Penn State Preview: Iowa

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

Game details: No. 4/4 Penn State (5-0, 1-0) at No. 3/3 Iowa (5-0, 1-0). 4 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on FOX.

Venue: Kinnick Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Very warm with clouds and sunshine; breezy in the afternoon; an unseasonably warm afternoon for football. High of 82.

The Line: Iowa -1.5 (SI Sportsbook) 

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 17-13

Last Meeting: Iowa won last year’s meeting quite comfortably, 41-21.

Last Week: Penn State blanked Indiana 24-0. Iowa trounced Maryland 51-14.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Maryland at No. 7/7 Ohio State (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)
– No. 11/11 Michigan State at Rutgers (Saturday, Noon ET, Big Ten Network)
– Wisconsin at Illinois (Saturday, 3:30. p.m. ET, Big Ten. Network)
– No. 9/8 Michigan at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Penn State @ Iowa 2017 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Saquon Barkley dazzled under the Kinnick lights and Juwan Johnson caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to silence the Iowa crowd and notch a win for the No. 4-ranked Nittany Lions. Barkley had 28 carries for a career-high 211 yards and a touchdown. He also had a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards. Check out Saquon’s highlight real performance and the clutch final drive that propelled Penn State to a win below.

The Lead: Boy, it seems like there have been a lot of big games between these two programs over the years. They might not be “rivals” in any official capacity, but when the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes clash there’s usually a lot at stake for one or both of these teams. This year, there are legitimate playoff aspirations for Penn State and Iowa. Don’t expect a plethora of points in a shootout. These two teams field some elite defenses.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions don’t turn the ball over. Iowa thrives off of its defense forcing turnovers and setting up its offense with advantageous field position. The Hawkeyes aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination. They are opportunistic and efficient when they need to be. Penn State cannot cough up the ball and expect to walk out of Kinnick with the win. Sean Clifford has been much better at making smarter decisions with the ball this year and he’ll need to be at his best in that department on Saturday. Penn State’s defense is playing at an elite level right now and if the Nittany Lions’ offense avoids turnovers, the blue and white have a great chance to go 1-0 this weekend.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Iowa Wins If: Penn State turns the ball over. Seems kind of redundant doesn’t it? But that’s for good reason. As I said above, Iowa’s season has been defined by forcing opponent’s into turnovers. Iowa is ranked No. 2 in FBS in scoring defense (Penn State is No. 3), No. 1 in interceptions forced, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 7 in total defense.

Keep An Eye On: The Iowa Wave. One of the most inspiring traditions in college football, the Iowa Wave was started in 2017 and occurs at the end of the first quarter of each Iowa football home game. Iowa fans and players turn to face away from the field, and begin waving in the direction of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Trivia Tidbit: This is Penn State’s first Top 5 matchup since 1999 when the Nittany Lions hosted Arizona for the Pigskin Classic. Take a closer look back at this game in this From The Archives story from 2019.

Number To Know: Seven. The Iowa defense forced Maryland into seven turnovers last Friday night, including six interceptions.

Membership Note: The online Alumni Library is one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Penn State Alumni Association, and a new how-to video on our Alumni Library benefits page shows you how to get started accessing this treasure trove of knowledge. Check it out here.

Score Predictions: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 20, Iowa 13
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 23, Iowa 14

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Four

Coming off of a knee injury he suffered last season, Saquon Barkley looked back to his old self in Week Four.

Saquon accumulated 126 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, including this stellar six-yard score that delivered the first win of the season for the Giants.

No. 26 also burnt the Saints secondary on a wheel route (feel like we’ve seen that before from Saquon) for his first touchdown of the day.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Micah Parsons has been one of the standout rookies of this young NFL season.

He added another sack and four tackles to his name this past Sunday in the Cowboys’ 36-28 win over the Panthers.

Micah is one of the key reasons why the Dallas defense has been greatly improved from the all-time terrible unit that it was last year.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins continue to struggle in the absence of injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but Mike Gesicki had his best performance of the 2021 season to date in Miami’s loss to the Colts.

Gesicki had five receptions for 57 yards and this touchdown.

