A LOOK BACK AT SOME UNEXPECTED STARS OF RECENT BLUE-WHITE GAMES

Penn State-Michigan State 2019 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Some Penn State players go into spring camp with little to no outside attention. Then, one day inside Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White Game they capture the attention of those watching in attendance and those watching at home.

For one day, they are the most talked about name on the roster.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most unexpected spring game stars of recent Blue-White games.

Dan Chisena (2019)
A fifth-year senior at the time, Dan Chisena caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from then-freshman quarterback Will Levis in the third quarter of the 2019 game. Upon reaching the end zone, James Franklin announced to the crowd that Chisena had been awarded a scholarship in what was a really cool, and no doubt emotional moment for Dan and his family. Chisena was a walk-on for the football team in 2015 before joining the Penn State track & field team from 2016-18, where he was a scholarship and Big Ten title-winning sprinter. He returned to the football team as a walk-on in 2018. Chisena has worked his way into a special teams role at the NFL level, playing an important role with that unit for the Minnesota Vikings.

Colin Castagna (2016)
Colin Castaga’s last name always reminds of the legendary “Seinfeld” character George Costanza. Castagna recorded six tackles (three tackles-for-loss) and a sack in the 2016 Blue-White Game. He appeared in 20 games between 2016 and 2017, and elected to forgo his final season of eligibility at Penn State and try his hand at the NFL early. He had an impressive showing at Penn State’s pro day in March of 2018 with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 10-3 broad jump, a 32.5-inch vertical and a 4.28-second pro shuttle. While an NFL career didn’t come to fruition, Colin has still had professional success, now working as Surgical Sales Rep at Smith & Nephew. The company supports surgeons in their Orthopedic Sports Medicine needs, ensuring products as well as guidance and advice on techniques.

Colin Castagna vs. Purdue 2016 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Cole Chiappialle (2014)
As far as spring contest standouts go, Cole Chiappialle is the gold standard. The 5-foot-8 fourth-string running back shined in the 2014 Blue-White Game with nine carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 17 yards. His play captured the attention of everyone on the day and James Franklin even picked Chiappialle to lead the team’s post-game huddle in the locker room after the game. A true underdog success story, mainly a special teams contributor during his two seasons in Happy Valley, Chiappialle finished his time at Penn State with 22 carries for 68 yards. He transferred to Shippensburg University after his sophomore campaign. Cole now works in investment management and financial planning at LPL Financial.

Michael O’Connor / DJ Crook (2014)
While Christian Hackenberg was the unquestioned lead dog in the quarterback room entering the 2014 season, his backups Michael O’Connor and DJ Crook got all of the work in this game. O’Connor was 11-of-16 for 81 yards, while Crook was 10-of-17 for 68 yards. Unfortunately for the latter, by hook or by crook, he was also intercepted twice. Both players transferred out of the program after the season concluded. O’Connor ended up at the University of British Columbia, while Crook moved on to Albany.

Jordan Hill vs. Temple 2012 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Jordan Hill (2012)
Not a prototypical unsung hero because he went on to have a starring role at Penn State and a productive NFL career, Jordan Hill was the star of the show for the 2012 Blue-White Game. That stems from having an interception in the game and anytime a defensive lineman gets an interception, it is newsworthy. Hill’s INT here was no different. My only regret is I can’t find the highlight of the play to share with the masses. So instead, here’s former teammate Austin Johnson accomplishing the defensive lineman INT feat a few years later in a game against San Diego State.

Evan Lewis (2011)
A wide receiver by trade, Lewis had to handle the placekicking duties in the 2011 Blue-White Game. On a day that saw heavy rain turn Beaver Stadium into a lagoon, Lewis connected on his only field goal attempt of the game to open the scoring in the second quarter. Because the rain had gotten so bad, and with 19 Nittany Lion players held out of the game already with injuries, Penn State ended the game at halftime. The blue team came away with the 10-0 win. Evan is now the Co-Founder at Accelerate ACL and Founder/CEO at Premier Neuro Therapy.

