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Nittany Lions Flex Muscles in Second Half Romp of Purdue

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Penn State Football fans are riding a high they have not experienced in several years after their fourth consecutive victory. Savvy fans were a bit nervous that there could be a hangover after three consecutive home games and a gigantic win over then-#2-ranked Ohio State in Happy Valley on the evening of October 22.

The Nittany Lions did sleepwalk just a bit through the first half in West Lafayette against the Purdue Boilermakers, but they utilized a gigantic second half to pull away and leave town with an attention-grabbing 62-24 victory.

It sets the stage for four final conference games that are all entirely winnable.

In a game where a team racks up north of 60 points – including 45 in the second half – there are likely to be some eye-popping statistics generated. Running back Saquon Barkley tallied 207 yards on the ground and two touchdowns by way of 18 carries, as well as 70 yards via three receptions. He was the go-to target all afternoon for a Penn State offense that has been clicking as of late.

Quarterback Trace McSorley continued to impress, going an efficient 12 for 23 through the air for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Once again, he did not throw an interception.

All the talking heads went into this year yapping about how much head coach James Franklin needed a “signature win.” That obviously came last week against the Buckeyes, and he is hoping to get another one this upcoming weekend against Iowa. If PSU prevails victorious, it will set the stage for them to run the board and finish the year with a very impressive mark of 10-2. Especially impressive given that they began the season 2-2.


Nittany Lions Trounce Terrapins, Dominate Both Sides of the Ball

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Although the Maryland Terrapins came into Happy Valley as a three-point favorite in Las Vegas casinos, Penn State ignored the “experts” opinions and hammered away at the previously-undefeated team all afternoon long en route to a 38-14 victory.

State now has a small winning streak of two games in a row after having dispatched of Minnesota at home on the first Saturday in October. They also have a two-game streak of beating undefeated opponents. They will have a chance to best an undefeated conference opponent at home once more when Ohio State comes to town for a game a week from Saturday.

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Saturday’s game was close throughout a competitive first half until Maryland quarterback Perry Hills went down with an injury. Trace McSorley and running back Saquan Barkley took over from there. Barkley racked up 202 yards on the ground via 31 carries, and McSorley tucked the ball and ran 18 times for a total of 81 yards. Impressively, Penn State was able to stop the seemingly unstoppable Maryland rushing attack, holding the leading rusher to 76 yards and the entire team to just 170 – 130 yards short of their average coming in. Wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins made some wonderful catches that totaled a 91 yard day.

PSU has both a bye week and even more momentum as they build toward what is easily the biggest game of their season against the #2-ranked Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions outgained Maryland 524 yards to 270, and dominated the time of possession and flow of the game by gaining 28 first downs compared to Maryland’s meager 11.

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Nittany Lions Ready for Showdown with Illini

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The Penn State Nittany Lions stumbled out of the gate against a tough Temple team on opening day, and they lost by four touchdowns in Columbus to the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes a few Saturdays ago. Other than those two blemishes, they have put together a very impressive season.

During last Saturday’s win at Maryland, the team showed that they have a toughness and resiliency akin to top-flight college football programs. They left town with a 31-30 victory following their second consecutive road game. The squad has come back home and practiced in Happy Valley all week in preparation for this Saturday’s showdown against Illinois.

The Fighting Illini come in with a 4-3 overall record and a 1-2 record in the Big Ten. They are at the bottom looking up at the major players, and the Lions will need to dispatch of the squad if they want to be considered in this exclusive bunch.

Penn State has increasingly become a team that leans on the running game instead of the arm of Christian Hackenberg. Freshman Saquon Barkley has shown amazing talents in just a half-dozen games this season, racking up over 600 yards and four touchdowns by way of an eye-popping 7.2 yards per carry. He is an explosive runner who makes his way through small holes quickly and has keen awareness of both the first down chains and the importance of protecting the football.

Even though the overall statistics are not gaudy, Penn State is a very difficult team to stop when Christian Hackenberg is handling the ball well and making good decisions. The now Junior arrived on campus with incredibly lofty expectations a few years ago, and he has done his best to live up to them. Although some would argue that his NFL stock is lower than many predicted when he began his freshman season, that is simply a testament to the pedigree of so many defenses he has played.

