Category Archives: Penn State Football

Nittany Lions Selected in 2014 NFL Draft

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Pop quiz: when was the last time a Penn State Nittany Lion was selected in the first round of the NFL draft? Give up?

The Miami Dolphins snagged defensive end Jared Odrick with the 28th overall pick of the 2010 Draft. This is a bit of a surprise given just how many Penn State players are making an impact in the NFL, including San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVarro Bowman, Kansas City Chief defensive end Tamba Hali and Oakland Raiders center Steve Wisniewski.

The first Nittany Lion to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft was wide receiver Allen Robinson. The Jacksonville Jaguars are in need of talent at nearly every position, and Robinson will likely be expected to learn the offense quickly and produce results as soon as this year. Justin Blackmon’s career has been one giant question mark to this point, so the 6’3” 20-year-old out of Penn State via St. Mary’s Preparatory High School in Detroit, Michigan has an excellent opportunity in front of him.

The Tennessee Titans selected that DaQuan Jones in the fourth round with the 112th overall pick. He will also have a chance to immediately factor in on a defensive line that has been in a state of flux the past few seasons. Tennessee is clearly building a winner, and Jones represents one of many exciting draft picks for the Midwestern franchise.

The final Penn State alum to go in this year’s NFL Draft was guard Jon Urschel. Urschel was selected in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens, a team that was on top of the world just a short year and a half ago, but is now scrambling to put pieces together around high-paid quarterback Joe Flacco. The 6’3”, 320-pounder has bulked up over the course of the last few seasons, and will likely become even more strong and robust as a result of professional training regimens and top-flight nutrition plans.

Urschel was born in Winnipeg, Canada, attended high school in Buffalo, New York and dominated on the gridiron in Happy Valley. He will now make the short trip to Baltimore to begin training for the first year of what he hopes will be a long and illustrious professional career. Folks who follow the program closely know that the Nittany Lions roster is chock full of young talent, so it shouldn’t be long before the dry streak involving Penn State first round picks is broken.

Penn State Sends Off Potential NFL Studs to Professional Ranks

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Penn State Sends Off Potential NFL Studs to Professional Ranks

Head coach Bill O’Brien’s second year in Happy Valley didn’t go as well as first, but that was no reason for him to leave one of the most storied programs in college football history for the allegedly greener pastures of the NFL. Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions produced a number of top-flight graduates who are now hoping to make a living playing at the professional level. A 7–5 record meant the team did not exactly get the attention of the national press, but there are a handful of players who recently demonstrated their skills at the NFL Combine and cannot wait to the coached up by the best in the biz.

The cream of the crop is arguably wide receiver Allen Robinson, a strong 6’3″ pass catcher with big, sure hands. Over the course of the last few seasons, Robinson demonstrated many of the skills that make scouts salivate and anxious to get him inserted into big play offenses. Many experts have predicted Robinson going as high as the mid-first round, and a handful of teams are in dire need of big plays from the wide receiver position. His ability to run routes to near perfection and gain separation as the ball is in the air have a lot of teams interested in what he might be able to do for them.

DaQuan Jones was the top-ranked defensive lineman on the national college football radar going into the 2013 season, but a season abbreviated by injury did not allow him to showcase his skills to their fullest. Nonetheless, he ended up with 56 total tackles, including three sacks and an astounding 11.5 tackles for a loss. He has likely fallen out of the first round, but some team equipped with wise and savvy scouts aware of his skills and potential will surely snatch up and give him an opportunity to play a role in a defensive line in need of bulk.

Penn State fans are very familiar with the exploits of inside linebacker Glenn Carson over the course of last few years, and he will hope to put forth a performance that impresses scouts during an upcoming Pro Day. Carson had the most starts of any Nittany Lions player over the course of last four seasons and was a stout defender who opposing offenses often looked to avoid while drawing up their attack. He played in two bowl games in 2011 in 2012 before sanctions were implemented.

