Penn State Preview: Northwestern

The Blue Band performed prior to kickoff last Saturday against Central Michigan. Penn State is home again this weekend, hosting Northwestern for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN. Photo credit: 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: 3:30 p.m. kickoff, against Northwestern, broadcast on ESPN.

Records: No. 11/12 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten)

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 306-79.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): It’ll be October, and it’s starting to feel like football season. Temps will be in the mid- to-late 50s with a high of 57, and we’re expected to receive some rain from Tropical Rainstorm Ian. Looks like alumni and fans may want to bring a jacket Saturday.

The line: Penn State -25.5.

All-time series: Penn State leads 14-5 and has won seven of the last nine matchups.

Last week: Penn State stayed unbeaten with a 33-14 triumph over Central Michigan while Northwestern dropped its third straight game with a 17-14 home defeat to Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks kicked a late 36-yard field goal to keep the Wildcats winless since their season-opening victory over Nebraska in Ireland. So, Northwestern is still searching for its win on U.S. soil this season.  

Worth noting: In last Saturday’s win over Central Michigan, senior quarterback Sean Clifford tossed three touchdowns in a game for the 14th time.

Last meeting (2017): Penn State won 31-7 at Ryan Field, with Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley both scoring on the ground to pace the offense. Barkley finished with two scores and McSorley added a scoring toss to DaeSean Hamilton.

Throwback classic (2005): Michael Robinson’s clutch leadership was on display as he led Penn State to a touchdown with less than a minute at Ryan Field en route to the Nittany Lions winning the Big Ten, and then outlasting Florida State in three overtimes in the Orange Bowl.

While Robinson’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Williams rightly receives plenty of attention, his 20-yard strike to tight end Isaac Smolko in the middle of the field on 4th-and-15 — from Penn State’s 15-yard line — kept the drive going. You can see a condensed version of the game on YouTube.

The lead: If Penn State successfully fulfills their weekly mission — going 1-0 — the Nittany Lions will head into their bye 5-0, and with a probable Top-10 ranking. Waiting for them after their brief respite will be a critical three-game stretch against Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State. The Golden Gophers vaunted into the rankings after trouncing Michigan State in East Lansing last weekend.

On Saturday, if Clifford can even come close to the consistency he’s exhibited so far this season — 12 total touchdowns, only one interception — the Nittany Lions should be able to rotate in a bevy of backups and younger players, positioning the team to have plenty of depth when Penn State encounters the teeth of the conference schedule.

Count on: Hearing a huge ovation when senior punter Barney Amor is announced during starting lineups Saturday. The transfer from Colgate has endeared himself to coaches, teammates, and fans with his surgeon-like precision on the field, and his affable demeanor off it. Daily Collegian writer Max Ralph lists some of the reasons that distinguish Barney on this Twitter post.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s secondary. The Nittany Lions lead the nation, by a wide margin, with 41 pass breakups. That’s the number they had all last season, and they’re outpacing every other team in the country by 16 in that category.

Academic excellence: A total of 552 of Penn State football student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since 1993 for owning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letterwinner.

Trivia tidbit, Part 1: Penn State has one of the best turnover margins in the country at plus-eight. Helping that metric: the Nittany Lions have caused four turnovers in each of the last two games.

Trivia tidbit, Part 2: James Franklin can reach 100 career victories this season. He’s currently 95-49, including a 71-34 mark with Penn State.

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Game Recap: Penn State 33, Central Michigan 14

The Blue Band performs before Penn State’s home opener against Ohio / Steve Manuel – The Football Letter

It wasn’t always pretty, but Penn State moved to 4-0 on the season on Saturday with a 33-14 win over Central Michigan (1-3).

Let’s take a quick look back at the win for the Nittany Lions.

Offensive Star of The Game: Kaytron Allen

Penn State has quite the dynamic duo of freshmen running backs. Nicholas Singleton had garnered most of the headlines through three games, but Kaytron Allen has earned his fair share of praise as well. On Saturday, it was Allen who starred for Penn State. He rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries (8.5 average) and provided a needed spark in the second half for the blue and white offense. He and Singleton are going to be terrorizing defenses for the foreseeable future.

