Penn State Preview: Villanova

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.

Game details: No. 6/8 Penn State (3-0) vs. Villanova (3-0). Noon ET kick-off, broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 70 degrees. Times of clouds and sun; a great afternoon for football.

The Line: Penn State -30.5 (via SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Penn State is 5-3-1 all-time against the Wildcats. 

Last Meeting: The last matchup between the Nittany Lions and Wildcats came all the way back in 1951. The game was played at the Allentown High School Stadium. Villanova emerged victorious, 20-14.

Last Week: Penn State held off Auburn in front of an electric White Out crowd. Villanova took down CAA foes Richmond, 34-27.

Penn State Wins If: It remains focused on going 1-0 this week. It’s easy to get distracted after a huge win against an SEC opponent last week in primetime. But it’s a brand new week. In college football, anything can and has happened. James Franklin will have been preaching to his players all week that this isn’t a time to get comfortable and bask in what they did a week ago. One hundred percent focus on Villanova equals a 4-0 start.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Villanova Wins If: Penn State has a major White Out letdown. If you’re expecting another 79-7 shellacking of an FCS opponent like the one Penn State dished out to Idaho a few years ago, you’re mistaken. Villanova is a legitimate FCS contender, and ranks No. 7 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The Wildcats are second in the FCS in total defense and they’ve forced 11 takeaways on the season. While Penn State should win this one comfortably, I don’t expect Villanova to get beaten by 70-plus points. The Nittany Lions can’t just show up and expect to win.

Count On: The Penn State running game to get plenty of opportunities to figure things out. It was another sluggish day for the rushing attack against Auburn’s front seven last week (84 yards on 33 attempts). If there was ever a week for things to finally click, this is it. All due respect to Villanova — and I mean that because its defense has only allowed 89 yards total on the ground through three games — if the Nittany Lions can’t find a way to move the ball on the ground, I’m not sure they ever will with consistency this season. I expect OC Mike Yurcich to try to feed Noah Cain, Keyvonne Lee and even John Lovett early and often to try and get this area of the offense some momentum. Penn State will need its running game to get significantly better as the meat of its Big Ten slate looms.

Keep An Eye On: Other wide receivers not named Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith to showcase what they can offer. Penn State has as good of a top three wide receiver trio as anyone in the Big Ten. This is a great opportunity for veterans Cam Sullivan-Brown and Daniel George and youngsters like Liam Clifford and Harrison Wallace to demonstrate that if called upon, they can contribute in this offense.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Trivia Tidbit: With wins over then-No. 12/15 Wisconsin and then-No. 22/20 Auburn, Penn State has two wins over ranked teams within the first three games of the season for the first time in program history.

Sweet Caroline Moment: New category here to spice things up a bit. It’s always a running debate of when we’ll hear “Sweet Caroline” blasted over the Beaver Stadium speakers during a game. Put me down for about halfway through the third quarter as Penn State leads by at least 17 points.

Predictions:

John Patishnock: Penn State 55, Villanova 10
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 44, Villanova 13

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.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Two

As a die-hard Chiefs fan it pained me a little bit to write this week’s Penn Staters At The Next Level story, as former Nittany Lion Odafe Oweh made the game-changing play for the Baltimore Ravens in their thrilling win over Kansas City on Sunday Night Football.

With the Chiefs driving into Ravens territory late in the game and looking to take the lead, Oweh came up huge for his defense.

The rookie edge rusher fought off a block and knocked the ball loose from the arms of the usually fumble-proof Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Oweh proceeded to pounce on the ball and secure a win for Baltimore.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

In his first game at defensive end since high school, all Micah Parsons did was earn Pro Football Focus’ Rookie of The Week honors. Playing on the edge of the line because of several injuries for Dallas, Micah made his presence felt in the team’s 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

He recorded eight quarterback pressures and his first career sack after forcing LA quarterback Justin Herbert into an intentional grounding penalty in the fourth quarter. The penalty put LA in a hole and forced them to kick a field-goal instead of punching in a touchdown.