Passionate Nittany Lions fans will also be rooting for the likes of Zach Zwinak to catch on with a team if he does not get drafted in the first seven rounds. The 6’1”, 240-pound Frederick, Maryland native had a very impressive career moving the ball down the field for Penn State, as evidenced by the 2012 campaign in which he read for exactly 1000 yards in the 2013 season in which he racked up 989 on the ground. Given the series of reprehensible decisions that former Penn State coaches made which led to the recent repercussions and disciplinary actions, is a testament to the residual prestige of the great university that they were still able to put forth a handful of players well-groomed for a career at the professional level. Here’s wishing all of them the best.

Snapshot of James Franklin”: the New Nittany Lion King

The skys brighten after the rain moves out.Photo by Mark Selders

Snapshot of James Franklin”: the New Nittany Lion King

Just when things seemed to be in place for former coach Bill O’Brien to lead the Penn State Nittany Lions into the era of their next dynasty, he pulled up anchor hastily and quickly set sail for the NFL. This left a void atop one of the most esteemed and well-known college football programs in the nation. It was quickly filled by the worthy and capable James Franklin, a 42-year-old native of the state who is already poised to ultimately make this job the defining role of his coaching career.

Franklin was born in the tiny town of Langhorne in the early 1970s before he attended the local high school and starred as a four-year starting quarterback at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. They played in a tiny division where evenly matched teams would do battle against one another for a full 60 minutes – the kind of games that help one carve out a deep competitive spirit and establish a familiarity with what it takes to win.

Like almost every head coach in major college football, he slowly climbed the ranks throughout the past decades, putting in work at small universities and gradually climbing the ladder of respect and recognition. His first paid coaching gig came in 1995 as the wide receivers coach for Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, a Division II team. He was only there one year before returning to his alma mater to coach defensive backs. His break in the Division I ranks came in the late 1990s when he was hired as the tight ends coach at Washington State University. In the following years Franklin coached wide receivers at Idaho State and eventually Maryland, a job he held onto for five years until he got the attention of the NFL and was tapped to fulfill the same role for the Green Bay Packers throughout the 2005 season.

After stints at Kansas State and big role with Maryland as offensive coordinator, it was becoming clear to the entire college football world that Franklin had the mettle to someday be a head coach. That day came at the perfect time when the Vanderbilt Commodores came looking for head coach in 2011. He went on to rack up the highest winning percentage of any coach in last half-century at Vandy, leading the school to a bowl appearance in each of the three years he was at the helm.

Throughout the 2013 season and especially throughout the last five games, Franklin showed an ability to win a football game in a variety of ways. A 52-point output in a win over the University of Alabama Birmingham demonstrated that the team could light up the scoreboard, and a 14 – 10 victory over the Volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee showed that they could win a slugfest in hostile territory.

Franklin will likely move quickly to connect himself with the local community and a large and passionate fan base. Winning fans over is all about winning football games, and the Nittany Lions will have plenty of opportunities to do so throughout a 2014 regular season schedule in which they will likely be Las Vegas favorites in at least nine of their 12 scheduled games.

Penn State nabs stud QB and many others in impressive 2014 recruiting push

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Penn State nabs stud QB and many others in impressive 2014 recruiting push

It is true that the Penn State Football Team will be dealing with a couple NCAA sanctions in the upcoming years, and head coach Bill O’Brien made a quick departure for the NFL after it appeared that he was going to be the next face of the program in Happy Valley. Given these harsh realities, it might seem as though their 2014 Recruiting Class would suffer greatly. Luckily for fans of Penn State Football, that is not the case.

New coach James Franklin has hit the ground running and was able to lure a couple big-time recruits to campus using only the few weeks he had before the official February Signing Day. As a freshman, quarterback Christian Hackenberg came into the program and did a heck of a job in limited action over the course of the 2013 regular season, but Penn State made a proactive move by recruiting Michael O’Connor, a 6’5”, 223-pound four-star quarterback out of Florida who seems eerily similar to Hackenberg. This will obviously create a friendly rivalry that should greatly increase the stakes in spring practice.

Penn State landed a collection of four-star recruits, highlighted by De’Andre Thompkins, a 5’11″ sure-handed wide receiver with insane 4.41 40-yard dash speed and a thirst for soaking up as much of the game as he can. But the score of the entire bunch will likely end up being Saeed Blacknall, highly-touted recruit out of New Jersey who snags passes out of the air with ease thanks to his 6’3″ lanky frame and his nose for the football. What the team has in place with this trio is a young nucleus that could end up forming one of the most formative passing attacks in the nation in the next few years.

