Penn State Hosts Akron at Noon Saturday in Season Opener


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The reigning Big Ten Champions will open their 131st season of football, as Penn State hosts Akron in Beaver Stadium for its 2017 season opener. The telecast will begin at noon on ABC.

(Photo of Trace McCorley. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Game Notes

Penn State will have the luxury of returning depth and experience this season. A total of 44 letterwinners and 18 starters are back from a team that won Penn State’s fourth Big Ten Championship and earned its fourth Rose Bowl appearance. Accordingly, Penn State’s No. 6 preseason ranking in both major polls is its highest since 1999.

A prolific offense was a hallmark of the 2016 team and key returners include a pair of Big Ten preseason honorees, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley. Barkley set a sophomore record for rushing yards en route to multiple prestigious honors in 2016, while McSorley was perhaps the biggest surprise, breaking Penn State’s single-season passing yard and passing touchdown records in his first season as a starter. McSorley will have plenty of targets to throw to with record-setting tight end Mike Gesicki joining Barkley on preseason All-America teams and he will have the protection of a veteran offensive line.

Linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen lead the defense with their names appearing on several watch lists. All three levels of the unit lost players to the NFL, but more than 72 percent of the tackles to return.

Penn State will be looking to extend a seven-game winning streak in Beaver Stadium, playing its first three games of the season at home.

Akron will be seeking its first win over the Nittany Lions after coming up short in its first five attempts. Veteran coach Terry Bowden guides the Zips, while linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III leads the defense and is on the Bronko Nagurski preseason watch list.

HEAD COACH TERRY BOWDEN

 

  • Terry Bowden enters his sixth season at Akron.
  • Owning a 164-99-2 record over a 23-year collegiate coaching career, Bowden ranks sixth nationally among active Division I head coaches in career wins (164).
  • In 2015, Bowden guided the Zips to an 8-5 overall record en route to the program’s first winning season and bowl appearance since 2005. Akron captured its first-ever bowl victory in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) era (since 1987).
  • Bowden, who served as a studio analyst and color commentator with ABC Sports’ college football for 10 years, was the head coach at Auburn from 1993-98 and spent the three seasons prior to coming to Akron at Division II North Alabama.
  • In 1993, Auburn had a perfect 11-0 record and he swept virtually every national coach of the year award in his rookie season.
  • Bowden was again a finalist for coach of the year following his second season at Auburn as the Tigers had reeled off 20-straight wins, still an Auburn record, and finished 9-1-1. He posted a 47-17-1 record at Auburn and led the Tigers to three bowl games.

SCOUTING THE ZIPS

 

  • Akron was tabbed to finish fourth in the East Division in the 2017 Mid-American Conference Football Preseason Poll by members of the MAC media.
  • The Zips return 57 letterwinners, including 14 starters, to its spread offense and 4-3 defense.
  • Linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III leads defensive returners and is on the Bronko Nagurski preseason watch list as a candidate to be the nation’s top defensive player. Last season as a sophomore, he was a first-team All-MAC honoree after starting all 12 games and leading the Zips’ with 122 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles.
  • Senior center LaVonne Gauthney anchors the offensive line and is on the Rimmington Trophy Fall Watch List.
  • Akron finished the 2016 season at 5-7. The Zips fell short of bowl eligibility in heartbreaking fashion, unable to connect on a game-tying touchdown in the last seconds in the season finale at Ohio.

ALL-TIME VERSUS AKRON

 

  • Penn State has won the first five meetings against Akron, with all taking place since the first meeting in 1999.
  • The last four contests have all been home openers, with the 2004, `06 and `09 games also serving as season openers.
  • The 2014 contest was head coach James Franklin’s first game at the helm as head coach of the Nittany Lions, while the 2006 contest was offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s first game in the same role for Akron and his first as an FBS offensive coordinator overall.

PENN STATE SEASON OPENERS

 

  • The 2017 season marks the 131st in Penn State history, with the Nittany Lions owning a record of 107-21-2 in opening games.
  • The 2017 opener is the second of four consecutive season openers at home: Kent State (2016, W, 33-13), Akron (2017), Appalachian State (2018) and Idaho (2019).
  • The Lions have won 13 of their last 15 season openers.
  • Penn State’s longest streaks of winning their season openers are: 12 (1919-30), 11 (1893-1903), 10 (1973-82; 2002-11), 9 (1909-17), 7 (1942-48).
  • Penn State has only lost consecutive season openers twice in school history; 1964-65, 1989-90, 2000-01.
  • The Nittany Lions went unbeaten from 1909-30, winning 20-of-21 season openers. They tied Wissahickon Barracks, 6-6, in 1918 and the streak was stopped by Waynesburg, a 7-0 setback, in 1931.

