KJ Hamler

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Penn State and Iowa locked in Big Ten defensive battle, Nittany Lions up 7-6 at half

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What was billed as a defensive battle has lived up to expectations. No. 10 Penn State holds a 7-3 lead on No. 17 Iowa at halftime in Kinnick Stadium in a game that just might be a race to 20 points. Or maybe 14. Or 10?

Iowa’s defense came out feisty and gave young starting Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford a rough welcome to a stripe-out atmosphere in Kinnick stadium. Clifford missed on his first five pass attempts before getting in a bit of a rhythm in the second quarter. Clifford completed four of six passes on a 15-play drive that covered 85 yards. The fourth and final pass was a pass to KJ Hamler, who zipped down the right sideline and leaped over a handful of players to cross the goal line. Video replay was used to uphold the call on the field since Hamler actually fell out of bounds. He had crossed the goal line before landing, which is why the call was upheld.

Iowa struck first in the first quarter by scoring the first points given up in the first quarter by Penn State this season. It looked as though Iowa might only get the lone field goal in the first half, but a huge third-down completion from Nate Stanley to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 36 yards on 3rd-and-10 in the final minute of the half led to a second field goal despite having the ball at the Penn State four-yard line with time to spare.

It’s still a game up for grabs and the defenses are the story in Iowa City. But whoever scores the next touchdown might put this game out of reach.

No. 12 Penn State continues dominant streak over Maryland

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It wasn’t so long ago that it looked as though Maryland was going to be a team capable of pulling a significant upset within the Big Ten. But Friday night showed Maryland may not be quite ready for prime time after all. No. 12 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) smashed Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten), 59-0, in the Big Ten opener for each team.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford got an early exit midway through the third quarter after a stellar performance. Clifford passed for 398 yards and three touchdowns while completing 26-of-31 pass attempts (he was also picked off once on a terrific effort by Maryland’s Nick Cross. Clifford’s passing total was the most in school history for a road game and ranked up near the top of the school’s all-time record book. Penn State also spread the ball around with 13 different players catching a pass in the rout. KJ Hamler, who scored on a 58-yard pass, led all players with 108 receiving yards. Clifford was also the team’s leading rusher with 54 yards and a touchdown.

Maryland had three turnovers (two interceptions by Josh Jackson and one fumble by Tayon Fleet-Davis) and managed just 124 yards of total offense while giving up 598 yards to the Nittany Lions. For a team that won its opener 79-0 and then scored 63 points against Syracuse, Maryland has come crashing back to earth at the hands of two teams from Pennsylvania. Mike Locksley may still have what it takes to turn things around at Maryland, but losing to two teams north of the Mason-Dixon line stings in recruiting for now.

Penn State has now defeated Maryland 59-0, 38-3, 66-3, and 38-14 in their last four meetings. Since 1991, Penn State has outscored Maryland 242-17 in their last four games played in College Park, Maryland dating back to 1991 (including two meetings since Maryland joined the Big Ten). Penn State leads the series 40-2-1 all-time and 5-1 since Maryland joined the Big Ten. Penn State has won the last five meetings.

Penn State managed to avoid a slow start that has hindered them in their last couple of games against Buffalo and Pitt, and the talent difference between the two rosters showed. Whether this makes Penn State a top contender in the Big Ten in the same boat with Ohio State remains to be determined, but this was easily the best all-around performance by the Nittany Lions in the first month of the season.

Penn State will return home next week to face Purdue. Maryland will look for a rebound win next week when they head to New Jersey to face Rutgers.

No. 12 Penn State shredding shell-shocked Maryland, 38-0 at halftime

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If Maryland was ready to make a statement tonight against No. 12 Penn State, this isn’t the statement they wanted to make. The Nittany Lions have been in full control of the game from the start and lead Maryland 38-0 at halftime in College Park.

Penn State’s defense has been dominant by holding the home team to fewer than 100 yards and forcing a pair of turnovers. Penn State has intercepted Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson twice, including one near the endzone on Maryland’s most promising offensive series of the first half. The defense came up with a big play on the game’s opening possession when Jan Johnson intercepted Jackson on the fifth play of the game. The return took the ball to the Maryland 44-yard line and a pair of penalties on Maryland moved the ball all the way to the nine-yard line. Sean Clifford kept the ball himself and ran up the middle for a touchdown on the first play after the turnover, and it was off to the races for Penn State.

