The Roaring 20: Penn State-Michigan State

John Patishnock/The Football Letter

Time for this week’s Roaring 20, looking back at a snow-filled weekend in East Lansing as Penn State dropped its regular season finale to Michigan State, 30-27.

1. Tough end to the regular season for the Nittany Lions in a game that was dominated by the snow. It started to come down about an hour before our Pep Rally on Saturday and didn’t seem to stop. As a native Michigander myself, it was a fitting homecoming.

2. Hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I certainly enjoyed getting back home here to Michigan to enjoy time with friends and family. It’s not something anyone should take for granted.

3. Shoutout to the field crew at Spartan Stadium, who worked hard all day and evening to keep the field lines cleared off as best as they could.

4. Another shoutout to our alumni in Michigan. Was great seeing Penn Staters come out to our final Pep Rally of the regular season. It’s been a blast traveling around the Big Ten this season and seeing how many Nittany Lion alumni and fans come out to support Dear Old State.

5. The weather conditions didn’t stop plenty of Penn State support from invading Spartan Stadium, either.

6. Great video from John Patishnock for Penn State’s team entrance.

7. Obviously, a disappointing day for Penn State. Jahan Dotson was once again a bright spot for the Nittany Lions, though. His two touchdown grabs brought his season total to 12.

8. Jahan is going to be an exceptional player at the next level. He’s had a historic season and career for the blue and white. One (likely) final act to come in the bowl game.

9. DaeQuan Hardy’s pick-six in the third quarter was Penn State’s third of the season.

10. Penn State now has a takeaway in 18 straight games.

11. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III is a heck of a player. The Doak Walker Award favorite toughed out a nagging ankle injury to once again help lead his team to a win. Walker III finished the day with 30 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown.

12. Nothing equals Happy Valley, but Michigan State’s campus was quite pretty, especially with a layer of snow covering the ground, trees and buildings. If you ever get out to a game in East Lansing, spend some time and take in the campus sights.

13. Penn State’s bowl game destination will be announced Dec. 5. The Nittany Lions look as though they’re headed to one of three postseason games: The Pinstripe Bowl, The Las Vegas Bowl or The Music City Bowl.

15. Michigan could be the Big Ten’s representative in the College Football Playoff if the Wolverines take down Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. That one should be an old-school defensive battle.

16. This week’s Football Letter will be delivered to members on Tuesday of this week, highlighted by John Black’s letter, game photos, videos, and other Alumni Association tidbits.

17. Thanks to everyone who followed along with us, whether that be reading the letter, checking out the blog or following us on Twitter. Your interest and support is much appreciated.

18. We’ll have plenty of coverage leading up to and at the bowl game — wherever that may be — so stick with us as we close out the 2021 season.

19. The winter sports season is also ramping up, with wrestling, hockey, basketball, and other sports all in action. If you’re in Happy Valley at all over the next few months, get out to a game or two if you can.

20. We Are!

Giving Themselves A Chance

Micah Shrewsberry and the Nittany Lions men’s hoops team battled LSU on Friday night in the Emerald Coast Classic. The four-team tournament’s taking place in Northwest Florida State’s gym, with Penn State pushing LSU to overtime with a buzzer-beating basket before falling 68-63. Photo credit: Penn State Men’s Basketball.

Micah Shrewsberry sounds confident. The way his team plays explains why he feels that way.

Penn State men’s basketball is spending the holidays in Northwest Florida, as part of the four-team Emerald Coast Classic. The Nittany Lions will spend some extra time together, staying several days as opposed to the typical overnight trips for a standard game on the schedule. Along with team bonding, these games often serve as guideposts for how the team will fare in conference competition.

Based on Friday night, Shrewsberry will have his team ready.

The Nittany Lions’ first opponent was LSU, which finished 19-10 and won an NCAA Tournament game last season. The Tigers were 8-point favorites, though entered the locker room at halftime facing a 32-29 deficit. In a game with plenty of crucial possessions, Penn State didn’t flinch, sending the game to overtime at the buzzer after Seth Lundy caught a carom in midair and scored on a put-back with one-tenth of a second left.

Lundy was one of four Nittany Lions to score eight-plus points, with Jalen Pickett (14), Sam Sessoms (13), Myles Dread (13), and Lundy (8) the top scorers for Penn State.

