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.



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Ultimate Competitor

Safety Ji’Ayir Brown called sophomore cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) “the ultimate competitor.” Porter ranks fourth on the team in tackles (40) and has broken up four passes this season. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

A little more than midway through the third quarter of Penn State’s clash with Ohio State last month, the Buckeyes were driving. Deep. In fact, they were only about a yard or so away from a touchdown, with the score tied at 17.

The Nittany Lions stuffed a couple runs. Then, quarterback C.J. Stroud threw to wideout Garrett Wilson, who was matched up 1-on-1 against Penn State sophomore cornerback Joey Porter, Jr. In a goal-line situation, Porter didn’t have any help. It was just him against Wilson, the guy in front of him.

Porter broke up the pass, tangling with Wilson in midair to knock the ball away. After the play, Porter jumped up and shook his head. Not in a cocky way. More confident, sure of himself. Essentially, he was saying, “You’re not going to beat me 1-on-1.”

Ohio State settled for a field goal.

This is just one example of how Porter embraces the times when he doesn’t have help in coverage.

“I love those moments,” Porter said. “Those moments are for a corner to really show what he’s about, really put it on for your team, especially when you know the play is coming to you. One-on-one, there’s nothing you can do about it but defend it. I like stepping up to the challenge, I like those 1-on-1 matchups. You really get to see who’s better, me or him. I enjoy that.”

Porter ranks seventh on the team in tackles (40) and has broken up four passes while pulling in an interception. He also recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Auburn, though the play was called back because of a penalty. Following the game in Columbus, we recorded his postgame media availability, and you can see that on our YouTube page.

“Joey Porter, he’s the ultimate competitor,” safety Ji’Ayir Brown said. “He might be the most competitive guy on the defense. Joey, he loves to compete. He loves the 1-on-1 matchups you get. He loves going against the best. It’s a blessing to have a corner like him to be able to watch him play and watch him do the things he does very well.”

Against Maryland last Saturday, Porter recorded five tackles, one of six Nittany Lions to tally five or more. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Maryland

It wasn’t always pretty, but Penn State is back in the win column and snapped a three-game skid with a 31-14 win over Maryland on Saturday. Here are 20 insights from this past weekend.

1. Jahan Dotson is special. Hands down the biggest takeaway of this weekend was the play of No. 5. There have been some great WRs in Penn State’s history: Bobby Engram, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson II, KJ Hamler, Kenny Jackson, OJ McDuffie, DaeSean Hamilton, etc, etc. It’s time we put Jahan Dotson’s name near the top of that list. He’s a special, special player.

2. Dotson set a Penn State single-game record with his 242-yard effort against the Terps. Add in the fact he scored all three of Penn State’s offensive touchdowns on the day and that might have been the best single-game performance from a Penn State wide receiver.

3. With Penn State suddenly tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter following a touchdown and two-point conversion from Maryland, the pressure was on the Nittany Lions offense to come up with something to spark the team back into life. Dotson answered the call, streaking down the middle of the field and into the end zone for a huge strike.

4. Now, back to the start of the weekend. Always great to come down to the Washington, D.C. area and see a terrific turnout from the vast amounts of Penn Staters in the area. Great mixer event Friday night in D.C. at The Admiral put on by our Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter.

5. Speaking of great turnouts. Penn Staters showed out and brought the energy at our Pep Rally before kick-off on Saturday. Catch the full Pep Rally livestream recording on our Facebook page.

6. I always enjoy seeing the warm reception longtime editor of The Football Letter John Black gets on our travels. Penn Staters always seek him out to exchange stories and thank him for all the great Letters he’s scribed over the years. He and Football Letter photographer Steve Manuel got a nice ovation during our Pep Rally program.

7. I’m going to reference a great turnout from Penn Staters a third time. There was PLENTY of blue and white in the stands at Captial One Field at Maryland Stadium, including the entirety of the Penn State Blue Band.

8. Here’s the Blue Bands halftime pertformance.

9. Another great showing from the Penn State defense on Saturday. The Nittany Lions stood up time and time again when the offense struggled to develop a rhythm.

10. Despite only putting up 14 points, I came away pretty impressed by Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa. The Terrapins quarterback was 41-of-57 for 371 yards and made some challenging throws in tight coverage. Without a couple drops from his receivers and that statline looks even better.

