After a quiet couple of weeks, Chris Godwin produced one of his best performances of the season on Sunday.
Tampa Bay rolled to a 38-3 win over the Bears and Godwin led the way for the Bucs with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The Buccaneers now head into a big Week Eight matchup with the divisional rival Saints.
Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins
Mike Gesicki celebrated National Tight Ends Day in style, accumulating seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
The Dolphins dropped a close one to the Falcons, but Gesicki continues his fine form of play with Tua Tagovailoa back under center.
Nick Scott, Safety, Los Angeles Rams
Nick Scott recorded his second interception of the season on Sunday and it proved to be a big one.
The former Nittany Lion closed out a tougher-than-expected win for the Rams over the winless Detroit Lions with a game-sealing INT.
Blake Gillikin, Punter, New Orleans Saints
Blake Gillikin appears on our rundown for a second straight week.
Gillikin booted six punts in New Orleans’ Monday Night win in Seattle, dropping four of them inside the 20-yard line.
A couple other notes to mention from this past weekend’s action.
We’re sending out best wishes to former Penn Stater Miles Sanders, who left the Eagles’ loss to Las Vegas with an ankle injury and did not return. Miles had to be carted to the locker room late in the first quarter.
Former Penn State lacrosse star Chris Hogan, who played 11 seasons in the NFL and won a pair of Super Bowls, announced his retirement from football this past weekend. Heck of a career, Chris!
Mike Herr (Mike the Mailman) and Penn State professor and local musician Molly Countermine judged Friday night’s Homecoming Parade in State College. The parade featured dozens of Alumni Association affiliate groups, Penn State student organizations, and plenty of colorful floats. Photo credit: John Patishnock
Here are 20 insights from Homecoming Weekend in Happy Valley. Tens of thousands of alumni returned to University Park to celebrate, with numerous events leading up to Saturday’s game against Illinois, a 20-18 setback for the Nittany Lions. We’ve also embedded a few additional social media posts from the weekend, including one that features the old-school end zone design that was featured with the team’s “Generations of Greatness” uniforms.
1. Last week’s episode of Football Letter Live was an absolute blast. We welcomed Alumni Blue Band President Randy Seely ’91 and Keith Griffith ’21, both of whom participated in the band performing at Friday’s ice cream social (more on that shortly). Seely has deep Penn State connections, as his father (Wayne ’65), spouse (Judy ’86), son (Andrew ’16), and daughter (Amelia ’21) are all Penn State grads. Griffith, meanwhile, was the band’s drum major last year, which means he missed out because of COVID restrictions. So, seeing him lead the Alumni Blue Band during Friday’s ice cream social and on the field on Saturday was both meaningful and a lot of fun. Jump to the 18:45 mark of the episode to catch Seely and Griffith’s appearance.
2. In addition to speaking with Seely and Griffith about the Alumni Blue Band, we also shared an interview with Nittanyville President Matt Solomon. We stopped by Beaver Stadium on Wednesday night as students began arriving shortly after 9 p.m., with Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford ’20g welcoming and thanking the students. You can see Clifford’s conversation with Solomon on our Twitter page or by jumping to the 10:00 mark of the episode for the intro to the video.
7. We livestreamed the Homecoming Parade and set up on the corner of College and Allen. You can see the parade here, and we’re encouraging Penn Staters to let us know in the comments where you watched the parade from.
9. James Franklin’s customary pregame lap didn’t feature as many fan interactions since gates didn’t open until shortly after he arrived, though fans can still check out the scene, which featured him thanking stadium personnel and welcoming Illini staff.
11. You can’t fault fans for thinking that if Sean Clifford doesn’t get hurt against Iowa, it’s entirely possible that Penn State is 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country, inviting the inevitable comparisons between the Nittany Lions and the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs — the two teams that battled for the national title in 1982 — with Penn State (of course) winning the ’83 Sugar Bowl.
12. We caught up with superstar tailgater and fan Sue Wilson and her husband, Ed, before the game. If you’ve ever seen our highlight videos, you already know Sue. Typically, the first shot of each video features the banner that she and her tailgating crew have made. They’ve become so popular that James Franklin will sometimes make it a point to say hello during team arrival. Tune into this week’s episode of Football Letter Live to see the conversation and learn more about Sue and what tailgating at Penn State means to her and her family.
