Just when it looked like quarterback Sean Clifford may lead the Nittany Lions in rushing for the second straight week, Noah Cain helped snap the offense out of a long funk with an impressive touchdown drive late in Saturday’s win over Purdue.
The true freshman picked up his team-best fifth rushing score of the season to close out the 35-7 victory. But the 2-yard plunge was just the capper after smashing through tacklers for gains of 11, 16, 8 and 27 to set up the score.
It gave Cain his first career 100-yard rushing game, going for 105 yards on just 12 carries. He also caught three passes for 25 yards, and his no-nonsense style stood out once again.
It was enough to make the head coach consider a shift in the pecking order. Just not right after the game.
“I’m not going to announce a change or a decision on the running back position before watching the tape and studying all those things,” James Franklin said. “We thought that Journey (Brown) had a few weeks where he did some good things to move him to the top of the depth chart. Obviously, after today you could make some arguments to put Noah at the top of the depth chart.
“I don’t know if we’ve gotten to the point where someone’s consistent in practice and in games that separated themselves from the pack, so I still think we’re going to play four guys. But there could be a guy that’s the lead starter.”
Brown, who started for the third straight game, had five carries for 21 yards. Fellow freshman Devyn Ford went for 38 on seven attempts. Ricky Slade had four carries for 2 yards as the Lions continue to struggle opening holes when he’s in the game.
• Starting wide receiver Justin Shorter took a helmet-to-helmet shot to the side of his head in the first half against Maryland last week and did not dress against Purdue.
The former No. 1 receiver recruit in the nation had his first season disrupted by a dislocated kneecap during camp, which led to a redshirt. This latest injury came on a hit by Terrapins safety Deon Jones, who was ejected for targeting on the play.
Shorter was in street clothes on the sideline and replaced in the starting lineup by classmate Daniel George.
• Fellow wideout Cam Sullivan-Brown also left the Maryland game after an apparent foot or ankle injury and did not play against the Boilers.
• Cornerback Donovan Johnson missed his second straight game. The sophomore was suspended for the opener against Idaho but returned to play against Buffalo and Pitt. He did not make the travel roster for the Maryland game.
• For the second straight week, starting corner Tariq Castro-Fields was shaken up in the first half and did not return. Like against Maryland, however, it seemed to be a precautionary move with the Lions holding a big lead. Castro-Fields spent the second half sitting on the Lions bench without any visible issues.
Four true freshmen officially burned their redshirts on Saturday by appearing in their fifth game of the season. Cain and Ford were joined by linebacker Brandon Smith and cornerback Keaton Ellis.
One more rookie — defensive end Adisa Isaac — hit the four-game threshold by playing against the Boilers, and the coaches plan on playing him throughout the season.
Two others opened the season as green lights. But the coaches are now holding back on linebacker Lance Dixon and offensive lineman Caedan Wallace, who both appeared in the first three games but were held out against Maryland and Purdue.
Franklin said the plan is to try and hold their last game in case of injuries ahead of them, and both could end up redshirting after all.
Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. made his third appearance and got turned around in coverage in the second quarter on Purdue’s lone touchdown. Another corner, Marquis Wilson played in his second game.
Among non-freshmen, Lackawanna College alums Jaquan Brisker and Anthony Whigan are on different tracks. Brisker, the second-team safety behind Lamont Wade played in his fifth straight game and burned his redshirt.
Whigan, an offensive lineman, made his Penn State debut last week in his home state of Maryland but the plan is for him to save a year of eligibility.
A season-defining stretch begins with a trip to the always intimidating Kinnick Stadium for a primetime showdown with Iowa. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. with the network still to be announced.
In a stereotypical October Big Ten slog, the No. 14 Hawkeyes lost 10-3 at No. 19 Michigan on Saturday to fall to 4-1.
Iowa couldn’t protect quarterback Nate Stanley, who was sacked eight times by the Wolverines. Neither team scored after halftime.
The Hawkeyes are a different team at home, though, especially under the lights. Penn State had its national title hopes in 2008 derailed by a loss in Iowa City, and the Lions needed a touchdown on the final play to escape their last trip there two years ago.
The Nittany Lions were voted No. 4 in the country in the first CFP committee poll of 2019, which was released on Tuesday night, edging reigning national champion and fellow unbeaten Clemson.
“We are completely focused on Minnesota,” Franklin said earlier in the day. “Preseason rankings mean nothing. Middle-of-the-season rankings mean nothing. At the end of the season, people will count up where we’re at and where they have us and tell us where we’re going to go and we’ll be excited about going there.”
It’s very much in character for Franklin, who obsessively works to keep his players and staff focused on the game ahead, which is against fellow 8-0 unbeaten Minnesota on the road Saturday.
That won’t stop the rest of the country from discussing the rankings, though, which are favorable on the whole for the Lions. They trail only Ohio State, LSU and Alabama with a matchup against the Buckeyes set for Nov. 23 in Columbus while the Tigers and Crimson Tide square off Saturday.
CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens called Penn State and Clemson “two outstanding teams” on the ESPN broadcast of the ranking reveal. What set the Lions apart?
“When you look at Penn State’s resume, beating Michigan and Iowa, these are marquee wins,” said Mullens, who is the athletic director at No. 7 Oregon. “Penn State is very consistent. They’ve held seven of their eight opponents to 13 points or less.
The Lions have a chance at another one of those marquee wins this week at Minnesota, which checks in at No. 17 despite a matching record because of a weak schedule so far.
So while Tuesday’s ranking itself wasn’t a cause for celebration at the Lasch Building, Franklin would like to focus on the work that went into it.
Starting from the last time Penn State faced Minnesota — Oct. 1, 2016 — the Lions have gone 37-7, one of the best records in the country.
“I’m very proud of that,” Franklin said. “I know how much hard work went into that, from our players, from our staff, from the administration, from (Penn State President Eric Barron), from the board. Taking some really hard looks at ourselves and saying, ‘Where do we need to get better?’ Me doing the same thing. All of us. There’s been a lot of hard work, blood, sweet and tears poured into it.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know if it’s talked about enough, in my opinion, to think about how far we have come in the last eight years. It’s remarkable. To me, it’s not talked about enough.”
Penn State had a handful of regulars leave the Michigan State game two weekends ago with injuries, most notably cornerback John Reid and running back Noah Cain.