11. The Nittany Lions’ running game was better if not great. Nittany Lion backs combined for 109 yards. Penn State ended with 93 yards rushing because college football takes sack yardage into account (that’s really dumb, but that’s a conversation for another day. You still feel like this group lacks that dynamic rusher to give this offense a different dimension.

12. Always great to hear the Alma Mater after a W, especially on the road and especially to end a three-game losing streak.

13. As always, plenty of great postgame coverage from John Patishnock. Can’t say enough about the work he’s done this season. If you’re not following The Football Letter Twitter account, you’re missing out on a lot of great video coverage from him that you can’t get anywhere else.

14. Penn State is now 15-1 all-time at Maryland, and Penn State fans let Terps fans hear about it after the game.

15. I mentioned Jahan Dotson’s historic day earlier. Check out some of these eye-catching notes about Jahan’s day and season. Give this man the Biletnikoff Award, please!

16. Awesome moment postgame with James Franklin, Jahan…and a Penn State baby! Check it out below.

17. Penn State has some terrific student-athletes, and three of them are up for the Senior CLASS Award. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award honors the attributes of NCAA Division I senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. The award program is designed exclusively for college seniors who are utilizing their complete athletic eligibility, remaining committed to their university and pursuing the many rewards a senior season can bring. Nittany Lions Sean Clifford, Jonni Parker and Pierre Ready are up for the award. Vote for them at this link.

18. Two early goals propelled Penn State Men’s Soccer to a Big Ten Tournament opening round win over Michigan State. Survive and advance!

19. At the time of writing, we’re still waiting on Penn State Field Hockey’s selection to the NCAA Tournament. It’s almost a certainty the Nittany Lions hear their name called, it’s just a question of who and where they will be playing.

20. See everyone at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Go State. Beat Michigan.

D.C. Chapter Connection ‘Best Thing’ About Postgrad Move

Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter President Meghan Maffey ’17 greeted a packed room of Penn Staters in downtown D.C. this evening, with thousands of alumni and friends traveling to Maryland for the Nittany Lions’ showdown with the Terrapins on Saturday afternoon. Maffey said the mixer “is a great opportunity to bring us all together. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

So, it’s a funny story.

This is how Meghan Maffey began explaining how she became a Penn Stater. It wasn’t always a lock. It just feels that way now.

Maffey grew up in New Jersey, and she doesn’t like the cold. Don’t worry Meghan, you’re not alone there. Though after visiting the University Park campus in May, when it was still snowing — yes, that happens in State College sometimes in the spring — she was hooked. Specifically, she was wowed with the history of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the knowledge of the faculty and staff of the college, and the overall atmosphere of being on campus.

Going in, she didn’t think Penn State stood a chance. But soon, Happy Valley became the runaway favorite.

“We got in the car after the tour and I looked at my mom and said, “I’m going here.”

Fast forward to Friday night, when Maffey, a 2017 Penn State grad and communications major, greeted more than a hundred alumni and friends to downtown Washington, D.C. That’s part of her role as president of the Alumni Association’s Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter, a position she relishes considering how big of an impact Penn State’s had on her life.

“There are so many Penn Staters that are in this area,” Maffey said. “It just is a really great opportunity to bring us all together and really just shows everybody that Penn State shows up and that we are here and we are proud to be here.”

Penn State Alumni Association President Anand Ganjam ’15 (far right) joined with alumni who were thrilled to see the Penn State Cheerleaders and Nittany Lion at the Friday night mixer in downtown D.C. Photo credit: Steve Manuel.

Maffey immediately became involved with the Washington, D.C. Chapter after graduating. Initially, she helped with the chapter’s THON support, starting as the fundraising lead before becoming the communications chair. Then within the last year, she became president.

The crowd she greeted was diverse: recent alumni, Penn Staters of different generations and backgrounds. That’s not entirely surprising, considering Maffey correctly points out that there are a lot of Penn Staters in the D.C. area. There are nearly 25,000 Penn Staters living in Maryland, and tens of thousands more in neighboring states, still not counting Pennsylvania.

You can see an archived version of tonight’s program featuring the Penn State Cheerleaders and Nittany Lions on our Facebook page. You can view a slightly different angle of the Nittany Lion’s entrance and cowbell performance. The latter is available on our Twitter page.

Going back to Maffey, there’s a lot of substance behind her story. Her previous career stops include interning in the Washington National’s brand marketing department and National Geographic’s production and post-production management. Currently, she works for a recruiting and employment staffing agency in the area. Having a healthy Penn State network has helped her professionally. With the Nationals, Maffey’s supervisor was a Penn Stater. Same for her hiring manager with National Geographic.