“If you look at this game, how LSU wants to play, if you look at the scores that they’ve had, you look at what they do, we turned this into a Big Ten game. That’s what we do with our defense,” Shrewsberry said after the game on a media call. “If we defend like this, you give yourself a chance every single night, and this is going to be the Big Ten. … So this is great preparation for us.”

To Shrewsberry’s point, the over/under for this game (the expected number of points scored for both teams) was 141.5. If you’re wondering how it’s possible to score a half-point, that’s purely for betting purposes. Even with the extra period, Penn State and LSU scored 10 less points combined than expected.

That’s what Shrewsberry was talking about when he said Penn State turned this into a Big Ten game. In LSU’s first five games, the Tigers scored at least 74 every time out, including 101 in their season opener. Overall, LSU averaged 85.4 points coming into Friday night’s contest. Penn State held LSU to 58 points in regulation, 27 points below the Tigers’ season average.

Pretty darn impressive. You can check out Lundy’s buzzer-beater and the team’s game graphic below. We’ve also included our full Q&A exchange with Shrewsberry, so you can see the entire context.

Q: Micah, I ask this question especially within the context that the Big Ten now plays a couple conference games in December: When you have a game like tonight where there are so many crucial possessions, how much does that prepare the guys for the upcoming Big Ten season?

A: “You know what, for us, if you look at this game, how LSU wants to play, if you look at the scores that they’ve had, you look at what they do, we turned this into a Big Ten game. That’s what we do with our defense. If we defend like this, you give yourself a chance every single night, and this is going to be the Big Ten. These are going to be the wars like this in the Big Ten, so this is great preparation for us. Who’s going to go to the glass as hard as these guys? Well, Michigan State will on Dec. 11. We’ve got to get EJ Liddell off the glass but he’s shooting 3s just like (Darius) Days was tonight. So, this was great practice for these early Big Ten games that are coming up. But the effort that we play with, what we did tonight effort-wise, what we did against Cornell the other night, effort-wise, that gives you a chance. That gives you a chance in the Big Ten, and that’s all we’re asking for. We want a chance to compete.”

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Penn State Preview: Michigan State

Penn State v. Michigan State 2020 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

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. Welcome to this week’s game preview. 

Game Details: Penn State at No. 12 Michigan State. 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Venue: Spartan Stadium. East Lansing, Michigan.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 36 with increasing cloudiness for kick-off. Chance of flurries later in the evening.

The Line: Penn State -1.5 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Series tied 17-17-1.

Last Meeting: Penn State won last season’s matchup, 39-24.

Last Week: Penn State blanked Rutgers 28-0. Michigan State was demolished at Ohio State, 56-7.

Penn State v. Rutgers (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 16 Iowa at Nebraska (1:30 p.m. ET on Friday. BTN)
– No. 2 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan (Noon ET. Fox)
– Maryland at Rutgers (Noon ET. BTN)
– Northwestern at Illinois (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Indiana at Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 14 Wisconsin at Minnesota (4 p.m. ET. Fox)

The Lead: Contrasting fortunes last week for these two teams. Penn State battled a team-wide flu bug to shutout Rutgers, 28-0. Michigan State fell flat on its face in its big matchup at Ohio State, barely laying a finger on the Buckeyes in a 56-7 loss. The Scarlet Knights punted on 10 of its first 11 drives with the other drive ending the first half and its final three drives ending in a turnover on downs, an interception and the end of the game. Rutgers crossed the 50-yard line on only one drive. The Nittany Lions also shutout Indiana this season, marking the first time Penn State has shutout two conference opponents since joining the Big Ten in 1993.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions can slow down Kenneth Walker III and the Spartans running attack. As Keneth Walker goes, so goes Michigan State. He is the focal point of everything they do. And as we saw last week at Ohio State, if he’s held in check the Spartans are very beatable. The Michigan State football standout junior running back is officially one of three finalists nominated for The Maxwell Award, and one of three finalists for The Doak Walker Award. If Penn State’s defense can shut him down, the blue and white have a great shot at claiming their eighth win of the season.

