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Penn State

Numbers coming back to Penn State helmets?

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Penn State’s uniforms have been some of the most iconic in college football history, so any change is something newsworthy indeed. So, when freshman running back Nick Scott put out a photo of a helmet with numbers on it the internet went crazy.

Yes, that’s numbers on the Penn State helmet. According to btn.com, Penn State have not confirmed that these are actual helmets that will be used in any form during the 2014 season.

However, one has to wonder how they wouldn’t be, given that it ended up on a players Instagram account. That doesn’t happen if it isn’t a helmet they will be using.

Could it be that it will be a one-off for the game in Ireland against UCF? That would seem to be the likely case.

Penn State aren’t strangers to the numbers on the side of the helmet though, as the Nittany Lions had that look through the late 1970’s. It also put them on as a tribute to injured linebacker Michael Mauti in 2012.

Given James Franklin has been all about creating buzz in his first offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Penn State come out in something somewhat new/classic to start his coaching era at PSU.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Basketball

Does Pat Chambers really get what he did wrong?

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Penn State men’s basketball head coach Pat Chambers did the one thing you can’t do — get physical with a player.

During a player-led huddle following a timeout in the first half of a blowout loss to Michigan, somehow Chambers decided it was a good idea to “motivate” his team by shoving freshman Myles Dread.

I mean, what in the actual hell was that that we just saw? No, it wasn’t a punch in the face or a two-handed shove in righteous anger. It was a coach completely out of control.

On Friday, Penn State and Chambers released joint statements.

Chambers apologized for his actions, noting he spoke to the family and made some promises.

“I apologized to Myles after the game and I have spoken with his family. My actions were inappropriate; that’s not what Penn State stands for or what I stand for. I told Myles I was sorry that it happened. Sandy and I have spoken and agreed there are some things I need to address. I’ve assured her this won’t happen again and understand my actions last night come with consequences.”

For their part, Penn State made it clear his actions were not kosher and he would be suspended for the Wisconsin game on Sunday.

But, this situation is so far beyond the merits of getting physical with a player to me. It’s about a coach who feels the need to show up his own players in the middle of a game that’s the heart of the issue.

What exactly was Myles Beard supposed to do in this situation? How exactly did he hold any power to change what was happening and what would Chambers going off like a lunatic on his own players do to motivate his team?

Many have tried to note that this was all about “firing up” his team and good coaches find ways to shock their players in to doing what should be done to win games for sure.

But, motivating players isn’t about becoming a monster in a moment. It’s about finding out the why and then getting your players to buy in to what you want them to accomplish.

Did that moment from Chambers look like a coach who had his player’s back? Did that look like a coach who had a clear plan in place for his players success? Did that look like a coach who understood the why of his team in that moment?

Short answer to all of those questions…no.

Instead, that looked like a coach pissed off that his players weren’t on the same page as him and he had had enough.

The best coaches can be ornery, mean and full of cuss words, but they are also never one to show up a player in public. When is the last time you saw the Mike Krzyzewski’s, the Tom Izzo’s, hell even the Bob Huggins of the world do what Chambers did to his team on Thursday night?

Short answer to that question…no.

They may all yell, scream and gesture like crazy, but every one of those moments is followed by a hug or a laugh or a smile and words of encouragement from those coaches.

What Chambers did was decide to tear down a player and leave it at that. There was no other purpose in his actions, despite what Chambers may have said after the game and despite what his supporters are saying today.

Showing up a player on your own team accomplishes nothing other than making you look like a fool, especially in public. That’s the real problem of what Chambers did.

He’ll serve a one-game suspension just in time for a slumping Wisconsin to come to town. Talk about being selfish and unaware of the moment you are in.

If there is any wonder how a team can get all this talent from the Philadelphia area and still manage to stink as bad as Penn State has this season, that disappeared in one moment, one shove, on Thursday night.

Chambers needs to look inward, he needs to understand it wasn’t just that he got physical, rather that he felt the need to go on some power trip in the middle of the team trying to figure themselves out against one of the best teams in college basketball.

If Chambers can’t figure out that it wasn’t the physical contact, as much as the underlying power trip that is the heart of the matter, he doesn’t deserve to coach another game at Penn State.

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PSU Football

Penn State wins Fiesta Bowl: The good, the bad and what it means for 2018

Penn State keeps the Big Ten’s undefeated bowl streak alive with big win in the Fiesta Bowl.

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Penn State didn’t miss a beat without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead in Saturday’s 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Washington, improving the programs record to an unparalleled 7-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, a mark not matched by any school in any bowl game.

The Nittany Lions’ offensive performance, especially in the first half, is likely the most impressive of the bowl season to-date, and not reflected in the final margin of victory.

The fact the game ended as only a seven-point win is a credit to Washington, who made several big plays to keep themselves in the game, and had the Penn State faithful fearing a case of déjà vu back to Columbus on October 28th.