Defensive Star of The Game: Kalen King

Teams aren’t going to challenge Joey Porter Jr. with much regularity this season, so it’s important for the the other cornerbacks in the Penn State lineup to hold their own. Sophomore Kalen King shined for the Nittany Lions, recording four tackles, four pass breakups and forced a fumble inside the red zone that effectively iced the game for home side.

Moment of Magic: Muffed punt leads to TD

With Central Michigan hanging tough down 21-14 to start the second half, Penn State needed something to create some breathing space. After a holding call nullified the Nittany Lions’ opening possession of the third quarter, punter Barney Amor did what he does best and dropped a dart inside the Chippewas’ 10-yard line. The Central Michigan return man muffed the kick and linebacker Curtis Jacobs was able to pounce on the loose ball. Two plays later, Sean Clifford floated a touchdown pass to Brenton Strange in the corner of the end zone and Penn State found itself back up by double-digits.

Something To Work On: Field Goals

The Nittany Lions attempted two field goals and missed both, one from Jake Pinegar (38 yards) and one from Sander Sahaydak (56 yards). Pinegar also saw a PAT blocked as a Central Michigan rush got through in the middle to bat the ball down.

Looking Ahead: Northwestern on deck

Penn State closed out its non-conference schedule with the win over the Chippewas. The Nittany Lions return to Big Ten action next Saturday (Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET) against Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats.


CB Johnny Dixon (3) lays a hit on an Auburn WR while CB Daequan Hardy (25) wraps him up in Penn State’s 41-12 win over the Tigers. Steve Manuel / The Football Letter

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: No. 14/15 Penn State (3-0) vs Central Michigan (2-1). Noon ET kickoff. Broadcast on BTN

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): Patchy fog in the morning; otherwise, some sunshine giving way to clouds; a great afternoon for football. High of 65 degrees.

The line: Penn State -27.5

All-time series: Penn State leads 1-0

Against The MAC: The Nittany Lions hold a 10-2 all-time record against current members of the MAC.

Last week: Penn State went into Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium and dominated its SEC opponent. The 41-12 victory over the Tigers was the second-largest margin of victory for a Big Ten team in a road game against an SEC opponent, behind only Purdue’s 35-3 win over Missouri in 2017. Central Michigan got in the win column for the first time this season with a 41-0 shutout effort over Bucknell.

Last meeting (2005): It’s kind of a surprise these two programs have only met just once before given the frequency of Penn State playing MAC opposition since joining the Big Ten. The lone matchup was a blowout win for the Nittany Lions in 2005, a season full of memories for Penn State fans. Michael Robinson finished 14 for 23 for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were to Deon Butler on strikes of 54 and 24 yards in the second quarter. The eventual 40-3 decision in favor of the Nittany Lions was the third win en route to an eventual 11-1 finish, Big Ten title and Orange Bowl win over Florida State.

The lead: Momentum is churning for Penn State as it returns home after a big win at Auburn. The Nittany Lions will look to keep things on track and avoid the upset against the Chippewas.

Count on: The Penn State secondary to shine. It’s no secret the back end of the defense was viewed as the strength of that side of the ball. Through three wins, we’ve seen nothing to dispel that notion. Auburn couldn’t generate much through the air until the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter. While Central Michigan enters this game 19th in the FBS in passing offense (311.0), expect the Nittany Lions secondary to continue to play well.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s tight ends. Brenton Strange has put together a really good start to this season, leading the team in receiving yards (169). He’s also been a critical element in the run game, aiding the offensive line in opening up some holes for Nicholas Singleton and the rest of the rushing attack. Theo Washington has yet to see game action because of injury, but did dress last week against the Tigers for the first time this season. This might be a good week to get him some reps under his belt as Penn State wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule.

Number To Know: Nicholas Singleton’s 334 rushing yards are Penn State’s most in the first three games in a season since Larry Johnson’s 362 in 2002.

