players brought Penn State black.”

You can hear more from Zemaitis this week, as he’s scheduled to appear on Thursday’s episode of The Football Letter Live. The show will air Thursday night at 8, and alumni and fans can register online or tune in on Facebook.

Zemaitis earned All-Big Ten honors three times and was a second-team All-American during his senior season of 2005. He also broke the Big Ten and Penn State single-season record with 207 interception yards in 2003. He’s currently coaching at Susquehanna, where even though the team’s season has been canceled because of COVID-19, he’s staying busy by spearheading a community service project. You can read more about his efforts on the blog.

The victory over the Spartans sent the Nittany Lions to the Orange Bowl, where they outlasted Florida State 26-23 in three overtimes. Penn State nearly played for the national title, though a controversial finish in Ann Arbor, where time was added to allow Michigan to run one more play, resulting in a walk-off touchdown for the Wolverines.

Black succinctly summed up the emotions after winning the Big Ten title, noting Penn State’s impressive ascent back into the national picture.

Here are the two lead paragraphs of The Football Letter following Penn State’s win in East Lansing to win the 2005 Big Ten title:

“Zipping from the ground floor to the penthouse in one season, the Nittany Lion gridironers finally got off their express elevator at the top of the Big Ten standings Saturday with a 31-22 triumph at Michigan State, completing the most dramatic win-loss turnaround in Penn State history.

A team doubted by so many believed in itself and came within a Michigan second of perfection in the regular season, while claiming Penn State’s second Big Ten title in 13 years, winnings its first Bowl Championship Series bid and climbing to No. 4 in the national polls.”

In addition to Zemaitis appearing on this week’s show, fellow defensive back Calvin Lowry also spoke with us recently to talk about the 2005 championship squad. Lowry is currently coaching at Tulsa, and you can check out the video at the top of this story for that interview.

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Penn State Preview: Maryland

Jayson Oweh and the Nittany Lions look for their first (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: vs. Maryland, 3:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on BTN.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State enjoys a 23-1 advantage over Maryland in the all-time series.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 71 degrees and sunny.

All-time series: Penn State leads 40-2-1.

Last meeting (2019): The Nittany Lions bulldozed the Terrapins 59-0 in College Park, where the school closed classes leading up to the Friday night game.

Throwback classic (2015): Penn State outlasted Maryland 31-30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. We looked back at the victory this week on the blog.

The lead: It’s fairly easy to imagine Penn State winning its six remaining games and qualifying for another attractive bowl. That journey begins Saturday against the Terrapins, who the Nittany Lions have outscored 163-6 over the last three years. Maryland upset Minnesota last week in College Park, though struggled mightily in losing 43-3 to Northwestern in the season opener.

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions avoid mistakes that flip the field. It’s difficult to see Maryland keeping pace Saturday, so as long as Penn State forces the Terps to work for all their points, there’s a good chance this one will be locked up going into the fourth quarter.

Maryland wins if: the Terps’ quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, can find gaps in the Penn State secondary. Both Indiana and Ohio State scored 30-plus points against the Nittany Lions, though those are two ranked teams with explosive offenses. That doesn’t describe Maryland, though if the Terps can find way to gain chunk plays down the field, that gives them a shot.

Count on: Penn State running the ball plenty. Maryland is last in the Big Ten and is one of the worst teams nationally in rush defense, allowing nearly 300 yards per game. The Nittany Lions’ backfield is without some of its stars, though there’s still plenty of talent thanks to the impressive job that the staff has done in recruiting.

Keep an eye on: Jahan Dotson. The junior wide receiver has elevated his play early on, establishing himself as Sean Clifford’s top target for wideouts (both Dotson with 929 and standout tight end Pat Freiermuth with 981 are within reach of 1,000 career receiving yards). Through the season’s first two games, Dotson has tallied 238 receiving yards, the best two-game start for a Penn State receiver in six years. 

Trivia tidbit: Clifford is tied for the Big Ten lead with six passing touchdowns.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. MARYLAND (2015)

Prior to the 2014 defeat to Maryland — its first season in the Big Ten — Penn State was unbeaten in its last 29 games against the Terrapins.

The lone minor blemish in that streak was a 13-13 tie in Baltimore, which was the Nittany Lions’ last tie in program history. 

On Oct. 24, 2015, Penn State and Maryland met once more in Baltimore at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, with the Terrapins now looking to start a streak of their own. 

The game, as editor of The Football Letter John Black wrote, was a “barnburner” from start to finish. 

“Together the two teams thrilled a crowd of 68,948 with big offensive plays, tough defensive stops, critical takeaways and giveaways in a game that went back and forth with exciting action for 60 minutes, before Penn State claimed a one point victory,” Black wrote afterward.

The contest featured five lead changes, six touchdown plays of 10 or more yards, 13 plays of 20 or more yards from scrimmage (with a long of 48), and eight combined turnovers.

After a slow offensive start from both teams, Penn State opened up the scoring through freshman running back Saquon Barkley’s 6-yard touchdown run halfway through the first quarter. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

Maryland tied things up at 7-7 on its ensuing possession as the teams battled back and forth the rest of the opening half, which saw the Nittany Lions enter the halfway point on top 17-13. 

The Terrapins regained the lead, 20–17, by moving 68 yards on nine plays (all on the ground) in 4:10 on their first possession of the second half.