While 545 total yards and 36 minutes in time of possession reflect the tour de force offensive performance led by McSorley, Barkley and DaeSean Hamilton, if Dante Pettis runs out of bounds on the second-to-last play, instead of attempting an ill-conceived lateral, Washington would have had a shot at a Hail Mary to send it to OT (or Chris Peterson trick play 2-point attempt for the win).

As impressive as the performance was, and it really was, James Franklin is sure to spend the offseason scrutinizing flaws in the Fiesta Bowl, as well as Penn State’s two close road losses.

The Good

Saquon Barkley Goes Out In Style

In what is nearly certain to be his final collegiate game, Barkley provided another electric performance racking up 175 total yards and 2 touchdowns, in what was comically described to be a lightened workload. In fact, it was lightened, as he did not return any kickoffs and only needed 18 carries (surprisingly his most since the Ohio State game) to gain 137 yards.

The reigning two-time B1G Offensive Player of the Year displayed the explosive speed that will make him a sure-fire top 10 NFL draft pick in a 92-yard second quarter touchdown run that stretched the lead to 28-7. The play epitomized the threat he poses every time he touches the ball. Once he broke through the line of scrimmage with little contact, there was absolutely no doubt he would blow by the safety and go the remaining 80-yards faster than anyone in the country.

Trace McSorley’s Prelude to a Heisman Campaign

Quarterback Trace McSorley was phenomenal in his Offensive MVP performance. While he could try and parlay it into an NFL future sooner rather than later, forgoing his senior season and declaring early for the 2018 NFL Draft, almost all signs point to his staying in school rather than entering the already crowded QB class.

This not only makes Penn State a B1G and College Football Playoff contender next year, but McSorley a Heisman candidate, with a style in the mold of this year’s winner Baker Mayfield. His Fiesta Bowl was impressive from start to finish with the way he hit DaeSean Hamilton perfectly in stride for the opening TD to his pocket presence and accuracy in repeatedly converting second half third-downs.

The Penn State QB put on a show Saturday afternoon completing 32 of 41 (78%) passes for 341 yards, with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s. When his 60 rushing yards are factored in, he accounted for over 400 yards of offense versus a heralded Washington defense coming in. These were not numbers racked up against the likes of Akron, Rutgers or Nebraska. This was a prime opponent on a big stage. When added to his resume of 4-touchdown performances in the 2016 B1G Championship win versus Wisconsin and 2017 Rose Bowl versus USC, McSorley is earning a reputation as a stud who rises to the occasion.

Penn State Pass Rush

While the offense stole the show, the defense was crucial in allowing the Nittany Lions to build their 28-14 halftime lead, which resulted in only needing 7 2ND half points for the win. The pass rush really excelled, sacking Huskies QB Jake Browning four times, holding the 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year to just 175 yards and 1 TD. Browning never seemed comfortable in the pocket, especially to start the game, allowing Penn State to jump to a 14-0 lead (which could have easily been 21, but for a great INT by UW DB Byron Murphy in the back of the Husky end zone) before Washington even got a first down. The effect of the pass rush was felt all the way through Washington’s final drive. After a missed field goal, which was only attempted after a PSU false start on then 4TH and 1, Washington had the momentum and a chance to tie a game they had no business being within reach of. Rather than starting a last minute drive with any rhythm, Browning was under pressure right away, resulting in desperate heaves to avoid sacks rather than high percentage throws for first downs.

The Bad

Turnovers and Difficulty Holding Leads

There’s a lot less to be upset with than happy about for Penn State and their fans, but a theme that lingers over their only two losses almost reared its head again in yesterday’s Fiesta Bowl – blown leads.

Unlike the two CFP teams from the SEC, Alabama and Georgia, the number one seed Clemson, or the committee’s first team out Ohio State, Penn State didn’t have any bad losses in terms of margin or a weak opponent. In a sense, they were closer to an undefeated season than anyone but Oklahoma or Wisconsin.

They had a fourth quarter lead in both their losses in consecutive weeks at Ohio State and Michigan State. The former was devastating in how thoroughly they dominated the favored Buckeyes to only see the defense yield 3 TD’s in the last eleven and a half minutes. The latter was a somewhat flukey affair in which a three and a half hour weather delay forced the teams to wait around, for Penn State in an unfamiliar locker room, just waiting on the call to resume. Even then, PSU took a lead into the fourth quarter only to lose by a field goal as time expired.

When Washington opened the second half with an impressive TD drive to cut the lead to 7, and again when McSorley was intercepted on a deflected ball in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, it seemed like this could be another instance of Penn State failing to put away an opponent. Ultimately, the defense was up to the challenge of holding the lead despite a minus-3 turnover margin until Washington’s desperation lateral in the final seconds. However, when you’re moving the ball as well as the Nittany Lions were, and generating constant pressure on the opposing quarterback, it would be nice to not have to sweat out the final 45 seconds of a win.

What it Means for 2018:

Returning to the topic of how close Penn State was to being undefeated this year, they did so facing the toughest possible B1G schedule where they had to face Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State, all on the road. They didn’t have the benefit of hosting their toughest opponents, other than Michigan, who was nowhere near as good as their ranking without Wilton Speight when Penn State blew them out in October. That changes in 2018, as they face their two formidable B1G West crossovers, Wisconsin and Iowa at home, and the only road game versus a bowl team is against Michigan (they had 4 such this year).

