Urban Meyer and Ezekiel Elliott remember Penn State's physicality

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 33 minutes ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State gets their shot at the top-ranked Buckeyes Saturday night in Columbus and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer said it was around this time last year when he learned more about the fight in his squad. 

In fact, is was during Ohio State’s 31-24 double overtime victory against Penn State where Meyer realized his team could be something special. 

Urban Meyer speaks to reporters during the team’s summer media day in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

“Up until that point we were good but I never really saw them fight,” he said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “To crawl out from underneath a bad situation and they did that time, it was incredible. We did go back and watch it and that was a violent and tough game and a lot of credit to Penn State and our guys. That was a well played, tough football game.”

Interestingly enough, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott said on a conference call Tuesday evening that Penn State’s physicality last season still stands out to him. Elliott carried the ball 26 times and rushed for 109 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His longest run of the game was a pick up of 12 yards. 

“[The] Penn State game was a very tough, very physical game. That was probably maybe the second most physical game behind playing Alabama that I played last year,” Elliott said. His 139.2 rushing yards per game are eighth in the nation this season and he’s 25 yards shy of hitting 3,000 for his career. “It was a game where I think both teams played very physically and I just remember being real beat up after that game. … Every yard I earned that game. I definitely earned it.”

Here are some other highlights from Meyer’s teleconference followed by more from Elliott: 

Penn State worked the ball down the field behind a few deep shots against Indiana. How is Ohio State against the deep ball? 

Meyer: “We’ve got a lot of respect, we’ve known Christian Hackenberg for a while now. He’s got NFL abilities, their receivers are much improved. We’ve defended it pretty good this year. We gave up one last week but that was more of a we were out of position, but I think we’ve defended the deep ball pretty decent this year. The thing that’s hurt us is the quarterback run and [Hackenberg] actually ran the ball last week pretty good so we’ve got a lot of respect for Christian.”

How is Ezekiel Elliott better this year compared to last?

Meyer: “This time last year he was still becoming Ezekiel Elliott and now the playoff and the Big Ten Championship and final game obviously he became one of the best backs in the country and I think he doing great.

”This game last year was the best, one of the best I’ve ever seen a tailback play without the ball, and his blocking against a very good defense last year was outstanding. He started to separate himself from a good player to a great player last year around this time.“

Ezekiel Elliott:

Was last year’s game for you against Penn State the one where you went from being a good to great back?

Elliott: “I think that game kind of was a turning point for our whole team from the standpoint of the o-line and myself kind of getting a rhythm together and kind of lining up our plays. Last year we got it rolling at Penn State.” 

What stands out to you about this Penn State defensive line?

Elliott: “They’re just a physical bunch of guys that are very active with their hands and they’re a big, tough group.”

There are some questions in the polls about whether Ohio State is playing well enough to be ranked No. 1 in the country. What is your response to that?

Elliott: “I wouldn’t say that right now we are playing the best in the country right now, but you know that’s really not important now. All we’re really focused on is going out there and getting better every week and if you win every week then you won’t have anything to worry about at the end of the day.”

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4.


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5 takeaways from James Franklin’s weekly news conference

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazete about 7 hours ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — James Franklin always has and seemingly always will keep injuries close to the vest. It’s why the team’s depth chart from here on out will just be the same as the one the team used for the previous game and it’s why he doesn’t get into discussing injuries. 

Freshman running back Saquon Barkley missed the last two games with a right ankle injury and will continue to be a limited participant in practice this week, Franklin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. At practice last Wednesday Franklin said at the time Barkley wasn’t 100 percent and whether or not the elusive back takes the field Saturday night in Columbus for a game against the top-ranked Buckeyes will come down to Penn State’s medical staff. 

“The days of the coach making decisions on who plays or not are long gone,” Franklin said. “They’ve been gone for a long time.

“He’ll practice this week limited and we’ll see what happens. Obviously freshmen it’s different. … You come back as a junior or senior from injury you’ve played a lot of football in your career and that’s different compared to a freshman who hasn’t played a whole lot of football anyway and now he’s out for a couple weeks.”