Illinois has a solid stop unit, and they are keeping their opponents under 200 yards through the air and under 150 yards on the ground. If they do accomplish both of these feast against Penn State, there is a very good chance they win this football game. Although they come into the game with a shaky 4-3 record, the oddsmakers in Vegas have only made Penn State a five point favorite, which means that they expect this game to be very close. Prediction: Illinois 17 Penn State 21

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Nittany Lions Poised to Clash with Army Team Coming Off Huge Win

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The Army West Point Black Knights won their first game on the road in the last 21 attempts this past Saturday at Eastern Michigan, and they will be looking to keep the momentum going when they head into Happy Valley for a showdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday.

While there is a very slim chance that Army will leave the field with a victory, all esteemed programs such as Penn State are honored to be able to play military academies known for their grit, determination and toughness from the opening kick until the final whistle.

Penn State has showed plenty of fight and toughness over the last three games after being absolutely embarrassed in Philadelphia against a tough Temple squad to start the season. At home against San Diego state this past Saturday, the Nittany Lions had their way with their opponent in virtually every sense.

Led by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State racked up 400 yards on exactly 70 plays from scrimmage. Compare this to the anemic 180 yards they gained on 52 players in the aforementioned opener against Temple, and the level of improvement was enough for many Penn State fans to breathe a deep sigh of relief.

In order for them to continue the march toward their lofty goals in 2015, they will have to dispatch of this Army team by a handful of touchdowns. For the Black Knights, accomplishing gains through the air and stopping opponents from doing so have both been ongoing issues. They’ll come into this game with the 118th-overall ranked passing offense, and the 93rd-ranked overall defense against the pass. They are gaining less than 100 yards per game through the air and allowing well over 250.

This creates a situation where Army must successfully run the ball throughout the game in order to keep the chains moving and have any chance of stacking up points. This is another glaring problem, as Penn State has the 13th-ranked overall run defense, allowing just a fraction over 90 yards on the ground per game.

For those savvy in the art of college football game planning, these stats have basically backed Army into a corner where they will need to throw the ball much more than they are comfortable with in order to compete. That could play right into the hands of a hungry Penn State defense, and this could be a blowout by halftime.

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Crystal Ball: Chrstian Hackenberg’s Future

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When Christian Hackenberg arrived on campus in Happy Valley as a 6′ 4″ 18-year-old in the spring of 2013, hopes were sky-high. The pocket passer came out of Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia, and ESPN ranked him as the single best pro-style quarterback in all of the 2013 college freshman class.

He won Big 10 Freshman of the Week five times in his first dozen games and tossed twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. It appeared as though Hackenberg would be a surefire first-rounder in NFL after three quick seasons.

Unfortunately, Hackenberg’s sophomore campaign was disappointing by all standards. Dedicated fans of his wrote it off to the fact that there were changes in the coaching staff and inconsistencies in the offensive game plan.

His junior year began just a few weeks ago, and many of the most important talking heads in the business agreed that he had as much pressure as anyone in all of college football heading into the 2015 season. A couple games in, it would be difficult to classify Hackenberg as anything more than a middle-of-the-road quarterback. He’s barely eclipsed 100 passing yards in each of his first two games, and his completion percentage sags below 50%.

Although Penn State beat Buffalo by a couple of touchdowns in Week 2, Hackenberg was outperformed by an unknown Bulls QB who certainly will not entertain ideas of being drafted in the NFL. Should Hackenberg?

At this point in time, it seems as though he would be a low round, low-risk prospect. He still has the size and strength to compete at the professional level, but teams in need of a quarterback who can go into a professional system immediately would likely pass on Hackenberg given what he has shown them in the last year and a half.

The most likely scenario involves the 20-year-old out of Lehighton, Pennsylvania catching on with a team as a third or perhaps second stringer heading into his first preseason. It is a brutal reality for those on the cusp of making teams, but his potential value at the professional level will likely be judged by a handful of preseason series under center featuring fellow second and third stringers hoping to play football for living.

Hackenberg is a likable guy and a hard worker. Fans will be hoping for the best this season and the next, but without a serious uptick in areas such as calmly surveying the field in long yardage situations and confidently throwing the deep ball, Hackenberg’s glory days will forever be his 2013 season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.

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