Allen Robinson II, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

For the first time this season, Allen Robinson found the end zone. Robinson beat his defender on an inside move and snagged the pass from Andy Dalton to put the Bears ahead early 7-0.

A-Rob finished the day with just two catches for 24 yards and that score, but it proved to be a key play in Chicago’s narrow 20-17 win.

DaQuan Jones, Defensive Tackle, Carolina Panthers

Another productive day for a former Nittany Lions defensive star. DaQuan Jones registered his first sack of the season by bringing down Saints quarterback Jameis Winston on fourth down.

Jones and the rest of the Panthers defense stifled the same high-powered Saints attack that ran roughshod over the Packers just a week ago.

To view each of the Penn State players on NFL rosters, click here.

PENN STATE PREVIEW: AUBURN

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.

Game details: No. 10/12 Penn State (2-0) vs No. 22/20 Auburn (2-0). 7:30 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Humid with some sun; fog in the morning, then a stray t-shower in the afternoon. High of 80.

The Line: Penn State -6.5

All-Time Series: This is the third matchup between the two schools, with each splitting wins in the previous two meetings.

Last Meeting: Penn State fell 13-9 against the Tigers in the 2002 Capital One Bowl. Robbie Gould hit three field goals for the Nittany Lions.

Throwback Classic (1995): In the 1995 Outback Bowl, Penn State crushed Auburn, 43-14 behind quarterback Wally Richardson. Wally threw for four touchdown passes while Bobby Engram recorded four catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Last Week: Penn State topped Ball State in the Lions’ home opener, 44-13. Auburn, meanwhile, crushed FCS foe Alabama State, 62-0.

Photos by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: What an atmosphere we’ve got brewing in Happy Valley. White Out. Game Day. SEC opponent. Primetime. If you love college football, it doesn’t get much better than this. Both teams come into this game with a lot of momentum, having started each of their seasons at 2-0. The Nittany Lions have certainly faced the tougher opposition compared to the Tigers, picking up wins over then-No. 12 Wisconsin on the road before a convincing home win over defending MAC Champs Ball State last week. Auburn dispatched Akron and Alabama State with ease in the first two weeks but Penn State will obviously be a much bigger test for first-year head coach Bryan Harsin.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions can win the big play and turnover battle. There’s not much that gets a home crowd going more than big plays on offensive and forced turnovers on defense. James Franklin always preaches about the need to win the explosive play battle and finish on the plus side in the turnover margin. Penn State has done just that in the opening two weeks and it’s set them up for success. Much like Sean Clifford, Tigers signal caller Bo Nix is an experienced quarterback with plenty of big game experience. He won’t be easily rattled by the electric atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium. Though, if Arnold Ebiketie and the rest of the Penn State defensive line can get pressure and force him to make decisions quicker than he’d like to, that bodes well for the Nittany Lions with the terrific secondary that they employ.

Auburn Wins If: Bo Nix balls out. As mentioned above, Bo Nix is not a stranger to playing on the road in hostile environments. Heck, he’s had to do it just about every week in the SEC the past two years as Auburn’s starting quarterback. He’s going to need to be at his best if Auburn is going to pull off the road upset. If the blocking holds up well up front for Auburn and Nix is afforded the time and space to able to create with his arm and his legs, the Tigers can move the ball against this stingy Nittany Lions defense. Then, if Nix and Auburn can capitalize on those drives by getting into the end zone, the Tigers certainly have what it takes to win this game. Much was expected of Nix upon his arrival as a freshman, it hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations. But there’s no bigger and better showcase for you to re-announce yourself to the college football world than this Saturday’s showdown.

Count On: A few false start penalties for Auburn. Yes, yes, Auburn players have certainly played in environments that were loud before. Still, it really doesn’t matter your experience level, noise makes a difference for communication on offense. I’m not saying the crowd will be why the Tigers lose the game, but a few early-game jitters where the blue and white fans hollering at full volume will result in a few penalties for the Tigers offense.