She said Penn Staters love taking care of Penn Staters. Maffey would know. The transition period after graduating can be uncertain, uncomfortable, and perhaps even a little rocky. That’s perhaps to be expected. Thanks to the support Maffey received from fellow alumni, there were smooth spots to even things out.

Now, she’s in a position to give back as someone who’s both successful and familiar with the area. Now, Maffey fits right in.

“I didn’t know anybody down here, and the best thing I got out of moving to Washington D.C. is being part of the chapter,” Maffey said. “I’ve made connections, I have gotten jobs from being a part of the Alumni Association. It’s just a great experience, and I’m so happy and so thankful to be president of the chapter.”

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Penn State Preview: Maryland

Penn State v. Maryland 2019 (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. Let’s dive into this week’s preview or Penn State and Maryland, with the blue and white looking to get back on track and snap a three-game skid.

Game Details: Penn State at Maryland. 3:30 PM ET kick-off, broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Mostly sunny with kick-off temps around 55 degrees.

The Line: Penn State -10 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 40-3-1.

Last Meeting: Maryland topped Penn State, 35-19.

Last Week: Penn State fell on the road to Ohio State, 33-24. Maryland defeated Indiana 38-35.

Penn State v. OSU 2021 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (Noon ET, FOX)
– Illinois at Minnesota (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– No. 3 Michigan State at Purdue (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– No. 21 Wisconsin at Rutgers (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– No. 22 Iowa at Northwestern (7 PM ET, BTN)
– Indiana at No. 7 Michigan (7:30 PM ET, Fox)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Looking to secure a New Year’s Six berth, Penn State left nothing to chance in the 2017 regular season finale in College Park. The Nittany Lions used three total touchdowns from Trace McSorley and three more from backup QB Tommy Stevens to rout the Terrapins, 66-3. Penn State led 31-0 at halftime, finished with 534 yards and didn’t give up a touchdown. The Nittany Lions went on to win the Fiesta Bowl over Washington, 35-28.

Penn State v. Maryland 2017 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

The Lead: A pair of 5-3 teams will face one another in College Park this weekend, looking to set themselves up for a strong finish to the regular season. Penn State battled Ohio State closely last week but ultimately suffered its third-straight loss. Maryland got back on track after three-consecutive losses of its own with a win over Indiana. If Penn State has any real hopes of landing in a warm-weather bowl game at the end of the season, it has to win this game. Maryland, meanwhile, has matchups with No. 3 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan looming in the next two weeks, so this presents an opportunity to secure bowl eligibility ahead of the regular season finale at Rutgers in a few weeks time.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions show the kind of effort and energy they did at Ohio State. Eighteen-point underdogs in Columbus, Penn State showed a ton of fight at The Horseshoe last week, which makes the lethargic display against Illinois a week prior all the more frustrating. Sean Clifford looks almost all the way back to his normal self and that’s huge as Penn State gears up for the home stretch of the regular season. It’s a given at this point that the Penn State defense is going to hold an opponent in check enough to give its offense a chance to win. If Penn State can move the ball effectively the way it did for most of the game against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions should win this game.

Maryland Wins If: Taulia Tagovailoa takes care of the football and the Terrapins finish off drives. When Tagovailoa has been good this year, he’s been really good. Last week against Indiana he was terrific, completing 26-of-40 attempts for 419 yards and two touchdowns. The problem in losses for the quarterback has been turnovers. He threw seven interceptions in Maryland’s three-game losing streak to Iowa, Ohio State and Minnesota. If he avoids turnovers and the Maryland offense can finish off drives with touchdowns — something just about every opponent has struggled to do against the Penn State defense this season — the Terrapins can hang with the Nittany Lions and pull off an upset.

Penn State v. OSU (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Trivia Tidbit: Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington are the first Penn State receiver duo with multiple 100-yard games since 2014 when DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis did it. Dotson caught a career-high 11 passes for 127 yards against the Buckeyes, while Washington snagged a joint career-high nine catches for 108 yards. That follows up their 100-yard performances against Villanova earlier this season.

Numbers To Know: 11.5: Arnold Ebiketie’s 11.5 tackles for loss this season leads all Power Five defensive linemen.
1. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has only thrown one total interception across Terrapin wins this season. He threw seven in the three losses.

