Penn State’s o-line woes finally crack in loss to Northwestern

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For four games Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) was able to get by with a shaky offensive line and a slow starting offense. That was not the case Saturday afternoon in front of a homecoming crowd over 100,000 strong. Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) put together a defensive game plan that took advantage of Penn State’s offensive line concerns and held the Nittany Lions out of the end zone from start to finish. Northwestern evened its record with a 29-6 victory that was every bit as dominating as the score might indicate. And it could have been worse.

Penn State had just three third-down conversions out of 17 and the Nittany Lions were held to just one fourth-down conversion out of four. That lone fourth down conversion came in the first half from Penn State’s own 30-yard line, a true gamble. With quarterback Christian Hackenberg having another rough performance, Penn State’s offense was held to just 276 yards, including just 60 yards on the ground on 25 rushing attempts. Northwestern frustrated Hackenberg and held him to just 22 of 45 passing and returned his one interception for a touchdown. On Hackenberg’s next play from scrimmage after the pick-six, he was hit and lost a fumble.

Northwestern’s quarterback, Trevor Siemian, had a much more enjoyable afternoon with 258 yards accumulated with much better protection in front of him. Dan Vitale caused problems in Penn State’s secondary for much of the game, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards. The Wildcats even managed to play some inspired football after Matt Harris had to be taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision with Hackenberg. Harris was treated on the field for a good five minutes before being carted off the field. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but early reports seem to be as positive as can be given the extend of head and neck injuries. Here’s hoping the positive reports continue.

Penn State head coach James Franklin will have plenty to work on in the bye week with his staff and players. This particular game showcased a number of concerns about this Penn State team, but it seems many of the concerns can be addressed by getting something reliable out of the offensive line. Hackenberg has been off-balanced for much of the season and has rarely had good protection in front of him. Rutgers and Northwestern excelled in bringing a pass rush, and the running game has never been effective this season outside of last weekend’s game against UMass. The impact sanctions have had on recruiting the past couple of years is showing most at offensive line. How much can be corrected or fixed in a short period of time may not be enough for Penn State the rest of the way.

Penn State will play a night game at Michigan in two weeks after a bye to prepare. Northwestern will return home for their second Big Ten game next weekend against Wisconsin. The Wildcats will be facing a much more potent running attack when the Badgers come to town.

Braden White named prestigious 12th Man at Texas A&M

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The 12th Man is a big, big deal at Texas A&M. In fact, it’s pretty much the brand of not just the football program, but the entire athletics department. Case in point, A&M’s athletics department website is 12thman.com.

For the uninitiated, in 1922 the Aggies found themselves short of players in a football game against Center College, the No. 1 team in the country at the time, after multiple players sustained injuries over the course of the game. Down to just 11 players, A&M student E. King Gill volunteered to suit up and stand on the sidelines in case the team needed him. Gill now has a statue outside of Kyle Field, and A&M’s student section is collectively referred to as the 12th Man.

As such, it’s a tremendous honor for an active Aggie player to be awarded the No. 12 and, after fullback Cullen Gillaspia donned the jersey for a record-tying 39 games, it’s time to hand it off to a new player.

On Tuesday, Jimbo Fisher awarded the No. 12 jersey to Braden White, a walk-on linebacker from Florence, Ala.

“I’m honored just to be able to represent this great university and everything about it,” White said. “It’s a true blessing.”

White is a redshirt junior who has checked all the boxes of a player who checks all the 12th Man boxes. He was named Defensive Scout Team MVP during his redshirt year of 2016 and was honored as the Top Conditioned Athlete at the Aggies’ 2018 team banquet. He has appeared in 18 career games, recording 16 career tackles playing primarily as a special teams contributor.

White will wear No. 12 for the first time next when Texas A&M — ranked, ironically, No. 12 in the preseason AP poll — hosts Texas State next Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

UConn begins building out independent schedules with BC home-and-home

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Until they tell us otherwise, Connecticut is going to try to make it as an FBS independent. This upcoming season will be the Huskies’ final one as a member of the American Athletic Conference, as the Huskies’ Olympic sports will return to the Big East and the football team will go it alone.

This will require lots (and lots and lots) of scheduling work, and quickly. As of now, the Huskies have four games on the schedule for a season that begins 12 months from now.

While it does nothing to help the 2020 slate, UConn began chipping away at the mountain in front of it on Wednesday by announcing a home-and-home with Boston College. The first game will be Oct. 29, 2022 in Storrs, with the return game going down Oct. 28, 2023 in Chestnut Hill.

The two programs have met 14 times previously; BC leads the series 12-0-2. The Eagles took the most recent meeting 39-16 in 2017.

Additionally, BC announced a 2023-28 home-and-home with Army and a Sept. 9, 2023 home game with Holy Cross.

Safety graduate transfers from Penn State to Pitt

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Penn State safety Johnny Petrishen has left State College for Pittsburgh, where he is now a Panther.

Petrishen announced the transfer on Tuesday evening, and Pitt confirmed his addition on Wednesday morning.

Petrishen has two years of eligibility remaining thanks — if you want to use that term — to two medical redshirts.

A Lower Burrell, Pa., native, Petrishen appeared in 17 career games as a Nittany Lion, including all 13 last season. Primarily a special teams player, he posted eight career tackles and one TFL in State College.

NC State transfer Tim Kidd-Glass tweets move to Liberty

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Hugh Freeze may be dealing with what was a significant health issue, but he’s still working his first-year roster at Liberty.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday evening, Tim Kidd-Glass announced that he “would like to thank God for allowing me to have another opportunity to further my football career… at Liberty University.” The announcement comes a couple of weeks after the safety triggered a move from North Carolina State by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.

As a graduate transfer, Kidd-Glass will be eligible to play for the Flames in 2019.

The past three seasons, the Virginia native played in 33 games for the Wolfpack.  He started nine of those contests, all of which came during the 2017 season.