PENN STATE PREVIEW: CENTRAL MICHIGAN

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

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

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

Venue: Beaver Stadium

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

The line: Penn State -27.5

All-time series: Penn State leads 1-0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on The Football Letter, (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.

From The Archives Penn State V. Ohio (1969)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penn State Preview: Purdue

Penn State begins its 2022 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Purdue. Photo Credit: 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 for the 2022 season opener against Purdue.

Game Details: Penn State vs. Purdue. Thursday, Sept. 1. 8 p.m. ET. FOX

Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Evening temperatures around 64 degrees with clear skies.

The Line: Penn State -3.5 (via Action Network)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 15-3-3.

Last Meeting: Penn State won during the 2019 season, 35-7.

Last Week: This is the season opener for both teams.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– New Mexico State at Minnesota (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State (Friday, 7 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Illinois at Indiana (Friday, 8 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. ABC)
– South Dakota State at Iowa (Saturday, Noon ET. FS1)
– Buffalo at Maryland (Saturday, Noon ET. BTN)
– Rutgers at Boston College (Saturday, Noon ET. ACC Network)
– North Dakota at Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Illinois State at No. 18 Wisconsin (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: It’s hard to believe another season of Penn State Football is here. The Nittany Lions get their 2022 campaign started under the lights for a midweek matchup at Purdue. This will be the 12th time in the last 13 seasons Penn State begins Big Ten play on the road. This Boilermakers squad coming off a nine-win season that saw them beat Tennessee in their own backyard in a bowl game will represent another significant season-opening test for James Franklin and his team.

Penn State Wins If: The offensive line protects Sean Clifford and opens up running lanes for Penn State’s halfbacks. This will be a significant theme for the season as a whole. Last season, this unit struggled mightily keeping its quarterback upright and creating holes for running backs. Purdue loses First Team-All Big Ten and Third-Team All American selection George Karlaftis, but do bring back three other starters from last year’s defensive line. The Nittany Lions offensive line must give Clifford time to find Penn State’s plethora of playmakers. If they can, the blue and white can walk out of West Lafayette with a big Week 1 win.

Purdue Wins If: An experienced defense harasses Sean Clifford consistently. As a whole, Purdue’s defense returns nine starters from last year. We saw Penn State’s offense struggle last year in the second half of the season as Clifford got hit way more than any quarterback should. The Nittany Lions cannot afford for their sixth-year quarterback to be under a lot of pressure and the offense to get bogged down.

Key Penn State Returnees:
– Sean Clifford, Sr., QB
– Parker Washington, So., WR
– Juice Scruggs, Sr., C
– PJ Mustipher, Sr., DT
– Curtis Jacobs, So., OLB
– Joey Porter Jr., Jr., CB
– Ji’Ayir Brown, Sr., S

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. With Jahan Dotson off to the NFL after a historic 2021 season, Parker Washington enters the spotlight at WR No. 1. He finished second on the team behind Dotson in catches each of the past two seasons and will now look to take over as Sean Clifford’s top target.

Freshman To Watch: Nick Singleton. The true freshman running back was consensus five-star recruit out of Governor Mifflin High School in Pennsylvania, choosing Penn State over other offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Tennessee. He’s been earning praise since arriving to campus in January as an early enrollee. At 6’0, 219 pounds, he’s already got the necessary physique to be an impact player in the Big Ten. With some changes in the running back room for the Nittany Lions, he can provide an immediate spark for the offense.

Trivia Tidbit: Penn State has started off seasons on the right foot more often than not in recent memory. The Nittany Lions have won 17 of their last 20 season-opening contests and five of the last six. The Lions are 111-22-2 all-time in season openers.

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!

Football Letter Live: Football Letter Live returned for its third season this past Thursday, with hosts Paul Clifford and John Patishnock joined by Penn State Vice President For Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft and Penn State Football letterman Shelly Hammonds. Football Letter Live shows how all Penn Staters can cheer on the Nitttany Lions, at home and on the road, with alumni and fans having the opportunity to attend chapter watch parties, register for Roar Tour events on the road (our pregame pep rally), and much more.

Catch the full episode here: https://youtu.be/adLMExUafoc.

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!

We Are!

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: 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

Penn State’s History In The Outback Bowl

2011 Outback Bowl (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Penn State’s matchup against No. 21 Arkansas will be the program’s fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, and the first since 2011.

Let’s take a quick look back at the previous four games in Tampa.

1996 vs. Auburn (Penn State won 43-14)

The 1995 season wasn’t quite as special as the magical 1994 campaign, but it still ended in triumph. The Nittany Lions blew out Auburn, 43-14, thanks to Bobby Engram’s MVP performance. Engram had 113 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns.

The first half was controlled by the defenses, with Auburn taking a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. After back-to-back Penn State field goal drives, a Wally Richardson touchdown strike to Mike Archie extend the Penn State to 16-7 going into halftime. From that point forward, it was a complete domination from the Nittany Lions.

Just five minutes into the second half, Richardson connected with Engram on a nine-yard touchdown pass. A drive later Richardson again passed for a touchdown, this time hooking up with Steven Pitts. Just like that it was 29-7.