Have a favorite unsung hero or surprise star from past Blue-White games that you have always remembered? Let me know who it was in the comments!

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Penn State Preview: Outback Bowl vs. Arkansas

(Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

For one final time for the 2021 season, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions as they face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Outback Bowl.

Game Details: Penn State vs. No. 21 Arkansas. Noon ET on Jan. 1. ESPN2.

Venue: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL).

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 69 with some overcast. 25 percent chance of rain.

The Line: Penn State -2 (via Action Network).

All-Time Series: This is the first-ever meeting between Penn State and Arkansas.

Last Meeting: N/A

Last Time Out: Penn State fell on the road at Michigan State, 30-27. Arkansas defeated Missouri, 34-17.

Throwback Classic: 2006. Penn State hasn’t played Arkansas before, but the Nittany Lions have played at the Outback Bowl four times before. The most recent win for Penn State down in Tampa was the 2006-2007 season, a 20-10 victory over Tennessee. Tony Hunt was named the game’s MVP, while the Nittany Lions used a Tony Davis 88-yard fumble return for touchdown to pull ahead in the fourth quarter.

Penn State vs. Tennessee 2007. Photo via Getty Images

Other Big Ten Bowl Games
– Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Minnesota vs. West Virginia (Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 29 at 2:15 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Tennessee (Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pitt (Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State (Dec. 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia (Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– VRBO Citrus Bowl: No. 17 Iowa vs. No. 25 Kentucky (Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Rose Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Utah (Jan. 1 at 4 p.m. ET. ESPN)

The Lead: Penn State will play in its 51st bowl game in program history against an opponent it has yet to face on the gridiron. Penn State is tied for fifth nationally with 30 bowl victories and No. 7 in bowl winning percentage with a 30-18-2 post-season record (62.0) among schools with at least 20 postseason appearances. Penn State is making its fifth Outback Bowl appearance with the last coming in the 2010 season, a 37-24 loss to Florida.

Penn State Wins If: The offense puts it all together. This hasn’t happened in quite a while for the Nittany Lions. Maybe since the first half of the loss to Iowa. Hopefully a completely healthy Sean Clifford and additional practice time will lead to a more consistent offensive performance. We’ve seen glimpses of great play all season, but have yet to see that wire-to-wire showing. As good as the Penn State defense has been this year, the Nittany Lions are going to need the offense to step up to beat an Arkansas team with a really potent rushing attack. A rejuvenated rushing attack and a healthy dose of Parker Washington (as Jahan Dotson has announced he will skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft) is needed.

Arkansas Wins If: The Razorbacks can control both lines of scrimmage. Arkansas has won four of its last five games, with the lone loss coming in a tight defeat at No. 1 Alabama. Sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson is as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm. If the Razorbacks win on defense with their three-man front and get home against a struggling Penn State offensive line, it could be a long day for the Nittany Lions. Head coach Sam Pittman has done a tremendous job with this program in just is second season in Fayetteville. Arkansas will play inspired football in search of its ninth win of the season.

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. As mentioned above, Jahan Dotson will skip the Outback Bowl to focus on his preparation for the NFL draft. Who steps up at wideout will be a big question mark for the Nittany Lions. Parker Washington was a good No. 2 option for Sean Clifford this season and will need to take on the role as lead receiver against the Razorbacks. Dotson has been nothing short of special this year, and frankly it’s a joke he wasn’t a unanimous Big Ten All-First Team selection. Penn State is 7-5, but without him in the lineup I’m not sure the Nittany Lions even get to a bowl game.

(Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Trivia Tidbit: The Nittany Lions are 24-23 all-time against current SEC schools, having played 11 of the 14 teams in the league. The most recent meeting with an SEC team was a home win over Auburn, 28-20, on Sept. 18 this season. Arkansas also played Auburn earlier this season, but fell to the Tigers, 38-23.

Numbers To Know:
1. Penn State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in red zone defense (66.7; 4th nationally).
8. Arkansas secured its first 8-win season since 2011 with the regular season finale thumping of Missouri.