Redshirt freshmen Nick Scott and Mark Allen carried the load the last two weeks with both Barkley and redshirt junior Akeel Lynch out of the lineup due to injury. Allen fumbled last week and was immediately grabbed on the sideline by position coach Charles Huff who gave the 5-foot-6 back a bit of a shove. Franklin said he discussed the incident with Huff and that putting his hands on a player won’t happen again. 

“That’s been addressed very clearly with our staff. Individually me and Charles had a conversation about that, had a conversation with the overall staff,” Franklin said. “There’s obviously a lot of details and specifics that go into it that we don’t need to get into right now, but I know who Charles Huff is as a man, I know who Charles Huff is as a coach and those things have been addressed. There’s not a place for that.”

Is Joey Julius still the kicker?

The sophomore who walked on to the team last summer missed two extra points against Indiana and booted a kick out of bounds. Fellow walk-on Tyler Davis came in to replace Julius. 

Who takes the field Saturday? 

“Joey’s our guy,” Franklin said. “It’ll be a competition like it is every week but we’re not in the business of if a guy has a rough day or makes a mistake of changing our plan or our mind. Joey’s our guy and he’s done a great job in the offseason, he’s working really, really hard, he’s grown so much in the last year. … We’ll make a decision later in the week, but again, if we were playing today Joey would be our guy.”

Franklin has said every week that at both kicker and punter the staff continues monitoring all of the players in order to put the best one out there.

Punter Chris Gulla wasn’t dressed last Saturday as Daniel Pasquariello returned to punting duties. No update was given on who handles punting duties this week. 

Will Adam Breneman see the field this season? 

Adam Breneman’s name appeared on a slide in the background of a video the team posted on their website last Friday where he was named one of two scout team players of the week. The former Rivals four-star tight end missed last season with a knee injury and has yet to play this season. 

On Saturday Breneman appeared on the sideline for the first time in pads and while he didn’t play, Franklin said they’ll continue to ease him back in with the scout team in hopes that he can see the field at some point this year. 

“Love how you guys found in the video found the slide,” Franklin said. “You guys are relentless. I love it. … At this point he’s still going to do that, that’s kind of where he’s at in his progression of getting back on the field at some point. Again, we’re going to take those things slowly and those things will be medical staff decisions.” 

Slowing down Braxton Miller 

It’s no secret that Ohio State has plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball and quarterback turned receiver Braxton Miller is certainly one of them. 

Franklin said Penn State’s scout team realistically can only mimmic so much and while he wouldn’t say who will rep on the scout team as Miller (or Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett for that matter), he said it’s hard to ignore Miller’s skill set. 

“Braxton, we watch him on film and he’s playing wide receiver now like he’s played wide receiver his entire life,” Franklin said. “It’s impressive. I think Braxton is that type of athlete. He can throw it, he can run it, with the ball in his hands he’s special. It just gives you another option that you have to deal with.”

How did center Wendy Laurent grade out?

Wendy Laurent filled in for starter Angelo Mangiro who missed the game due to injury and while it’s unknown if Mangiro will go this week or not, Franklin said Laurent continues to impress. 

By doing so he also gives Penn State the option of moving Mangiro out to guard if need be, or they could move Laurent to guard if necessary, Franklin said.  

“Angelo is our guy,” Franklin said. “He has a calming effect on our offensive line and our offense, how he calls and how he leads and how he identifies the fronts and makes adjustments. … Wendy’s done a great job.”

Franklin said he’d like to see Laurent be more verbal in terms of making calls. In what’s expected to be a hostile environment in Columbus Saturday night communication will be critical. 

“Whenever you can put a guy in the game and he grades out a winner it helps your opportunity to win in a real positive way,” Franklin said. “That’s a good thing.”

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Penn State rewind: Nittany Lions taking their shots off wheel routes

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State wanted to be more aggressive in the win against Indiana and for the most part they were.

Yes, the weather was significantly better than three of the four previous home games, but Penn State also trusted Christian Hackenberg to air it out and was prepared to live with the consequences. There weren’t many that No. 14 made them live with.

Dropped passes are still an issue as are sacks and with a game with top-ranked Ohio State this week Penn State needs to continue cleaning up both of those areas. Pass protection will be huge and while Penn State preached ball security all last week and running back Mark Allen is likely their best protector, Allen coughed up a fumble against Indiana, the first by a PSU running back this season.