13. Even though Illinois racked up 357 rushing yards, Penn State’s defense stepped up when it counted. The Nittany Lions also forced multiple turnovers. The defense even scored a touchdown. Unfortunately, the only people who didn’t realize that were the ones who counted — the referees. Watching the replay multiple times, and the shot we got from standing behind the end zone, it was clear that the Illini running back was still upright and didn’t have forward progress stopped when the Nittany Lions forced a fumble and jumped on the football in the end zone in the first quarter. For as many bad calls as we see each week, they never become less stunning. In addition to the touchdown that wasn’t, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford absorbed a clear late hit in the second half. But it wasn’t called. Penn State was driving and would’ve been set up for a score if the referees had made the correct call. It’s not our place to routinely comment on officiating, but at some point, it’s impossible to ignore. College football (whether you like it or not) is a billion-dollar business. Having expert referees oversee these games is essential.
14. Overtime was crazy. I know it. You know it. We all know it. Even just changing the rules to say that the teams will go toward the same end zone each possession would help. Because as it stood Saturday, players continually walked, jogged, etc. to each goal line after each possession. And considering there were nine possessions, that’s significant, especially after playing through four quarters of a grinder of a game.
15. Lucky isn’t the right word — I prefer “fortunate” — though either way, teams must avoid injuries to key players, have critical calls go in their favor (or at least avoid bad calls going against them, something which Penn State has faced all season), among other intangibles that don’t show up in a box score. Not many teams can legitimately say they’re one or two breaks away from contending for a playoff spot this year, though Penn State is one of them.
16. Speaking of which: For all the disappointment about Saturday’s game, (almost) nothing has changed for Penn State and its goals this season. If the Nittany Lions win out, it’s still entirely possible they’ll earn a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title. They’d still need Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State to all lose one other conference game, and with all three of those teams playing one another still this season, that’s very much possible.
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for Penn State’s homecoming matchup with Illinois.
Game Details: No. 7/8 Penn State (5-1, 2-1) vs Illinois (2-5, 1-3). Noon ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.
Venue: Beaver Stadium.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 54. Cloudy with a shower in spots; a chilly autumn afternoon for Homecoming.
The Line: Penn State -24 (via SI SportsBook).
All-Time Series: Penn State leads 20-5.
Last Meeting: Penn State won 56-21 in the 2020 season finale at Beaver Stadium.
Last Week: Both teams were on a bye.
Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: – Northwestern at No. 6/6 Michigan (Noon ET, FOX) – Wisconsin at No. 25/N/A Purdue (3:30 PM ET, BTN) – Maryland at Minnesota (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2) – No. 5/5 Ohio State at Indiana (7:30 PM ET, ABC)
Throwback Classic: 2008. Entering the game, Ron Zook’s Illini were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and returned star players Isiah “Juice” Williams and Arrelious Benn. Up to that point, it was also the highest-scoring White Out game with a combined 52 points. After the Illini opened the scoring, Derrick Williams did a Derrick Williams thing and returned the ensuing kickoff to the end zone to even things up at 7-7. Williams finished the game with a kick return for a touchdown, a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown to lead the Lions to a 38-24 win.
The Lead: Saturday’s homecoming matchup will feature Penn State’s Generations of Greatness uniforms, which are being worn for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Penn State has previously worn the uniforms in matchups against Indiana in 2017, Purdue in 2019 and Iowa in 2020. The uniforms feature numbers on the helmets, block uniform numbers, a white stripe on the sleeves, a blue stripe on the pants, a gray facemask and white cleats.
Penn State Wins If: The offense can get enough production from whoever starts at quarterback. Whether it’s Taquan Roberson or Christian Veilleux, the Nittany Lions just need their quarterback to be average and that should be plenty to blow out Illinois. Sean Clifford has been practicing this week, but it’d be a surprise if Penn State risks him in this game ahead of next week’s clash at Ohio State. I expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to keep things simple for his quarterback, relying on his skill players with short routes and lean on the running game. Penn State’s defense is a juggernaut and Illinois has struggled mightily on offense. The Nittany Lions should win this easily.
Illinois Wins If: Penn State’s offense is catastrophically bad. It would take a turnover-plagued, penalty-heavy Penn State showing worse than what was displayed against Iowa (after Sean Clifford left the game, of course) for Illinois to win this game.
Keep An Eye On: Mike Yurcich using Taquan Roberson’s mobility. Roberson struggled mightily in the loss at Iowa, but one of the things that stood out to me as a positive was his ability to make plays with his legs. He picked up a couple of decent gains on designed runs or scrambles against the Hawkeyes, and it wouldn’t shock me if Yurcich uses that to settle Roberson into the game a bit early on.