Honoring John Black: If you haven’t already, be sure to read our story on John Black’s lifelong service to Penn State as 2021 marks his final season covering Penn State football. Click here to read.

Alumni Association At The Outback Bowl: We’ll have plenty of activity and coverage down in Tampa. Visit our Outback Bowl landing page for all the info.

Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 31, Arkansas 30
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Arkansas 24

Success With Honor Exemplified

In the past few days, two Penn Staters were recognized for contributions that go beyond the playing field, exemplifying Success With Honor.

On Tuesday, former Penn State linebacker and current Detroit Lions fullback Jason Cabinda was nominated by his organization for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The honor recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities, in addition to their success on the field.

“Guys like Jason Cabinda can change the world,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said in a statement released by the team. “He is a man of principle who sets such a positive example for our entire locker room. Since the day I met him, he has embodied what it means to be a leader on and off the field. With our platform in today’s NFL, it is our duty to help lift up the lives of others, and Jason carries this responsibility with dignity and honor.”

As a Nittany Lion, Cabinda totaled 283 tackles as a reliable linebacker from 2014-17. He stood out during his senior season in Happy Valley by making 88 total tackles, forcing two fumbles, and grabbing 6.5 tackles for loss.

Since joining Detroit in 2019, Cabinda has been devoted to the youth and community in Detroit through his various efforts with Davison Elementary School. This August, he hosted a Back to School Book Drive where he gave out more than 800 books in addition to school supplies for students to take home. Cabinda also held virtual weekly reading comprehension sessions with Davison students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of eradicating childhood illiteracy.

Incentivizing students to invest in their education, he established the “Jason Cabinda Attendance Award,” given to students that maintain 100 percent attendance during the school year. His programming at Davison Elementary has garnered funding from the Ford Motor Co. Fund, Athletes for Charity and other donors.

“Walter Payton’s legacy embodies so many things. He was one of the greatest running backs on the field, and he truly looked out for people that didn’t have a voice and gave them a voice. I think within my character, I hope to embody Walter Payton in the sense of wanting to look out for others and wanting to be somebody who gives back and be somebody who remembers their roots and where they came from,” Cabinda said in the release from the team. “When you’re in this position, you can have such an impact on these communities. You can have an impact knowing that the person that is standing in front of them is a person that has been in their shoes and has been sitting in their seats.”


A current Nittany Lion also received recognition on Tuesday, as Penn State men’s basketball senior forward John Harrar was named a top 30 candidate for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award.

To be eligible for the award, a player must be classified as senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages athletes to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

From the list of 30 candidates, a committee will select 10 finalists in February. Those 10 names will then be placed on the official ballot for a nationwide vote. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the recipient of the award.

Harrar has been actively involved in several community service initiatives throughout his time in Happy Valley, including the State College Area Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk, Coaches vs. Cancer-Penn State initiatives, and volunteering at the Centre County United Way Day of Caring where he and the Nittany Lions have served breakfasts to the 1,500 volunteers.

Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry had this to say about Harrar in a recent press conference: “What that kid does every day – in practice, in the film room, in the locker room, on the court – that’s Penn State. When I got here and people started telling me about it –  I’ve got people on my staff from Penn State, and people in the community tell me about Penn State – what I hear that Penn State is, I see it every day and I see it in John and what he does and who he is.”

In addition to his success on the court (he is currently in the top 10 in the country in rebounding), Harrar is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He graduated in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in management and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in management and organizational leadership from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.

Harrar is the well-documented leader for Penn State basketball. He was named a recipient of the 2021 Big Ten Outstanding Sportsmanship Award, one of just 28 recipients amongst all Big Ten student-athletes in every sport. He is known for consistently bringing a strong leadership presence and outstanding work ethic that has been praised by opposing coaches and national media alike.

Harrar is also a two-time recipient of Big Ten Sportsmanship Award that is awarded to one member of each Big Ten team.