1982: Penn State is set to honor the 1982 National Championship team at halftime of Saturday’s game.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– Chattanooga at Illinois (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Maryland at No. 4/4 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. FOX)
– Minnesota at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Indiana at Cincinnati (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2)
– Iowa at Rutgers (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Miami (OH) at Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Florida Atlantic at Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

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Penn State Preview: Auburn

Ji’Ayir Brown (16) and Tariq Castro-Fields (5) disrupted Auburn’s offense during last season’s 28-20 victory. The Nittany Lions visit Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend for the program’s first-ever trip to Auburn. Photo credit: 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: 3:30 p.m. kickoff, at Auburn, broadcast on CBS.

Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Penn State will play for the first time.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 79 degrees with mostly sunshine.

The line: Penn State -3.

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

Last week: Penn State rolled Ohio 46-10 in its home opener while Auburn collected a 24-16 victory over San Joe State, thanks, in part, to 210 rushing yards.

Last meeting (2021): Penn State used a balanced effort (182 rushing yards/185 passing yards) to delivered a 28-20 defeat to Auburn, which had a last-minute drive thwarted as time wound down. ESPN’s College GameDay was in town for the game, the fifth-straight season the popular production has visited Happy Valley.

Throwback classic (1996): In the teams’ first matchup, Penn State battered Auburn 43-14 in the Outback Bowl, which was played on a rain-soaked field. You can see a condensed version of the game on YouTube.  

The lead: Penn State’s first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium — and the first road trip against an SEC team since 2010 (Alabama) — presents an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to elevate themselves (most likely) into a Top-15 team in the country.

Count on: Penn State to be prepared. Head coach James Franklin said during this week’s press conference that the team practiced with a silent count — with music blaring — during preparation last week leading up to Ohio. Additionally, he said the players will see pictures of the locker room and stadium so the Nittany Lions know what to expect.

Keep an eye on: how many rushing attempts Nick Singleton gets. Franklin has said the team will share carries among the running backs until someone distinguishes themself. Singleton certainly did that Saturday, finishing with 179 yards on 10 carries. Fellow true freshman Kaytron Allen had six carries. Will there be a bigger gap Saturday? Either way, will be interesting to see.

Academic excellence: Per Penn State football’s game notes: A total of 552 Penn State student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since the team began competing in the conference in 1993. Each honoree totaled at grade point average of at least 3.0 while being a letterwinner.

Trivia tidbit: Penn State owns a .714 winning percentage since 2016 (55-22), the ninth-best mark among Power Five programs.

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Family Effort

Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter sees his son, AJ (wearing media vest), every day, with AJ interning in the football team’s video department. Along with AJ, Poindexter was joined on the field by his wife, Kimberly, and their daughters, Morocca and Chloe, during Penn State’s home opener Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Photo credit: AJ Poindexter via Twitter

Penn State coaches have long championed the family atmosphere around the football program. Seeing youngsters running through the hallways or joining the players at mealtime are common occurrences.

The thinking is that coaches put in a mountaintop-high number of hours away from home and on the road, so squeezing in family time whenever possible is encouraged.

Turns out that applies to children of all ages.

Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter’s son, Anthony (AJ), had an up-close view of Saturday’s home opener against Ohio, a sound 46-10 win for the Nittany Lions.

The teenager wasn’t enjoying a front-row seat in the bleachers, however. He was on the field, shooting the game for the Penn State football video department, where he’s been hired as an intern.

You can see some photos that AJ posted of himself on the field with his family and colleagues below. Included is a family photo of Anthony and his wife, Kimberly, and their daughters, Morocca and Chloe, along with AJ.

An injury derailed AJ’s wrestling career at George Mason, though when he arrived at Penn State, he had the chance to continue his passion for video, which his father says started in high school. Head coach James Franklin knew of AJ’s video expertise and recommended adding him to the program in an official capacity, which has been a win-win for everyone.  

“He jumped on the opportunity, he was so excited,” Poindexter said. “It’s really been good to have him, I get to see him every day in the office. I see him more often now than I did when he was little because he’s at work with me every day. I’m fortunate. I’m blessed that Coach (Franklin) allowed him to come onto the program and he really loves what he’s doing.”

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Penn State Preview: Ohio

Expect a packed crowd at Beaver Stadium on Saturday for Penn State’s home opener. The Nittany Lions (1-0) host Ohio (1-0) for a noon kickoff. Photo credit: 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: Noon kickoff, vs. Ohio (the Bobcats, not the Buckeyes), broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State will play its 63rd season.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 79 degrees with mostly sunshine.