Odafe Oweh, Edge Rusher, Baltimore Ravens

If Micah Parsons is the top rookie performer through four weeks, fellow former Lion Odafe Oweh can’t be far behind.

Oweh recorded another sack on Sunday as the Ravens smothered the Broncos offense all afternoon.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Another week, another INT for for Amani Oruwariye.

Social Media Milestone

Penn Staters packed Old Main Lawn when ESPN’s College Game Day visited in September for the White Out against Auburn. Having the wildly popular show broadcast from University Park provided multiple opportunities to capture and share enduring moments on The Football Letter’s platforms. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Something cool happened the other day.

I was looking at the analytics for our Football Letter Twitter account, and I saw that for September, we surpassed a million impressions in the month.

“We” is the appropriate word here, as I’m fortunate to work with an inspiring and impressive group of colleagues. Between a team of writers, graphic designers, and website gurus — that’s not an official title, though I’ve learned it’s an apt description, as it seems like whenever an obstacle arises, a solution follows soon after — there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. 

And of course, John Black and Steve Manuel continue to provide coverage as only they can. 

What’s posted to our Twitter account is the final step of a lot of planning, working, editing, and sometimes traveling. Whenever we arrive at a hotel, my first two questions are always, “What’s the WiFi password?” and “How strong is the connection?”

As alumni know, we’ve expanded The Football Letter in the last year, airing a live, weekly online show — Football Letter Live — and sending a game day email that’s packed with videos, photos, and stories. Add in our video coverage, and there are now more ways for Penn Staters to stay connected to the football program through The Football Letter than ever before.

Sharing videos that transport Penn Staters onto the field at Beaver Stadium is one way that The Football Letter continues the original vision of Ridge Riley — and continued by John Black — to be the eyes and ears for alumni at games.

Of course, there’s another group that I need to mention: our Penn State alumni audience. We don’t reach that number without alumni and friends following us and sharing our posts. 

Above all, we hope you find value in our coverage. If you’re not at Beaver Stadium on game day, we want to make you feel like you were. If you’re in the stands, we want to make you feel like you were on the field

It’s all about recording and sharing enduring moments. Sometimes that’s in the form of videos, other times with photos, and still other times with John Black’s historic perspective. Through our twice-weekly emails, we combine all these aspects and add in some sharp graphics and features on our blog that readers hopefully find compelling. And it’s delivered right to your inbox, with no need to go searching.

We also updated our Football Letter landing page, which shares historical information on the publication, along with details on how to access past issues, another member benefit.

James Franklin rocking a fedora while celebrating with fans after a season-opening win at Wisconsin is just one example of the types of enduring moments we aim to share with Penn Staters.

Again, thank you for watching, reading, listening, and sharing. We hope to continue to grow our audience, and current Penn Staters who enjoy The Football Letter will play a pivotal role. If you know somebody who likes Penn State football — and we have a feeling that you do — go ahead and encourage them to give us a follow on Twitter or visit our landing page to learn more.

Of course, our audience grows simultaneously with our membership. If you’re not a member of the Alumni Association, you’re always welcome to visit alumni.psu.edu/join to become part of the Pride anytime you like. You’ll receive 30-plus benefits, including all The Football Letter emails throughout the season, and a whole lot more.

Lastly, if you have a story idea or know of a letterman or alumni volunteer who embodies the Success With Honor mantra, let me know at jmp411@psu.edu. We’re always happy to hear stories of Penn State alumni, and we look forward to sharing lots more this season and beyond. 

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.

The Roaring 20: Penn State-Indiana

Another massive crowd (105,951) packed Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State knock off Indiana 24-0 during the annual Stripe Out game. Photo credit: Penn State

Here are 20 insights from another memorable Saturday in Happy Valley, with plenty of links for videos and photos that showcase the day. Penn State won its ninth straight game and improved to 5-0 with a 24-0 clobbering of Indiana. The Nittany Lions remain at No. 4 in this week’s AP Poll, released earlier Sunday, with this week’s opponent, Iowa, at No. 3.