With players granted an extra year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic, returning to Penn State for an extra season was never a hard decision for the sixth-year forward, even with the possibility of transferring elsewhere on the table.
 
“I have no regrets coming back,” said Harrar. “This is home for sure.”

Penn State Preview: Michigan State

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

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Welcome to this week’s game preview. 

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

Venue: Spartan Stadium. East Lansing, Michigan.

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

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

All-Time Series: Series tied 17-17-1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penn State Preview: Rutgers

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season. Welcome to this week’s game preview.

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

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penn State Preview: Michigan

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 breakdown all the info you need for Penn State’s matchup with Michigan.

Game Details: No. 6 Michigan at Penn State. Noon ET kick-off. Broadcast is on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Clouds and breaks of sun; cooler with a brief shower or two; cold enough during and after the game for wet snowflakes. High of 43.

The Line: Michigan -1.5 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Michigan leads 14-10.  

Last Meeting: Penn State won 27-17 last season at Michigan Stadium.

Last Week: Penn State snapped a three-game losing with a 31-14 win over Maryland. Michigan rebounded from a tough loss at Michigan State by thumping Indiana, 29-7.

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

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Northwestern at No. 18 Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– Rutgers at Indiana (Noon ET, BTN)
– No. 19 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Maryland at No. 7 Michigan State (4 PM ET, FOX)

Throwback Classic: 2008. Penn State 46, Michigan 17.

The week leading up to the showdown against the Wolverines was typically jovial at University Park.

Fans camped outside Beaver Stadium starting on Monday, and hundreds of alumni helped dedicate the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Friday. In between, all the usual wonderment enveloped Happy Valley during Homecoming of the 2008 season. Then, the game started, and the good vibes changed.

Read more in our From The Archives story from 2019.

Penn State v. Michigan 2008 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

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

Penn State Wins If: The Penn State offense plays to its potential. It feels like that hasn’t happened very much this season. Last week, the Nittany Lions were able to overcome a sluggish offensive performance thanks to Jahan Dotson going nuclear and the defense playing another great game. To beat an opponent at the level of Michigan, the offense is going to have to play a lot crisper. Mike Yurcich is going to need to be at his best calling plays. Who knows, though, maybe Jahan will make me look silly for saying that by following up his 242-yard effort with a 300-yard effort to propel Penn State to another win.

Michigan Wins If: The Wolverines don’t settle for field goals. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but every opponent Penn State has faced this season has struggled to finish off drives with touchdowns. At times, particularly in the loss to Michigan State, the Michigan offense has put together good drives and only ended up with three points once they reached the end zone. The Wolverines can’t afford to settle for field goals again or the narrow defeat to the Spartans is going to be repeated.

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

Keep An Eye On: Penn State’s offensive tackles. The offensive line has been pretty disappointing for the Nittany Lions this season. Michigan has two outstanding defensive ends in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both of whom will be playing on Sundays. The Nittany Lions OTs are going to have to have a great game to give Sean Clifford time to find Dotson, Parker Washington and other skill players.

Trivia Tidbit: Despite being two of the most successful programs in college football history, Penn State and Michigan had never played each other until 1993. The Wolverines won that inaugural meeting 21-13.

Number To Know: 829. Running back Hassan Haskins leads Michigan with 829 yards rushing this season. That’s good for fourth-best in the Big Ten.
12. Penn State has held opponents without a score in 12 of 34 red zone possessions this season, including three stops at Maryland.

Membership Note: If you aren’t using the Alumni Library, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Alumni Association. Find out how logging in can give you access to a treasure trove of knowledge, including tools that can enlighten, inform, enrich, and entertain you—or even provide information you can use to astound your coworkers and delight your boss! Click here for more info.