While Franklin doesn’t provide detailed injury updates on his players, the news so far for the Lions is positive.
“Yeah, John Reid and Noah Cain’s availability Saturday, we’re expecting them to go,” Franklin said.
Cain got his first career start against the Spartans and was in for the first two drives of that game before leaving. He was seen limping on the sideline and did not return.
Reid and fellow corner Trent Gordon were also knocked out of the game, putting the Lions down three players at the position. Donovan Johnson has been in a sling and Franklin did not answer Tuesday when asked if Johnson might return this season.
Penn State coaches named their players of the game from the last time out against Michigan State, led on offense by Pat Freiermuth.
The sophomore became the first tight end in Penn State history to catch three touchdowns in the same game and has already tied Mike Gesicki for most career touchdown catches at the position for the Lions.
On defense, Lamont Wade was honored as the junior safety has picked up his play as the season has gone on. H had six tackles (1.5 for loss) and two pass break-ups against the Spartans.
Special teams honors went to the punt team trio of punter Blake Gillikin and speedsters Dan Chisena and Drew Hartlaub. The Lions have been winning the field position battle in large part to those three, with Gillikin pinning teams inside the 20 with the two gunners downing the ball or making quick tackles. Chisena also recovered a fumble on a muffed punt that set up a third-quarter touchdown.
After Minnesota, the Lions will be back home to face Indiana at Beaver Stadium. The Hoosiers are 7-2 and in the midst of one of the program’s best seasons, but they will be without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. for the rest of the way.
Indiana announced Tuesday that Penix underwent surgery for a shoulder injury on Monday and will miss the rest of the season. It’s the second major injury in as many years for Penix, who tore an ACL against Penn State last fall.
Despite the setback for the redshirt freshman, the Hoosiers still have veteran Peyton Ramsey, who has started the bulk of Indiana’s games over the past three seasons.
“I’ve also heard (Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck’s) name mentioned for a bunch (of jobs),” James Franklin deadpanned Tuesday. “So you guys could spend a lot of time calling him and talking to him about it and their program.
“But we love it here. Really enjoy coaching these guys and don’t really see that changing any time soon. But, you know, looking forward to playing Minnesota.”
Both Franklin and Fleck have their teams undefeated at 8-0 heading into Saturday’s showdown in Minneapolis, so their names have been popping up in reports for offseason coaching vacancies.
About two hours after Franklin spoke at his weekly press conference, Minnesota announced a new seven-year contract for Fleck.
National reporters Bruce Feldman of The Athletic and Pete Thamel of Yahoo have both written in the past week that Franklin would be a top target for USC if the Trojans fire Clay Helton in the next month as expected. Thamel also put Franklin at the top of the wishlist for Florida State, which dismissed Willie Taggart on Sunday.
Franklin’s name was in similar reports last November when Helton was on the hot seat but ultimately kept the job. Since then, the school has hired a full-time president and is set to introduce a new athletic director after firing Lynn Swann.
With Penn State firmly in the College Football Playoff race and the Nittany Lions looking for a third season of at least 11 wins in four years, Franklin figures to have plenty of negotiating leverage this offseason.
More important than a bigger contract, though, Franklin is looking for a stronger commitment from Penn State to spend on the program as a whole toward the goal of winning a national title.
During the off week, Franklin appeared on a 247Sports recruiting podcast and hammered that point home.
“It’s been a process with Penn State for us to understand we need to compete in every aspect,” Franklin told hosts Steve Wiltfong and Allen Trieu. “If our facilities are not where they need to be, if our budget for staff is not where it needs to be, if it’s academic support, if it’s dorms — at this point you are typically losing recruits not for what you have, but for the areas where you’re lacking.
“And with the teams that we’re competing against, they’re not lacking in any area. So if you are lacking, that becomes glaring. So we’ve been chipping away at it and made a lot of progress in a short period of time.
“But it’s really that mentality that you better be willing to compete in every single area — your training table, the food that you have — you better compete in every single area. Because the best of the best, they want to make sure they’re going to have the type of support in every area to maximize their experience on campus.”
Franklin also made a second reference to money for staffing during the interview, mentioning the seemingly bottomless budgets that other contenders have.
“It’s amazing people say these people just continue to win whether they lose coaches or not,” Franklin said. “Well, they have the budget to go out and hire whoever they want in the country. They literally say who they want to hire and they go hire them.”
Penn State stepped up in that area last offseason, but it came a year after Franklin lost valuable assistants Josh Gattis and Charles Huff to non-coordinator jobs in the SEC.
“James and I, together as partners in this, have looked at where we need to be,” athletic director Sandy Barbour said of the staffing budget last winter. “He asked for a number. I gave it to him.”
As always, the delicate dance of the coaching carousel also runs the risk of being a distraction for the current team’s impressive season and on the recruiting trail.
The most questions Franklin gets about potential interest in other jobs comes not from the media but from high school players and their families.
“As you know, we work very, very, very hard at staying focused on the task at hand. That’s with everybody,” Franklin said. “Whenever anything comes up, we try to address it. Make sure everybody kind of understands where we’re at with everything, with coaches, with players, with recruits, with all of it.
“But we try to stay as focused as we possibly can on the task at hand. All those that take away from that, we try to stay away from as much as we possibly can.”
Three total unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, including an ejection for Antonio Shelton, had James Franklin steaming.
“I’m not happy at all with any of those things,” the Penn State coach said after Saturday’s win at Michigan State. “We just had a very direct conversation in the locker room about those things. It was an emotional game — I’m not going to get into details with you guys during the whole game — I’m not going to make excuses. We’re going to own it all.
“That’s not who we are, and that’s not who we will be, and it was addressed today. And it will be addressed Sunday after we watched the tape and the team meeting.”
On Tuesday, the discipline was made public. And the Nittany Lions will be without a defensive starter for their undefeated showdown with Minnesota.
Penn State suspended Shelton for the team’s next game, which will be Nov. 9 at 8-0 Minnesota, after the junior was kicked out of the game Saturday for spitting in the direction of a Michigan State offensive lineman.
Safeties Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker also picked up 15-yard flags after the whistle following a pair of second-half takeaways by the Penn State defense.
“The activities in the fourth quarter with Antonio Shelton, he’s been suspended, and we’ll move on from there,’’ Franklin told reporters in State College on Tuesday after practice.