Trivia Tidbit: This is the fourth time Penn State will square off against Illinois in a Homecoming game. The Nittany Lions are 2-1 with wins in 2000 (39-25) and 2006 (26-12).
Number To Know: 101. This is Penn State’s 101st Homecoming game.
New Podcast: Check out the Alumni Association’s new podcast, “The People of Penn State.” On each episode of the podcast you can expect to hear the voices of Penn Staters talking about what they are passionate about, and you can expect to feel the pride and the power of the Penn State network. In the inaugural episode of the show, we talked to Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer, Jake Schrom ’11. Click here to listen or check out the video version on the Alumni Association’s YouTube page.
Score Prediction: John Patishnock: Penn State 28, Illinois 7 Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 30, Illinois 6
There are certain views that you’ll always remember, certain scenes and moments that once lodged into your memory, they’re not going anywhere. You can pull them up at a moment’s notice, without having thought of them in a long time, and without fail, the images are there. Right in front of you. Vividly.
ESPN’s College Game Day on Old Main Lawn, as seen from the Old Main Bell Tower, is one such scene for me.
But here’s the thing. That scene is only possible because of the success of the football team, because of passionate alumni and fans, and because of the behind-the-scenes work by hundreds of colleagues, both at Penn State and beyond.
These moments aren’t possible just anywhere. However, Happy Valley is one such place. Only last year, it wasn’t.
We’re not here to rehash what’s already been rehashed too many times. Instead, we’re here to say thanks, to show appreciation, to express gratitude, and whenever possible, to have some fun.
Attendance at each of Penn State’s first four home games this season has exceeded 105,000. The home opener against Ball State (105,323) was the highest-attended home opener for the Nittany Lions since 2008. Fans swarmed campus early in the morning when Game Day visited last month. None of this is all that surprising for one of the nation’s most storied college football programs, though all of these happenings are still worth noting.
There’s a significant difference between now and last fall (obviously), and the transformation hits on a personal level as much as it does on the entire community.
Just ask junior offensive lineman Bryce Effner. We did, in fact, Tuesday morning during a media availability.
Last season, he played in empty stadiums, though he said he knew that fans were cheering on the team from home as they watched the game on TV. This season, now he sees a campus full of students walking around in Penn State gear on Thursdays and Friday, getting ready for the game. “To actually see them” creates a feeling of community, Effner said, and that support has helped Penn State to an unbeaten mark in four home games and a No. 7 national ranking.
“It’s incredible to see all the students back,” Effner said. “The whole campus is back together, and we’re all excited for an in-person football season. I’d say it’s incredible. It’s great to have fans back.”
That frenetic energy spills over to every day, especially this week as campus and town celebrates Homecoming.
The Homecoming Executive Committee has already kicked off events, with the Allen Street Jam providing students and locals a chance to unwind Monday afternoon.
Things will really get going this weekend, as the Alumni Association hosts an ice cream social from 1-3 p.m. Friday at the Hintz Family Alumni Center, with the Alumni Association student group, Lion Ambassadors, welcoming Penn Staters to the Nittany Lion Shrine for Guard the Lion Shrine following the parade until 10 p.m.
It’s sure to be an enjoyable time, with College Avenue and the adjacent parade route packed with Penn Staters who’ll spend this weekend stopping by their favorite shops and restaurants. And, Beaver Stadium will be packed Saturday for a noon kickoff against Illinois.
Speaking of Beaver Stadium: Of course, the football program occupies a pivotal place in this whole situation, where what impacts the University simultaneously impacts the town. And where last fall, the impact was that there was no impact.
Maybe words like “responsibility” and “obligation” are too strong, because that implies a debt in some way or another, though Penn State head coach James Franklin has said before that he feels the economic weight that the football team has on the community. He referenced local businesses again today, indicating that the roar that fans provide this season reverberates beyond the field.
If it sounds like Franklin is saying this is a team effort, that’s because that’s precisely what he’s saying.
It’s a two-way partnership where each side needs the other.
“What an unbelievable opportunity it is to be the front porch of the University and allow millions of people all over the country — and really all over the world — to get a glimpse of what Penn State is all about: How our guys play on the field, how our guys present themselves to the media, (and) how are guys are successful at the next level.
We’re all in this together. I think that’s one of the things that I think last year helped us all recognize: We can’t do it without the community, the community can’t do it without us. I think that’s one of the things that makes Happy Valley so special.”
For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.