The team obviously continued its historic pedigree of defense by making an effort to land some of the strongest defensive players in the region. They didn’t exactly knock it out of the park, but young men who are expected to have an impact soon include linebacker Troy Reeder out of Wilmington, Delaware and defensive back Christian Campbell out of a small-town in Alabama. Both are big men expected to grow a few more inches, and both have posted staggering 40-yard dash times that have defensive coaches dreaming up possible schemes.

To have a change of the guard in terms of coaching during a critical period of recruiting is less than ideal, so fans should really be happy about what Coach Franklin has been able to do so far. Franklin got the attention of the college football world over the past three seasons while serving his head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores Football Program, and he comes to Penn State determined to make this job the signature one of his impressive career, where he has climbed the ranks from being a Wide Receivers Coach at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 1985 to the lead figure of one of the most storied programs in college football history.

Penn State 2014 Football Preview

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Penn State 2014 Football Preview  

Let’s go ahead and get the negatives out of the way up front. Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of a number of heinous acts 2012, and they will cost the University and its athletic programs dearly. The Penn State Nittany Lions football team is two seasons into a four-year probation that will always be a blight on the university, but just might end up being a pivotal moment in which they officially shed the somewhat archaic identity of the past and move into the modern era with a confident swagger under the tutelage of head coach Bill O’Brien.

The 2013 regular season began well with two consecutive victories, but the Nittany Lions lost a close game to the Central Florida Knights in mid-September. From there, the team alternated wins and losses every single game for the rest of the season. Victories over Michigan and Wisconsin were highlights, and losses to Indiana and Minnesota were low points.

In a normal year, Penn State would probably be asked to enter one of the first dozen bowl games, but that will have to wait a few years. However, the team is clearly being built from the ground up, and despite all the drama that has happened in Happy Valley, there are many things for Penn State football fans to be excited about as the team looks forward to 2014.

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be a year older and stronger both physically and mentally. The freshman was asked to step into a huge role at times throughout the season, and he performed admirably. O’Brien and other coaches obviously sold him on the idea that NCAA sanctions would expire while he was still at the University, and he is probably counting down the days until he has a shot at leading this team to a National Championship.

O’Brien has shown an amazing ability to recruit five-star players on both offense and defense, giving fans more than enough reasons to scoop up tickets and sell out the stadium week in and week out. Word has spread in recent weeks that the staff is wooing some blue-chip offensive lineman who would provide excellent stability for Hackenberg to work his magic. The wide receiving corps is full of young talent anxious to make an impact on the big stage. Bowl game or not, defensive lineman and linebackers know that displaying their skills at Penn State on a weekly basis in the fall is an excellent way to audition their talents for pro scouts.

Of course, rumors continue to swirl that O’Brien is ultimately seeking a job elsewhere and is open to listening to suitors on the professional level. The majority of fans hope that the 44-year-old Massachusetts-native will plant his roots in State College and establish a legacy that could make him the next great Penn State head coach. Uneasy fans can take comfort in the fact that if O’Brien does indeed leave, the best and most qualified candidates around the nation will be getting fitted for a new suit and hoping for the opportunity to interview for the position.

The 5 Greatest Football Players in Penn State History

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The 5 Greatest Football Players in Penn State History  

The football program at Pennsylvania State University has had a long and successful history, even though only one of the program’s several thousand players have been awarded the Heisman Trophy. It was difficult to break down the five single best players to play in Happy Valley, but we’ve done so after an exhausting search and analysis. Here they are for your reading pleasure and debate fodder.

#5 – Kerry Collins QB (1991-94)

The single greatest quarterback to ever suit up for the Nittany Lions certainly deserves to be on this list. Kerry Collins did a lot of good things while at Penn State University in the early 1990s, and he went on to make all students and alumni proud with a 16-year NFL career that included a large handful of playoff appearances. Always calm in the pocket and able to launch darts to all regions of the field by way of a very quick and accurate release, Collins led Penn State to several competitive wins during what many referred to as the Golden Era of college football.