Keep An Eye On: Noah Cain. The Penn State running game hasn’t fully clicked into gear yet, but it looks to be building each week. Cain had a productive day last week against Ball State (69 yards rushing and a touchdown). Look for him to carry that over to this week’s game. The Nittany Lions will need him against this SEC front seven.

Trivia Tidbit: This is Auburn’s first Big Ten road game since 1931. That’s before the SEC was even formed.

Predictions:

John Patishnock: Penn State 42, Auburn 13

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 38, Auburn 24

PENN STATERS AT THE NEXT LEVEL 2021: WEEK 1

The NFL season is up and running, which means we bring back our Penn Staters At The Next Level series. Similar to last season, we’ll bring you a quick overview of some of the best performances from Nittany Lions in the NFL each week.

Fourty-One Penn Staters appear on NFL rosters to start the season, and you can see the full list by clicking here.

Let’s get started with a recap from Week 1!

Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Buccaneers started off their Super Bowl defense with a thrilling 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night.

Chris Godwin got the first points of the new season with a five-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Despite an untimely fumble late in the game, he got his season off to a strong start with 121 yards and that score. He also caught the game-clinching first down reception that secured the victory for Tampa Bay.

Juwan Johnson, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

Outside of the Raiders’ win over the Ravens on Monday Night Football, there might not have been a more stunning result in Week 1 than the Saints win over the Packers. Not because the Saints aren’t a good team, but because of how they just completely dismantled Green Bay from start to finish.

One of the many standout performers for New Orleans was former Nittany Lion, Juwan Johnson. A wide receiver in his college days, Juwan has made the switch to tight end for the Saints and it’s paid off massively for his career.

Juwan caught two touchdown passes from a terrific Jameis Winston to help propel the Saints to the 38-3 win.

Check out the first of two of his touchdown receptions below, which also marked the first TD catch of Johnson’s career.

Carl Nassib, Defensive End, Las Vegas Raiders

Speaking of that upset win for the Raiders that I mentioned earlier, it was Carl Nassib who came up with perhaps the play of the night.

It was his sack/forced-fumble that gave Las Vegas the ball inside Ravens territory. That set up the eventual game-winning touchdown for the Raiders.

Miles Sanders, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Part of a revamped Philadelphia offense, Miles Sanders shined to the tune of 113 scrimmage yards and a two-point conversion as the Eagles walloped the Falcons, 32-6.

While quarterback Jalen Hurts and first round pick DeVonta Smith will generate much of the headlines (and probably rightfully so), Sanders demonstrated why he can definitely be Philadelphia’s lead back this season.

Odafe Oweh, Defensive End, Baltimore Ravens

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

While the Ravens ultimately came up short to Nassib and the Raiders, it was a solid debut for former Nittany Lion Odafe Oweh in Baltimore.

Much was talked about Oweh’s lack of sacks in college, but he showed why Baltimore selected him in the first round of this spring’s draft with this burst and pursuit of David Carr for a sack late in the second quarter.

The sack resulted in Las Vegas settling for a field goal.

PENN STATE PREVIEW: BALL STATE

Penn State at Wisconsin. Penn State 16 – Wisconsin 10. 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: No. 11/13 Penn State (1-0) vs. Ball State (0-1). 3:30 p.m. kickoff (ET), broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where fans will be in attendance for a game for the first time since Nov. 30, 2019, a 27-6 win over Rutgers.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): Mostly sunny with a high of 74 degrees. Near perfect weather for a day of tailgating. and football.

The line: Penn State – 22.5

All-time series: This is the first-ever meeting between the Nittany Lions and Cardinals.

Last meeting: N/A

Throwback classic (2009): Without a game to relive between these two opponents, I took a quick look back at Penn State’s second game of the 2009 season, a 28-7 win over Syracuse. Senior quarterback Darryl Clark passed for 240 yards and tossed a couple of touchdowns as the Nittany Lions cruised to an out-of-conference win.