Michigan State Wins If: Kenneth Walker III gets back on track. Take everything I just said about what happens when you slow Walker down and apply the opposite if he gets going. Not many teams have had success running against this Penn State defense this season. If Walker has a stellar day, the Spartans can get to the 10-win mark.

Penn State v. Rutgers (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Keep An Eye On: Sean Clifford. Head Coach James Franklin announced at his Tuesday press conference that Clifford would start against the Spartans. He left last week’s win over Rutgers early with that previously mentioned flu bug. If he’s good to go, he’s Penn State’s starter. On another note, huge shoutout to freshman QB Christian Veilleux who stepped in for the ill Clifford and performed well to lead the Nittany Lions to a win last week.

Trivia Tidbit: Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on Feb. 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the Land Grant system was patterned. Each institution brought to American education the new dimensions of service and outreach in addition to education and research.

Honoring John Black: Saturday was a special day for John Black, author of The Football Letter for the past 45 seasons. John’s name was officially included on a commemorative plaque that was unveiled in the Beaver Stadium press box during a pregame ceremony, and you can see a video of the recognition on our Facebook page. We’ve also got photos on our Twitter page. Can’t think of anyone more worthy of this kind of recognition than John!

Membership Note: Penn State email personal addresses available to members of the Penn State Alumni Association are hosted by Google’s G Suite for Education. When you activate your alumni email address, you also get full access to all of the tools available in G Suite for Education. G Suite for Education is primarily designed for educators, and features many tools intended to facilitate learning in K-12 and higher education environments. However, tools such as Jamboard, a cloud-based, collaborative smartboard, and Meet, a tool for online video calls and messages, have many applications you may find very useful. Lean more here.

Score Predictions: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 28, Michigan State 16
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 30, Michigan State 17

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 11

Trace McSorley has a new home in the NFL.

Penn State’s all-time passing leader was signed by the Arizona Cardinals on Monday off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad.

McSorley was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and has spent his two seasons in Baltimore as a backup to Lamar Jackson.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

It’s almost more of a surprise if Micah Parsons isn’t included in our rundown.

He is not only a leading contender for the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, but has also played his way into NFC overall Defensive Player of the Year.

Parsons was all over the field in Dallas’ defeat at Kansas City on Sunday, including a strip-sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin’s six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Giants on Monday night moves him into fourth-place in Bucs franchise history for career receptions.

He passed franchise legends Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions fell to a league-worst 0-9-1 in Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Cleveland, but Amani Oruwariye continued his strong takeaway prowess.

Oruwariye picked off Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield early in the game to set Detroit up with great field position.

That gives him four INTs on the year.

By Any Means Necessary

One way Penn State wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield connects with his players is by getting actively involved at practice. In late October, he played the role of a defender while demonstrating techniques at the Lasch Practice Fields, going up against KeAndre Lambert-Smith (13) and the receiver corps. Photo credit: John Patishnock

At a quick glance, you might’ve thought Taylor Stubblefield was one of Penn State’s receivers.

The second-year position coach and Washington (state) native dropped back and leaped for the ball, just as sophomore wideout KeAndre Lambert-Smith turned back and brought in the reception beyond the outstretched arms of Stubblefield, who also doubles as Penn State’s offensive recruiting coordinator.

To clarify, Stubblefield is a receiver. One of the best in the history of the Big Ten, in fact. Stubblefield played for Purdue from 2001-04, when he amassed a mind-boggling 325 catches for 3,639 yards and 21 touchdowns. He caught 16 scores in his senior season alone. At the time when he graduated, he held the record for most receptions in the history of college football. Currently, his receptions mark ranks his sixth. His career yards were (and still are) second all time at Purdue and in the Big Ten.

In other words, Stubblefield knows what it takes to come down with a catch.

At Purdue, Stubblefield was a consensus All-American and a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, as a senior in 2004. Photo credit: John Patishnock

The scene we described above took place in late October at the Lasch Practice Fields, and Stubblefield recalled the workout when asked about it last week on a media call. Earlier in the day, before that evening’s practice, Stubblefield said he was thinking about what he wanted he and the receivers to accomplish during individual time with his position group.

There’s a “by any means necessary” mantra that the receivers use, Stubblefield said. That’s a mentality, though there’s also technique involved. And if he can get out on the field and let his receivers see in addition to hearing, there’s inherent value in that approach.

