K.J. Hamler

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Penn State WR K.J. Hamler declares for 2020 NFL Draft

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One of the most dynamic playmakers in college football is headed to the pros.

Just a few days after Penn State’s dominating Cotton Bowl win over Memphis, top Nittany Lions wide receiver K.J. Hamler posted on social media that he was declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-9 speedster had developed into the biggest threat PSU’s offense has had since Saquon Barkley left Happy Valley not too long ago. After a fairly quiet bowl game, Hamler caps off his season with 904 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. A threat to score from just about everywhere on the field, the redshirt sophomore was also a dangerous return man and managed a rushing touchdown last year as well.

Though this is expected to be one of the deepest draft classes of wide receivers in several years, Hamler is still projected by most as a potential Day 2 pick in the draft — with the chance of moving up even earlier with a good outing at the NFL scouting combine and at Penn State’s pro day.

Even with this key departure though, the Nittany Lions still have a ton coming back on offense in 2020. Hamler will be a tough player to replace but new OC Kirk Ciarrocca should have nine returning starters to work with over the coming months.

Starting Penn State center Michal Menet reportedly missing Ohio State game

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Penn State travels to Columbus as a significant underdog to Ohio State on Saturday and the task of pulling off an upset might be even more challenging as the team as the team appears to be down a starter for the pivotal Big Ten clash at the Horseshoe.

According to a report from Fox 43 on Friday afternoon, Nittany Lions center Michael Menet will not play in the game due to an undisclosed injury. Redshirt sophomore Mike Miranda is expected to take his place in the starting lineup as a result.

The news is a tough blow for James Franklin’s squad given that the offense is already bracing for the potential that star wide receiver and big play threat K.J. Hamler could also miss the game. The latter exited the team’s win over Indiana with an apparent head injury and while he was listed as a starter in the PSU depth chart, is likely more of a game-time decision.

It’s not known what forced Menet out of the lineup at this point but either way, those are two pretty major offensive pieces who will be out against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.

The Buckeyes-Nittany Lions matchup on Saturday at noon ET carries significant College Football Playoff and Big Ten East Division implications and it seems like the visitors from Happy Valley are coming into the game far from 100 percent on the health front.

No. 4 Ohio State rallies from two double-digit deficits to beat No. 9 Penn State

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On a night when its offense struggled to get going and its defense lacked for answers, No. 4 Ohio State overcame a record crowd and a record night from Trace McSorley to rally back from two double-digit deficits to stun No. 9 Penn State, 27-26.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) were out-gained by 100 yards and trailed 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but Dwayne Haskins tossed two late touchdown passes, engineering a 96-yard game-winning touchdown drive, to give Ohio State a crucial win in the Big Ten East race and the inside track to returning to the College Football Playoff.

After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a spectacular 31-yard gain, taking the ball from the Ohio State 48 to the 17.

But a gadget play to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens lost 13 yards on the next snap, and so the Nittany Lions (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) settled for a 34-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State was moved in prime territory to take control of the game when McSorley dashed for a career-long 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the march sputtered and Pinegar’s 46-yard field goal hooked wide left.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28. Once again with a great chance to take control of the game, Penn State again couldn’t muster anything more than a glancing blow. The Nittany Lions could not gain a first down, and Pinegar’s 39-yard field goal pushed the lead to 6-0.

Though the offense couldn’t get anything going, Drue Chrisman tilted the game to Ohio State’s advantage with a pair of booming punts — a 44-yarder to pin the Nittany Lions to their own 12, and then a 58-yarder to the 2.

Pinned near their own end zone, it appeared Penn State was ready to give Ohio State good field position when facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 7, but it was then that the Nittany Lions finally landed a knockdown punch — a slant to freshman K.J. Hamler who outraced the Buckeyes’ defense and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Penn State’s first third down conversion of the night.

Penn State forced Ohio State into a third consecutive three-and-out with 2:32 to go before the break, but a critical mistake allowed the Buckeyes back in the game. Miles Sanders coughed up the ball after being hit by Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland, and the Buckeyes’ Dre’Mont Jones hopped on the ball at the Penn State 25.