James Franklin gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. Oftentimes, questions are grouped into predictable categories: thoughts on the upcoming opponent, how the team is improving, offseason priorities, etc.
That’s standard, and it makes sense. It’s also what Franklin is most likely expecting to be asked.
Here are 10 questions I’d like to ask the Penn State head coach, but never would during a typical media availability, at least not during the season. His mind is focused where it should be — on leading the football program. So, chances for a candid, insightful answer increase during an offseason interview, when Franklin has a chance to take something of a breather and discuss more light-hearted topics.
I want to emphasize these are legitimate, genuine questions. I believe Franklin’s responses would speak to his personality and give him an opportunity to talk about aspects of his professional and personal life that otherwise might go overlooked. And one or two are purely for my own curiosity.
Q: If you and your family had campus to yourselves for a day, or knew that fans wouldn’t ask for photos or autographs, what would you do?
Q: Have you ever hiked Mount Nittany? If so, what was the experience like? If not, would you like to hike Mount Nittany in the future?
Q: If you could appear as a contestant on any game show (current or past), what would it be and why?
Q: What is/was your favorite board game to play? Any strategies involved in that game that relate to football?
Q: When players celebrate a touchdown, do you ever worry about somebody twisting an ankle or otherwise getting hurt?
Q: College Football Playoff standings and rankings aside, what’s one bowl game you’d enjoy coaching in, and why?
Q: Signing as many autographs as you do, how did you decide on a handwriting style? Did it change when the number of autographs you sign increased, especially when people are standing in a line?
Q: When leaving the stadium after a game, do you ever get stuck in traffic? I know he leaves the stadium hours after the game ends, but I believe it’s still possible.
Q: Outside of people in the sports world, who are one or two people you’ve enjoyed meeting the most?
Q: When it comes to videos, photos, and social media posts that are shared on the football team’s various channels, how much do you impact what’s posted?
How about you, our alumni? Anything else you’d like to ask Penn State’s head coach? Leave us a comment or tag us on our Twitter account and let us know.
For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.
Here are 20 insights from our weekend trip to see Penn State battle Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes erased a 17-3 deficit to win 23-20, as numerous Nittany Lions — including three team captains in Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, and Jonathan Sutherland — left the game because of injuries.
1. Friday was an adventure for the Alumni Association staff. Some colleagues flew to Chicago and drove to Cedar Rapids (about a 3.5 hour-drive). We were all booked for an early flight, which got delayed, and then canceled, and some of us got rebooked on the 6 p.m. direct flight. Then, that flight got delayed and canceled. I figured that was it — we weren’t all making the trip to Iowa, myself included. Miss out on a Top-5 matchup? It hurt. I was on hold with the travel agency and couldn’t get through. Nobody could find a reasonable flight that’d get us into Iowa on time. We were looking at other airports. It seemed lost. Colleagues had even left to go home. I was right behind them, when I decided to stop at the airline counter for a last-ditch effort to see what was possible.
Then, something happened like out of a movie. People hung around, stayed by the counter. Eventually, a call was made. A head count followed. I called colleagues who turned around on the road and returned to the airport, with still no guarantee. But it was possible we’d get a new plane into State College specifically for our flight. And it happened. We had to wait, and we didn’t get into Iowa until midnight local time, but it was so worth it to be there to gather with Penn Staters at our events and see the Nittany Lions give one hell of a battle. Here’s a photo I took as I got on the plane out of State College on Friday night. P.S., it was probably closer to six hours at the airport, but I was out of it. Thanks to everyone at United who helped get us to the game.
10. Say what you want about the fans — and we will in the next couple of notes — however, the wave to the children’s hospital at the end of the first quarter is a wonderful tradition that brings a lot of joy to the children facing much bigger battles off the field. You can see the moment on our Facebook page.
11. A lot’s been written and said about Iowa’s fans booing Penn State’s injured players. Obviously, the fans thought the players were faking to slow down Iowa’s offense, which in a word, is “absurd.” The Hawkeyes don’t run an upbeat, fast-paced offense. They huddle. They take time off the clock. Good for James Franklin directly addressing this after the game. Lions247’s Tyler Donohue shared Franklin’s response.
12. Following up on the last point: Outside of Nebraska, I’ve been to every away venue in the Big Ten, and Saturday was the third time I’ve seen Penn State play Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. While every fan base (even ours) has fans who act inappropriately and crudely, Iowa has more fans than most who fit into this category. Will that change in the future? Unfortunately, I doubt it, since Hawkeye coaches joined in the mocking. Here’s just one video making the rounds on social media.