The decision was made by Penn State and the Big Ten issued a public reprimand against Shelton just a few minutes after the announcement.
“Shelton was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejected from the contest after he spit at an opposing player near the 7:30 mark of the fourth quarter,” the league said in a statement. “The conference also supports Penn State’s one-game suspension of Shelton for his actions.”
“I would like to apologize for my actions during tonight’s game,” he wrote Saturday night. “That was extremely selfish behavior. I misrepresented my coach, my school and my team. That’s not who we are and that’s not who I am. I represent more than myself, this won’t happen again.”
With Shelton out, the Lions will most likely turn to true sophomore PJ Mustipher, who has split reps with Shelton throughout the season. Along with senior starter Robert Windsor, Penn State also has been using sophomore Fred Hansard in the two deep.
“Our confidence is high in PJ Mustipher,” Franklin said. “We think Rob can handle more reps. I think that’s how it will play out. Guys like Judge, we can up his reps. Most of Shelton’s reps will be split between Rob and PJ.”
Wide receiver KJ Hamler is in the running for the Maxwell Award, a player of the year honor, while linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos are both up for the Bednarik Award as the country’s top defensive player.
Another miserable, waterlogged afternoon at Spartan Stadium looked to be another recipe for disappointment for the Nittany Lions.
But this time the Lions were able to build a big early lead and grind out a 28-7 victory as the rain intensified in a sloppy second half that was tough to watch for both sides.
Penn State will take it, improving to 8-0 for the fourth time in the Big Ten era (1994, 1999, 2008) and poised to move into the top five in the polls heading into a much-needed off week.
Pat Freiermuth is just eight games into his true sophomore season. Saturday was his 21st game in a Penn State uniform and Friday was his 21st birthday.
Freiermuth became the first tight end ever at the school to catch three touchdowns in a single game to give him 15 on his career to tie him with heralded predecessor Mike Gesicki.
“I’m blessed. I’m happy,” Freiermuth said in a post-game interview on ABC. “The coaches are getting me in position to make plays.”
He showed awareness in running under a high arcing ball for his first score, toughness in bulldozing through three defenders for the second, and agility for beating his man to the corner on a dump off for the third.
Freiermuth joined an impressive group to become the seventh player in school history to catch three scores in a game along with Bobby Engram (twice, including a record four-TD day), Allen Robinson (twice), Freddie Scott, Joe Jurevicius, Deon Butler and DaeSean Hamilton.
The biggest concern for the Lions coming out of the game was a series of injuries to notable players, though none appeared to be of the season-ending variety.
Freshman running back Noah Cain got his first career start and appeared to be in line for the heavy workload the public has wanted to see, getting the ball for the first two series of the game.
But he went to the injury tent after that and never returned to the field, sporting a notable limp when coming out of the locker room at halftime. Journey Brown, Ricky Slade and Devyn Ford split carries as usual in Cain’s absence.
On defense, senior cornerback John Reid left the game with an apparent upper-body injury — he looked to be favoring his arm — and did not return. He did remain on the sideline and at one point was on a stationary bike to keep loosened up.
It’s suddenly a trouble spot for the Lions, who are already missing Donovan Johnson with a long-term injury and also saw redshirt freshman Trent Gordon leave Saturday with a lower-body injury.
That left Penn State with a pair of true freshmen opposite Tariq Castro-Fields in Keaton Ellis and Marquis Wilson, who officially burned his redshirt by appearing in his fifth game of the season. Wilson also came up with his first career interception immediately after a Penn State turnover in the third quarter, preventing the Spartans from gaining momentum.
Franklin told reporters in East Lansing after the game that there were a number of injuries during the game but that he hoped to have everyone ready after the off week, “Knock on wood.”
Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was ejected in the fourth quarter after he spit in the direction of a Spartans offensive lineman late in the fourth quarter. Unsportsmanlike conduct ejections do not carry over to the next game.
“I would like to apologize for my actions during tonight’s game,” Shelton wrote on Twitter afterward. “That was extremely selfish behavior. I misrepresented my coach, my school and my team. That’s not who we are and that’s not who I am. I represent more than myself, this won’t happen again.”
It was one of three unsportsmanlike flag on the Lions on the day as safeties Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker each picked up one for taunting following a Spartans turnover.
Penn State heads into its second open date and will have next weekend off. Awaiting the Lions on the other side is another 8-0 squad in Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers don’t have any marquee wins but have been playing impressive football after a very shaky non-conference schedule. They thrashed Maryland 52-10 on Saturday and will also have next weekend off to prepare.
As for omens, well, the Nov. 9 game in Minneapolis will come exactly 20 years to the week that the Gophers upset an undefeated Penn State squad on Nov. 6, 1999 at Beaver Stadium.
Green has been the color of frustration for Penn State. The signal of promising seasons set to crumble.
Because regardless of their record, Michigan State and its long-tenured coach, Mark Dantonio, have caused more pain for the Nittany Lions than any other program in recent years.
Ohio State and Michigan, at least have had equal to superior talent across the board compared to the Lions. But the Spartans have consistently found a way to scheme their way to success against Penn State.
When the Lions hit East Lansing this afternoon, it will be the fourth straight year they enter the game with the Spartans ranked in the top 10. Michigan State has found a way to win the last two in the final minute.
Even in the 2016 regular season finale, a 3-8 Spartans squad managed to delay the Lions’ division title coronation and actually led Penn State at halftime before succumbing.
Dantonio is 4-1 against Lions coach James Franklin, a fact that gnaws at him more than any frustrated fan.
“I know as coaches we looked at (Michigan State) in the offseason and said, ‘Enough’s enough. We better find a way to get this thing done,’ ” Franklin said. “They’re a good program and have been for a long time. He’s a darn good coach and they’ve done a great job on defense.
“I think the thing we have to do against this team is that we’ve gotta make it difficult on their quarterback. Their quarterback has had good games against us. We gotta make him a little bit uncomfortable.”
That would be senior Brian Lewerke, who topped 400 yards passing in the 2017 game, frequently using his legs to extend plays and find open receivers.
He wasn’t nearly as sharp against the Lions in 2018, but when he got the ball for one last drive with time winding down, he threw a deep strike to the since-departed Felton Davis for the winning touchdown.
In both games, Penn State was coming off an emotionally draining loss to Ohio State, and they couldn’t solve the Spartans. The Lions are 7-0 this time, but they had to fight until the final minute to beat Iowa and Michigan the last two weeks.