Last week: Penn State went on the road and picked up a huge road win over then-No. 12 Wisconsin at Camp Randall.

The lead: Penn State returns home after that huge victory in Madison to face the defending MAC Champions, Ball State. While the Cardinals aren’t quite the level of opposition as the Badgers were, this Week Two contest won’t be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination for the Nittany Lions. Ball State returns 21 starters from last year’s conference title winning team, including second-team All-MAC quarterback Drew Pitt. Penn State head coach James Franklin said in his weekly press conference that he does believe in the idea of “trap games,” and this game would certainly fit that bill. It makes his “1-0” mantra extra important this week. Don’t expect Penn State to look past the Cardinals after that win over Wisconsin and next week’s White Out showdown with Auburn looming — it’s just not in their DNA.

Penn State at Wisconsin. Penn State 16 – Wisconsin 10. Photo by Steve Manuel

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions avoid mistakes. Penn State played turnover-free football last week and if that trend continues, it should see off any potential upset from Ball State. Sean Clifford and the offense grew into the game a week ago and most importantly avoided turnovers. If they pick up where they left off, the home fans will leave happy.

Ball State wins if: Penn State’s turnover woes from a year ago return and the defense’s performance last week can’t be duplicated. The Cardinals come into this one with plenty of confidence that they can walk away with a win. The last thing the Nittany Lions want to do is make mistakes and feed into the Cardinals’ belief.

Count on: A raucous atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium. It’s been 651 days (We think we did the math right!) since fans of the blue and white got to see their in action at home. As James Franklin tweeted throughout the week, this is going to be one big family reunion. It might not reach the levels of noise and excitement as next week’s game with Auburn, but it will still be a ton of fun. We’re jazzed up to see the return of tailgates, team arrival, the Blue Band performing pre-game and at halftime, and all that makes Saturdays in Happy Valley the best show in college football.

Keep an eye on: the Penn State running game. The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball against Wisconsin’s stout front seven last week. Expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to try and get Noah Cain and the rest of the Lawn Boyz going early. If Penn State can run more effectively this week, it should open up the passing game a lot more for Sean Clifford and co.

Trivia tidbit: Penn State snapped Wisconsin’s 25-game home opener win streak with the victory in Madison in Week One.

Predictions:

John Patishnock: Penn State 38, Ball State 17
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 33, Ball State 20

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.

PENN STATE FOOTBALL MEDIA DAY: CATCHING UP WITH ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH AND LETTERMAN TERRY SMITH ’91

Letterman Terry Smith ’91 is one of several former Nittany Lion players on James Franklin’s staff for the 2021 season.
Image Credit: Penn State Athletics/Mark Selders

As Penn State gears up for another season, where stars like Jahan Dotson and Jaquan Brisker will look to cement their legacies in Penn State history, there is also plenty of that history on the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff in the form of former lettermen.

Players who spent their college careers suiting up for the blue and white, running out of the same tunnel Dotson, Brisker, and the rest of the 2021 team will go through in a few weeks for the home opener against Ball State. 

James Franklin has built a staff from his connections from all over the college football world, but he’s also recognized the importance of Penn Staters who have a deep connection to the program from their time as players. 

Former lettermen on Franklin’s staff include Terry Smith (associate head coach/cornerbacks coach), Ty Howle (tight ends coach), Deion Barnes (graduate assistant), Wendy Laurent (assistant offensive line coach) and Alan Zemaitis (assistant recruiting coordinator). 

Going into his eighth season as a member of the coaching staff, Smith was of course a standout receiver for the Nittany Lions from 1988-91.  

I caught up with Terry at the team’s Media Day on Saturday to talk about the importance of having Penn State lettermen as a part of the staff, what he learned going through the COVID-altered 2020 season, and more. 

As always, thanks to Terry for taking the time to chat. 