Membership Note: The Penn Stater magazine is now available in its entirety online at pennstatermag.com, and if you’re a member of the Penn State Alumni Association you have full access to the site’s content. To access the full contents of the site, visit pennstatermag.com and log in with your email address and Alumni Association ID number. You can find your ID number at the bottom of emails you receive from the Alumni Association.

Listen to ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts.

Podcast: ICYMI: The Alumni Association recently launched a new podcast, ‘The People of Penn State.’ Episode One featured Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer leader Jake Schrom ’11, while Episode Two saw us joined by US Air Force First Lieutenant, San Francisco 49ers Cheerleader, and Entrepreneur Haley McClain Hill. Access the show at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts!

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: 31-21
Vincent Lungaro: 28-17

Building Momentum

Managing emotions plays a key role anytime the Nittany Lions travel, like they did last weekend to Columbus. Penn State hits the road again this week, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday against Maryland. Photo credit: Steve Tressler.

James Franklin remembers how things used to be.

The day before a game, players and coaches would quiet down, tighten up, and get emotionally juiced 24 hours before kickoff. The idea being that you needed to be laser-focused that far ahead in advance.

This is going back to Franklin’s days playing high school football, and college ball at East Stroudsburg, and even as recently when he first became a college head coach.

Times have since changed.

Through talking with people and looking at studies, Franklin said this approach has shifted over the last 10-15 years.

“You don’t need ’em locked in mentally and emotionally and physically that long before the game, where there’s no talking on the bus ride to Maryland, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Franklin said Tuesday afternoon during his weekly press conference. “So, what we do is we build up. You should be able to feel a difference. Say you got a Friday dinner and you’re playing a Saturday night game like we had last week — the Friday night dinner should still be focused, but guys should be enjoying themselves with their positions and going through their test and tip sheets.”

Onward State photographer Mira DiBattiste captured the scene at Ohio Stadium as Penn State football arrived.

That evolution continues the next morning, with Franklin saying team breakfast should feel different than dinner, with the intensity naturally increasing up until when the team leaves the hotel, when Franklin says the team should be totally locked in on the bus ride over to the stadium.

The speed at which the intensity rises can change depending on kickoff time. At Wisconsin, for example, kickoff was at 11 a.m. local time. That’s a difference of eight-and-a-half hours from Saturday in Columbus. Think of it this way: You act differently if you’re flying out at 6 a.m. the next morning, then if your flight leaves in the afternoon or evening.

“I’m focused and not doing too much and staying calm,” offensive lineman Rasheed Walker said of his night-time routine before a game, which includes studying the aforementioned test and tips sheet. “When I wake up the day of the game, I wake up and I’m tuned in.”

Something that James Franklin emphasizes is consistency in all areas of his program, including pregame preparation on the road. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Of course, there’s a human element at play. Looks can sometimes be deceiving, and reality may not match up with perception. It’s why they play the games, as the saying goes, which is one major reason why college football is beloved on a level rarely seen in other areas of society, at least across the entire country.

This juxtaposition can also be bewildering for coaches in charge of leading their teams onto the field. Franklin recalls speaking with fellow coaches in his profession, both new to the game and more experienced, when they’ve seen their teams appear to be too loose leading up to a game, and then the players go out and play their tails off (Franklin’s words). The exact opposite can be just as true, Penn State’s head coach said.

So, for a guy who’s a big believer in routine, what’s there to do? Stick to a familiar approach, prepare the same way, and account for the unexpected as much as possible.

“It’s kind of hard to read and there’s so many different factors that kind of go into that,” Franklin said. “That’s why we try to keep our process as consistent as we possibly can.”

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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Ohio State

John Patishnock/The Football Letter

Here are 20 insights from this past weekend, as Penn State dropped its third-straight game in a tough 33-24 loss to Ohio State.

1. Before we dive into the weekend in Columbus, I’d encourage everyone to go check out John Patishnock’s story on Journey Brown from last week. Here’s a snippet of James Franklin talking about the importance of Journey still being around the program in a non-playing capacity. 

2. Was great seeing Penn Staters who came out to our Central Ohio Chapter’s Alumni Mixer Friday Night, including Nittany Lion super fan Paul Frankhouser. You might recognize Paul’s Penn State-themed Hummer. We caught up with Paul for a quick interview about his passion for Penn State. 