13. After the game ended, you could see some Penn State fans applauding the team as players and coaches walked off the field. In addition to fans, family members also traveled, including Tariq Castro-Fields’ parents. Earlier this season, I finally introduced myself to a gentleman who I see at nearly every game, home and away. He usually has an appearance in our highlight videos, and I just wanted to thank him for always being so energetic. Turned out he’s Castro-Fields’ father, and he and his family attended the game at Kinnick Stadium. We shared a fist-bump when I saw him, and seeing him and his family and saying “hello” and “good to see you” has quickly become a nice tradition for me.
14. Just about every player available to the media afterward was asked about the fans booing their injured teammates. The Nittany Lions displayed an incredible level of maturity in their responses, showing much more class than the crowd. We shared Ellis Brooks’ insight, as he said Iowa “has loving (our emphasis) fans,” while adding that it’s a “weird” thing to have happen. You can view Brooks’ entire response on our Twitter page.
15. “Resilient” was one of the first words I thought of after Jordan Stout shared the message he had for teammates after the game, regarding the team still being in position to achieve all of is goals: “Don’t forget the goals, don’t forget what we’re pushing for. We’re going for a national championship, Big Ten championship. This doesn’t matter. We’re coming back stronger.” You can see Stout’s full response on our Twitter page.
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for another huge matchup between Penn State and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Game details: No. 4/4 Penn State (5-0, 1-0) at No. 3/3 Iowa (5-0, 1-0). 4 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on FOX.
Venue: Kinnick Stadium
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Very warm with clouds and sunshine; breezy in the afternoon; an unseasonably warm afternoon for football. High of 82.
The Line: Iowa -1.5 (SI Sportsbook)
All-Time Series: Penn State leads 17-13
Last Meeting: Iowa won last year’s meeting quite comfortably, 41-21.
Last Week: Penn State blanked Indiana 24-0. Iowa trounced Maryland 51-14.
Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: – Maryland at No. 7/7 Ohio State (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX) – No. 11/11 Michigan State at Rutgers (Saturday, Noon ET, Big Ten Network) – Wisconsin at Illinois (Saturday, 3:30. p.m. ET, Big Ten. Network) – No. 9/8 Michigan at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Throwback Classic: 2017. Saquon Barkley dazzled under the Kinnick lights and Juwan Johnson caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to silence the Iowa crowd and notch a win for the No. 4-ranked Nittany Lions. Barkley had 28 carries for a career-high 211 yards and a touchdown. He also had a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards. Check out Saquon’s highlight real performance and the clutch final drive that propelled Penn State to a win below.
The Lead: Boy, it seems like there have been a lot of big games between these two programs over the years. They might not be “rivals” in any official capacity, but when the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes clash there’s usually a lot at stake for one or both of these teams. This year, there are legitimate playoff aspirations for Penn State and Iowa. Don’t expect a plethora of points in a shootout. These two teams field some elite defenses.
Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions don’t turn the ball over. Iowa thrives off of its defense forcing turnovers and setting up its offense with advantageous field position. The Hawkeyes aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination. They are opportunistic and efficient when they need to be. Penn State cannot cough up the ball and expect to walk out of Kinnick with the win. Sean Clifford has been much better at making smarter decisions with the ball this year and he’ll need to be at his best in that department on Saturday. Penn State’s defense is playing at an elite level right now and if the Nittany Lions’ offense avoids turnovers, the blue and white have a great chance to go 1-0 this weekend.
Iowa Wins If: Penn State turns the ball over. Seems kind of redundant doesn’t it? But that’s for good reason. As I said above, Iowa’s season has been defined by forcing opponent’s into turnovers. Iowa is ranked No. 2 in FBS in scoring defense (Penn State is No. 3), No. 1 in interceptions forced, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 7 in total defense.
Trivia Tidbit: This is Penn State’s first Top 5 matchup since 1999 when the Nittany Lions hosted Arizona for the Pigskin Classic. Take a closer look back at this game in this From The Archives story from 2019.
Number To Know: Seven. The Iowa defense forced Maryland into seven turnovers last Friday night, including six interceptions.
Membership Note: The online Alumni Library is one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Penn State Alumni Association, and a new how-to video on our Alumni Library benefits page shows you how to get started accessing this treasure trove of knowledge. Check it out here.
Score Predictions: John Patishnock: Penn State 20, Iowa 13 Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 23, Iowa 14