“We’re more focused on this game, and I feel like we match up well,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to go play well — we can’t turn the ball over — and have to play disciplined, hard-nosed Penn State football.
“But at the end of the day, it’s not about what happened last year, it’s not about what happened two or three years ago, because there’s been some unique circumstances there, as well.”
One of those “unique circumstances” was a weather delay of more than three hours in the Lions’ last trip to Spartan Stadium.
Storms in the area in 2017 forced the players off the field and the fans out of the stands entirely. Penn State was leading at the time late in the second quarter but notably struggled after the break. Franklin lamented after the game that he and his staff didn’t have a plan in place for such an unprecedented delay.
AccuWeather is calling for a 70% chance of rain during the afternoon today with a steady wind — the exact type of conditions that the Spartans seem to thrive in while hoping that it all slows down a faster Lions squad.
“I think they enjoy coming and playing in our atmosphere and we enjoy going and playing in theirs, quite frankly,” Dantonio said. “I think our guys get up for it, and we just try and take a positive approach with them … and we play well against them. Our confidence should be there.”
A low-scoring defensive struggle likely benefits Michigan State, which is facing its third straight top-10 opponent. The Spartans weren’t able to get anything going on offense against Ohio State or Wisconsin earlier this month and lost the two games by a combined score of 72-10.
But in the early going against the Buckeyes, Sparty provided some decent resistance to Ohio State’s powerful offense before wearing down.
The defensive line is the strength of the unit, led by senior defensive end Kenny Willekes, who has more career tackles for loss than any other active player in the country. Brothers Mike and Jacub Panasiuk team with nose tackle Raequan Williams to cause problems for most any offense.
“They are a very sound defense,” Lions quarterback Sean Clifford said. “They play very hard. You’re always going to get their best game. I think they’re underrated.”
Despite all of these potential omens, Penn State enters the game at 7-0 and the light of an off week at the end of the tunnel.
And when Franklin spoke to reporters in State College after Wednesday’s practice, he sounded like a coach who is comfortable with his team.
”I like what we have planned from a scheme standpoint,” Franklin said. “I like how we match up — the defensive team speed is a big part of it. They’ve been really built on offense around their O-line and tight ends. Seems to me that’s an area they’ve had a little bit of a rotation at — offensive tackle.
“We’re going to have to play well. I think the biggest thing is at quarterback. This quarterback has had the best games of his career against us. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen on Saturday.”
Odds are that Penn State’s first snap on offense on Saturday at Michigan State will have Journey Brown in the backfield.
The next drive, it might be Noah Cain, who moved up a spot in the Nittany Lions’ relentless running back rotation this past week. Then Ricky Slade. Then Devyn Ford.
There has been a wrinkle or two. A couple of two-back formations here. A major fourth-quarter workload for Cain there.
Even as Penn State has exceeded preseason expectations to start 7-0 and take a No. 6 ranking into East Lansing this weekend, fans and pundits are most curious about how Penn State chooses to utilize its running backs.
Coach James Franklin has repeated the same line — “We have four backs that we really like” — for much of the past two months when asked about the situation, one that briefly looked to clear up when Cain put together back-to-back 100-yard games in wins over Purdue and Iowa.
In Penn State’s biggest test so far against Michigan, Cain did end up leading the tailbacks in carries — with five.
When the Lions offense grinded to a halt in the third quarter as the Wolverines grabbed momentum, there would be audible groans from the capacity White Out crowd each time Cain remained on the sideline to open a drive.
On Tuesday, Franklin was asked why there was such a disconnect between what the public was seeing and what the coaching staff had observed.
“Yeah, there’s always things that (reporters) are missing, and that’s no disrespect to you guys,” Franklin said. “But we’re out at practice and in meetings for 16-plus hours a day, and out at practice and watching everything, and you guys get 20 minutes a week to watch practice and just the games. There’s a thousand points that go into decision-making.”
So while plenty of theories have been tossed around about the rotation — Discipline? Injury? Playbook mastery? Blocking or receiving ability? Promises made on the recruiting trail? — the Lions are keeping things to themselves.
“We have four backs that we really like and we’ll continue to play those guys,” Franklin said. “We’re very pleased with Noah. Actually had dinner with Noah (Monday) night. My wife was busting his chops. He’s been great. He’s been really good. We’re as pleased with him as you guys are, and we’re as pleased with him as the fans are, as well. But we also have a lot of confidence in those three other guys, as well.”
It should be noted that it was Slade who actually had the biggest play out of the group against the Wolverines, bolting through a sizable hole in the first quarter without a linebacker in sight and going for 44 yards.
“It felt good, it really felt just good to get back out there running more than 5-yard carries, 8-yard carries,” Slade said. “The hole was actually humongous, I think anybody could’ve ran through it and it just happened to be me in that moment.”
Slade only had two other carries on the night for 48 yards. Brown had 19 yards on four carries, Cain picked up 19 on five, while Ford got one attempt for 2 yards. Slade also had two catches while Brown and Cain had one apiece, but none for more than 6 yards.
“We found a way to get a win last week against one of the more talented rosters in the country, against a really good football program,” Franklin said. “And Noah had a big part in that and will continue to have a big part in that. I think you’ll see his role grow as the season goes on, or you’re going to see another back take some steps, as well. We’ll see.”
The question was not about Michigan, nor was it about Jim Harbaugh. But it was hard not to read between the lines when James Franklin was asked about penalties on Tuesday.
Penn State’s coach seemed to indirectly respond to gripes made by his Michigan counterpart after the Nittany Lions outlasted the Wolverines 28-21 on Saturday.
“It will be interesting to compare some of the different scenarios in the game in terms of the calls,” Harbaugh said late Saturday night. “(Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill’s) holding penalty that led to a touchdown on third-and-11 vs. couple of those there at the end. I thought some of our receivers were getting tackled there on the last couple plays of (Michigan’s final drive in the fourth quarter).
“There are a few. The offensive pass interference they called on us vs. the offensive pass interference that I thought should have been called on them on their first touchdown. As far as the calls and officiating goes, it will be interesting in comparing some of those.”
On Tuesday, Franklin was asked specifically about his own team’s increased penchant for drawing flags. The Lions have had 15 accepted penalties against them the last two games for 138 yards.
