Penn State Looks to Keep Momentum at Purdue Saturday

Brandon Bell - Penn State - Burdick
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Fresh off an upset victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State, No. 24 Penn State travels west to Purdue for a noon kickoff in West Lafayette, Indiana, televised on ABC (regionally) and ESPN2 (in other areas).

(Photo of Brandon Bell. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Accordingly, Penn State was ranked No. 24 in this week’s AP poll. It’s the Nittany Lions’ first appearance in the poll since Week 15 of the 2011 season.

The Lions will look to extend a three-game winning streak, as well as a seven-game winning streak over Purdue. However, to do so, Penn State must snap a seven-game losing streak in true road games that dates back to 2014. Including the Purdue game, Penn State will play three of its final five regular-season games on the road after playing five of its first seven at home.

Penn State will be carrying the momentum of one of its most improbable victories in decades, as the Nittany Lions had not defeated a top-two ranked team when it was unranked since 1964. With 10 plays going for 20 yards or more, as well as a pair of game-changing special teams plays in the fourth quarter, Penn State continued to see success with explosive plays.

Just as critical to Penn State’s success was the performance of the defense, which shutout the Buckeyes in the first and fourth quarters and held them to a season-low 21 points (19 points when taking into consideration the unit was not on the field for an allowed safety). The Buckeyes had scored in every quarter this season and won their last 20 road games. Penn State linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda made their presence known in their returns from injury, as the duo ranked one and two in the game in tackles with 18 and 13, respectively.

The Lions will be facing a Purdue team that held the halftime lead against another top-10 team last Saturday, Nebraska. The Boilermakers were unable to hold on, but will look to improve in their second game under interim head coach Gerad Parker. Purdue owns the Big Ten’s most prolific passing attack in the Big Ten, averaging 306.0 yards per game through the air.


  • Gerad Parker was elevated to interim head coach Oct. 16, 2016, taking over for Darrell Hazell, who was relieved of his duties.
  • Parker is in his fourth season at Purdue. He was hired Feb. 11, 2013, and spent his first two seasons as tight ends coach before becoming wide receivers coach in 2015. He also has served as recruiting coordinator.
  • Parker previously worked at Marshall, joining the Thundering Herd coaching staff in the spring of 2011 and spending two years as wide receivers coach. Prior to Marshall, Parker spent three seasons at UT-Martin as the Skyhawks’ passing game coordinator, recruiting coordinator, wide receivers and running backs coach.
  • He began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kentucky, his alma mater. He was a four-year letterwinner as a student-athlete, graduating in 2003.


  • Purdue is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. Its lone Big Ten win came over Illinois in overtime, 34-31.
  • The Boilermakers are under the guidance of interim head coach Gerad Parker. It will be Parker’s second game at the helm.
  • Parker guided Purdue to a 14-10 halftime lead over No. 8 Nebraska in his debut game, Oct. 22, but the Huskers rallied in the second half to win 27-14.
  • Purdue quarterback David Blough finished 25-of-43 passing for 309 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the game.
  • Blough’s top target was fellow senior DeAngelo Yancey, who had four catches for 100 yards and both touchdowns.
  • Purdue leads the Big Ten and ranks 16th in FBS in passing offense, averaging 306.0 yards per game. The Boilermakers are also effective at keeping their quarterback upright, ranking third in the Big Ten averaging 1.57 sacks allowed per game.
  • Third down conversions are another strength, as Purdue ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a 47.4% rate.
  • The Boilermakers are one of the most disciplined teams in the country, ranking third in the conference and 10th in the nation with just 4.43 penalties per game.


  • Following a thrilling comeback win over No. 2 Ohio State Saturday night in the Penn State White Out, the Nittany Lions entered the Associated Press Top 25 in the 24th slot.
  • This marks the first time that Penn State has been ranked since week 15 of the 2011 season.
  • Penn State is off to its best start since starting the 2012 season at 5-2.