What did you learn about yourself as a coach going through such an altered season last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

TS: “You just had to learn to do things a different way, to teach a different way. Whether that was Zoom or just teaching at a distance like we’re talking right now. It really helped me realize that you don’t have to do things a certain way just because that’s the way you’ve done them your whole life. I think that helped our program change some things and do some things a different way. That’s going to help us advance in the future.”

Does the team’s process of preparation have to change at all knowing your opening up the season against a Big Ten opponent? 

TS: “No, our process is the same. Each week we’re trying to go 1-0. That opponent who is first, they’re the most important part of our focus. Training camp right now is to make sure we have a foundation set for the season. Whether it’s Wisconsin or someone else, all our focus is going on 1-0 to start things off.” 

How would you assess the cornerbacks group that you’re working with this season? 

TS: “I feel really good about the whole back end of the defensive backfield. With the corners, I feel like I have a lot of depth. There’s six guys that have played a lot of college football, including Johnny Dixon, who played at South Carolina. I’m excited for the competition this camp and we’ll let the field sort through all of that. Especially excited for Tariq Castro-Fields, who’s played a ton of football here and has been successful. Joey Porter had a breakout year last year. Daequan Hardy is our returning starter at the star spot. There’s a lot of guys competing to get back on that playing field. No job is given. They all have to earn it.” 

Image Credit: Penn State Athletics/Mark Selders

How important is it to have guys like yourself, Deion Barnes and Ty Howle on staff, who have been a part of this program as players and might understand what it means to play here just a little bit more? 

TS: “It’s essential. We’re former Penn State lettermen. Who knows this program better than us? We played on this field at Beaver Stadium. We walked those same paths in the hallway and the locker room. We can tell players what Penn State can offer from personal experiences. I like to give my testimony: my dad went here and is a ’68 grad, I’m a ’91 grad, my son was an ’07 grad, my daughter Haley is here in the WorkLink program, my nephew (sophomore running back) Tank Smith is on the team. Penn State is a great place and my family is a testimony of how great Penn State is. When you come to Penn State, it’s a 40-year decision, not just a four-year decision.”

You mentioned Tank, what’s it like to have him a part of the team and getting to be around him as he gets his own experience within Penn State?

TS: “My nephew, he’s doing a great job over there (on offense). He knows his role on this team and understands it really well. He’s a major contributor for us. I’m happy for him and happy he’s here.”

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 14

Week 14 of the NFL season might have been the most productive and entertaining week thus far for Penn Staters in the NFL. We’re talking touchdowns galore! 

KJ Hamler, WR, Denver Broncos

As FOX play-by-play announcer Tim Brando termed in a contest last season, “There goes KJ for a pay day!”

Hamler only caught two passes from Denver quarterback Drew Lock on Sunday, but they went for touchdown passes of 49 and 37 yards, respectively. How’s that for stretching the field? 

Even though Denver is all but out of the playoff race, it’s got to feel good for Broncos fans to see a rapport developing between Lock and some of the talented young receivers at his disposal. 

Read more on KJ’s big day in this profile from ESPN’s Jeff Legwold.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Photo By Steve Manuel

It was a bittersweet afternoon for Gesicki and the Dolphins. 

Gesicki terrorized the Chiefs secondary for most of this matchup between two playoff contenders, finding the end zone twice, including this ridiculous grab over three defenders that kept Miami within striking distance of the defending Super Bowl champs.

On a day where Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce proved once again why he’s the best in the league, Gesicki certainly made his case for being one of the best at his position. 

Unfortunately, Gesicki had to exit the game early with an upper-body injury. Let’s hope it wasn’t as serious as it looked on the broadcast and Gesicki can play a part in Miami’s push for a playoff spot. 

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

It had been a quiet few weeks for Miles, struggling to make an impact in an Eagles offense that was stuck in neutral.

Photo By Steve Manuel

A quarterback change for Philadelphia sparked the offense back into life and Sanders benefited. Alongside Jalen Hurts in the backfield, Sanders erupted for 115 yards on 14 carries and found the end zone twice. 