After a short preamble about Penn State needing to clean up “avoidable penalties (that) should never happen, ever,” Franklin noticeably shifted gears to make a point.
“The thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to come in here and after a game talk about penalties and the impact that they had on a game,” Franklin said. “We’ve done that the last couple weeks, a bunch of questions about officiating. The officials have a very tough job to do.
“Each week there’s going to be calls our opponent doesn’t like, and there’s going to be calls we don’t like. I’m going to handle it through the process that the Big Ten has — to be able to communicate one-on-one and be able to send plays in and try to learn and try to grow and try to coach my team and control the things that I can control.”
Of course, it’s easier to take the high road after a win. Franklin declined to discuss the officiating after the Iowa game in which Penn State had a clear touchdown reversed by the replay official, costing the Lions four points. The Hawkeyes had one accepted penalty against them compared to eight against Penn State.
Against Michigan, it was the Lions who got the benefit of some calls. Tight end Pat Freiermuth pushed off of Michigan’s Khaleke Hudson on the first touchdown of the night. On the ensuing drive, cornerback John Reid got to his man early on a fourth-down incompletion. Neither were flagged.
The Wolverines also had their lone deep shot of the game wiped out by an offensive pass interference call. Penn State was also flagged on the play.
The holding call on Hill that Harbaugh referenced was more clear-cut — Hill took down wideout Daniel George away from the play on third down to keep a drive alive. Four plays later, KJ Hamler scored the winning touchdown.
So while Harbaugh may have had some legitimate gripes, Franklin didn’t seem to care for how he went about it.
“I’m not going to come into a press conference (and complain about penalties),” Franklin said. “I haven’t really done that in six years and I’m going to try to avoid doing that and be respectful of the process and be respectful of the officials. But also, I think it sends the wrong message to my team. I’m not going to come in after a game and talk about calls or officials.”
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Penn State coaches named Hamler one of their offensive players of the week after his two-touchdown performance that included a game-clinching third-down run. He was also named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Also recognized on offense, however, was senior guard Steven Gonzalez, who stoned his man on Hamler’s final run and also helped open up a massive hole on Ricky Slade’s 44-yard run that set up an early touchdown.
Defensively, linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields got the nod. Parsons had a game-high 14 tackles and, according to Franklin, is still just scratching the surface of his potential as a linebacker.
“I don’t think he’s anywhere close to his ceiling,” Franklin said. “And I don’t want to come off the wrong way because I think he’s one of the better players in college football, but this is all still very new to him. And he’s embraced the techniques and the fundamentals and things like that of the position, but I think he can be even better there.”
Castro-Fields made an impressive read in the second quarter for that rarest of plays — a corner picking off a screen pass — to set up another Lions touchdown. Though he missed a tackle on future NFL wideout Nico Collins to surrender a big gain on the next drive, at the end of the game he blanketed Collins on the climactic fourth-down play in the end zone.
Collins was the first read for Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson in that spot, but he was forced to hold onto the ball and was nearly sacked by Yetur Gross-Matos before his strike to Ronnie Bell was dropped.
On special teams, senior Dan Chisena was honored, as the former track star shined as a gunner on punt coverage. Twice he showed off his sprinting background by beating his man down the field and dropping Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones — a former five-star recruit with multiple return touchdowns on his resume — for a loss.
“It’s an opportunity where you can just, in a sense, run straight and run fast, as fast as you can,” said Chisena, a wideout who was awarded a scholarship immediately after catching a touchdown in the Blue-White Game. “The goal is to try to beat the ball down there, which doesn’t always happen as far as (punter Blake Gillikin) is kicking it. But it is a good opportunity where you can just open up and fall back on those track experiences where it kind of crosses over.”
Lions quarterback Sean Clifford gave a hug to his brother as he entered the stadium on Saturday and then spotted him again after beating the Wolverines.
Liam Clifford, a junior wide receiver at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, verbally committed to Penn State after the game, giving the Lions a pair of 2021 recruiting wins at the White Out. Harrisburg offensive lineman Nate Bruce pledged to the Lions before kickoff on Saturday.
Should Liam Clifford sign with Penn State, he would be arriving on campus for what would be his brother’s fifth season in 2021. In other words, a long ways to go on both of their paths.
“Couldn’t be happier!” Sean Clifford wrote on Twitter after Liam made his decision public. “Love you dawg! So proud to call you my brother! Made a great decision to join the family!”
Liam Clifford checks in at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds and is listed as a three-star athlete in the 247Sports Composite rankings. His other top school was also in town on Saturday — Michigan.
Penn State enters Saturday’s game ranked No. 6 in the coaches and AP polls, moving up a spot in both thanks to Wisconsin’s stunning loss at Illinois.
Fellow unbeatens Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma are the five teams ahead of the Lions.
The only rankings that matter — the ones put out by the College Football Playoff committee — will debut in two weeks on the evening of Nov. 5.
STATE COLLEGE — It’s the biggest recruiting event of the year for Penn State. It’s just that the results aren’t usually this quick.
James Franklin had an enormous mob of recruits to greet on his way into the stadium ahead of Saturday’s White Out game against Michigan, with many also getting a midfield handshake and hug from the Penn State coach during warm-ups.
The Class of 2021 recruit continued Penn State’s pipeline to Harrisburg High when he verbally committed to Franklin and the Nittany Lions some 90 minutes before kickoff.
“The environment is really important for the future of our program,” Franklin said of the White Out. “Obviously it has an impact on game day and how we play and how challenging we can make it for their offense. It also has an impact that there’s going to be a bunch of young players sitting in those seats — or hopefully standing in the stadium — and feeling the energy that we have in this town and the energy in the stadium and say, ‘Hey, this is where I want to play.’”
Bruce wouldn’t be able to officially sign with any program for another 14 months, but he would be the third Cougars player to join the Lions in five years, joining defensive tackle Damion Barber (2017) and linebacker Micah Parsons (2018).
At 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, Bruce is a three-star prospect per 247Sports and projects as a guard. He is the second member of the 2021 class, joining Florida tight end Nick Elksnis.
Much of the White Out is geared toward high school juniors, sophomores and freshmen, as Penn State’s current recruiting class is nearly full at 27 players. But the Lions aren’t done just yet, and the featured senior in attendance on Saturday was Canada’s Theo Johnson, the No. 3 tight end in the 2020 cycle.