#4 – LaVar Arrington (1997-99)

LaVar Arrington had a swagger, a confidence and an abundance of talent every time he took the field for the Nittany Lions throughout his three-year career in the late 1990s. Opposing offenses didn’t seek to topple and conquer Arrington. Instead, they simply designed game plans involving plays that unfolded in areas of the field where he wouldn’t be. Able to actually strike fear into the hearts of opposing linemen, Arrington was one of the most special defensive players to ever come to Happy Valley. A pro career was cut short by injuries and controversy, but he had the potential to be one of the single greatest player ever to come out of Penn State University.

#3 – Kyle Brady TE (1992-95)

If a football expert had access to a laboratory that could build football players, they would be hard-pressed to come up with a better tight end than Kyle Brady. Brady was everyone’s All-American coming out of high school, and he earned All-Big 10 honors as both a junior and senior. The 1994 Penn State football team went undefeated, in large part thanks to the fact that the quarterbacks could rely on the sure hands and brute strength of Brady to get the ball across first down markers and the goal line on a regular basis. He was taken with the ninth overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, but his pro career wasn’t as prolific as it could or should have been. Nonetheless, he was clearly a dominant force while in the college ranks.

#2 – Kurt Warner RB (1979-82)

Thanks to the quarterback that came along about a decade later and led the St. Louis Rams to greatness, Penn State running back Kurt Warner has largely faded off of the radar of football fans. It is unfortunate, because it was one of the single greatest offensive players to ever take the field for the Nittany Lions, and his 1981and 1982 seasons still stand alone as some of the single most impressive among the history of big-time ballcarriers who have suited up in white and navy blue.

#1 – John Cappelletti RB (1970-73)

John Cappelletti is a virtual unknown by Penn State fans under the age of 30, but everybody who cheers for Penn State each Saturday during the last four months of every calendar year should know that Cappelletti is the only Heisman Trophy winner in the history of the program. A running back with excellent field vision and a knack for eluding defenders, he is a player that every fan can truly be proud of.

Epic Michigan vs Penn State Battle Could be 2013 Game of the Year

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Epic Michigan vs Penn State Battle Could be 2013 Game of the Year

The mighty Michigan Wolverines have been climbing the ranks of the oh-so-important AP Poll and have even entertained dreams of tossing their hat into the BCS Bowl picture. These hopes were thrown a curveball this past Saturday in Happy Valley as the Penn State Nittany Lions figured out a way to prevail 43 – 40 in a game that featured four overtimes and all sorts of memories that were immediately etched into the minds of fans of both talented programs.

Michigan only had one legitimate scare on their schedule to this point while racking up a 5 – 0 record that included a victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. A road game at Penn State is no walk in the park, especially when the gigantic fan base and all ticket holders collaborate to create a “White Out.” This occurs when everybody in the stadium agrees to wear a white T-shirt, and several thousand fans ramped it up a level by also donning white pants or a white hat. The result was an environment that was quite intimidating to a Michigan Wolverines team that is one of the most galvanized in the nation when it comes to playing in bitter environments.

Michigan scored 10 points in the first quarter but ended up going into halftime trailing 21 – 10. 17 third-quarter points put them back in the driver’s seat before the teams exchanged punches in the fourth quarter and ended up going into overtime tied at 34. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg continued to perform impressively considering he is a true freshman, and he ended up passing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.

Wolverines wide receiver Devon Funchess is a fan favorite, and for good reason. He once again put together an astounding performance highlighted by two touchdowns in just four receptions for 112 yards. The 28-yard-per-catch average is an unprecedented total that immediately gained him entry into the Michigan football history books.

The home crowd was noticeably weary that Michigan could win in overtime and waltz back to Ann Arbor with a huge road win. The teams exchanged defensive jabs while holding the opposing offenses scoreless throughout the first frame. Each offense managed only a field goal in the second overtime, and the game officially entered the phase where both teams were forced to go for two-point conversions following touchdowns.

Amazingly, neither team scored in the third overtime period, prompting a fourth overtime that came on the heels of six consecutive possessions that began from only 25 yards away from the goal line but did not result in any touchdowns. After Michigan put a field goal on the board and felt good about their chances to win a three-point game, Penn State finally marched the ball down to the goal line before Bill Belton –who carried the ball only two times throughout the entire matchup to this point – scored from 2 yards out to give Penn State a well-earned and very memorable 43 – 40 victory.