  • After spending the past four weeks at home (three games, one bye week), Penn State is playing its first road game since Sept. 24 at Michigan.
  • Penn State played five of its first seven games this season at home, winning all five, but has come up short in its first two away games (Pitt, Michigan).
  • Three of Penn State’s final five road games will be on the road (Purdue, Oct. 29; Indiana, Nov. 12; Rutgers, Nov. 19).
  • The Nittany Lions have been on the short end in their last seven true road contests, last winning at Indiana on Nov. 18, 2014.
  • During the same time period, Penn State won two neutral site contests: The Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College on Dec. 27, 2014 and against Maryland in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 24, 2015.


  • Penn State sophomore RB Mark Allen and freshman DE Shane Simmons both attended Dematha Catholic with Purdue junior Ja’Whaun Bentley.
  • Penn State co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Tim Banks just missed Purdue offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Terry Malone at Bowling Green. Malone was on the coaching staff from 1986-95, while Banks joined the staff as a graduate assistant in 1996.


  • QB Tommy Stevens – Indianapolis/Decatur Central


  • Penn State is appearing on ABC for the third time this season and the second week in a row.
  • Penn State last appeared on ABC three times in 2014.
  • According to overnight Nielsen TV ratings, over 6 million people watched Penn State’s thrilling come-from-behind win over then-No. 2 Ohio State on ABC.
  • It was the most-watched broadcast television show on broadcast TV during the primetime slot Saturday.
  • Viewership peaked at a 5.8 rating from 11:30-11:45 p.m. and garnered a 4.2 overall, up 27 percent from the comparable window in 2015.
  • It marked the best game on ABC in week 8.


  • Penn State has drawn numerous accolades during its three-game winning streak.
  • The Football Writers Association of America and Athlon Sports both recognized Penn State as the National Team of the Week for defeating then-No. 2 Ohio State.
  • The Nittany Lions claimed half of the weekly Big Ten accolades for a second consecutive week (not including the bye week) after the win over Ohio State, as linebacker Brandon
    Bell was named the Defensive Player of the Week following an 18-tackle performance, and Marcus Allen and Grant Haley shared Special Teams Player of the Week honors after teaming up to block a field goal and return it for the game-winning touchdown, respectively.
  • A Nittany Lion has claimed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors in three of the last four weeks (bye week was the week without a winner). The feat was last accomplished in 2012 when Michael Mauti (Illinois), Gerald Hodges(Northwestern) and Jordan Hill (Iowa) garnered weekly plaudits.
  • Allen and Haley are the first Penn State players to win Special Teams Player of the Week since Sam Ficken was a two-time winner in 2014.
  • Haley was also named the Rose Bowl Big Ten Player of the Week, while Bell was named the College Sports Madness National Defensive Player of the Week.
  • Four Penn State coaches also earned awards:
  • The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl named James
    Franklin The Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week.
  • Defensive coordinator Brent Pry was named the Defensive Coordinator of the Week by Athlon Sports.
  • Special teams coach Charles Huff and defensive line coach Sean Spencer were honored at their respective positions for the week by Coaching Search.
  • Running back Saquon Barkley and junior linebacker Brandon Smith were selected as the Big Ten Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, after outstanding performances in the win over Maryland.
  • The last time the Nittany Lions had both the Big Ten Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week was in 2009 when Daryll Clark and Navorro Bowman won the awards after the Michigan State game.
  • Allen claimed the Oct. 3 Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Rose Bowl Player of the Week after a 22-tackle performance against Minnesota.


  • Two of Penn State’s last three victories have featured double-digit comebacks.
  • The comeback trend started against Minnesota. Penn State trailed by 10 at halftime (13-3) and rallied to win 29-26 overtime.
  • Against Ohio State Penn State trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter, but scored 17 to win.
  • Penn State won when trailing going into the fourth quarter by at least 14 points for the first time since at least 1967.
  • The Nittany Lions trailed Michigan State by 13 points (37-24) in 1993 entering the fourth quarter. Penn State won the game 38-37.
  • It was the Nittany Lions’ biggest comeback win since erasing a 21-7 deficit to defeat Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
  • It was the biggest comeback win in a Big Ten game and at home since rallying from a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter for a 35-21 win over Northwestern on Nov. 6, 2010.