“I remember when I first got here thinking about (Penn State’s four-overtime win over Michigan the year before in 2013),” Franklin said. “How many players ended up on our roster that were in the stands that night? Does it have an impact? Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. I think it does, especially in a White Out.
“So yeah, it’s very important for our future and to keep building this thing, to close out this class the right way, and then also building for future classes after that.”
• Cornerback Donovan Johnson hasn’t played since suffering an injury against Pitt in the third game of the season. He was again in street clothes on Saturday, but this time he was sporting a sling on his right arm.
• Wideout Cam Sullivan-Brown, who appeared to hurt his foot or ankle in the second half against Maryland, missed his third straight game.
It was the first time that Penn State had hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay” for three straight seasons, as the traveling preview show set up shop on campus on the HUB lawn for the 9 a.m.-noon live airing.
For the last two appearances (Michigan 2017, Ohio State 2018), the show went different directions for the school-affiliated guest to pick winners for the weekend’s games. Former No. 1 overall draft pick Ki-Jana Carter and actor (and Franklin dead-ringer) Keegan-Michael Key were the choices for those games, respectively.
On Saturday, the show stayed within the Disney family and chose Penn State grad Lara Spencer, host of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Naturally, she picked the Lions to win while former Michigan Heisman winner Desmond Howard stuck with his own alma mater.
It was the 17th time Penn State has been part of a headgear pick regardless of the show’s location, but only the fifth time Corso picked the Lions. He came into the week 12-4 all-time picking games involving the Lions, according to data from gamedaycole.com.
For the third straight year, Michigan State will be waiting for Penn State on the other side of a marquee matchup. It hasn’t gone well for the Lions yet.
Each of the last two seasons, the Lions were essentially knocked out of the College Football Playoff race by an upset loss to the Spartans. Both times Michigan State beat Penn State after the Lions had blown fourth-quarter leads to lose to Ohio State.
This latest edition will be played at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in East Lansing with ABC carrying the broadcast.
Once again, the Spartans are scuffling, entering the game 4-3 and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Most recently, Michigan State was crushed by Wisconsin 38-0 a week after being outclassed 34-10 by Ohio State. A 2-0 start and top-25 ranking was dashed in September by a home loss to resurgent to Arizona State.
But Sparty is coming off an open week and had extra time to prepare for the Lions, a matchup that coach Mark Dantonio has relished. The Spartans again have a stingy defense led by top pass rusher Kenny Willekes and an offense run by senior quarterback Brian Lewerke.
STATE COLLEGE — KJ Hamler, after a tense few moments, finally sat up on the grass at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State’s dynamo had just taken a helmet-to-helmet shot on a rare handoff, one that saw him drive for 4 yards on third-and-3 to ice the Nittany Lions’ 28-21 win over Michigan.
Then came the crowd. The fourth-largest in Penn State history at 110,669 saw the sophomore receiver slowly rise. And the fans responded. Chanting “KJ” as he sprung to his feet and walked to the sideline one final time.
Six catches, 108 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner early in the fourth quarter. A 100-yard kick return score called back on penalties.
Shuttling around the formation before the snap, Hamler finally cut back toward quarterback Sean Clifford, who made the read to hand it off to Hamler rather than keep it himself against the Wolverines’ overloaded box.
Hamler was hit shy of the sticks. But the 5-foot-9, 176-pounder lowered the shoulder, took a shot to the head for good measure and spun down ahead of the line to gain.
“I was just thinking in my head all the people who told me I couldn’t do something,” said Hamler, speaking with a far more serious tone from his usual upbeat nature. “Because my dad always told me ‘can’t’ is not in my vocabulary. Not in a man’s vocabulary. So when someone says I can’t do something, I just want to prove them wrong.”
“I take that to heart,” Hamler said. “Somebody says I can’t do something. I try to be different than everybody else. I don’t want to be your typical slot receiver who just takes jet sweeps, who takes little screen plays. I want to do it all. I want to do everything a 6-5 receiver does.”
On Saturday night he did it all and more to beat the Wolverines and lift the No. 7 Lions to a 7-0 start and 4-0 in Big Ten play.
Hamler had nearly pulled off a similar feat in last year’s White Out, burning Ohio State for a 93-yard touchdown to give Penn State an early cushion.
But he was injured in the second half and not available at the end as the offense ultimately sputtered and the defense blew a late 12-point lead. The loss unraveled Penn State’s season and led to a series of coaches and players leaving in the offseason.
The Lions were on the verge of a similar collapse on Saturday, watching a 21-0 lead in the second quarter whittled down to 21-14 early in the fourth.
Then Hamler and Clifford caught the Wolverines in a fatal mistake. The defense missed a signal and didn’t have a safety deep, allowing Clifford to loft a deep ball that Hamler ran underneath for a 53-yard strike that proved to be the game-winner.
“We didnt get the call (in),” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We didn’t have the right defense. … It was more of (not) seeing the signal. We didn’t have a post safety.”
Michigan answered back again with a Shea Patterson quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal to pull within 28-21, then forced a quick three-and-out to drive for the tying score from the Lions 45.
The No. 16 Wolverines (5-2, 2-2) converted one fourth down and then faced another from Penn State’s 3-yard line. Patterson stepped up to avoid the rush and had receiver Ronnie Bell in the middle of the end zone.
“I thought he still had it after I punched it out, but when he got up I saw it was on the ground,” Wade said. “It was amazing.”
Bell was in tears on the sideline as Penn State, for the second straight week, managed to burn through a top-25 opponent’s timeouts and pick up one last first down to seal the win.
After back-to-back 100-yard games, freshman running back Noah Cain was curiously absent for much of the night — Lions coach James Franklin did not indicate any kind of disciplinary issues — but he picked up 7 yards on the first two plays of the final drive.
Cain had moved the sticks on third down to beat Iowa a week earlier. But against the more talented Wolverines, the Lions didn’t want to risk a third straight simple handoff.
“We just thought that instead of just handing the ball off with them overloading the box right there, we needed to go to one of our read plays where Sean has the opportunity to keep it or KJ can get it on the perimeter,” Frankin said. “We didn’t feel like we were going to just be able to line up with their overloaded box like that and just hand the ball off again.