The Buckeyes finally got on the board two plays later when Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a screen pass, who carried it 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go before the break.

Ohio State took the ball to open the second half and sliced down the field, moving 75 yards in 13 plays to grab the lead, and it seemed like Haskins and company were finally back on track. It especially seemed that way on the following drive when Ohio State penetrated to the Penn State 16, but the Nittany Lions forced a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal, but that score was wiped off the board due to a face mask call and Nuernberger’s ensuing 48-yard try was no good.

The teams traded three-and-outs over their next two possessions until Penn State moved from its own 38 to the Ohio State 24, when Franklin eschewed another Pinegar field goal to try a 4th-and-1, but Chase Young batted down McSorley’s pass, and Ohio State’s 14-13 lead held heading into the fourth quarter.

But Penn State forced a three-and-out and McSorley then found Hamler again for a 36-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 from the Ohio State 30 — and a targeting call on Isaiah Pryor tacked on another 15 yards, moving the Nittany Lions into the red zone. McSorley covered the final 15 yards, first on a 13-yard keeper and then a 2-yard toss to tight end Pat Freiermuth, see-sawing Penn State back in front 20-14 with 12:22 remaining.

Ohio State moved near midfield on the ensuing possession, and Urban Meyer elected to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Penn State 48, and a Haskins keeper was stuffed. McSorley then covered 49 of the required 51 yards to put the Lions on the doorstep, and a 1-yard Sanders rush put Penn State back up two scores with eight minutes to play.

That 12-point lead was short-lived, though, as two Haskins completions and a pass interference penalty put Ohio State back at midfield and then Binjimen Victor, normally a possession receiver, bobbed and weaved through the Penn State secondary for a 47-yard score, pulling the Buckeyes within five with 6:42 to play.

McSorley again scrambled Penn State into Ohio State territory, but the drive stalled and Penn State punted, pinning Ohio State at its own 4 with 4:35 to play. That field position was short lived; a Dobbins screen for 35 yards put Ohio State near the 40, and gains of 11 and 14 yards pushed the Buckeyes near the 30, setting up a go-head scoring toss from Haskins to K.J. Hill from 24 yards out. Haskins’s 2-point try sailed high, and Ohio State led 27-26 with 2:03 to go.

Armed with three timeouts, Penn State moved to the Ohio State 43, when, after a sack, McSorley gained nine yards on a 3rd-and-14 to set up a decisive 4th-and-5 with 1:22 to play. A total of three timeouts were called before the play, and Greg Schiano won the chess match when the Buckeyes baited McSorley, who set a school record with 461 yards of total offense, into handing the ball off to Sanders, who was stuffed behind the line by Young to complete the comeback.

Haskins closed the night hitting 22-of-39 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Dobbins and Weber combined to gain 174 yards on 29 total touches. McSorley, meanwhile, completed 16-of-32 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 25 times for 175 yards, a school record for a modern-day Penn State quarterback.

The Buckeyes will now be heavily favored in every game through the rest of the regular season, while Penn State will need Ohio State to lose twice to move atop the Big Ten East.

Ohio State offense sputtering, but Penn State squandering opportunities

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Ohio State’s visit to Penn State was supposed to be a shootout between two play-making quarterbacks and their highly-regarded arsenals. Penn State came into Saturday leading the nation in scoring at 55.5 points per game, with Ohio State just one point behind.

But the first half was anything but. Penn State shutdown Ohio State’s offense through the first half, but a number of squandered opportunities and a crucial mistake see the Nittany Lions take just a 13-7 lead to the Beaver Stadium locker rom.

But it could have been more. Penn State out-gained Ohio State by nearly 200 yards but carries just a 6-point lead into the third quarter.

After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a spectacular 31-yard gain, taking the ball from the Ohio State 48 to the 17.

But a gadget play to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens lost 13 yards on the next snap, and so the Nittany Lions settled for a 34-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State was moved in prime territory to take control of the game when McSorley dashed for a career-long 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the march sputtered and Pinegar’s 46-yard field goal hooked wide left.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Dwayne Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28. Once again with a great chance to take control of the game, Penn State again couldn’t muster anything more than a glancing blow. The Nittany Lions could not gain a first down, and Pinegar’s 39-yard field goal pushed the lead to 6-0.