  • Penn State played four undefeated teams in each of its last four games and spoiled undefeated seasons in the last three (Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio State).
  • Kent State (0-0), Pitt (1-0), Temple (1-1), Michigan (3-0), Minnesota (3-0), Maryland (4-0) and Ohio State (6-0) combined for an 18-1 record prior to playing PSU.


  • Penn State defeated a Top 2 team for the first time since winning at No. 1 Notre Dame, 24-21, in 1990.
  • Penn State had not beaten a Top 2 team at home since beating No. 2 Nebraska, 27-24, in 1982.
  • The last and only other time Penn State had defeated a Top 2 team when it was unranked was Nov. 7, 1964 when it defeated No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus, 27-0.
  • The highest ranked team Penn State had defeated at home when it was unranked was No. 3 Alabama, 34-28, on Oct. 8, 1983.
  • The last time Penn State defeated a Top 5 team when it was unranked was two weeks after the Alabama win in 1983, as the Nittany Lions downed No. 5 West Virginia, 41-23, on Oct. 22, 1983.
  • Penn State had not defeated a Top 5 team since beating No. 4 Arizona in the Pigskin Classic, 41-0, in 1999.
  • Penn State beat a ranked opponent for the first time since No. 14 Wisconsin, 31-24, in 2013, and did so at home for the first time since No. 18 Michigan, 43-40, in four overtimes on Oct. 12, 2013.
  • It was head coach James Franklin’s second win over a ranked opponent and his first with Penn State. He guided Vanderbilt past No. 15 Georgia.


  • Penn State won when trailing going into the fourth quarter by at least 14 points for the first time since at least 1967.
  • The Nittany Lions trailed Michigan State by 13 points (37-24) in 1993 entering the fourth quarter. Penn State won the game 38-37.
  • The FWAA recognized Penn State as its National Team of the Week for the fourth time since the award was started in 2002.
  • Three of the four FWAA honors have been for Penn State wins over Ohio State (2005, 2008, 2015).
  • Then-No. 2 Ohio State was the second Top 5 ranked team Penn State faced this season. The Nittany Lions faced then No. 4/5 Michigan on Sept. 24.
  • The last time Penn State faced multiple Top 5 teams was 2006 when it met No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan. Prior to 2006, Penn State had not faced multiple Top 5 teams during the regular season since 1983.
  • Penn State last won a game with eight or fewer completions in 2003 vs. Temple, when the Nittany Lions defeated the Owls, 23-10, and had only six completions.


  • Before the loss to the Nittany Lions, Ohio State had won 78-straight games when leading by 14 in the fourth quarter since 2004.
  • Penn State snapped Ohio State’s streak of 20 consecutive true road wins under Urban Meyer. Ohio State last lost on the road at Michigan in the 2011 season finale.
  • Penn State held Ohio State scoreless in the first quarter, the first team to shut out the Buckeyes in any quarter this season.
  • The Nittany Lions held the Buckeyes scoreless in two quarters for the first time since Michigan State last season, which was Ohio State’s last loss.