“The wide receiver position is a very demonstrable position,” Stubblefield said. “As a coach, the more that you’re able to demonstrate some things along with the talking, I think is very beneficial.”

He explained that when you look at NFL receivers who have an extremely high contested-catch percentage, subtle (or not so subtle) factors, are crucial. And speaking of the NFL: Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss became known for incorporating this approach, one where you outmaneuver the defender by technique, by motivation, or even by getting inside the defender’s head.

Tight end Tyler Warren (44) leaps for the ball as Stubblefield oversees a drill in late October. Photo credit: John Patishnock

“We have a phrase — ‘by any means necessary’ — when that ball is in the air, by any means necessary, we need to try and go get it. It is a mentality, but there is some technique, some drill work that you can do to once again put your guys in position so that they can know how to control their bodies.

“You see across the National Football League, guys that their contested catch win percentage is extremely high, and it’s because of either the way that they go back and attack the ball, it’s the way that they catch the ball and adjust in the air its the way that they move their inside shoulder in a particular way just to give themself a little bit more space from the defender so thats what that drill was about.

“And quite frankly, it’s fun. I’ll talk a little trash while I’m doing it because I want them to say, ‘You know what, I’m about to Moss Coach Stubbs right now,’ and that’s OK.”

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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Rutgers

The Football Letter editor John Black (center) was recognized during a special pregame ceremony Saturday in the press box. John’s name is included on a commemorative plaque honoring members of the press corps who have covered Penn State football for 25-plus years. Photo credit: Steve Manuel.

Check out this week’s Roaring 20 to see, hear, and feel what it was like to be at Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon for Senior Day and the Military Appreciation game against Rutgers. We’ve also embedded a few extra videos and photos for you.

1. Saturday was a special day for John Black, author of The Football Letter for the past 45 seasons. John’s name is included on a commemorative plaque that was unveiled in the press box during a pregame ceremony, and you can see a video of the recognition on our Facebook page. We’ve also got photos on our Twitter page.

2. John didn’t have any idea the recognition was happening, and his family helped facilitate the surprise. His son, Brian, secured a press box pass to ensure John was in the press box early enough, and his wife, Veda Kay, apparently told John that she was heading to McConnellsburg on Saturday. John even got up at 5 a.m. Saturday to fill up the car with gas and check the air pressure in the tires. You can see John’s surprise starting around the 45-second mark of the video.

3. It’s worth noting Football Letter creator Ridge Riley’s name is also engraved on the plaque, along with a dozen or so additional reporters.

4. Special thanks to Penn State Associate Athletics Director Kris Petersen and Associate Director Greg Kincaid for leading the ceremony and honoring John and Ridge.

5. Jahan Dotson caught his 23rd career touchdown Saturday and the first from freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux. The score places Dotson in third place all-time at Penn State, breaking a tie with Deon Butler, whose single-game record for receiving yards Dotson broke earlier in the month against Maryland.

6. After the game, Dotson said Veilleux looked poised, and “poised” is the perfect word to describe the freshman’s performance. Veilleux was solid, made the right pass at the right time, and located receivers downfield. On his 67-yard touchdown pass to Malick Meiga, Veillex confidently stepped up in the pocket, something that isn’t always a given for a first-year player.

7. Going back to Dotson, he celebrated with fans afterward, with some encouragement from James Franklin. We captured the entire sequence, and there’s something about those tunnel lights that make the footage pop.

8. Watch the latest clip to the end to see Sean Clifford embracing both Dotson and Franklin. Clifford was among the group of nearly three dozen players who caught a virus this week, and he came out of the game after the offense’s first few series. Speaking to the media after the game, Franklin said he went to Clifford and said he was pulling him for Veilleux, and Clifford responded by saying he understood. Tough week and a tough season for Clifford, who hasn’t backed down at all. Hopefully, he’ll be healthy enough to go Saturday against Michigan State.

9. Undoubtedly, one of the best stories this season for Penn State is Arnold Ebiketie. The senior transfer from Temple has become a defensive force and fan favorite for the Nittany Lions. Ebiketie’s recorded a tackle for loss in seven straight games, and he increased his team-high sack total to 9.5 on Saturday.