After a difficult stretch the Eagles are still very much alive in the NFC East title chase. 

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears 

Photo By Steve Manuel

What can we say about Robinson II that we haven’t already? He’s one of the best wide receivers in football and Sunday was another showcase performance as to why.

On a day when Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was in a zone, Robinson II had one of his biggest outings of the season with nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. 

The former Nittany Lion has now surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in a single season for the third time in his NFL career.

Chicago dominated Houston, 36-7, and kept its slim playoff hopes afloat.  

Adrian Amos, S, Green Bay Packers

Amos might be in the midst of a career year for Green Bay and its defense has benefited greatly from his presence in the secondary. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

He finished Sunday’s win over the Lions with seven tackles (six solo) and a tackle-for-loss. 

The Packers will need him to continue to play at a high level as they push on for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. 

This also gives us a chance to share a pretty neat feature on Amos that recently ran in the Green Bay Press Gazette. 

Amos has already raised $55,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter this season and now he’s looking to get fans involved.

Adrian launched a new fundraiser this month, asking fans to donate $31 to the chapter, in honor of his No. 31. In return, they’ll receive a green and gold T-shirt that reads “#ENDALZ”Read more about Adrian’s initiative, here.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 13

With just four weeks left to play in the regular season, the playoff push is beginning to heat up in the NFL.

Let’s take a look at a few of the standout Nittany Lions from Week 13.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Gesicki had his strongest performance since Tua Tagovailoa took over as starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

The former Penn State tight end 88 yards on nine receptions, including this physical grab over a Bengals defensive back for a touchdown.

Photo By Steve Manuel

The score put the Dolphins ahead early in the third quarter and helped propel them to a win that kept them within striking distance of the first-place Buffalo Bills.

Gesicki and the Dolphins welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to Hard Rock Stadium this Sunday.

Jack Crawford, DE, Tennessee Titans

Photo By Steve Manuel

It’s hard to say if anyone on the Titans defense had a “good” day after giving up 41 points in a loss to Cleveland. But Crawford can certainly hold his head high after a strong effort. 

Crawford recorded a season-high seven tackles and forced a fumble.

It was his first appearance of the season in our weekly rundown. 

Jesse James, TE, Detroit Lions

Photo By Steve Manuel

Following the dismissal of Matt Patricia as head coach, the Lions turned in a gutsy performance for interim coach Darrell Bevell. 

Detroit rallied from a late fourth quarter to deficit to stun the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Although most of his contributions come in the running game as a blocker, James also reached the end zone on Sunday, on this impressive nine-yard snag.

It was his second touchdown of the season and allowed Detroit to hang around for its eventual comeback. 

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 
Kansas City Chiefs (1): Stefen Wisniewski
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, Shareef Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen
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

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. RUTGERS (2014)

For 58 minutes in Penn State’s 2014 clash with Big Ten newcomer Rutgers, the Nittany Lions’ offense sputtered.

Heading into the final drive of the game for Penn State, the offense had managed to score just six points, despite the defense gifting them five interceptions on the night.

When it mattered most, though, the offense stepped up.

Photo By Steve Manuel

“The fired ­up partisan crowd, whose roar got louder with each passing minute of anticipated victory, reached a crescendo when the visitors were pinned down on their own 20­-yard line with just three minutes left in the game and Rutgers holding tenaciously onto a 10–6 lead,” wrote editor of the Football Letter, John Black.”

That’s when things started to click for the Nittany Lions.

Photo By Steve Manuel

On the first play of PennState’s final drive, 19­-year-­old quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who as Black described, “had been chased, harassed, hurried and sacked throughout the night,” found Geno Lewis on a gorgeous throw down the sideline that ripped off 53 yards of the 80-yard mountain Penn State had to climb to the end zone.

Lewis, who led the Big Ten receiving yards entering that night, outmuscled two Scarlet Knights defenders to snag the pass, bounced off their attempted tackles and raced down the sideline to Rutgers’ 27-yard-line.