2013 Where Is Penn State University

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2013 Where Is Penn State University

Pennsylvania State University is a large and illustrious institution that has nearly 45,000 students enrolled on its main campus. Stationed in the city of University Park, it is very near the geographical center point of the large state of Pennsylvania. The campus is highly accessible from all major metropolises along the Eastern Seaboard and is within a few hundred miles of inland cities such as Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

Every year, tens of thousands of people make the trip to Penn State in order to bear witness to one or more football games, which are basically national holidays in the region. The proud and large fan base has been cheering the Nittany Lions to victory for decades, and the team is beginning to come together and take shape for another run at a National Championship.

Visitors to the campus will weave through the beautiful meadows and hills surrounding the University on all sides. Folks coming from the east or west will use Interstate 80 to access Interstate 99, which will drop drivers off at a street that can runs directly into campus, such as E. College Ave. Folks coming from the south will use beautiful highway 322 to weave through quaint farming communities such as Lewistown and Milroy before arriving in University Park. Many will be compelled to take a moment to take photographs or video of the beautiful landscape surrounding the city, and the entire area is a hotbed for recreation such as hiking and driving off-road vehicles.

If you’re going to the area to see a Penn State football game, it is a very wise move that you equip yourself with the proper attire. To show up to a Nittany Lions football game without any Penn State gear can make you stand out like a sore thumb, or worse, be mistaken for a fan of the enemy. This problem can easily be solved by paying a visit to the Lion and Cub Clothing Store, an establishment that has become an institution on campus and a favorite of students, alumni and fans.

After shopping for the best Penn State merchandise, you may certainly become hungry, and College Avenue presents a wide variety of options. If you’re in the mood for good breakfast, stop by the Waffle Shop. The waffles that are produced at this place are truly works of art, and making your way through an entire one is a challenge. The Corner Room is always packed at lunchtime, and for good reason. The establishment offers some of the tastiest classic combinations in town, and low prices keep the locals coming back.

Anybody will be able to get a quality dinner at The Tavern, a down-home place that represents a true slice of the culture and style of University Park. Even though all these establishments have their “regulars,” all are very comfortable environments where visitors from any state in the nation will feel welcome.

After walking around and enjoying a few sights, a sweet tooth might certainly kick in, which means it’s time to head over to The Diner for a grilled sticky. This bread-based pastry is loaded with and coated with some of the stickiest and most savory sugars before it is topped off with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. It’s a very substantial treat and a meal in its own right. At the end of a long day of eating and having fun, one grilled sticky can be shared with several friends.

While visiting University Park, it will be become clear which spots are the student’s favorite places all around town, and these are usually the places where the best deals and items can be found. Another great dessert spot is The Creamery, and is conveniently located on campus, so folks can enjoy a tasty treat only a few minutes after the conclusion of a football game.

One thing that simply has to be done during a visit to University Park is a picture by the historic and iconic Nittany Lion statue. The smooth and sleek work of art encapsulates the attitude of the University and the football team, while providing a beautiful backdrop for people to pose for very memorable photos.

Michigan Versus Penn State: Epic Rivalry Rekindled

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Michigan Versus Penn State: Epic Rivalry Rekindled  

No matter what the specifics are regarding record, rankings and overall relevance, the annual affair between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines is a very high-profile and important showdown that draws the attention of two large and passionate fan bases and the entire college football nation.  They are calling for a “White Out” in happy valley.  That means all the Penn State fans will be wearing White Penn State Nittany Lions apparel.

It would be perfect if both squads went into this game undefeated, but the Nittany Lions have lost two games in the beginning half of their 2013 schedule. They were each close battles against Central Florida and Indiana, but PSU still has a lot to prove throughout the rest of a slate that will feature a bundle of well-known and often nationally televised teams.

