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Nittany Lions

SPORTS
September 26, 2014 | BY JOHN McGONIGAL, Daily News Staff Writer mcgonij@phillynews.com
STATE COLLEGE - The first thing Penn State coach James Franklin does when evaluating an opponent is to try and find that one guy, that one defensive player who can wreck a game. Be it a defensive lineman, linebacker, cornerback or safety, who can change the complexity of a game? That's going to be quite the challenge for Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. With a stable of defensive playmakers from the front four to the safeties over the top, the Nittany Lions' defense has turned heads through four games, leading the team to an undefeated mark.
SPORTS
September 26, 2014 | BY JOHN McGONIGAL, Daily News Staff Writer mcgonij@phillynews.com
STATE COLLEGE - Last season, heralded true freshman Christian Hackenberg started every game under center for the Nittany Lions, enduring the ebb and flow that comes with an 18-year-old calling the shots. Fortunately for the Virginia native, there was experience on offense, like wide receiver Allen Robinson and a senior-heavy offensive line, to guide him. Now, leading one of the youngest teams in major college football, Hackenberg feels like roles have reversed. "Last year, everyone was being patient with me," Hackenberg said.
SPORTS
September 26, 2014 | By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Penn State coach James Franklin likes to see quarterback Christian Hackenberg use his feet to pick up a few yards when a pass play breaks down. Hackenberg doesn't mind running, and tries to get as many yards as he can. There are times, however, when Hackenberg puts his body at risk trying to make an extra yard or two, and that's when Franklin doesn't like it. "I love it and I hate it," Franklin said. "I love it from a competitive standpoint. That's kind of who I want us to be. But that doesn't make a whole lot of sense for us right now and that's not smart.
SPORTS
September 25, 2014 | BY JOHN McGONIGAL, Daily News Staff Writer mcgonij@phillynews.com
STATE COLLEGE - It wasn't a victory over an elite opponent, but it did put Penn State in special company. The Nittany Lions thrashed Massachusetts, 48-7, at home on Saturday, moving them to 4-0 for the first time since the 2008 season. Penn State is the lone unbeaten squad in the Big Ten East and just one of two undefeated teams in the conference overall, joining Nebraska. On a national scale, the Lions are among 24 sides without a blemish. With 128 teams in the FBS, more than 80 percent of college football can't say the same.
SPORTS
September 25, 2014 | By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Penn State has one game left before a week off in its schedule but already is exceeding expectations, with a 4-0 start and a chance before long to become the fifth Big Ten team to climb into the national rankings. After a 48-7 win over Massachusetts, the Nittany Lions finished last weekend still side-by-side with Nebraska as the conference's only two undefeated teams, and just two spots out of the top 25. However, when asked at his weekly teleconference what a 4-0 start meant, coach James Franklin refused to bite.
SPORTS
September 24, 2014 | By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
Pat Fitzgerald last led his Northwestern football team into Beaver Stadium in 2012, only a few months after the NCAA slapped Penn State with harsh sanctions that could have left the players and coaches in disarray. But Fitzgerald saw the focus of the team firsthand, led by the Nittany Lions' strong senior class and coach Bill O'Brien. The Lions rallied from 11 down with a 22-point fourth quarter and defeated the Wildcats, 39-28, for their fourth straight win after an 0-2 start. Penn State finished the season 8-4. The Wildcats return Saturday to State College to meet an undefeated and happier Penn State team that now can play in the postseason and will get all of its scholarships back next year.
SPORTS
September 23, 2014 | BY JOHN McGONIGAL, Daily News Staff Writer mcgonij@phillynews.com
STATE COLLEGE - Green grass. Not a closing hole. Not the back of an offensive lineman. Certainly not an approaching defender. Open field ahead of him is what Penn State running back Bill Belton said he saw, a change from previous weeks. Penn State is 4-0 on the season, for the first time since 2008. The Nittany Lions reached the Rose Bowl that season, and two wins away from bowl eligibility - a thought not possible just a few weeks ago - James Franklin's team is staring at the heart of its Big Ten slate with confidence.
SPORTS
September 22, 2014 | By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - With two of Penn State's victories this season having come on a last-second field goal and a touchdown in the final 73 seconds, the Nittany Lions defense certainly was happy to have a relatively easy game for a change. "It's always nice to win in this fashion" linebacker Mike Hull said Saturday after the Lions crushed Massachusetts, 48-7. "You get a lot of younger guys in to get experience and also some of the older guys who have paid their dues. " Added linebacker Brandon Bell, "The tough ones feel better at the end, but a win is a win. It builds our confidence as a team every time we win. " A Massachusetts guy Redshirt freshman D.J. Crook, who received the mop-up assignment in relief of Christian Hackenberg for the final quarter-and-a-half of the game, was pleased to be able to get on the field against UMass.
SPORTS
September 22, 2014 | By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Nittany Nation had been awaiting this day since Penn State boarded the charter flight last month for Ireland - a team that consistently could pound the ball on the ground and dominate the game. No one, however, loved seeing this offensive development more than the Nittany Lions players. "Whenever you can run the ball and physically impose your will on the defense, it's definitely good for the team," senior Bill Belton said Saturday, after scoring two of Penn State's five rushing touchdowns in a 48-7 romp over winless Massachusetts on a sun-splashed day at Beaver Stadium.
SPORTS
September 22, 2014 | By John Stuetz, Inquirer Staff Writer
Penn State exploded on the ground for 228 yards against Massachusetts on Saturday - 1 more yard than the Nittany Lions had rushed for through their first three games combined. Gaping holes in the 48-7 blowout victory over the Minutemen offered the Lions' running game an opportunity to put on a show for the Beaver Stadium crowd, which celebrated five Penn State rushing touchdowns alone. The breakout day on the ground, as well as a largely peaceful day for Christian Hackenberg in the pocket, allowed a youthful offensive line to prove something to itself, redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson said.
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