Hackenberg looked as though he threw the game-winner two plays later on a dart to tight end Jesse James, but a holding call nullified the would-be touchdown.

The Nittany Lions now faced a third-and-long from the Rutgers 29. Lewis came up big once more, putting a double move on his defender to get open up the right hand side of the field. Hackenberg found him again, dropping the pass right into Lewis’ chest for a 23-yard gain.

Photo By Steve Manuel

Two plays later, on second-and-goal from the five-yard line, terrific blocking from the offensive line opened up a huge hole up the middle and New Jersey native Bill Belton took care of the rest.

Belton dashed through the middle largely untouched before a desperate Rutgers defender tackled him in the end zone. It was a futile attempt as Belton had already reached pay-dirt and the Nittany Lions had the lead.

Photo By Steve Manuel

“All the air was sucked out of the home team’s big balloon,” wrote Black, as the home crowd fell hushed.

Rutgers got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but the comeback would be denied on another interception from quarterback Gary Nova, this time by safety Ryan Keiser.

Although ugly at times, Penn State had found a way to win in Piscataway, and welcomed Rutgers to the Big Ten by handing them a defeat.

PENN STATERS AT THE NEXT LEVEL: WEEK 12

Hard to believe we’re already through 12 weeks of the NFL season. This season has certainly looked different with a lack of fans, COVID protocols and multiple game postponements, but there’s still been some really entertaining games.

Speaking of 12, there are 12 former Penn Staters up for Pro Bowl voting:

  • Packers safety Adrian Amos
  • Giants linebacker Cam Brown
  • Titans defensive end Jack Crawford
  • Jets kicker Sam Ficken
  • Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki
  • Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin
  • 49ers kicker Robbie Gould
  • Titans defensive tackle DaQuan Jones
  • Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II
  • Eagles running back Miles Sanders
  • Rams special teams ace Nick Scott
  • Buccaneers offensive tackle Donovan Smith

Robbie Gould, K, San Francisco 49ers


Don’t look now, but the 49ers are still in the thick of it in the NFC playoff picture.

Former Nittany Lion Robbie Gould nailed the game-winning kick for San Francisco in Sunday’s important win over division foe Los Angeles.

Gould continues to excel at a high level in his 16th season in the NFL and made all three of his field goal attempts.

Cam Brown, LB, New York Giants

Photo By Steve Manuel

In Saquon Barkley’s absence, a Penn Stater has still shined for the first-place (yes, at 4-7) New York Giants. Cam Brown has been an excellent special teams contributor for the Giants this season and made another important play in Sunday’s narrow win over the Bengals.

With his team holding on to a slim lead, Brown made a potentially game-saving tackle on a punt return for Cincinnati by the narrowest of margins.

The tackle might have prevented a score for the Bengals and kept the Giants’ lead in tact.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Photo By Steve Manuel

It’s been a quiet few weeks for Gesicki, and while he didn’t have his most productive in Sunday’s win over the Jets, he got back into the end zone on a 13-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It marked his first touchdown reception since Week Three.

It was only one of two touchdowns in the game and kept Miami within reaching distance of division leaders Buffalo.

Trace McSorley, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Trace McSorley has had to remain patient to get his chance in the NFL. He has after all, sitting behind reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III on the depth chart for the Baltimore Ravens.

But this is a strange season that has created strange circumstances. With multiple players out of Wednesday’s game between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, including Jackson, McSorley was suddenly the back up to Griffin III.

RGIII left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter and Trace got his chance. Like he’s done his entire career, he took advantage of the opportunity and gritted out an impressive showing that included his first NFL touchdown pass.

McSorley connected with Hollywood Brown down the sideline and the wide receiver did the rest on a 70 yard pitch and catch.

The Steelers emerged victorious 19-14, but McSorley proved he can hang at the NFL level.

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 
Kansas City Chiefs (1): Stefen Wisniewski
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, Shareef Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen
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