1. Enjoyed a nice run around campus Saturday morning, and my route takes me the entire length of Curtin Road from Atherton Street to Beaver Stadium. Saw plenty of Penn Staters tailgating early and taking photos at popular campus spots like the Nittany Lion Shrine and the We Are Sculpture. Here’s a link for some of the photos we shared Saturday.

2. Team arrival was as cool as ever. We captured the scene from a new angle, and we got a pretty steady shot of the Blue Band and Nittany Lions walking to the stadium. Many thanks to the fans who made room for me on a nice, square boulder that allowed me to get high enough to capture the scene. You can see our video here.

3. We were fortunate to get a few nice shots of James Franklin welcoming fans during his pregame lap. Check out our video to see how hyped Franklin was before the game.

4. The Lion Ambassadors’ S-Zone looked dynamite Saturday. We snapped a photo from the press box a few hours before kickoff. As you can see, the students were set and ready to go.

The Lion Ambassadors settled into Beaver Stadium early Saturday night to cheer on the Nittany Lions and to create marquee their marquee S-Zone. Photo credit: John Patishnock

5. We got a nice sequence of James Franklin and the Nittany Lions taking the field before kickoff, and with a night-time start, the newly installed lights in the South Tunnel illuminated the shot quite nicely.

6. This week’s highlight video features some shots from the tailgating lots, next to Beaver Stadium, on the south side. Appreciate everyone allowing me to get some video, and the tailgating shots are early on in our highlight video.

7. Fans packed Beaver Stadium quickly leading up to the game. About an hour before kickoff, I looked around and was blown away. One of the team’s media relations pros was walking by, and I remarked to him how amazing the stadium looked. Always good to remind myself that we’re blessed to call Happy Valley home and share this community with so many passionate alumni and fans.

8. The Daily Collegian captured a nice photo of the pregame team entrance and fireworks. It really gives a sense of how much fans have embraced the Stripe Out. Penn State also posted a nice photo, and you can see that image on our Twitter page.

9. It was awesome to see Britt Baker at the game. For Penn Staters who don’t know, Baker is a Penn State grad and professional women’s wrestler for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which airs nationally on TNT. She’s currently the women’s world champ for AEW, so she’s quite good at what she does. Just as interesting (or perhaps more so), she’s a dentist by day. Really, she is. You can check out her Instagram page to see her in action, and Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford met her Saturday night and shared this photo. You can also see photos that Baker shared to her Twitter page.

10. Anytime Penn State legend Todd Blackledge returns to campus to call a game, it’s a treat. A few days ago, we shared the image of when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, following Penn State’s epic win over Nebraska in the championship season of 1982. You can see that cover photo on our Twitter page.

11. The postgame alma mater never disappoints. Never. Check out the team and fans singing the alma mater Saturday night, led of course by the Blue Band.

12. Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson connected for two scores Saturday, and the duo now hold the record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combo in Penn State history (18). Perhaps it was meant to happen against Indiana, since Blackledge was in the house. Clifford and Dotson broke the previous mark of 17, held by Blackledge and Kenny Jackson.

13. Anytime people are discussing this year’s Heisman Trophy race, Dotson’s name needs to be included. He’s the premier receiver in college football and helps lead a Top-5 team in the toughest division in the nation. He’s that good and deserves to be near the top of any list of candidates.

14. Following games, Clifford usually shows some fire as he walks up to ring the Victory Bell and celebrate with fans. Saturday was no exception. Check out our video, which shows lots of his teammates always enjoying the moment.

15. Sticking with the Victory Bell, we captured a funny moment between James Franklin and Devyn Ford. The star running back was getting ready to leave the field without ringing the Victory Bell, before Franklin called him back. Reminded me of a similar situation years ago between Franklin and Saquon Barkley. Coaches never stop coaching. You can see the entire sequence here, which includes Franklin ringing the Victory Bell himself.

16. Going back to Clifford, we captured his entire postgame media availability. He discusses his strong bond with Dotson, the team’s performance against Indiana, and a whole lot more. Clifford spoke with the media for a little more than nine minutes, and you can watch the entire video on our YouTube page.