It’s not entirely rosy, as they will be without three key offensive skill position players in Barkley, Hamilton and tight end Mike Gesicki, and defensively lose their top 4 tacklers in linebackers Brandon Smith and Jason Cabinda, and safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke. Given the recruiting classes and on-field product of the last few years, it would be naïve to expect a serious falloff. Franklin has taken this program to the level of repeat-and-replace instead of any type of rebuild with a down year of development. With the schedule tilt and abundance of talent, they could easily be next year’s version of Oklahoma led by a star senior quarterback to the College Football Playoff.

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Ohio State

talking10 Podcast Episode 94: Happy Valley or OH-IO?

Will Penn State or Ohio State rule the Big Ten East after this week? We talk the big matchup, but much more on Episode 94 of the talking10 Podcast

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The weekly look in to the Big Ten football world continues as we head in to Week 9 on the schedule. Not much to talk about this week…what with Penn State traveling to Ohio State and a battle for a bronzed pig on the line and all.

We talk all things Iowa-Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, take a look at Wisconsin as a College Football Playoff contender and are joined by a pair of guests. Steve Helwagen of Bucknuts.com, part of the 247sports network, and Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk join us to give their respective team thoughts on the big matchup in Columbus.

Don’t miss an episode, subscribe via your favorite podcast app…whether that be Apple Podcasts or your favorite between Soundcloud or Stitcher Radio. Oh, and tell your co-works, friends and neighbors about the podcast and site as we head in to the season.

You can also support the show and the website by visiting our talking10 store where we’ve got team-focused t-shirts, hoodies, stickers and more.

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Big Ten

Penn State Shows The Heart Of A Champion In Iowa City

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Penn State went to Iowa City, stared down defeat and didn’t blink. Teams that end up playing for the championships often have to go through one or more defining games like Saturday’s to reach the ultimate pinnacle, and the Nittany Lions got through the fire with the biggest of goals still alive.

I don’t know if Saturday’s instant classic in Iowa City is going to mean a more than a hill of beans to Penn State when it’s all said and done, but there’s a good chance it will. You can point to almost any team that goes through a championship run, and there’s more than likely at least one game in which adversity strikes, putting dreams and goals in serious jeopardy.

NC State put a scare in Clemson last year. In 2015, Alabama dodged a checkerboard bullet in a close one with Tennessee. Ditto for Ohio State who lost to Virginia Tech in 2014 and also needed double OT to beat Penn State on the road.

Ah, Penn State. That’s where we pick up this little story.

Make no mistake about it, Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and company dominated the game in Iowa City, but here we were late in the fourth quarter, and thanks to an Iowa team that fought like crazy to hang around, the game was in doubt. When Iowa running back Akrum Wadley found a seam through the left side of the line and down the sideline to pay dirt with just 1:42 left, Iowa finally wrangled away the lead, and potentially the game. The score stood at 19-15.

It all happened despite the human highlight, Saquon Barkley coming out of a telephone booth to make no less than five sick plays that cemented his status as the Heisman front-runner.

A loss on the road wouldn’t have completely dashed the hopes of a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance for Penn State, but it would have made the margin for error razor thin with many big tests against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and potentially the Big Ten West champion in Indy still to go.

But it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because Penn State did what championship ball clubs do. It took possession with the sands of the hourglass running out and everything on the line, and moved the ball efficiently down the field. It did it against a defense that had given up yards but stiffened when it really mattered.

Then, somehow, someway, with just :04 left when everything mattered the most, Trace McSorley delivered a throw off the back foot on fourth and goal from the seven, through a mass of arms and bodies, and into the hands of wide receiver Juwan Johnson for a walk-off game winner. The game will likely be replayed on BTN, ESPN Classic and many DVRs in and around Penn State fan households for years to come.

And say what you will about breaks, bounces of the ball, luck or whatever else you want to call it. Teams cut out of championship cloth are the ones that always seem to be on the right side of the inches game, and make their own breaks and bounces.

And it happened Saturday night for the team wearing the Plane Jane uniforms that are as timeless as the game itself.

So off we go, onto the next chapter in this season that could prove to be a very special one for Penn State. After all, it’s got superhuman running back Saquon Barkley and a supporting cast that can move the ball on anyone. It’s also got a defense that looks to be much more improved over the version from last year.

This is a complete team, or so it appears four games into the season.

More importantly though, because of what we saw in Iowa City, it appears to have the hear of a champion that believes it can win with the chips down and the stakes all in. This team is good enough to win it all, and thanks to the clutch 65 yard drive that sent Hawkeye fans home in despair, there’s still plenty to play for.

They are …  Penn State.

 

***

Phil Harrison is a contributor to Talking10 and the featured Big Ten writer for Collegefootballnews.com. You can get his analysis and opinion all year long on Talking10.com. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB

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