“We would like to get the ball in (Hamler’s) hands as much as possible. I think 10-12 is a good number. A lot of different ways to do that and that’s on offense, that’s special teams, a lot of different ways. The one thing that probably surprised me the most tonight is him turning into a power back at the end of the game there. lowering the shoulder and hammering that thing in there. I didn’t expect that all 137 pounds of him, or whatever he is.”
“A lot of people always told me I’m too small. I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t do that,” Hamler said. “Growing up in Pontiac, there’s not a lot of people that make it out. I really want to be different, change my family’s lives and just be an impact to the city of Pontiac.
He capped off an early Penn State blitz on a 25-yard touchdown that came after Tariq Castro-Fields expertly read a slip-screen call by the Wolverines and picked it off.
Clifford figured in on all four Penn State touchdowns, opening the scoring with a 17-yard strike to tight end Pat Freiermuth and then running one in himself from 2 yards out.
Michigan pulled within 21-7 at halftime and had Beaver Stadium grumbling and nervous in the third, getting a pair of 12-yard touchdown runs from Zach Charbonnet.
“I really couldn’t believe it at that time,” Hamler said. ” I asked people, ‘Are they really chanting my name?’ I would never in a million years thought that would happen.”
“It’s really a blessing. And I’m glad that I could impact people’s lives, as a person, as a football player. … We all work so hard for these moments. Just doing that and just hearing that from the crowd was a blessing.”
They’re both running offenses at major programs. And they’re both very aware that the job creates as much heartburn as it does elation.
Ricky Rahne and Josh Gattis spent several seasons together helping boost programs at Vanderbilt and Penn State, coaching quarterbacks and tight ends (Rahne) and wide receivers (Gattis) for head coach James Franklin.
Both had eyes on a promotion to offensive coordinator. When Joe Moorhead landed a head job himself in December 2017, Franklin went with Rahne for the open spot. Not long after, Gattis left for Alabama for the 2018 season before landing Michigan’s coordinator job earlier this year.
The two will face off tonight at Beaver Stadium as Gattis will be on the opposing sideline for the first time. Both have also faced heavy scrutiny as Penn State’s offense has been up and down and Michigan’s transition to a similar scheme has been rocky.
“We have 600,000-plus fans. If 200 of them tell me I’m the worst play-caller in the world, we’re talking .13 percent,” Rahne said last week. “That’s pretty negligible at best. On the flip side of it, there’s probably going to be maybe 200, 300 people, probably more than that, because Penn State fans are actually more supportive than people think.
“There’s probably 400, 500 fans who are going to say, ‘Hey, great job.’ Well, that’s still a small percentage, right? Most of the fans are content with cheering on the team to win every week. But after that, they’re going to support the players, as they should.”
The Wolverines have been under fire because they entered the fall as preseason favorites to win the Big Ten but almost immediately hit speed bumps in September, needing overtime to survive an upset bid by Army before getting steamrolled at Wisconsin.
“Obviously through the first three weeks, we faced some tough adversity that we kind of put ourselves in through turnovers,” Gattis said earlier this month in an interview with a Michigan radio station. “So, you feel a little disconnected when you’re in the booth because there’s nothing you can say to the guys.
“There’s nothing you can do, really, to stop that adversity from happening or being able to change the momentum on the sideline.”
Regardless of the numbers, Gattis still commands plenty of respect in Happy Valley, where he excelled as a coach and a recruiter.
“When you kind of look at them on tape and on film, starting with their offense, obviously we’ve got a lot of history with Josh Gattis,” Franklin said. “Very happy for him professionally, very happy for him personally. Obviously a great opportunity to go be the offensive coordinator at the University of Michigan.
“Everybody knows that we were together for a long time. Josh was with me at Vanderbilt for two years and then here at Penn State and did a fantastic job. I want to thank Josh for the job that he did when we were together, and again, very, very happy for him and his family.”
The offenses on display tonight won’t look exactly like what Moorhead was running two years ago. Michigan’s, though, has taken on a different life from Gattis’ lone season with Nick Saban and Mike Locksley at Alabama, as well as some of Wolverines boss Jim Harbaugh’s influence this year.
“Obviously they have familiarity with us. We have familiarity with them,” Franklin said. “But again, there’s some Penn State in there, there’s some Alabama in there, there’s some Michigan in there. So there’s familiarity in both directions. I would say in some ways they’re probably more familiar with us than we are with them because Josh … didn’t leave right from Penn State and go there. He’s had other experiences. He’s had other influences.”
Just as it took more than a month for the Lions to start to develop a rhythm and consistency under Moorhead, Michigan and senior quarterback Shea Patterson haven’t been gotten totally comfortable with the new scheme. And with those struggles, there’s some debate on how much freedom Gattis has in running things and how much is dictated by Harbaugh.
Last week against Illinois, the Wolverines even used (gasp) a fullback as part of a big day on the ground.
Still, the resulting hybrid hasn’t been as effective as Michigan backers had hoped during the offseason, especially with a former five-star recruit at quarterback.
His completion percentage has dipped more than seven percent from last season, down to 57.1 at the midpoint. His yardage and touchdown numbers are also down.
Franklin and Harbaugh both subscribe to the same philosophy that any bit of information could be useful to an opponent, so neither is willing to give out any details on injuries.
It’s a bigger deal for the Wolverines, who played last week without a number of starters, including cornerback Lavert Hill, wide receiver Nico Collins and defensive end Kwity Paye. Tight end Sean McKeon played last week but was limited.
“I tend not to comment on those,” Harbaugh said. “But positive. I would say positive. If I were to comment on it, it would be a positive comment.”
Penn State’s Justin Shorter returned last week against Iowa, but the Lions have still been missing fellow wideout Cam Sullivan-Brown and cornerback Donovan Johnson from their two-deep.
Penn State is set to host more than 100 recruits from all grades of high school for the game for the program’s biggest event of the year.
But the teenagers aren’t the only ones getting their first experience of the environment. Penn State has new assistants on staff like receivers coach Gerad Parker who will be taking it in.
“I’ve been telling Coach Parker what it’s going to be like, because even though some of these guys have been coaching college football for a long time, it’s different,” Franklin said. “It’s different. “And I tell people, literally, I’ll have that eight seconds where I’m standing there in the tunnel and you see it and you hear it, but you literally feel it. You literally feel it.
“I’ll enjoy it for that eight seconds, and then you run out and you’re so consumed doing your job from that point on, it’s kind of hard.”