The scoring wasn’t over, though. Curtis Enis plunged into the end zone from a yard out and then a minute later Engram snagged his second TD grab of the afternoon to make it 43-7. That was 40 unanswered points for the blue and white. A late Kevin McLeod rushing touchdown for the Tigers made the final score 43-14.

A complete effort for Penn State to earn its 17th bowl win.

1999 vs. Kentucky (Penn State won 26-14)

Just three years later, Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions were back in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

Heisman trophy finalist Tim Couch got the scoring started with a touchdown pass to Lance Mickelesen and put the Wildcats up 7-0 early. Penn State answered back with a field goal, only for Couch to connect on another touchdown pass to put Kentucky ahead 14-3.

A Kevin Thompson found Joe Nastasi for the Nittany Lions’ first touchdown of the day in the second quarter, before another Travis Forney field goal closed the gap to 14-13.

Two more Forney field goals gave Penn State a 19-14 lead. In the fourth quarter the Nittany Lions took full control as Chafie Fields scored on a 19-yard touchdown run with four minutes left to give Penn State a 26–14 lead. That would prove to be the final score.

2007 vs. Tennessee (Penn State won 20-10)

A defensive struggle for most of the afternoon, Penn State and Tennessee traded field goals on either side of the first period. The Nittany Lions scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard connection from Anthony Morelli to Andrew Quarless.

The Volunteers answered on the next possession with a LaMarcus Coker 42-yard touchdown run.

A scoreless third quarter saw the score locked in a 10-10 tie, only for a Tony Davis 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown to completely flip the game on its head for the Nittany Lions.

A stingy Penn State defense and another Kevin Kelly field goal secured the 20-10 win, the Nittany Lions’ third win in Outback Bowls.

2011 vs. Florida (Florida won 37-24)

The game started brightly enough for the Nittany Lions as Matt McGloin found Derek Moye for a 5-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.

The Gators bit back with 14 unanswered, including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Then, Penn State responded with 10 points unequalled of their own (a Michael Zordich TD plunge and then a Collin Wagner field goal). At halftime, the Nittany Lions held a narrow 17-14 lead.

The second half proved to be a different story, though. In what was Urban Meyer’s final game as head coach of the Gators, Florida rallied to outscore Penn State 23-7 in the second half. An Ahmad Black 80-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the win for the SEC outfit. It was Penn State’s first loss in the Outback Bowl.

So, there you have. A brief history of Penn State at the Outback Bowl. Let’s hope the Nittany Lions improve to 4-1 in the game in a few weeks.


Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 13

Penn State at Pitt 2018 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Quite a full rundown this week, so let’s dive into it.

What a game and what a season Chris Godwin is having down in Tampa.

Godwin had a monster afternoon on Sunday, hauling in 15 receptions for 143 yards in the Buccaneers’ 30-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Those 15 catches were a Tampa Bay record for receptions in a single game and the most any player has recorded this season.

Miles Sanders, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles

A welcome return for Miles Sanders to our rundown.

It’s been a challenging season for Sanders, dealing with injury and a lack of usage, but he broke out in a big way on Sunday.

Sanders helped lead the team to a win over the New York Jets with 24 carries for 120 yards, while also catching three passes for 22 yards.

He did need to leave the game early due to an ankle injury and did not return, but should be back when the team returns from its bye week.

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pat Freiermuth’s two-point conversion reception proved to be the game-winner for the Steelers in their AFC North clash with the Ravens.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Micah Parsons continues his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign and remains in the hunt for the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award.

Parsons tallied his 10th sack of the season in Dallas’ much-needed win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. He also finished with five total tackles.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Welcome to the win column, Detroit!

The Lions claimed that elusive first win of the season in dramatic fashion, topping the Vikings with a touchdown as time expired.

Amani Oruwariye was his usual solid self in the win, finishing with seven tackles, including a tackle-for-loss.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are on a roll and are firmly in the AFC Wild Card hunt.

Mike Gesicki remains a key piece in this resurgence for Miami and snagged another seven receptions in Sunday’s win over the Giants.

The tight end ranks second on the team with 642 receiving yards.

Saquon Barkley, Running Back, New York Giants

While Saquon Barkley isn’t back to his excellent best just yet, there are signs he’s coming around after an ankle injury knocked him out of action for a few weeks.

Barkley rushed for 55 yards on the ground and added six catches for 19 yards.

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 Staters At The Next Level: Week 11

Trace McSorley has a new home in the NFL.

Penn State’s all-time passing leader was signed by the Arizona Cardinals on Monday off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad.

McSorley was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and has spent his two seasons in Baltimore as a backup to Lamar Jackson.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

It’s almost more of a surprise if Micah Parsons isn’t included in our rundown.

He is not only a leading contender for the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, but has also played his way into NFC overall Defensive Player of the Year.

Parsons was all over the field in Dallas’ defeat at Kansas City on Sunday, including a strip-sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin’s six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Giants on Monday night moves him into fourth-place in Bucs franchise history for career receptions.

He passed franchise legends Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions fell to a league-worst 0-9-1 in Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Cleveland, but Amani Oruwariye continued his strong takeaway prowess.

Oruwariye picked off Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield early in the game to set Detroit up with great field position.

That gives him four INTs on the year.