  • Penn State held Ohio State to a season low 21 points, well below the Buckeyes’ average of 49.3 entering the game. The Buckeyes’ ground game was held to 168 yards, well-below its previous average of 300.5.
  • The Nittany Lion defense held Ohio State scoreless in two quarters for the first time since the Michigan State game last season.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Info, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett was sacked or under duress on 44 percent of his dropbacks, the second-most in his career.
  • The Nittany Lion defense had a season-high 11.0 tackles for loss. It was also the most TFLs for Penn State since Maryland (11.0) last season.
  • The 11.0 tackles for loss were the most yielded by the Buckeyes since giving up 11.0 TFL vs. Alabama on Jan. 1, 2015.
  • The 6.0 sacks given up by Ohio State were the most since yielding 7.0 against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6, 2014. Entering the Penn State game, the Buckeyes had only surrendered five sacks all season, but allowed five in the second half alone.
  • Penn State allowed a season-low 11 first downs to Maryland, its fewest allowed in a Big Ten game since holding Minnesota to seven in 2009.
  • Penn State held Maryland well below its season averages entering the game. The Terps were averaging 43.2 points per game, while allowing just 14.5. They rushed for an average of 300 yards in the first four games before being held to 170 rushing yards and 270 yards of total offense (466.2 average).
  • The 100 yards passing allowed were the fewest in a Big Ten game since giving up 68 at Indiana in 2014.
  • Penn State has been at its strongest late in games.
  • Penn State has allowed a total of 30 third-quarter points through seven games this season, an average of 4.3 points in the third stanza.
  • Just 74 of the 192 points allowed by Penn State have been after halftime. Penn State has shut out two teams in the second half: Kent State and Maryland.


  • Penn State has picked up where it left off in the tackles for loss category, ranking fourth in FBS and second in the Big Ten, averaging 9.0 per game.
  • Penn State has set season-highs in the category in each of its last two games, posting 11 against Ohio State and 10 TFLs against Maryland.
  • Against Ohio State, nine different players assisted on a stop behind the line, led by DE Garrett
    Sickles with a career-high 3.5 and LB Jason Cabinda with 2.0.
  • Against Maryland 10 different players contributed for TFLs with LB Koa Farmer leading with 1.5.
  • LB Manny Bowen made 2.0 stops behind the line against Minnesota to lead Penn State to nine for the game. Ten different players recorded at least an assist.
  • DT Parker Cothren made a career high 2.5 tackles for loss to lead PSU to eight total against Temple.
  • Led by a career-high 3.0 TFLs from LB Nyeem Wartman-White, Penn State totaled nine at Pitt.
  • Penn State registered 10 against Kent State.
  • In 2015, Penn State ranked sixth in FBS and topped the Big Ten with 8.2 tackles for loss per game. The 106 total TFLs were the most since 2007 (120).


  • Linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda both returned from injury against Ohio State and combined for 31 tackles, 2.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss.
  • Cabinda had missed five games, only playing in the season opener against Kent State, while Bell had missed 4.5 games, leaving with an injury during the second game of the season at Pitt.
  • Bell and Cabinda led Penn State in tackles against Ohio State. Bell had a career-high 18 to best his previous high of 13 against Ohio State in 2014, while Cabinda had 13 and tied his career high with 2.0 tackles for loss, equaling the mark he had against Army last season.
  • Penn State’s linebackers had a tough go early in the season. For three games (at Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland), Penn State was without its starting linebacker trio of Cabinda,
    Nyeem Wartman-White and Bell due to injuries.
  • Wartman-White is out for the season due to an injury suffered in the third game of the season.
  • The trio owned a combined 63 career starts, while their replacements, sophomores Manny
    Bowen (2 starts) and Jake Cooper (2 starts) and junior Brandon Smith, had just four combined career starts entering the Michigan game. Three of Bowen and Cooper’s starts came in the previous two weeks.
  • Penn State again had just four career starts amongst its linebackers entering the Minnesota game, as Bowen (3) and Smith (1) were joined by Cam Brown, who made his first career start.
  • Smith was disqualified on the first play of the second quarter at Michigan due to a targeting penalty, and his replacement, Jan Johnson, then suffered a season-ending injury later in the quarter. It was Johnson’s first career game. The targeting call was later announced as incorrect by the Big Ten.
  • The five linebackers missed a combined 16.5 games in the first six weeks.
    • Jason Cabinda – 5 games
    • Brandon Bell – 4.5 games
    • Nyeem Wartman-White – 3.75 games
    • Brandon Smith – 0.75 game
    • Jan Johnson – 2.5 games
  • Bell was Penn State’s leading tackler through the first two games, and he ranks tied for fourth on the team with 35 tackles in just three games.
  • Cabinda and Wartman-White were both named to the 2016 Butkus Award Watch List prior to the season. The award, named in honor of legendary linebacker Dick Butkus, annually recognizes the nation’s top collegiate linebacker.
  • Cabinda and Wartman-White entered the season vying to become the first Nittany Lion to earn the honor since Paul Posluszny in 2005. LaVar Arrington also won the award in 1999, and five have previously been named finalists: Shane Conlan (1986), Andre Collins (1989), Brandon Short (1999), Posluszny (2006) and Dan Connor (2007).
  • Cabinda garnered All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades and was an ECAC first team All-Star as a sophomore. Starting all 13 games, Cabinda led the team and was 15th in the Big Ten with 7.7 tackles per game. He had three games with 10 or more tackles last season after entering 2015 with a career high of eight tackles during his freshman season in 2014.
  • Wartman-White had a strong return after missing nearly all of the 2015 season with an injury. He had 14 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack. He also had two pass breakups.
  • In 2014, Wartman-White ended the season as the team’s second-leading tackler behind All-American Mike Hull. His 75 tackles in 2014 more than doubled his previous career high, with his 6.2 stops per game ranking 28th in the conference. He grabbed his first career interception at Indiana in 2014, helping secure the Nittany Lions victory, and added 3.5 TFLs.