HOME OPENER HISTORY

 

  • Penn State’s all-time record in home openers is 116-13-1 and 48-9 in Beaver Stadium.
  • Penn State has won 14 out of its last 15 home openers and its last three consecutively, defeating Kent State last season (33-13), Buffalo in 2015 (27-14), Akron in 2014 (21-3) and Eastern Michigan in 2013 (45-7).
  • This is the sixth consecutive home opener against a MAC opponent.

VERSUS OHIO SCHOOLS

 

  • Penn State has a 42-21 record against teams from the state of Ohio.
  • Penn State won both of its games against Ohio-based opponents last season, defeating Kent State (33-13) and No. 2 Ohio State (24-21).
  • The Nittany Lions have played Ohio State more than any other Ohio school (32 games), with the two border rivals meeting every year since Penn State began Big Ten play in 1993.
  • Penn State vs. teams from Ohio: Kent State (5-0), Ohio State (14-18), Akron (5-0), Bowling Green (2-0), Cincinnati (8-1), Oberlin (1-0), Ohio (5-1), Toledo (0-1) and Youngstown State (2-0).

NITTANY LIONS FROM OHIO

 

  • Penn State has five from Ohio on its roster. All are true or redshirt freshmen.
    • QB Sean Clifford – Cincinnati/Saint Xavier
    • OL Alex Gellerstedt – Dublin/Dublin Coffman
    • OL Mike Miranda – Stow/Stow-Munroe
    • DT Antonio Shelton – Westerville/Westerville-North
    • SN Chris Stoll – Westerville/St. Francis DeSales

PENN STATE-AKRON CONNECTIONS

 

  • Penn State redshirt freshman OL Alex Gellerstedt played with Akron freshman QB Drew Hodgson at Dublin Coffman H.S. in Dublin, Ohio.
  • Penn State freshman snapper Chris Stoll and Akron redshirt senior running back Warren Ball both attended St. Francis DeSales H.S. in Columbus.
  • Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was a coach at Akron from 2004 to 2008. In 2006, he was named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His first game in the role was against Penn State in the season opener at Beaver Stadium, a 34-16 win for the Nittany Lions.
  • Penn State defensive backs coach Terry Smith coached Akron QB Thomas Woodson while at Gateway Senior H.S. in Monroeville, Pa.
  • Akron Assistant AD for Communications Cathy Bongiovi is a 1987 graduate of Penn State and worked at her alma mater from 1997-2001, working with the 2000 women’s basketball NCAA Final Four squad.

HOME IN HAPPY VALLEY

 

  • The Nittany Lions went 7-0 at home in 2016 for the first time since 2008 and the fifth time in the Big Ten era (1994, 1998, 2005, 2008, 2016).
  • Penn State’s seven-game home win streak is tied for the third longest active streak in FBS.
  • Dating back to last season, Penn State has won 13 out of its last 14 home games.

PENN STATE VS. MAC

 

  • Penn State owns a 24-3 mark against the 2017 football alignment of the Mid-American Conference.
  • The Nittany Lions have played 10 of the 13 members of the MAC, playing their first MAC opponent, Buffalo, on Nov. 29, 1900. The Lions lost, 10-0, that day on the road.
  • Recently, the Nittany Lions defeated Eastern Michigan (45-7) and Kent State (34-0) in 2013, Akron (21-3) in 2014, Buffalo (27-14) in 2015, and Kent State (33-13) in 2016.
  • PSU has played a MAC school every year since 2009.
  • Akron is the lone MAC opponent Penn State will face this season.

TAKING ON THE NEIGHBORS

 

  • For the fourth consecutive year, Penn State will play at least four FBS teams that are within a 250-mile drive (based on Google Maps from stadium to stadium).
  • Penn State went 4-1 against its neighbors last season.
  • The only FBS teams Penn State had not played since 2012 within the radius were Pitt and West Virginia. Penn State played the first of a four-game series against Pitt last season and the Mountaineers are on Penn State’s schedule in 2023 and 2024.
  • The last time Penn State did not play any of its nearest neighbors was 2005.
  • Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State is 40-4 against FBS teams within 250 miles.
  • All-time, Penn State is 286-111-17 against its current FBS regional foes.
  • Penn State will play four nearby teams in each of the next two seasons.