17. Penn State’s next home game is in three weeks, when we’ll welcome tens of thousands of alumni back to University Park for Homecoming. You can read full details on Penn State News, and of special note, you can sign up for free for the popular ice cream social from 1-3 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 22, at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. As always, the Alumni Blue Band will be performing, and between that and free Berkey Creamery ice cream, we expect to see plenty of alumni stop by. We hope you’re among the group. Everyone is also invited to the Nittany Lion Shrine following the Homecoming Parade for Guard the Lion Shrine, hosted by our Lion Ambassadors.

18. Even if you can’t return to Beaver Stadium for home games, you can still cheer on the Nittany Lions with fellow Penn Staters. Many of our alumni chapters across the country host game watch parties (for all games, home and away) at local establishments, where space is reserved for Penn State alumni and fans. Visit our group events page to see what’s available near you.

19. There’s still time to register for the Saturday Pep Rally at Iowa. Visit our website for free sign ups and gather with fellow Nittany Lions while enjoying plenty of Penn State spirit and Penn State Bakery cookies. You can also sign up for our Pep Rallies at Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State.

20. Go State. Beat the Hawkeyes.

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 Preview: Indiana

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. 4/6 Penn State (4-0) vs Indiana (2-2). 7:30 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 75. Patchy fog in the morning; otherwise, sunny much of the day; mostly clear skies for kick-off.

The Line: Penn State -12.5 (SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 22-2.

Last Meeting: Week One, 2020 season. Indiana 36, Penn State 35 (OT).

Last Week: Penn State topped Villanova, 38-17. Indiana held off Western Kentucky, 33-31.

Other Key Big Ten Games This Weekend:
– No. 5/5 Iowa at Maryland (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1)
– No. 14/14 Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, Noon ET, Fox)
– No. 11/10 Ohio State at Rutgers (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Players To Watch – Penn State: QB Sean Clifford, WR Jahan Dotson, RB John Lovett, DE Arnold Ebiketie, S Jaquan Brisker.

Players To Watch – Indiana: QB Michael Penix Jr, WR Ty Fryfogle, DE Ryder Anderson.

The Lead: It’s another primetime clash for Penn State inside Beaver Stadium this week. Indiana won last year’s meeting thanks to Michael Penix Jr.’s outstretched dive for the pylon in overtime (OK, he was actually down short of the goal line and Penn State should have won that game, but I’m not going to harp on last year). It’s a new season and the Nittany Lions are a much better team than they were a year ago and Indiana has really struggled through four weeks of the season. Maybe it stems from the preseason expectations weighing a little too heavy on a program that’s almost always been a cellar dweller in the Big Ten. Whatever the reason, the Hoosiers aren’t sneaking up on anybody this year. Penn State has plenty of motivation and what should be another energetic home crowd behind them.

Penn State Wins If: The defense continues to play at its current level. Penix Jr. has struggled a lot throwing the ball down the field this season (55 percent completion rate, 6 INTs to 4 TDs). Penn State has a good pass rush and one of the better secondaries in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have talent on the outside in reigning Big Ten Receiver of The Year Ty Fryfogle and 3rd-Team All-Big Ten pick Peyton Hendershot, but the Nittany Lions are playing some terrific ball on the back on of their defense right now. I don’t expect this to be the week Indiana gets going through the air. Quick note also on Penn State’s offense. Sean Clifford has greatly improved since Penn State’s loss to the Hoosiers last year. He’s throwing the ball with confidence and getting it out to his variety of playmakers. I expect him to have another good day.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Indiana Wins If: The Nittany Lions’ inability to run the ball finally catches up with them. Indiana’s front seven is pretty good and the Hoosiers’ defense has had a knack for forcing turnovers. If the Penn State passing game has an off day, the ground game will have to be a lot better than it has been through four weeks. If both aspects of the offense struggle and we get another offensive showing similar to what we saw for large periods of the game against Wisconsin, Indiana can hang around and be in the game late with a chance for another upset.

Keep An Eye On: The S-Zone. Great work from our student organization, the Penn State Lion Ambassadors last week in setting up a terrific S-Zone in the south end zone. Last week’s S-Zone showcased a THON theme for the annual THON Game at Beaver Stadium. This week should be another great display under the primetime lights, with t-shirts organized to create a blue background engulfing the large white S. Learn more about the history of the S-Zone here.