Allen, who coaches and players say is never at a loss for words, was quickly yanked on the sideline by RB coach Charles Huff. The 5-foot-6 Allen later returned to the field. 

Again, there’s still a lot to clean up with the offense. But, there were more positives with this group than in previous weeks and let’s look back at some of them:

Wheeling and dealing

The speed sweeps create pause for the defense, James Franklin said and while freshman Brandon Polk has been the recipient of most of these sweeps, Polk’s role in the offense is expanding. 

“The guy can flat out run,” Franklin said. “The more things he gets confident with we can expand his role and become less predictable.”

Polk’s 39-yard touchdown off a wheel route was set up by the fake sweep and as the speedy freshman made his way back across the field to head out for the pass the defender make one wrong --and big-- step inside, allowing Polk to fly by him. It was just Polk’s second catch of the season and his first receiving touchdown of his career. As is important with any deep ball give a nod to the guys up front who gave Hackenberg plenty of time to step up and deliver. 

So, when Polk is in there could be a jet sweep, a fake jet sweep to a handoff or a pass, or now a fake sweep to a wheel route. Penn State is getting a little more creative here while continuing to work Polk in and utilize his speed. 

Working the ball deep to DaeSean Hamilton

Hackenberg wasn’t sharp on Penn State’s first two possessions, but then found Polk and started to settle in. Of course drops didn’t help Hack’s cause, but there were some (not all, but some) balls that he could’ve delivered a little better to make it a little easier on his targets.

This one to DaeSean Hamilton on Penn State’s first drive of the second quarter isn’t an automatic catch. Hamilton has separation as he comes back to the ball but can’t hold on as he’s falling to the ground. Tough catch to make, but one that Hamilton is capable of making. 

Mark Allen rebounded from his first-quarter fumble to reel off a 28-yard rush that started this second-quarter drive. Hackenberg hit receiver Chris Godwin on the next play for a pick up of 14 and after Allen lost one yard the Lions took a shot on 2nd and 11 from the Hoosiers’ 39 yard line.

“It was designed to do a little fake to Brandon Polk and him just wheel up the sideline and I run a post,” Hamilton said after the game. “I just went inside, ran my route to win and as soon as I beat the guy off the line I kind of knew that I’d probably be getting the ball because there’s a bit of man coverage and the safeties were sitting low. As soon as I stuck my post over the top I looked up and Hack threw a great ball for me to run under.”

Polk was open underneath too for what likely would’ve been a short gain.

Joey Julius missed the extra point, the first of two he missed before being replaced by fellow walk-on Tyler Davis.

Keeping this one himself

As mentioned above dropped passes are an issue. So, who can blame Hackenberg for keeping this one for himself when he had a clean path to the end zone? Yes, tight end Kyle Carter was wide open in front of him, but no need to complicate things no matter how much confidence he has in his teammates.

"Kyle was expecting me to throw it because that's what I usually do," Hackenberg said. "But it's a safer play, just make sure you get the ball in there."

What'd Carter, who looked frustrated at first, have to say after the game?

"We scored a touchdown so no matter what that's what it's all about," Carter said.

But he didn't look too happy at first.

"We scored a touchdown. We won the game. 7 points is 7 points," Carter added.

Except in this case it only ended up being six because of the Julius miss on the extra point.

Not all celebrations are created equal 

After Hackenberg’s first rushing touchdown the celebration with Nick Scott and tight end Mike Gesicki probably won’t make the highlight reel.

“I ran after him,” running back Nick Scott said. “He was so amped I don’t think we even made eye contact. I was trying to give him a chest bump and everything like that but yeah, he looked pretty goofy when he fell over [laughs]. I don’t know what was going on with him.” 

“I wasn't ready for it," Hackenberg said with a laugh. ”I was kind of out of breath. I didn't know what he was doing.“

After Hackenberg’s second rushing touchdown he barked at the opponent at his feet after diving in for the score. Surely it was a much safer option than the chest bump gone wrong. 


Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4.

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What are they saying? Penn State players on the win vs. Indiana

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 days ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State beat Indiana, 29-7 and as the Lions prep for a game in Columbus next Saturday against Ohio State here’s what players had to say after the win against the Hoosiers.

