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Chris Godwin turned this juggling catch into a 72-yard touchdown against USC.

Penn State will keep chucking ’50-50′ balls, Trevor Hamilton steps up for hockey team and more

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Friday, Feb. 17. Let’s get started.

Deep thoughts

All last football season Penn State’s offense lived and died with the so-called 50-50 ball.

So-called, because offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead doesn’t believe any passing play should be regarded as such. As he told Mike Poorman of

“When the ball’s in the air, it’s ours. Our receivers have done a great job going up and making plays, and our tight ends and backs do as well.”

Moorhead went on to say that such plays occur “within the fabric of our offense” and “within the fabric of the game.” Wide receiver Chris Godwin, who has since declared for the NFL draft, became a wizard of the 50-50 ball, notably on his 72-yard touchdown catch against USC in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl.

As Poorman notes, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Godwin is not freakishly big, but he’s strong and he can jump. On the play against the Trojans he fought off cornerback Iman Marshall, made a juggling reception of Trace McSorley’s pass and went the distance.

Similar things happened all season. If Godwin wasn’t making an acrobatic catch, tight end Mike Gesicki was doing so. Or Saeed Blacknall. Or DaeSean Hamilton.

The Lions ultimately lost to the Trojans because of their dependence on such plays. McSorley put one up for grabs in the closing seconds and Leon McQuay picked it off, leading to the decisive field goal in a 52-49 USC victory.

But PSU’s approach doesn’t figure to change in 2017. The Lions will still take their shots. They will still depend on their receivers to make plays. The difference is, Godwin won’t be there to make them.

As mentioned in this space on Tuesday, DeAndre Thompkins is the most experienced of the receivers vying for Godwin’s old spot, but he goes 5-11, 190. His primary competition figures to come from 6-4, 219-pound Irv Charles, who was repeatedly lauded by coach James Franklin last season, and 6-4, 218-pound Juwan Johnson.

And let’s not forget that Franklin once said he prefers guys with “massive heads, big hands, long arms and big feet.” He was talking not just about wide receivers, but players in general. Certainly, though, such attributes come in handy in the downfield jousting that goes on between receivers and defenders.

Especially when it comes to so-called 50-50 balls.

Hamilton is a hit for PSU, too

Junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton has posted six goals and 17 assists for the Nittany Lions’ ninth-ranked hockey team, which hosts No. 5 Minnesota on Friday and Saturday. But coach Guy Gadowsky has come to appreciate Hamilton’s play at both ends of the ice, as he told the Centre Daily Times’ Gordon Brunskill:

“He’s a warrior. He plays hurt, he blocks shots, he eats pucks. … He’s the type of guy that plays better in the bigger games.”

Hamilton is fourth on the team in points (23) and third in assists (17), and the latter total is a school single-season record for defensemen. That makes him something of a wild card in these games between the Lions (18-6-2) and Gophers (18-8-2).

As he told Brunskill:

“When the team’s doing well, everyone’s doing well scoring. Our forwards are so skilled they can pull up and hit you late in the rush and you’re going to have a mini-breakaway. I like to get in the rush.”

Suriano set for Oklahoma State

PSU freshman Nick Suriano, 159-0 during his career at Bergen Catholic in New Jersey, has made a near-seamless transition to college. The Lions’ 125-pounder is 16-1 and ranked second in the nation heading into the No. 2 Lions’ meeting with No. 1 Oklahoma State on Sunday in Stillwater, in the National Duals Championship.

Suriano faces another freshman, No. 11 Nick Piccininni. Piccininni was a four-time New York state champion in high school, while Suriano won four New Jersey state championships.

Suriano made clear to’s Jim Carlson that he is looking forward to Sunday’s match, no matter the competition:

“I got here pretty much in June for this and now we’re at the big show. That’s what we do this for.”

And Suriano has made steady progress, losing only to No. 1 Thomas Gilman of Iowa. As coach Cael Sanderson told Carlson:

“The more experience, the better he’s going to get. That’s usually the case with a kid with the right attitude as a freshman. Because he’s very optimistic and he believes in himself, he’s getting better and he’s excited.”

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