On Penn State’s next possession, the Lions grabbed the lead back at 24– 20 with a seven­-play, 79-­yard march in under four minutes. The drive was capped off by Christian Hackenberg’s 20-yard strike to DaeSean Hamilton. 

The two sides traded two more touchdowns, with the Penn State score coming via a gorgeous catch from Geno Lewis as he lept for the ball over his defender near the corner of the end zone. 

From there it was a defensive struggle with a cascade of turnovers and just a sole Maryland field goal to cut the deficit to 31-30. 

After a Penn State punt, the Terrapins had one last chance with the ball at their own 25 and 1:21 left on the clock.

Photo By Steve Manuel

But on the very first play of the drive, Terps quarterback Perry Hills’ pass went off his receiver’s hands and into the arms of Malik Golden.

The pick was sealed and so was the win for the Nittany Lions to give them their sixth victory, moving them to bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season. 

Hackenberg completed 13-of-29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, thus setting Penn State’s all­-time record for pass completions at 608 and passing yardage at 7,453. 

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 8

Even with Chris Godwin out of Tampa Bay’s lineup due to a finger injury, it was still a stellar weekend for Penn State wide receivers in the NFL.

KJ Hamler, WR, Denver Broncos

It seemed like the Broncos were finished in the third quarter of Sunday’s game with their division rival Los Angeles Charges. Trailing 24-3 and an offense that was sputtering, it seemed pretty improbable Denver had enough firepower to turn it around.

Photo By Steve Manuel

That proved not to be the case as the Broncos rallied for a stunning 31-30 win and the fourth largest comeback in franchise history.

Former Nittany Lion KJ Hamler one of the biggest heroes of the day for Denver, doing just enough to stay in bounds and corral a pass from Drew Lock to score the game-winning touchdown — the first touchdown of Hamler’s NFL career.

DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos

Hamler’s teammate (and fellow former Penn Stater) DaeSean Hamilton also had a big day for Denver.

Photo By Steve Manuel

Hamilton snagged Lock’s pass near the Chargers’ 20-yard line and sped toward the end zone to cut the deficit at that point to just three points at 27-24.

Overall, Hamilton finished with four receptions for 82 yards and that touchdown. The receiving total was Hamilton’s highest in a single game in his NFL career.

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

Photo By Steve Manuel

Another week, another Allen Robinson II appearance in our recap.

Even with the Bears offense continuing to struggle in their second straight loss, Robinson II continues to be a workhorse for Chicago.

He finished with six passes for 87 yards and this terrific touchdown grab. That’s some elite concentration to haul that one in while diving on to the cold turf of Soldier Field.

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller 
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams, Shareef Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant

Penn State’s Most Memorable Teams: 1994

Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter sprints to a touchdown in Penn State’s opening drive at the 1995 Rose Bowl against Oregon. (Photo by Penn State)

Editor’s note: Throughout the season, we’re looking at Penn State’s most memorable teams from the past 40 years. Up next is the season when Penn State returned to the Rose Bowl after seven decades.

John Black asked a perfectly reasonable question. Unfortunately, nobody provided an answer.

For 100-plus years, Penn State football had competed as an independent, though that all changed when the University joined the Big Ten in the early 1990s and the football program began conference play in 1993.

A year later, the team bulldozed its way to a perfect record. After demolishing Michigan State 59-31 in the regular season finale, Joe Paterno and Co. accepted a bid to the Rose Bowl, perhaps the sport’s most prestigious game and one in which he had never previously coached.

In his biography of Paterno, Michael O’Brien wrote that the legendary coach (understandably) had ambition to play in the Rose Bowl, and that it was something he’d think about when he was alone, walking in the woods in back of his house. 

So, Penn State prepared to play in it is first Rose Bowl since 1923, meaning that for the first time in its illustrious history, The Football Letter headed to Pasadena — creator Ridge Riley started the publication in the late 1930s — where editor Black covered his first Rose Bowl. Black would return for two more trips, to cap off the 2008 and 2016 seasons.

Though as Black wrote in his lead to that game’s edition: “The first time is always the best.”

Penn State upended Oregon, with Ki-Jana Carter galloping for an 83-yard touchdown on the game’s opening play from scrimmage. The Nittany Lions collected a 38-20 victory for Paterno’s fifth unbeaten, untied season. And yet, as players, alumni, and fans painfully know, no national title. Not even a share.

Black wrote:

“As recently as 1991, undefeated Miami and undefeated Washington were declared co-champions. The year before, Georgia Tech and Colorado shared the title. Why is an undefeated, untied Penn State squad an outcast for the fourth time since 1968? What was possibly wrong with the performance of the 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994 Penn State teams?

Coach Joe Paterno said the 1994 Nittany Lions ‘proved to everyone in the country that they are as worthy of a national championship as anyone else.’

With no opportunity for the teams to settle the issue on the gridiron, Nebraska, which was also undefeated and untied in 1994, deserves a share of the national title. Certainly Tom Osborne, one of the most respected coaches in college football, has long deserved a national championship ring.

But so do the 1994 Nittany Lions.”

He was right, of course. Though not receiving a share of the championship that they certainly deserved doesn’t make that team any less legendary.

The Penn Stater magazine editor Ryan Jones wrote an extensive oral history on the team, aptly titled, “Legends of ’94,” and you can also read that story on the blog.

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