3. If you’re in Columbus or elsewhere in Central Ohio, check out the Central Ohio Chapter. They do a lot of great work keeping Penn Staters connected deep in the heart of Buckeye country. Follow them on Twitter (@psucolumbus) or visit their website psucolumbus.org

4. Had a great time at my first Pep Rally of the season. The Blue Band, the Nittany Lion, Lionettes and Cheerleaders brought the energy as usual. You can re-watch the livestream of the Pep Rally on the Alumni Association’s Facebook page

5. This past weekend was my first trip to Ohio State. I must admit everything I had heard about how opposing fans were treated in Columbus was not pleasant. Fortunately, there weren’t too many negative experiences on my end. The occasional snide comment or crude remark, but not anything worse than I’ve heard at other Big Ten away trips. In fact, there were several Buckeye fans who went out of their way to welcome us to Columbus and wished us well for the game, with one OSU fan noting that he has only had positive experiences in his travels to Happy Valley.

6. The process getting into Ohio Stadium was not all that pleasant, however. Only having two working gates for 100,000-plus fans to access the stadium doesn’t seem like a great idea. It probably took us 45 minutes to make our way through the entry gate. Luckily, we got to our seats just in time for kick-off. You won’t see me complaining about the process of entry to Beaver Stadium again anytime soon. 

7. There wasn’t an abundance of Penn State fans inside The Horseshoe, but the Nittany Lions fans who were there made their presence felt. Despite the loss, I had a great time interacting with the Penn Staters in our section just near the contingent of Blue Band students who were at the game. 

8. The flag-raising ceremony inside Ohio Stadium is so cool. I wish I captured it on video. 

9. I’m never one to highlight moral victories, but man, I came away from Saturday’s 33-24 loss incredibly proud of these players and coaches. Penn State played a hell of a game, it just came up short. That’s football. Change the outcome of one or two plays and the game probably ends in the Nittany Lions’ favor. I needed to see a positive response after last week’s upset loss to Illinois and I felt like I got it. 

10. Still, the loss last week to the Illini stings a little extra now that we saw a showing like that against a far superior opponent. 

11. The trick is now to bring the level of intensity we showed against Ohio State to the four remaining games: at Maryland, Michigan, Rutgers, and at Michigan State. 

12. 9-3 is a legitimate possibility and nothing to scoff at, regardless of how high our hopes got with this team after a 5-0 start.

13. The matchup with the Terrapins will be another intriguing game. Maryland topped the Nittany Lions last season, 35-19. Kick-off is set for 3:30 p.m. 

14. I thought Jahan Dotson gave a terrific response in his postgame interview about being a leader and making sure his teammates stay focused the rest of the season. 

15. Check out Dotson’s full interview, along with interviews with postgame videos of Arnold Ebiketie, Joey Porter Jr. and Parker Washington, on our YouTube page.

16. Look, it’s obviously been a tough season for the Penn State running game. They have not played to expectations, and I’m sure they’d all be the first ones to say so. It’s clear there’s no sign of division in the position group, though. The unit shared a nice moment before kickoff in one of the end zone, circling up with one another as they prepared for action.

17. Big shoutout to Penn State Men’s Soccer, clinching the Big Ten regular season title on Sunday. Congratulations to head coach Jeff Cook on his first trophy with the Nittany Lions. The first of many!

18. Another shoutout to Penn State Field Hockey. The Nittany Lions took down No. 2 Michigan in an overtime thriller on Senior Night.

19. I expect to see a big contingent of Penn State fans at Maryland next week. It seems like Nittany Lions fans always show out down in College Park. There’s still time to sign up for the Friday Night Mixer and Saturday’s Pep Rally. If you plan on going, stop and say hi. I’ll be on site shooting some video for social media.

20. I hope everyone had a fun, safe Halloween. If you rocked a Penn State-themed costume, tag us in a photo of it on Facebook or Instagram.

Staying Involved

Journey Brown (right) talked with teammate Noah Cain on Wednesday afternoon at the Lasch practice fields. Although a medical retirement ended his playing days, Brown still regularly attends practice and continues his academic studies. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Scanning the Lasch practice fields Wednesday afternoon, somebody stood out.

It wasn’t because of a laser throw, or an acrobatic catch, or even a lightning-quick burst on either side of the ball. In fact, the guy wasn’t even in pads. He was wearing sweats. Still, what he was doing was impressive. Mainly, continuing to be a leader and supportive presence for his teammates.

Running back Journey Brown had one of the most legendary bowl performances in Penn State history in the Nittany Lions’ largely entertaining 53-39 victory over Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. He broke tackles, bowled over defenders, and provided plenty of clutch plays during a game that seesawed throughout.