Penn State scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game, and five of their six first-half possessions. Clifford completed passes to KJ Hamler for 58 yards and Journey Brown for 37 yards and touchdowns where the receiver racked up yards after the catch. Ricky Slade and Nick Bowers have also scored for Penn State.

The first half also saw a player from each team ejected for targeting. Penn State’s Micah Parsons was tossed in the first quarter for a hit on Jackson. Maryland’s Deon Jones was ejected in the second quarter for a hit on Penn State receiver Justin Shorter. Both players will be eligible to return to their teams in their next game.

Maryland has also had some injury issues. Offensive lineman Marcus Minor was helped off the field to the locker room, and Lorenzo Harrison had to go into the medical tent in the first half.

Because the rules require it, there will be 30 more minutes of football played in College Park tonight.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Big Ten media pegs Michigan as preseason favorite

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The Big Ten did away with its preseason media poll ahead of the 2011 season, so the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has picked up the mantle and carried it for the rest of the conference. The paper polls 34 writers from around the conference, and for the second time in the poll’s nine-year history the consensus found the eventual champion in Ann Arbor.

Following the departures of Urban Meyer and Dwayne Haskins and the arrival of Josh Gattis, the Plain-Dealer‘s poll has anointed 2019 as the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets over the scarlet-and-gray hump standing between him and Indianapolis. In four years under Harbaugh, Michigan has not won the conference or division. In fact, the Wolverines last won the Big Ten in 2004 and are still looking for their first trip to the Big Ten Championship heading into Year 9 of the conference’s title game era.

Which, of course, will make it all the more painful for everyone in maize and blue if it doesn’t happen.

Possibly concerning for the Wolverines: the Big Ten media is no better at prognosticating their conference than any other league. The Plain-Dealer poll has accurately predicted the eventual champion only twice — when Ohio State won the league in 2017 and ’18.

But Michigan is a clear, but not heavy, favorite to dethrone the Buckeyes this year, landing 20 votes to win the East to Ohio State’s 14, with 17 picks to win the conference to Ohio State’s 14. Astute observers will note Michigan and Ohio State gobbled up all 34 available votes to win the East, but the West picture is quite muddied. Nebraska and Iowa each garnered 14 votes to win the division, while Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota drew support as well. One thing everyone can agree on out West? Everyone sees Illinois bringing up the rear.

The full poll:

EAST DIVISION
1. Michigan — 222 total points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State — 214 (14)
3. Michigan State — 156
4. Penn State — 154
5. Indiana — 86.5
6. Maryland — 82.5
7. Rutgers — 37

WEST DIVISION
1. Nebraska — 198 (14)
2. Iowa — 194.5 (14)
3. Wisconsin — 172.5 (4)
4. Northwestern — 142.5 (1)
5. Purdue — 110.5
6. Minnesota — 100 (1)
7. Illinois — 34

The Plain-Dealer also asks its respondents to pick players of the year on each side of the ball, and the poll found Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor as the league’s top offensive player and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young as the top defender. Five players drew at least one first-place vote on offense and six on defense; Taylor was the clear choice on his side of the ball, but Young actually came in third when just examining first-place votes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor — 78 (21)
2. Purdue WR Rondale Moore — 36 (3)
3. Michigan QB Shea Patterson — 31 (4)
4. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez — 24 (2)
5. Ohio State RB JK Dobbins — 13 (3)
5. Ohio State QB Justin Fields — 13 (1)
7. Iowa QB Nate Stanley — 4
8. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke — 2
9. Penn State WR KJ Hamler — 1
9. Wisconsin OL Tyler Biadasz — 1
9. Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs — 1

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Ohio State DE Chase Young — 57 (8)
2. Iowa DE AJ Epenesa — 52 (9)
3. Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes — 41 (10)
4. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher — 19 (2)
5. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos — 16 (4)
6. Michigan State LB Joe Bachie — 6 (1)
7. Michigan CB Lavert Hill — 5
8. Minnesota DE Carter Coughlin — 4
9. Michigan S Josh Metellus — 2
10. Penn State LB Micah Parsons — 1
10. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano — 1

Big Ten media days run Thursday and Friday in Chicago.