Though the offense couldn’t get anything going, Drue Chrisman tilted the game to Ohio State’s advantage with a pair of booming punts — a 44-yarder to pin the Nittany Lions to their own 12, and then a 58-yarder to the 2.

Pinned near their own end zone, it appeared Penn State was ready to give Ohio State good field position when facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 7, but it was then that the Nittany Lions finally landed a knockdown punch — a slant to freshman K.J. Hamler who outraced the Buckeyes’ defense and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Penn State’s first third down conversion of the night.

Penn State forced Ohio State into a third consecutive three-and-out with 2:32 to go before the break, but a critical mistake allowed the Buckeyes back in the game. Miles Sanders coughed up the ball after being hit by Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland, and the Buckeyes’ Dre’Mont Jones hopped on the ball at the Penn State 25.

The Buckeyes finally got on the board two plays later when Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a screen pass, who carried it 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go before the break. Even with that touchdown, Haskins suffered through by far his worst half of the season, hitting just 7-of-16 passes for 62 yards. The Buckeyes’ offensive line has been whipped by the Nittany front, and so four Buckeye ballcarriers combined to rush 13 times for just 34 yards.

Penn State has had no trouble moving the ball, thanks in large part two a pair of plays that covered 146 yards. McSorley completed 10-of-19 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown while rushing 10 times for a game-high 76 yards. Sanders has carried 10 times for 31 yards.

The teams are a combined 2-of-18 on third downs. Unless that changes, it’s hard to see either team putting a drive together.

Ohio State will receive to open the second half.

No. 13 Penn State rebounds to trounce Pitt with help of special teams gaffes

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Pittsburgh hung tough with Penn State through one half, but a number of special teams gaffes allowed the 13th-ranked Nittany Lions to improve upon last week’s close call versus Appalachian State with a 51-6 blowout of its Keystone State rivals.

After Penn State (2-0) opened the scoring on a 32-yard K.J. Hamler run, Pittsburgh matched that touchdown with a 13-yard plunge by Qadree Ollison rush, but punter Kirk Christodoulou could not corral the extra point snap and the Panthers could not get a kick off, settling for a 7-6 deficit.

With the score still 7-6, Alex Kessman pulled a 35-yard field goal and came away complaining about the hold as a driving rain blanketed the Heinz Field grass. Pitt’s defense forced a Miles Sanders fumble on the next possession, giving the Panthers the ball back at the Penn State 31 with 7:15 to play in the second quarter. Pitt (1-1) advanced to the Penn State 4, and Pat Narduzzi elected to eschew a field goal try and go for a 4th-and-goal. Penn State stuffed the ensuing run, getting to Ollison three yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Later, Pitt attempted the ball away inside the first half’s final minute and force a 7-6 halftime score, but Christodoulou dropped the punt snap and Penn State recovered at the Pitt 35. After a 21-yard Sanders run, Trace McSorley hit Hamler for a 14-yard score, giving the Nittany Lions a 14-6 halftime lead.

Penn State broke the game open with an 8-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard McSorley run.

Pitt was called for holding in the end zone on the ensuing possession, pushing the Penn State lead to 23-6, and DeAndre Thompkins provided the exclamation point by returning a punt 39 yards for a touchdown with 28 ticks to go in the third quarter. McSorley added one more touchdown pass, an 11-yard toss to Mac Hippenhammer, with 11:40 to play. Mark Allen piled on a 4-yard plunge with 6:17 remaining, and backup quarterback Sean Clifford capped the scoring with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Polk with 4:21 to play.

McSorley completed 14-of-30 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns, while Sanders led the Nittany Lions with 16 carries for 118 yards.

Ollison led all runners with 119 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, but he did most of his damage before halftime. Pitt’s passing offense was non-existent, as Kenny Pickett mustered eight completions in 16 tries for just 51 yards with an interception.

The win gives Penn State two straight victories over Pitt, matching the 2-game streak the Panthers carried into 2017. Penn State had won seven straight before that, and owns a 52-43-4 advantage in a series that dates back to 1893.