“(My first White Out) was breathtaking,” defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. “My first experience with it, I came out of that tunnel, felt pretty normal — until you got out there on that sideline and soaked it in.
The surprise wasn’t that Penn State beat a ranked team on the road on Saturday, but in how the Nittany Lions closed it out.
It wasn’t lost on anyone following the program that the Lions were able to burn through all three Iowa timeouts, pick up a first down on the ground and not give the Hawkeyes a shot at a winning drive. Because for several years running, it hadn’t happened.
“I think that’s the first time we’ve done that against that type of opponent in my six years since I’ve been here,” the Penn State coach said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think that is a critical, critical moment in our six years on the offensive side of the football.”
True freshman Noah Cain was the catalyst with an aggressive running style that saw him continue to churn through defenders — unfortunate Iowa safety Jack Koerner spent much of the fourth quarter hitting the turf after contact with him.
The final meaningful play of the game came on third-and-3 at the Penn State 32 with Cain initially colliding with guard Steven Gonzalez, but keeping low and his legs moving to fight through a tackle and gain 5.
That’s something the Lions struggled to do even with Saquon Barkley in the backfield. Critical losses to Ohio State and Michigan State the last two seasons can be traced back to an inability to grind out one more first down late in the fourth quarter to kill the clock.
So Franklin and the coaching staff sought to diversify the run game more this season, with one such wrinkle showing up against Iowa in a pitch play that seemed to throw off the Hawkeyes.
Penn State had a bit of success early in the game with the pitch, and it paid off on the winning drive. Quarterback Sean Clifford faked the toss to freeze a defensive end before darting ahead to convert a third-and-10.
Later, on second-and-goal, offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne got the look he wanted from the Iowa defense and signaled in a change to the offense to run the pitch again. Cain beat his man to the corner and crashed into the end zone.
“I think it makes it a little bit more difficult to defend, and it allows you in situational football to have some things in your back pocket that you can go to,” Franklin said. “And Ricky did a really good job of having answers. We’re able to look at their front, we’re able to make a call depending on what pressure they’re bringing or what front they’re showing. We got what we consider our best call into that look.”
There was just one player necessary for the coaches to honor on defense for the 17-12 win. Robert Windsor was that good.
The senior defensive tackle had six tackles (2.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks and was credited with two hurries, though he impacted the Hawkeyes and quarterback Nate Stanley even more than the numbers show.
Most importantly, his hit on Stanley in the fourth quarter forced a poor throw that was intercepted by Lackawanna College alum Jaquan Brisker, setting up the Lions’ winning touchdown.
“He’s earned this. He really has,” Franklin said. “He’s earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, and obviously he’s gotten better every single year, and this last year he’s really put it all together. I think he’s got a chance to have a huge impact for us on Saturday. We’re going to need him to have a huge impact on us on Saturday. I think one of their strengths is their offensive line, so we’re going to need our defensive line to play really well.”
On offense, Cain and center Michal Menet got the nod. Cain turned in his second straight 100-yard rushing game, with the bulk of his yards coming in the fourth quarter, when he scored that decisive touchdown and even ran out the clock on Iowa on the next possession, a rare sight for Penn State.
Menet was a big reason for Cain’s late success, and several late runs went behind him and Gonzalez.
Senior punter Blake Gillikin may have been overlooked for his role in the win, but he was the easy pick for the coaches on special teams. Gillikin landed five punts inside the 20 and hamstrung Iowa all night long, forcing the Hawkeyes to an average drive start of their own 17.
Lake-Lehman’s Nick Eury was recognized for his work on the scout team as one of the coaches’ developmental players of the week.
Yes, Franklin did hear back from the Big Ten on the head-scratching reversal of a Pat Freiermuth touchdown, a call that ultimately cost the Lions four points in a narrow win.
“I mean, I did, but it’s not appropriate to talk about here in this setting,” Franklin said. “If they want to say something, they’ll say something. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Big Ten.”
The Big Ten did not, in fact, issue any kind of statement about the play on Tuesday. An attempt was made during the game to have a pool reporter ask the head replay official for clarification, but an interview was not granted. The Big Ten’s only response at the time was that the overturn was “a judgment call.”
After being slightly ahead in the coaches poll compared to the AP all season, Penn State checks in at No. 7 in both polls this week, after a three-spot jump in the AP.
The Lions passed two SEC squads that suffered their first loss on Saturday in Georgia and Florida. They had also been behind one-loss Notre Dame in the AP poll, but going on the road and beating a ranked team moved Penn State ahead of the Fighting Irish.
Saturday’s opponent, Michigan, is at No. 16 in both polls, and there are six Big Ten teams ranked in total. This is also the first time since 1904 that the conference has four teams at 6-0 (No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 7 Penn State, No. 20 Minnesota).
The first College Football Playoff rankings are still three weeks away, set to be released on Nov. 5.
The Scranton native and former Penn Stater was announced as the starting quarterback of the New York Guardians of the XFL.
“I’m very excited to be able to compete again at an extremely high level,” McGloin told PennLive. “The opportunity to learn from Coach (Kevin) Gilbride and his staff is an incredible chance for me to become a better player and a better quarterback.”
His NFL career, which began when he was signed as an undrafted spanned five seasons. He played in 13 games, all for the Oakland Raiders, completing 161 of 277 passes for 1,868 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
McGloin was with the Philadelphia Eagles through training camp in 2017 and briefly reunited with former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien with the Houston Texans later that season. He was in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs last fall.
He joined the Nittany Lions in 2008 as a walk-on after an all-star career at West Scranton High School. He split time as a starter with Rob Bolden in 2010 and 2011 before taking over full time toward the end of 2011 and all of 2012.
McGloin led a team hobbled by NCAA sanctions handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal to an improbable 8-4 record. He finished the season 513-of-894 for 3,271 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
For his career at Penn State, McGloin threw for 6,390 yards and 46 touchdowns against 19 interceptions and broke multiple school records.
The eight-team XFL will begin a 10-game schedule on Feb. 8, 2020. Games will be played on Saturday and Sundays and be carried on ABC, ESPN and the Fox networks.
McGloin wasn’t the only Penn Stater to end up with a job in the XFL on Tuesday. Wide Receiver DeAndre Thompkins was selected in the fourth round – 32nd overall – by the DC Defenders.
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