RB Nick Scott


QB Christian Hackenberg


WR DaeSean Hamilton


Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4.

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Upon further review: Examining Penn State’s 29-7 win vs. Indiana

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 days ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s offense looked more creative than they have at any point this season during the Lions’ 29-7 win against Indiana. Like any game it wasn’t — and will never be— perfect, but Penn State was much more aggressive on offense, taking deep shots down the field from the get go. 

Christian Hackenberg completed 21-of-39 passes for 262 yards and was able to hang in and deliver despite taking four sacks. The Lions’ pass catchers had some drops early on that killed momentum and hurt Hackenberg’s numbers, but what No. 14 did with his feet helped the offense’s cause too. Hackenberg finished with a 5 yard and a 1-yard rushing touchdown and also had a career long 22-yard scamper. 

“I love watching him run,” receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “He has a little bit of juice in him so he’s fast too. When those zone plays aren’t going so well or when the pocket starts to break down and he takes off, it’s really nice to see.” 

Redshirt freshman running back Nick Scott, who got the start with Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley missing their second consecutive game due to injury, said Hackenberg came back to the huddle breathing heavily after the 22-yard run. 

“I said to him, ‘You didn’t get 22 carries, it was just 22 yards,” Scott said. 

Hackenberg’s celebration after the bootleg touchdown didn’t look too smooth however as tight end Mike Gesicki caught his QB off guard and he jumped up and went to celebrate with him. Hack fell to the ground.  

“I wasn’t ready for it,” Hackenberg said with a laugh. “I was kind of out of breath. I didn’t know what he was doing.” 

Rough go for Big Toe

Kicker Joey “Big Toe” Julius missed two extra points and booted a kick out of bounds in the first quarter. Tyler Davis came on to hit a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and it looks like the close kicking competition everyone heard about it camp is far from over after Julius’ struggles Saturday. 

“We missed two extra points, you put the next guy in,” Franklin said. 

Neither of Penn State’s kickers are on scholarship and with scholarship specialist Quinn Nordin verbally pledged to Penn State both kickers this season have one shot to prove that they can be reliable options long term. Franklin stressed consistency with his punters and kickers and Saturday was by far Julius’ worst performance of the season. The staff will keep a close eye on both kickers in practice this week and see who is the best option heading into next week’s game at Columbus. 

In addition to Julius’ struggles Penn State also failed to recover an onside kick the Hoosiers’ caught them off guard with in the first half. Punter Chris Gulla wasn’t dressed for the game and Daniel Pasquariello, who was replaced by Gulla earlier this season, came back on.

Andrew Nelson returns to the field

Penn State’s offensive line received a boost from a healthy Andrew Nelson who saw his first game action since the end of the first half against Buffalo on Sept. 12. Nelson started at right tackle while Paris Palmer remained at left tackle. Brendan Mahon moved back from right tackle to left guard, his more natural position and Derek Dowrey came in to spell him.  

“There’s always room for improvement,” Nelson said. “I felt maybe a little rusty, but for the most part not too bad.” 

WR Brandon Polk’s role expanding

He’s been running the jet sweep since he was nine and freshman receiver Brandon Polk has been called upon to do the same thing this season too. James Franklin said as the season continued they would expand Polk’s role within the offense as he continues becoming more comfortable and growing and this week he was a vertical passing threat too. 

Polk hauled in a 39-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to put Penn State on the board. He became Penn State’s first receiver since Derrick Williams did so in 2008 to record a rushing and a receiving touchdown in the same season. 

“I do think the speed sweeps as well as the fake sweeps and the handoffs give something to the defense, pause.” Franklin said. “He’s got such speed and he’s so sudden with his movements that if you’re not sound, he is going to get on the edge of you. … His package, a long as he knows what he’s doing and is confident with his assignments, can continue to grow.”

Does James Franklin work out?

James Franklin runs up and down the sideline, but beyond that he said he usually doesn’t have time to work out. He was asked about this during his post-game news conference.  

“I actually look decent, but when I take my shirt off it’s somewhat disgusting,” Franklin said. “I’m a skinny fat guy and I need to do something. The staff tries tot get on the treadmill or do something, but every time I say I’m going to do it something comes up. I need to get some exercise, but I appreciate you saying that.”

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4.

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