Stripe Out 2021: If you’re coming to town for this weekend’s game, don’t forget that it’s a Stripe Out. Be sure to check out http://PennStateStripeOut.com to find out what to wear for your section.

Trivia Tidbit: Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson connected on a 52-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first offensive play against Villanova. It marked the 16th passing touchdown between the duo. They trail only Todd Blackledge-Kenny Jackson (17) as the top QB-WR touchdown pair in Penn State history. Blackledge, who of course started at quarterback for the Nittany Lions from 1981-1983, will be on the call this weekend for ABC with Sean McDonough and Molly McGrath.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Number To Know: Since 2016, Penn State holds a .758 winning percentage, with a record of 50-16, the sixth-best winning percentage among Power Five programs.

Membership Tidbit: Penn State Alumni Association are the key to everything we do at the Alumni Association. Members make it possible to keep Penn Staters connected with the University and each other through The Football Letter, events and publications, and so much more. If you’re a member, thank you for your support of the Penn State alumni community! If you’re not a member, you can join today at alumni.psu.edu/membership.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 37, Indiana 14
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 31, Indiana 17

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

Making An Entrance

Thousands of Penn Staters routinely welcome James Franklin and the Nittany Lions prior to each home game at Beaver Stadium. If you want to attend team arrival this season, it’s usually 2.5 hours before kickoff and features performances from the Blue Band, Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes. Photo credit: John Patishnock

For a moment, James Franklin morphed into Bil Keane.

If the latter name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s for good reason. Keane was a cartoonist best known for his drawings of The Family Circus. The comic strip debuted in 1960 and remains in circulation to this day, with Keane’s son, Jeff, continuing the series. According to the comic’s publisher, The Family Circus is the most widely circulated comic in the world, appearing in over 1,500 newspapers.

OK, so what does all this have to do with Franklin and Penn State football?

Turns out, there is a connection. Sort of. Kind of. Just stick with me for a moment (please).

In a popular recurring theme of the comic strip, one of the children, Billy, takes a circuitous path to go a short distance, with a dotted line detailing his route. You can see one example in this NPR article.

That’s the image that sprung to mind as Franklin explained how exactly the Nittany Lions get to the stadium for team arrival after leaving the hotel. To hear Franklin’s description, you can watch today’s press conference. Jump to the 31:40 mark to hear my question — which focused on the moment when the Blue Buses pulled up the stadium — and Franklin’s response.

Listening to Franklin’s explanation is the best way to get the whole story, and here are a few notes:

— the team buses wind through campus, and the route is much longer than I previously thought;

— there’s a tailgating crew that Franklin sees each home game on the way to the stadium, with him saying, “They’re playing corn hole and having a good time, and they usually give us a big cheer when we go by.”

— in describing the the buses’ path, Franklin acknowledged: “to be honest, I don’t know any names of streets in State College”; it was a somewhat funny moment, and you’ll want to check it out, as the team’s media staff helped the head coach name the streets on the fly.

Starting at the beginning — like Franklin did with his response — makes sense, because by doing so, you gain full appreciation for what the moment is like when the team arrives at the stadium, where the area’s packed with family, friends, and alumni.

 “It’s another opportunity for our players to see their parents one more time, their loved ones, before we go in,” Franklin said. “They usually have the stage set up there, and the band and cheerleaders, and it’s really cool. Then, I do my lap.

“I think it’s a great way to start the game experience, and you get a pretty good sense pretty early on from the time we leave the hotel of what type of environment it’s going to be in Beaver Stadium.”

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 Staters At The Next Level: Week Three

The juggernaut Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in what could be an early-season preview of the NFC Championship Game.

Former Nittany Lion Chris Godwin continued his strong start to the season.

CG14 tallied six catches for 74 yards and a rushing touchdown in the first quarter.

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Boy, the Steelers offense sure is struggling at the moment. Pittsburgh certainly has the skill players to be a good offense. It’s just looking like Ben Roethlisberger is over the hill and the offensive line isn’t at the level of recent Steelers seasons.

Still, Pat Freiermuth provided a nice highlight for both fans of the black and gold and fans of the blue and white.