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

Podcast: Our guest for this week’s episode of ‘The People of Penn State,’ is Daniel Berlin ’92. Dan has never let his vision loss affect the life he wanted to live. He is co-founder and former CEO of Rodelle, a world-leading vanilla extract company, and the co-founder and president of Team See Possibilities, a non-profit organization which empowers young people with vision loss to thrive. Dan has also traveled the world as an endurance athlete and advocate for the blind. Dan joined us and discussed coming to terms at a young age with his vision loss, the founding of Rodelle, the impact of Team See Possibilities, and his experiences as an endurance athlete. Listen to the show today or check out the video version on YouTube.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 21, Michigan 17
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 24, Michigan 20



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.

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

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


PENN STATE PREVIEW: ILLINOIS

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 homecoming matchup with Illinois.

Game Details: No. 7/8 Penn State (5-1, 2-1) vs Illinois (2-5, 1-3). Noon ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 54. Cloudy with a shower in spots; a chilly autumn afternoon for Homecoming.

The Line: Penn State -24 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 20-5.

Last Meeting: Penn State won 56-21 in the 2020 season finale at Beaver Stadium.

Keyvone Lee. Penn State vs Illinois (2020). Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Last Week: Both teams were on a bye.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend:
– Northwestern at No. 6/6 Michigan (Noon ET, FOX)
– Wisconsin at No. 25/N/A Purdue (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Maryland at Minnesota (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2)
– No. 5/5 Ohio State at Indiana (7:30 PM ET, ABC)

Throwback Classic: 2008. Entering the game, Ron Zook’s Illini were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and returned star players Isiah “Juice” Williams and Arrelious Benn. Up to that point, it was also the highest-scoring White Out game with a combined 52 points. After the Illini opened the scoring, Derrick Williams did a Derrick Williams thing and returned the ensuing kickoff to the end zone to even things up at 7-7. Williams finished the game with a kick return for a touchdown, a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown to lead the Lions to a 38-24 win.

Derrick Williams. Penn State vs Illinois (2008). Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: Saturday’s homecoming matchup will feature Penn State’s Generations of Greatness uniforms, which are being worn for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Penn State has previously worn the uniforms in matchups against Indiana in 2017, Purdue in 2019 and Iowa in 2020. The uniforms feature numbers on the helmets, block uniform numbers, a white stripe on the sleeves, a blue stripe on the pants, a gray facemask and white cleats.

Penn State Wins If: The offense can get enough production from whoever starts at quarterback. Whether it’s Taquan Roberson or Christian Veilleux, the Nittany Lions just need their quarterback to be average and that should be plenty to blow out Illinois. Sean Clifford has been practicing this week, but it’d be a surprise if Penn State risks him in this game ahead of next week’s clash at Ohio State. I expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to keep things simple for his quarterback, relying on his skill players with short routes and lean on the running game. Penn State’s defense is a juggernaut and Illinois has struggled mightily on offense. The Nittany Lions should win this easily.

Illinois Wins If: Penn State’s offense is catastrophically bad. It would take a turnover-plagued, penalty-heavy Penn State showing worse than what was displayed against Iowa (after Sean Clifford left the game, of course) for Illinois to win this game.

Keep An Eye On: Mike Yurcich using Taquan Roberson’s mobility. Roberson struggled mightily in the loss at Iowa, but one of the things that stood out to me as a positive was his ability to make plays with his legs. He picked up a couple of decent gains on designed runs or scrambles against the Hawkeyes, and it wouldn’t shock me if Yurcich uses that to settle Roberson into the game a bit early on.

Trivia Tidbit: This is the fourth time Penn State will square off against Illinois in a Homecoming game. The Nittany Lions are 2-1 with wins in 2000 (39-25) and 2006 (26-12).

Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Number To Know: 101. This is Penn State’s 101st Homecoming game.

New Podcast: Check out the Alumni Association’s new podcast, “The People of Penn State.” On each episode of the podcast you can expect to hear the voices of Penn Staters talking about what they are passionate about, and you can expect to feel the pride and the power of the Penn State network. In the inaugural episode of the show, we talked to Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer, Jake Schrom ’11. Click here to listen or check out the video version on the Alumni Association’s YouTube page.

Score Prediction:
John Patishnock: Penn State 28, Illinois 7
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 30, Illinois 6