HOME SWEET HOME
With a 278-72 all-time record in Beaver Stadium, PSU owns the eighth-best winning percentage (.794) in its current home venue amongst current FBS schools and leads the Big Ten. Only Alabama (.822) and Oklahoma (.809) have higher winning percentages in facilities older than Beaver Stadium.

 

SIXTH TO START

 

  • Penn State opens the season ranked No. 6 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/Amway Coaches preseason polls.
  • The Nittany Lions are ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since the 2010 season and hold their highest preseason ranking since 1999 (3rd).
  • This is the 24th time that the Nittany Lions have opened the season ranked in the AP Top 10.
  • The Nittany Lions are ranked in the preseason coaches poll for the first time since the 2011 season and hold their highest preseason ranking since 1999 (3rd).
  • The Lions finished 2016 ranked No. 7 in both polls.

FORTY-FOUR LETTERWINNERS RETURN

 

  • Penn State returns 44 lettermen from last year’s Big Ten Championship squad — 24 on defense, 18 on offense and two on special teams.
  • Of the 44 overall lettermen returning, 35 have starting experience — 17 on defense, 15 on offense and three on special teams.
  • The Nittany Lions lost the services of 18 lettermen — nine on defense, five on offense and four specialists.

EIGHTEEN STARTERS RETURNING

 

  • The Nittany Lions return 18 starters — nine on offense, seven on defense and two on special teams.
  • Seventeen additional Penn Staters have starting experience — six on offense, 10 on defense and one on special teams.
  • Among the returning starters are 2016 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Saquon Barkley, All-Big Ten first team selection Tyler Davis, All-Big Ten second team honorees Trace McSorley and Mike Gesicki, as well as All-Big Ten third team choices Marcus Allen and Jason Cabinda.

PENN STATE IN 25th BIG TEN SEASON

 

  • After 106 years as an independent in football, Penn State began play in the Big Ten Conference in 1993 and will play its 25th season in the conference.
  • The Nittany Lions were Big Ten Champions in 1994 and 2016, beating Oregon to win the 1995 Rose Bowl and playing USC in the 2009 and 2017 Rose Bowls.

EIGHT BOWL TEAMS HIGHLIGHT SCHEDULE

 

  • The Nittany Lions will face eight teams which participated in a bowl game during the 2016 campaign.
  • Northwestern topped Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24.
  • Ohio State earned the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff and lost to Clemson, 31-0, in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • Iowa fell to Florida, 30-3, in the Outback Bowl; Indiana dropped a 26-24 decision to Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl; Michigan lost to Florida State, 33-32, in the Orange Bowl; Nebraska suffered a 38-24 loss to Tennessee in the Music City Bowl and Maryland suffered a 36-30 loss to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl.

WINNING WAYS

 

  • Penn State is one of eight FBS teams to have posted winning records each of the last 12 years (Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Oklahoma, USC, Florida State, LSU).
  • Penn State’s nine-game winning streak last season was its longest overall since doing the same in 2008. Penn State has not won 10-straight games in a single-season since going 12-0 in 1994.
  • The 2009 season also marked the last time Penn State earned double-digit wins in a single season.
  • The Lions posted their 16th 11-win season overall.
  • It marks the sixth time in the Big Ten era that Penn State has reached at least 11 wins:

TICKETS IN DEMAND

 

  • The Penn State Student Section sold out more than 21,000 tickets in just 89 minutes, highlighted by the sold-out allotments of the senior (20), junior (10) and freshmen (15) classes in less than 20 minutes each.
  • The Penn State Student Section has consistently sold out for four decades, showing the unwavering passion and dedication of Penn State students.
  • Penn State has sold more than 9,000 new season football tickets for the 2017 campaign. The season ticket renewal rate topped 95 percent to help the Nittany Lions exhaust their season ticket allotment for the first time since 2008.
  • Additionally, Penn State has exhausted the allotments for recent graduate season tickets, as well as the Pitt and Michigan single game tickets.

MILESTONE WATCH

 

  • DaeSean Hamilton is 15 yards shy of 2,000 career receiving yards.
  • Trace McSorley is 201 yards shy of 4,000 career passing yards.
  • Saquon Barkley is 428 yards shy of 3,000 career rushing yards.
  • James Franklin is one win shy of 50 for his career.