  • A blocked punt and blocked field goal were crucial to Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes.
  • Before Marcus Allen blocked Ohio State’s 45-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter (the first of his career), the Nittany Lions last blocked a field goal in the four overtime victory vs. Michigan in 2013 (Kyle Baublitz).
  • The return for a touchdown of the blocked field goal is believed to be the first in Penn State history.
  • Penn State’s blocked punt freshman LB Cam Brown was the first by the Nittany Lions since Von
    Walker blocked a punt vs. Michigan last season.
  • Penn State had not blocked two kicks of any type in a single game since blocking two against Florida International in the 2007 season opener (field goal and punt).
  • CB Grant Haley returned the blocked field goal for the second touchdown of his career.
  • P Blake Gillikin’s punt in the first quarter marked his sixth punt inside the 10-yard line this season. He had a career-high seven in the game.
  • RB Miles Sanders had a career-best 89 kickoff return yards.
  • Joey Julius has 22 touchbacks on 43 kickoffs after posting 22 on 53 kickoffs last season. He kicked six into the end zone against Temple.
  • Julius also has three tackles on kickoff returns on the season.
  • Against Temple, Penn State did not allow any kickoff yards or punt return yards for the first time since Oct. 2, 2010 at Iowa.


  • Penn State has earned 56 first downs on second down, which ranks third-best in FBS at 44.80 percent.
  • Of the 125 first downs Penn State has gained this year, just 22 have come on third down plays, which is the lowest percentage (5.6 percent) of any team in FBS.
  • Additionally, just 19.01 percent of Penn State’s plays this year have been third down plays, which is the 23rd-lowest percent in FBS.

Courtesy SportSource Analytics


  • Penn State led the nation in sacks a year ago but lost three defensive linemen to the NFL. However, several Nittany Lions are stepping up to fill the void.
  • Ironically enough, the very first game without the missing pieces from 2015 resulted in a feat not accomplished since 2011, as seven different Nittany Lions totaled seven sacks against Kent State.
  • Penn State last registered seven sacks in a game at Northwestern in 2011.
  • DE Garrett Sickels had career highs in tackles (9), sacks (2.5) and TFLs (3.5) against Ohio State. He now leads the team with 7.0 TFLs this season.
  • Senior DE Evan Schwan has posted a sack in each of the last three games. Schwan had his first career quarterback takedown vs. Minnesota in overtime, forcing Minnesota to kick a field goal. Schwan assisted on a fourth-down sack of J.T. Barrett to ice the win against Ohio State.

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