The performance was incredible. It also marked the last time Brown will ever play competitive football again.

In November 2020, Brown announced a medical retirement from football due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition which thickens the walls of the heart chamber and makes it hard for the heart to pump blood. You can read more about Brown’s retirement on Athletics’ website. Immediately, Brown received an outpouring of support from coaches, teammates, alumni, and fans.

That support continues to this day, and you can check out our two videos below that show both head coach James Franklin and offensive lineman Juice Scruggs talking about Brown’s impact. Particularly noteworthy is Franklin emphasizing the importance of Brown graduating, along with additional players who’ve had to medically retire.

Earlier this month, I noticed that Micah Parsons has Brown included in his Twitter cover photo, and it inspired us to share some photos of Brown. Both he and Parsons propelled Penn State to that victory in the Cotton Bowl, with Parsons’ cover photo showing both of them — and their respective trophies for outstanding offensive and defensive player — at a media availability after the game.

Parsons is the leading candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and his Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East with a 5-1 record, so it says a lot that he still chooses to highlight his days at Penn State and include Brown. You can see the photos we posted below, and from reading the replies, Brown still has fans cheering him in his post-playing days.

Count us at The Football Letter among those cheering for him, both at Penn State and in whatever he chooses to do after graduating.

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Penn State Preview: Ohio State

Penn State v. Ohio State 2020 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for Penn State’s primetime matchup with Ohio State.

Game Details: No. 20/17 Penn State at No. 5/5 Ohio State. 7:30 PM ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Ohio Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Cloudy in the evening with a shower in spots early, then partly cloudy late. Periods of rain or drizzle earlier in the day. High of 58.

The Line: Ohio State -18.5 (via SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 22-14.

Last Meeting: Ohio State won 38-25 last season.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State (Noon ET, Fox)
– No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN)
– Rutgers at Illinois (Noon ET, BTN)
– Indiana at Maryland (Noon ET, BTN)
– Minnesota at Northwestern (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Purdue at Nebraska (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2)

Throwback Classic: 1963. “When you win an important game from Ohio State in Columbus … the inclination is to be polite about the victory and magnanimous with the vanquished. But honestly we have heard so much gaff in the last 25 years about the power and the invincibility of Big Ten Football (especially when compared to the effete East) that you’ll have to pardon a chuckle or two from these quarters.”

So wrote Ridge Riley ’32 in The Football Letter the week after Penn State’s 1963 visit to Ohio Stadium, a 10-7 Nittany Lion victory over the Woody Hayes-coached Buckeyes. It was just the third meeting between the big state schools—all of them in Columbus—since the sporadically played series began in 1912. And for whatever low expectations folks in central Ohio—”the Football Capital,” as Ridge Riley wrote with what we imagine was tongue firmly in cheek—had for the visiting Lions in the fall of ’63, Penn State had won on each of its previous visits to the Horseshoe.

They won that time, too.

Read more on this classic Penn State win over the Buckeyes in this From The Archives article from 2013.

Penn State v. Illinois (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Lead: There’s not much to say about last week’s 9OT Homecoming loss to Illinois that hasn’t been written about already. In short: it was a disaster of a loss. Now Penn State has to limp into Columbus against an Ohio State team that has rolled everyone in its path since a Week Two loss to Oregon. Can the Nittany Lions pull off a shocking upset of their own?

Penn State Wins If: Sean Clifford plays the game of his life, inspiring the Nittany Lions to the huge upset. Clifford was clearly less than 100 percent against Illinois. He said earlier this week he’ll be at or close to full-go this weekend. Penn State will need him to play without restriction if it has a chance to win this game.

Ohio State Wins If: The Buckeyes offense can finish drives. Ohio State has steamrolled everyone in its path this season minus Oregon. Ohio State paces the conference and holds sixth in the nation with a 96.6 conversion rate including 23 touchdowns in 29 trips. Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the country allowing a 65.2 conversion rate in the red zone and holding opponents scoreless eight times, tied for the nation’s best. Whoever wins that specific matchup will come out on top.

Numbers To Know: 13: Penn State has forced a turnover in 13 consecutive games.
14: The Buckeyes recorded 14 tackles for loss as they held Indiana to 128 total yards last week.

Score Prediction: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 24, Ohio State 21
Vincent Lungaro: Ohio State 24, Penn State 17