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS

 

  • RB Saquon Barkley and TE Mike Gesicki were both selected to the Preseason Associated Press All-America team.
  • Barkley is also a preseason first-team All-American for ESPN, USA TodaySporting NewsLindy’sStreet & Smith and Athlon Sports. Additionally, he was named the #5 player in FBS by SI.com and earned the #1 spot on Sports Illustrated’s “Feldman’s Freaks” list heading into the 2017 campaign.
  • Barkley was stellar in 2016, claiming Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football for the Big Ten’s best player last season. Barkley was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and media, which made him a unanimous first team choice.
  • Barkley led the Big Ten and was fifth in the FBS in total touchdowns (22) and was tops in the conference and 21st nationally in all-purpose yards (140.86 ypg). The junior back was second in the conference and 24th nationally with 106.9 rushing yards per game. His 1,496 yards in 2016 broke the Penn State sophomore season record and rank fifth on the single-season charts. Barkley heads into his junior season 12th on Penn State’s career rushing yardage list (2,572) and 10th in career rushing touchdowns (25).
  • Gesicki, who is also a preseason All-American according to AthlonStreet & Smith’sLindy’s and Sporting News, had a breakout campaign in 2016, breaking the Penn State single-season record for receptions and yardage by a tight end. His 48 catches broke the record held by Andrew Quarless (41; 2009) and his 679 receiving yards best Mickey Shuler’s previous mark of 600 receiving yards (1977). Gesicki also tied the Penn State season record for touchdown catches for a tight end (5) in 2016.
  • Gesicki led the Big Ten and was tied for seventh nationally in receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. For his efforts, Gesicki was named second-team All-Big Ten by the media and All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches. Gesicki has four or more catches in seven of his last 12 games.
  • Additionally, S Marcus Allen drew first-team preseason All-America recognition from Sporting News and third team honors from Athlon Sports and Pro Football Focus.
  • Allen was selected third-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches and honorable mention by the media panel last season. He made a team- and career-high 110 tackles on the season to become the first Penn State safety to lead the team in tackles since Shawn Mayer (144) in 2002.

B1G PRESEASON HONORS

 

  • RB Saquon Barkey and QB Trace McSorley are among the 10 players (five from the East Division) named to the Big Ten preseason honors list, as selected by the conference’s media members.
  • Barkley led the Big Ten and was fifth in the FBS in total touchdowns (22) and was tops in the conference and 21st nationally in all-purpose yards (140.86 ypg). The junior back was second in the conference and 24th nationally with 106.9 rushing yards per game.
  • McSorley was also a second-team All-Big Ten choice by the conference’s coaches and media, while also being named the Big Ten’s Breakout Player of the Year by Athlon Sports and the Maxwell Football Club’s Bryan Westbrook Tri-State Player of the Year. He earned the Grange-Griffin Most Valuable Player award as MVP of the Big Ten Championship game after throwing for a Big Ten Championship game-record 384 yards and four touchdowns.

3,500 & 1,000

 

  • Penn State is one of three FBS teams to return a 3,500 yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher.
  • The Nittany Lions return QB Trace McSorley, who threw for a team-record 3,614 yards in 2016, and RB Saquon Barkley, who rushed for a team-sophomore record 1,496 yards.
  • The other two teams are Oklahoma State, returning QB Mason Rudolph (4,091 passing yards) and RB Justice Hill (1,142 rushing yards), and Louisville, returning QB Lamar Jackson (3,543 passing yards and 1,571 rushing yards).
  • Penn State was one of 11 FBS teams to boast a 3,500-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher in 2016. Furthermore, Penn State was one of six teams in the Autonomy Five and the only Big Ten school to accomplish the feat last year.
  • McSorley owns the Penn State season passing yards record at 3,614. Only two other Penn State quarterbacks eclipsed 3,000 yards passing in a single season: Matt McGloin (3,266 yds; 2012) and Daryll Clark (3,003 yds; 2009).
  • Barkley tallied 1,496 rushing yards to rank fifth in program history. It was also the highest total by a Penn State back since Larry Johnson’s record-breaking campaign in 2002.
  • PSU’s two other seasons with a 3,000-yard passer also featured a 1,000-yard rusher: Zach Zwinak (1,000 yards, 2012) and Evan Royster (1,169 yards, 2009).

Copyright © 2021 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.

Comments are temporarily closed. A new and improved comments section will be added soon.