The Michigan Wolverines are 5 – 0 this season and drawing attention from so-called experts that initially dismissed them as a contender this year. The truth is that the Wolverines have already dispatched of every opponent in their way, including a feisty Connecticut team and a Notre Dame Fighting Irish team that was in the National Championship Game last season. Although they have yet to get the respect of the pollsters who ultimately determine the fate of all college football teams, the Wolverines are obviously a very talented group prepared to fight any team put in front of them for a full 60 minutes.

Both Michigan and Penn State will ante all the chips to the center of the table this Saturday. The Nittany Lions are coming off a game in which they were held scoreless throughout the first quarter before putting a touchdown on the board in the second quarter and scoring 17 points in the second half. Unfortunately, this was nowhere near enough to keep up with an Indiana team that was ready to go from start to finish, scoring in every quarter and bolstering their 44-point total with 23 in the final period.

All indications seem to suggest that Penn State is not quite prepared for a Wolverines team that can move the ball down the field on the ground or through the air. Quarterback Devin Gardner has shown the ability to hook up with receivers whenever he needs to, specifically sophomore tight end Devin Funchess.

Yes, it is true, both a quarterback and his favorite receiver have the same unique first name. A large and passionate Michigan Wolverine fan base is ready to watch the team succeed and achieve a level of greatness that they have not tasted in several years. The Penn State Nittany Lions are hoping to score a landmark victory in order to prove their talents to a large fan base hopeful for a team that can redefine the University as they move forward.

If Michigan is able to win this game, it will set the stage for a series of Big 10 standoffs that will truly define this Wolverines team. Upcoming bouts against Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State will ultimately allow the 2013 version of the Michigan football team to be anywhere between outstanding and ordinary.

Best Places to Eat in University Park, Pennsylvania

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Best Places to Eat in University Park, Pennsylvania

Penn State University rests on a rectangular shaped-slice of land that is tilted a bit eastward, and a large and well-kept campus is alive with activity during every Saturday in the fall when the Nittany Lions football team is in town. Beaver Stadium lies on the northern outskirts of campus and is surrounded by fields and parking lots. An epicenter of food can be found near the southeastern edge of campus, and we have visited the region and conducted extensive research in order to come up with a short list of the best places to eat every meal of the day.

Breakfast – Waffle Shop

It is true that this place only accepts cash, but that might be because they are absolutely “money” when it comes to everything from timely service to tasty food. A line that weaves out of the door of the relatively small establishment is a testament to its popularity, and students, alumni and locals alike enjoy filling up their bellies with down-home egg combinations, waffles, tasty ham and a variety of other early morning staples.

Lunch – Café 210

With two separate high profile outdoor dining areas and dozens of comfortable places to plant yourself before, during or after a Penn State football game on a Saturday, Café 210 is correct in calling itself the place to be seen near the State College campus. There are not a lot of frills to be found inside this three-story building built about a century ago, but the food and drinks continue to please the masses. It is an affordable place to fill up on alcohol, cooked meat and a variety of fried foods. Additionally, it has become a bit of a social hotspot, so those who are interested in experiencing a day in the life of Penn State football on the ground level should go ahead and make a visit to the well-known eatery.

Dinner – The Tavern

The Tavern is one of those establishments that re-creates their menu every single day and features a bevy of specials on any given night. Fortunately, they do not have the nose-in-the-air attitude toward the common customer, and they are ready to greet any type of Penn State football fan with open arms. The prime rib they serve up costs nearly $30, but it comes with a slew of sides and is prepared over the course of a few days using crushed peppercorns and a well-honed marinade starring garlic. Lamb, strip steak, veal cutlet and all sorts of fish can be had here. It is the perfect place to visit if you are in town for a weekend and are interested in experiencing the best of the area. The Hickory Grilled Filet Mignon is the equivalent of the most glorious 80-yard touchdown run you have ever seen.

Dessert – Insomnia Cookies

A bevy of instant love, respect and admiration should be given to a desert place that specializes in cookies and delivers them until 3 AM on any given morning. This place is known for a gigantic cookie that comes in a cardboard box normally used for pizza, which is a clear indication of their devotion to an understanding of the common Penn State football fan in the market for a late-night treat. Chocolate chunk cookies and peanut butter cookies are only a few of the highlights, and the only way you can go wrong is to not pay this place a visit next time you’re in town to see a Penn State football game.