The former Penn State tight end notched his first NFL touchdown on this neat play design late in the first quarter to get Pittsburgh on the board. Pat finished with three catches for 22 yards and that score.

Saquon Barkley, Running Back, New York Giants

The Giants are a bit of a mess, and Saquon is still able to produce highlights.

He had some eye-catching leaps during his time in Happy Valley and showed that prowess off again on Sunday against the Falcons.

Blake Gillikin, Punter, New Orleans Saints

Photos: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

I’m always eager to show punters a little love, especially when they’re a Penn Stater!

Blake Gillikin had the best day of his NFL career to date, tallying five punts for a 48.9-yard average. His long came on a 56 yard boot.

The Saints remain somewhat of a hot and cold team. In Week One, they hammered the Green Bay Packers, who have gone on to win two straight since. In Week Two, New Orleans was dominated by the Panthers. This week, they handled the Patriots in Foxborough with relative ease.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Overshadowed by Justin Tucker’s mammoth 66-yard game-winning kick for Baltimore (seriously, that was incredible), Amani made a huge play when Detroit needed it late in the fourth quarter.

On third-and-10, Oruwariye intercepted Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to give the ball back to the Lions offense. Detroit nailed a field goal of its own to go up 17-16. Unfortunately for the Lions and their fans, Justin Tucker might be the greatest kicker of all time. Tough break, but Amani still made a huge play and hats off to him for that.

To view each of the Nittany Lions currently on NFL rosters, click here.

The Roaring 20: Penn State-Villanova

Here are 20 quick observations/notes from another successful Saturday at Beaver Stadium, where Penn State improved to 4-0 with a 38-17 win over Villanova.

1. We’re starting off with a non-football related note, though an important one. Penn Staters led the way during the Big Ten’s recent One Big Week, which focused on supporting the student emergency fund. Alumni and friends made more than 2,900 gifts resulting in raising $214,000. Collectively, Big Ten universities raised over $600,000 from more than 5,800 gifts. Penn State supporters drove overall event success, contributing half of the total gifts and more than a third of the total dollars raised. You can read full details on Penn State News, and sincere thanks to everyone who contributed a gift.

2. Team arrival was packed. We took this photo a few minutes before the Blue Buses pulled up to the stadium.

Thousands of Penn Staters welcomed James Franklin and the Nittany Lions on Saturday morning at Beaver Stadium. If you want to attend team arrival this season, it’s usually 2.5 hours before kickoff and features performances from the Blue Band, Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes. Photo credit: John Patishnock

3. We also captured the full team arrival, and our video includes seeing James Franklin and the Nittany Lions greeting the fans.

4. Two of my favorite signs spotted at team arrival read: “Hey Nittany Lions, it’s my first game. Please help me have a ball” — double meaning since players hand out autographed football on their to the stadium during team arrival — and “#14 Sean, I’m open.”

5. A few years ago, I started a new tradition of taking my own pregame lap at the stadium after arriving early. Not sure if it’s something I started doing because of James Franklin’s traditional pregame lap, though I’ve found it’s a good idea to take a few minutes, breathe deeply, and both appreciate and get ready for the opportunity ahead of me that day.

6. The Blue Band, Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes truly make game day feel like game day. We captured a nice sequence before the game, with the Mic Man asking the crowd if they’re ready for Penn State football. Guessing you already know the answer.

7. While it looked a little different with a noon kick than at night, the team entrance prior to kickoff still looked and felt electric. See the team making its way through the south tunnel with our video.

8. Hearing the Blue Band play the alma mater is always great. Watch our video to go onto the field at Beaver Stadium and see the Nittany Lions sing along after the game.

9. The Nittany Lions rang the Victory Bell following Saturday’s win. See the action up close, including Sean Clifford, Arnold Ebiketie, and James Franklin celebrating with fans.

10. The Nittany Lions won their eighth straight game, with an announced attendance of 105,790. Some fans might grumble that Penn State only won by 21, though a quick look at yesterday’s national scoreboard will show Wisconsin, Minnesota, Clemson, Texas A&M, and USC (among others) all losing as favorites. Like James Franklin says, it’s all about going 1-0 each week.