The line: Penn State -25.

All-time series: Penn State leads 5-1

Last week: Penn State (35-31) and Ohio (41-38) opened their seasons with victories, defeating Purdue and Florida Atlantic, respectively.

Last meeting (2012): Ohio upended Penn State 24-14 in Bill O’Brien’s head coaching debut with the Nittany Lions.

The lead: With a win Saturday, it feels like Penn State should earn a ranking ahead of its first-ever trip to Auburn next weekend. First, the Bobcats, who earned their only win against the Nittany Lions a decade ago.

Throwback classic (1969): Penn State blew past Ohio 42-3 in front of a sold out crowd at Beaver Stadium (49,096) during Joe Paterno’s second straight unbeaten, untied season as head coach. We’ve got the details from the game in this week’s From The Archives feature on the blog.

Count on: packed tailgating crowds, including after the game. Tag the Penn State Alumni Association and The Football Letter in your posts, and we’ll share throughout the weekend. And if you’re watching at home or with one of our alumni chapter, share those photos, too.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s running back rotation. James Franklin said this week that the team will continue the rotation, so freshmen Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton will continue to gain experience before the meat of the conference schedule begins later this month.

Clear bag policy: Penn State’s released updated its bag policies for Athletics events, and full details are at Of note: The clear bag policy is more fan friendly and aligns with policies in place for large events around the country, so the size of allowed bags has increased. Clear tote bags, which can be sized 12″ x 6″ x 12″ or smaller, will be permitted beginning this fall. In addition, a 4″ x 6″ x 1″ small clutch or wristlet will continue to be permissible.

New food options: Fans can enjoy loaded pork fries, nachos, and dogs (all separately, though you can always get creative and combine them), and a sausage sandwich, all of which will make their Beaver Stadium debuts Saturday. And don’t worry, the fan-loved chicken baskets are staying. You can get the visuals of all the options on Beaver Stadium’s new Twitter account.  

Trivia tidbit: With the 35-31 victory last week at Purdue, Penn State (910) stayed one win ahead of Nebraska (909) for the seventh-most wins in college football history.

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From The Archives Penn State V. Ohio (1969)

All-time great linebacker Jack Ham (33) was a standout player for the 1969 Penn State Football team / Photo Credit: The Daily Collegian

The 1969 Penn State Football season will go down as one of the best in Penn State history, regardless of the controversy that surrounded its culmination.

The Nittany Lions finished 11-0, marking the second-consecutive unbeaten and untied season for Joe Paterno’s program.

Penn State was led by captains Tom Jackson, Mike Reid and Steve Smear, alongside standout linebacker Jack Ham and a trio of excellent rushing threats in Charlie Pittman, Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell.

One of those 11 wins came against the Ohio Bobcats, with the Nittany Lions pummeling their MAC opponent, 42-3 in front of a sold-out crowd of 49,069 at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 25.

There were also wins over Navy, Colorado, Kansas State, West Virginia, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Pitt and NC State.

Somehow, that undefeated mark and a 10-3 Orange Bowl win over No. 6 Missouri were not enough for Penn State to even be considered for a national championship in the eyes of then U.S. President Richard Nixon.

The president had remarked ahead of the Dec. 6 matchup between Texas and Arkansas — for which he would be in attendance — that he would award the winner of the game with a special plaque and the designation of national champions. The Longhorns would win the contest, 15-14, thus earning that designation from Nixon.

In line with the president’s proclamation, college football’s voting pool at the time named Texas the unanimous national champs less than a month later after the Longhorns defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

While Penn State was named co-national champions by the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments (FACT) and the Sagarin Ratings, it’s hard to feel like the Nittany Lions were unjustly wiggled out of the consensus national title race.

Paterno later famously at Penn State’s 1973 commencement ceremony that “I’ve wondered how President Nixon could know so little about Watergate in 1973 and so much about college football in 1969.”

You can watch more on this unique event in college football history through the 2014 ESPN Documentary: “Nixon’s National Champs,” which took a closer look at Nixon’s decision to award Texas the national champion honor. The documentary can be found on WatchESPN.