10. Following the alma mater, Ebiketie celebrated with fans and autographed the sign that members of Nittanyville had made for him this season. You can check out that sequence on our Twitter page.

11. We also spoke with Ebiketie after the game, and you can see that video on YouTube. Ebiketie discussed his emotions on Senior Day and that shortened clip is available on our Twitter page.

12. Experience the sights from game day by seeing the alma mater, team entrance, and James Franklin ringing the Victory Bell.

13. For the clip with Franklin, we again encourage you to watch until the end. The guy’s got hops.

14. Malick Meiga and Parker Washington have the very real potential to provide one heck of a 1-2 receiving combo in the years to come. Meiga is 6-foot-4, and Washington has made tough catches in clutch situations all season. Those two will be a lot of fun to watch next season.

15. The announced attendance Saturday exceeded 106,000, which helped Penn State averaged 106,799 fans in seven home games this season. That mark is the seventh-highest average in program history and best season average since 2009, per Penn State Athletics. A year removed from no fans at Beaver Stadium, and the economics, social, and community impact of those numbers can’t be emphasized enough.

Shoutout to the tailgating crew across from parking space No. 5219. Pictured are: David, Ashley, Mallory, Mark, Juli, Matt, and Rebecca.

16. Last week, I mentioned the tailgating group right across from me. I chatted with them again Saturday, and the photo above shows the entire crew. They asked me to take a group photo of them, which I was happy to do. They’re moving to a new lot next year, though they’ll still be within easy walking distance. I may have to make my way over sometime next season and take them up on their offerings of food and conversation.

17. Penn State letterman and former NFL standout Garry Gilliam joined us last week on Football Letter Live, and here’s the episode link. Gilliam’s appearance is right after we speak with Bruce Apgar, president of our Naval ROTC Alumni Interest Group. The conversation was so good, the hour flew by. I looked at the time, thinking we had at least another half hour, and instead, we had less than 10 minutes left. That’s when you can tell the show is going well. Thanks to everyone who continues to tune in Thursday nights at 7.

18. We want to make sure we mention the passing of former Penn State and NFL fullback Steve, Smith, who died over the weekend after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Raiders, with whom Smith played seven seasons, announced his passing Saturday, calling Smith an inspiration. Smith was drafted in the third round by the Raiders in 1987 after starring at Penn State, where he helped the Nittany Lions win their last national championship in the 1986 season. You can read more on ESPN.com.

19. For anyone attending Saturday’s pep rally at Michigan State, you’ll hear from Detroit Lions linebacker and fullback Jason Cabinda. The Nittany Lion standout will attend, and he’ll be part of the livestream that we’ll share. Tune in on Facebook on Saturday starting around 1:30 p.m.

20.  Go State. Beat the Spartans.

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Penn State Preview: Rutgers

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. Welcome to this week’s game preview.

Game Details: Penn State vs. Rutgers. Noon ET. Big Ten Network.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 44. Some sunshine giving way to clouds.

The Line: Penn State -17 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 29-2.

Last Meeting: Penn State won 23-7 last season.

Last Week: Penn State dropped a heart-breaker to Michigan, 21-17. Rutgers crushed Indiana 38-3.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (Noon ET. ABC)
– Purdue at Northwestern (Noon ET. BTN)
– Illinois at No. 17 Iowa (2 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 6 Michigan at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Nebraska at No. 15 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Minnesota at Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

The Lead: After going more than a month without a victory, Penn State finally got back in the win column with last week’s 31-14 win over Maryland. It wasn’t always pretty, but you could tell from the postgame celebrations from players and coaches it meant a lot to get the weight of the losing streak of their shoulders. Michigan, meanwhile, showed no signs of a letdown from a crushing loss to in-state rivals Michigan State two weeks ago, cruising past Indiana 29-7. Both teams started the season with aspirations of a Big Ten title. That goal is still very much in the frame for the Wolverines. Penn State is all but out of the Big Ten East race, but the Nittany Lions can play spoiler to the two Michigan schools down the stretch. That starts with Saturday’s game.