11. Onward State posted a nice photo of the crowd. As the post states, not bad for a noon kickoff.

12. Two-time Super Bowl champion Stefen Wisniewski was at Beaver Stadium on Saturday to serve as honorary team captain. Penn State football posted some nice photos to Instagram.

13. The S-Zone looked great. So did the THON gold ribbon, which students organized to the direct right of the S-Zone. Shoutout to Lion Ambassadors for their tireless work, and you can learn more about the Alumni Association group and the S-Zone with our story. Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford snapped this photo Saturday.

14. I rode the elevator with Matt Millen as the Penn State All-American and four-time Super Bowl champ made his way to the press box to call the game for BTN. It was nice to see Millen, who received a heart transplant a few years ago as he was in the hospital battling amyloidosis, a rare disease that attacks the heart. 

15. With about a minute left in the game, Sean Clifford obliged a young fan asking for an autograph. Clifford signed a football and handed it to the youngster who was sporting a Penn State hat and Saquon Barkley jersey. Clifford threw for a career-best 401 yards and tied his best one-game mark with four passing touchdowns.

16. Similarly, senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie stopped for a photograph with a fan after he wrapped his media session on the field. Ebiketie finished with three tackles and a sack.

17. Let’s keep the good vibes going: As I left the stadium Saturday, I saw Parker Washington posing for a photo with a fan. Washington caught two touchdowns and totaled five catches for 148 yards. 

18. Lots of tailgates were still going strong after the game. Including one that was rocking to Tom Petty. 

19. This week’s clash with Indiana is set for a 7:30 p.m. kick on ABC. A lot of people will play up the revenge angle after last year — though I don’t think that tired cliché plays a role for this year’s team. Penn State has higher goals than avenging a loss to a middle-tier team, unranked team. 

20. Go State. Beat the Hoosiers. 

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Old School Football

Football Letter creator Ridge Riley shared details of Penn State’s last two contests with Villanova in issues of the letter sent in 1949 and ’51. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Even though the games happened more than 70 years ago, I didn’t have to go far to find details on Penn State’s last two contests against in-state foe Villanova. All I had to do was turn around and open a drawer.

Let me explain.

We’ve been formally/informally organizing past issues of The Football Letter, and the more seasoned issues are held in safe-keeping in a climate-controlled environment. Specifically, my filing cabinets.

While Penn State leads the all-time series 5-3-1, Villanova’s actually won the last three times the teams have played, including in 1949 and ’51. We have Football Letter issues of these two games. Quick point, in case you’re wondering, the Penn State-Villanova series started in 1902, with the other games taking place up to 1936, so we don’t have issues for the Nittany Lions’ victories in the series (The Football Letter was started in 1938).

We won’t dwell on the details — the Wildcats won 27-6 in ’49 and 20-14 two years later — though it’s worth pointing out the ’51 game occurred in Rip Engle’s second season as head coach. Football Letter creator and author Ridge Riley spoke to Engle the following Sunday morning for an interview, and wrote “we” and “our” throughout the letter to indicate that Riley considered himself and The Football Letter very much part of the football program.

We should point out here that Riley’s assessment is absolutely true.

A few years ago, we uncovered an interview that Riley had with Joe Paterno in the mid-70s, and during the conversation, Paterno emphasized the importance of Riley including certain points he was making within The Football Letter. Reason being that if fans didn’t read about it in the Football Letter, they wouldn’t read or hear about it anywhere else.

Back to that 1951 contest. Here are a few other notes worth passing along.

— Penn State President Milton Eisenhower sat in the student section for the game, and afterward, visited the locker room to inform Engle that despite the loss, it was “the best game I’ve ever seen.”

— The Nittany Lions rushed the ball 59 times for a total net gain of 346 yards. Villanova, meanwhile, totaled 42 carries for a net gain of 186 yards.

— Reserving a ticket for home games in the 1951 season set you back $3.60 for reserved seats on the side, though you could get a seat behind the end zone for a discounted price of $2.40. And if you wanted to see Penn State play at Pitt in the season finale on Nov. 24, you needed to shell out a little more ($5.20) for a box seat.

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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

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