Penn State Wins If: Penn State’s offensive line responds to last week. The offensive line had a torrid game against an impressive Michigan front. If they let those struggles carry over to Saturday, Rutgers can absolutely get to Sean Clifford and throw the offense off its rhythm. The Nittany Lions cannot afford to sleepwalk the way they did against Illinois. Give Clifford time to throw and find his weapons downfield.

Rutgers Wins If: Sean Clifford banged up and the Scarlet Knights get consistent pressure on him. We know the Nittany Lions defense is going to show up, they’ve done so every week of the season. But if the offense struggles again, we could see another Illinois-esque upset in Beaver Stadium. Not in nine overtimes…but a surprising upset nonetheless. The Scarlet Knights will become bowl eligible with a win.

Keep An Eye On: The Senior Day festivities. It’s important to show appreciation for players who will play their final snaps at Beaver Stadium. We can’t thank these seniors enough for representing the blue and white.

Trivia Tidbit: With the strip-sack by Arnold Ebiketie against Michigan, Penn State extended its takeaway streak to 16-straight games, dating back to the Nebraska game in 2020. It is tied for the second-longest among FBS teams with Oklahoma and trails only Baylor (18).

Membership Note: There are Nittany Lions all over the world, and the Alumni Association can help you connect with them through interest groups and geographically-based chapters. Whether you live in Philadelphia or Miami, Boston or San Diego, or somewhere in between, there’s likely an Alumni Association chapter or affiliate group nearby. Joining a chapter is a great way to connect with new people that you’ve already got something in common with—your love for Penn State!

Podcast: John Amaechi OBE is this week’s guest for ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast. John discussed plenty of interesting topics, including his new book, the importance of leaders and leadership, some of his favorite memories from his time at Penn State, his love of Star Wars, and much more. Listen to the full conversation here: https://bit.ly/3FjyF3Y.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock – Penn State 24, Rutgers 7
Vincent Lungaro – Penn State 23, Rutgers 14

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 10

This week is all defense in our Penn Staters At The Next Level recap.

We start off with Micah Parsons, of course. The Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite continues a stellar start to his NFL career.

Parsons led the Cowboys with six tackles and also recorded a strip-sack.

Adrian Amos, Safety, Green Bay Packers

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Aaron Rodgers’ return to the field garnered most of the pre-game headlines, but the play of the Packers defense stole the show in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks.

Adrian Amos and his teammates shutout the Seattle offense in a 17-0 win, with the former Nittany Lion grabbing his second interception of the season. Amos also finished with four tackles and three pass deflections.

The Green Bay defense has quickly developed into one of the league’s best this season under first-year coordinator Joe Barry.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

It seemed like nobody wanted to win Sunday’s matchup between the Lions and Steelers, with turnovers, mistakes and penalties the story of the game.

As a result, nobody did win. Pittsburgh and Detroit played to a 16-16 tie after a pretty wild overtime finish.

Amani Oruwariye helped the Lions avoid the loss column for the first time this season, finishing with seven tackles, two pass deflections and a critical fumble recovery in overtime.

Back Home in Happy Valley

Anthony “Spice” Adams (left) and Deon Butler were part of a large contingent of lettermen who returned to Beaver Stadium last Saturday. Photo credit: John Patishnock

During a typical home game, the sidelines at Beaver Stadium are filled with All-Americans, all-conference selections, record holders, and even Hall of Famers.

The White Out against Auburn? Every time you turned around, you bumped into a Nittany Lion legend.

As a blue blood program, Penn State has more than its fair share of icons. What distinguishes the Nittany Lion letterman, though, is their motivation to return to campus whenever possible. A lot of them do, even on a regular basis. For some lettermen, however, the time between visits can be many years.

Too long” is how all-time great linebacker Paul Posluszny described how long it had been since he was on campus, during his appearance on Football Letter Live earlier this fall. Posluszny changed all that over the weekend, returning to State College and serving as honorary captain for Saturday’s game. In that role, he accompanied the Nittany Lion captains to midfield for the pregame coin flip and was announced to the crowd, giving him a much-deserve chance to be recognized.

“What an unbelievable example that guy is of what you can do at Penn State and where Penn State can take you, obviously, after you get done playing,” head coach James Franklin said of Posluszny. The two spent some time together during the linebacker’s visit and exchanged messages afterward.

The morning after the game, Adams stopped by the head coach’s office. “I’ve developed a really strong relationship with Spice, got a ton of respect for him, for what he’s been able to do throughout his career,” Franklin said.

One of the main challenges or opportunities (you can look at it either way) for Franklin is to honor Penn State’s storied past while embracing a modern approach that resonates with current recruits and players. To say that’s difficult is putting it lightly. However, Franklin’s struck that balance with lettermen, with Adams and Posluszny only two examples of players from previous generations with whom Franklin’s connected. Adam Taliaferro is another letterman that jumps to mind. There are others.

Franklin’s often said that he wants players to stay connected to the program even after they graduate (a timely topic since Saturday is Senior Day), and the head coach said that conversation occurs as early as the recruiting process and continues while the players are on campus.

It’s one thing to instill that message with players who you’ve personally recruited to campus. It’s another to share that message with lettermen who have a strong connection to the past but may see you “as the new guy.” Any initial awkwardness that might’ve existed has been overcome. As one example, it’s worth noting Franklin called Adams and Posluszny, “Spice” and “Poz,” using their more informal nicknames, indicating a level of familiarity with both of them.

“For us, obviously with a coaching staff coming in after the same coaching staff being here for a really long time, we’ve had to work really hard at building those relationships and getting those guys back because it’s just different,” Franklin said. “It’s just different for them to come back after 50 years of it being pretty much the same.”

You can see more photos below of some of the lettermen who were at the game Saturday, with years and position listed below.

Paul Posluszny, 2003-06, linebacker
Left photo: Anthony “Spice” Adams, defensive tackle, 1999-2002; Deon Butler, wide receiver 2005-08. Right photo: Daryll Clark, quarterback, 2006-09; Butler.
Left photo: Chaz Powell, wide receiver, 2008-11; Clark; Derek Moye, wide receiver, 2008-11. Right photo: Adams.


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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Michigan

The Penn State Cheerleaders joined in the celebration after Penn State scored on a Tyler Warren touchdown catch and Jahan Dotson 2-point conversion reception to tie the game at 14 in the fourth quarter against Michigan. The Wolverines notched a late touchdown to escape with a 21-17 win. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Check out this week’s Roaring 20 to see, hear, and feel what it was like to be at Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the Big Ten clash against Michigan. We’ve also embedded a few extra videos and photos for you.

1. On a defense full of superstars, Arnold Ebiketie might be the most valuable. If he’s not at the top of the list, he’s definitely in the top two or three. He not only makes plays, he also makes them at the most clutch moments. His sack and forced fumble on Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara late in the fourth quarter put Penn State in a position to seize a 17-14 lead.

James Franklin leads the Nittany Lions onto the field at Beaver Stadium. You can see the entire sequence on our Twitter page. Photo credit: John Patishnock

2. Linebacker Ellis Brooks tallied a career-high 16 tackles Saturday, boosting his team-leading season mark to 85. Brooks also led the Nittany Lions last season with 60 stops during the shortened schedule.

3. Tyler Warren’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was clutch and came with Michigan defensive back DJ Turner’s left hand around his waist. Not sure if it was interference (no penalty was called), though either way, that might’ve been Sean Clifford’s best throw of the day into tight coverage. And credit Warren, a freshman tight end, for stepping up when needed.

4. After the game, we spoke with Ebiketie and Warren. You can see both videos on our 2021 YouTube playlist.

“Don’t drop the Lion!” The Nittany Lion jumped into the stands for some afternoon crowd surfing. Students were happy to pass the Lion — and he wasn’t dropped. Photo credit: John Patishnock

5. Senior receiver Jahan Dotson shows up to play every single week. It’s impossible (and a little silly) to try and compare players from different eras, though two players who jump to mind when thinking of Dotson are both Bobby Engram and Deon Butler. More on Butler shortly.

6. Speaking of Dotson, the team’s sports information director, Greg Kincaid, shared this impressive stat today: Dotson is the only Big Ten player ever to have at least 80 receptions, 990 yards and 9 touchdowns in the first 10 games of a season. Like we said, he shows up every single week.

7. It was nice to see all-time great Paul Posluszny back in Happy Valley to serve as honorary captain. It had been years since he’d visited Happy Valley, and as he shared earlier this fall on Football Letter Live, the wait had been too long. You can see Posluszny’s appearance on our playlist and a photo of him with James Franklin on the football team’s Twitter page.

8. Anthony “Spice” Adams, Deon Butler, and Daryll Clark were among the turnout of former players at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. You can see photos of Adams and Butler and Butler and Clark on our Twitter page.

9. We chatted with Butler for a minute or two, and he and Clark were genuinely thrilled to be reunited. Butler said he met Jahan Dotson earlier in the week and that he hoped to speak with him after the game. Earlier in the month against Maryland, Dotson broke Butler’s program record for most receiving yards in a single game (242), besting Butler’s mark (216) against Northwestern in 2006. Butler spoke to the crowd and led a “We Are” cheer. You can see the on-field scene on our Twitter page.

10. In addition to all the lettermen mentioned, we also saw Michael Mauti and Mark Rubin, both guests this season on Football Letter Live. Similar to Butler, we briefly spoke with Rubin as he was taking in the action behind the south end zone. He’s a fan favorite whose appearance this season was popular among our audience. Again, here’s the link for all the season’s episodes. Mauti, meanwhile, watched the team entrance right by the goal post at the south end zone. He said it was the best seat in the house and that he’s never seen the Nittany Lions take the field from that angle. Glad he had that opportunity Saturday.

11. One more letterman note: Chafie Fields joined us for last week’s episode of Football Letter Live. You’ll want to check it out to hear stories of what it was like playing for Joe Paterno. Fields even shares his JoePa impressions. Here’s the link for the episode, which also features Hampton Raods (Va.) Chapter Vice President Jackie Eury and Secretary Tom Forrest.

12. Keyvone Lee finished with one of the best performances by a running back this season. The sophomore from St. Petersburg, Florida, totaled 88 yards on 20 carries.

13. We captured the usual game day sights at Beaver Stadium. Visit our social channels to see the Blue Band’s pregame performance, the Nittany Lion looking cool, the alma mater, and the team entrance in slow motion.

14. When leaving the stadium, I sometimes exit out of the south tunnel doors, which I did Saturday. That’s where the players exit, and there’s usually a crowd of fans and youngsters waiting for autographs. So, every time that door handle clicks, everyone gears up with excitement to see who’s leaving. When they saw me exiting Saturday, there was an instant look of disappoint. Really can’t blame them. I’ll have to write myself a note that says to leave another way.

Very few stadiums in the world compare to Beaver Stadium and the incredible attendance numbers we have. Saturday was the latest example. Photo credit: John Patishnock

15. There’s a group of 20- and 30-somethings that park across from me in my spot, in the lot across the road from the soccer practice field. I usually arrive early — anywhere from three to four hours before kickoff — and without exception, they’re always there before me and stay after. We finally chatted for the first time a few weeks ago. And we talked against yesterday. They were nice enough to offer me some coffee and food. I politely declined (I don’t drink coffee), though I totally understand how friendships are formed and last for years or decades between people who didn’t know each other before being tailgating neighbors.

16. Each week, we ask Penn Staters to share something about their fan experience that we feature on Football Letter Live. This week, we’re asking you to share photos of your Penn State fan caves and memorabilia collections. Visit our Facebook page to be included on the show.

17. With two games left in the regular season, it’s fair to say this year hasn’t gone the way coaches and players wanted. But the Nittany Lions will stay play in a bowl game. And more immediate, the team will celebrate Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon against Rutgers.

18. Following the home tilt against Rutgers, Penn State travels to East Lansing to finish the regular season against Michigan State. The Spartans have had a much better season than anyone could’ve predicted — we doubt even their fans felt like this year’s squad would’ve been ranked in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings. But it’ll be a legitimate challenge for Penn State.

The Blue Band always transforms game day at Beaver Stadium into a memorable experience. One of their several performances includes their pregame rendition of fight songs, pictured here. Photo credit: John Patishnock

19. If you’re heading to the game at East Lansing, we hope to see you at our game day pep rally. There won’t be an alumni mixer Friday night, so you can get some extra rest for Saturday.  

20. Go State. Beat Rutgers.



For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Follow the Football Letter on Twitter for more videos, photos, and features.