We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Monday, Nov. 7. Let’s get started.
Lions ‘singing the same song’
With Saturday’s 41-14 thumping of Iowa, Penn State has won five straight games to improve to 7-2. The Nittany Lions have churned out more than 500 yards in each of the past two, and their 599-yard output against the Hawkeyes was PSU’s most against a Big Ten opponent since the 1994 club, featuring one of the best offenses in college football history, put up 653 against Michigan State.
All of that has turned heads throughout the country. On Sunday, the Lions learned they had jumped from 20th to 12th in the Associated Press rankings, and from 23rd to 14th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They were 12th before Saturday in the rankings that matter most, those of the College Football Playoff, but will certainly move up in that poll as well. It will be updated on Tuesday.
Optimism continues to rise as well. While coach James Franklin said after Saturday’s game that he and his assistants will never be satisfied, he admitted that he really likes what he’s seeing from his team at present:
“Everybody is singing the same song, and everybody’s singing it in the same tune right now.”
Linebacker Koa Farmer was as giddy as anyone after the Iowa game, as noted by Frank Bodani of ydr.com:
“We’re frickin’ good, man, we’re good. I’m talking about national championship (good).”
That’s a little extreme. This team did, after all, lose by 39 points at Michigan in late September. And in time Farmer caught himself:
“I’m saying we can go as far as you can go. You (media) guys are getting a taste of it. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we can do special things for Penn State.”
The defense has improved markedly since veteran linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda returned from injury three weeks ago, and the offense is fast approaching the elite level.
Quarterback Trace McSorley hasn’t turned the ball over in five games, and running back Saquon Barkley has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season.
McSorley threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns against the Hawkeyes, and ran for another. Barkley rushed for 167, including a 57-yard touchdown, and caught a 44-yard TD pass. In the process he has entered the Heisman Trophy discussion.
As McSorley said: “As a team we believe that he deserves that. If he ends up being in that talk, that’s awesome, because he’s one of our brothers.”
Joe Moorhead could go
The down side of all this success is that it will almost certainly lead to interest on the part of other schools in Franklin’s assistants, notably offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Moorhead, the former Fordham head coach, has done wonders in his first year.
His play-calling is always on point. He has played a big role in the development of McSorley, a first-year starter, and accentuated Barkley’s considerable talents.
David Jones of Pennlive.com believes a school like Boston College might be interested in Moorhead, if and when the Eagles jettison their current head coach, Steve Addazio.
As Jones writes:
If BC decides to pull the trigger and go with a more exciting offensive innovator, Moorhead would fit perfectly. And though it’s one of the more austere Power Five programs, a $2.5 million to $3 million annual salary seems reasonable considering escalating trends and that even Addazio makes $2.6 million.
Such an offer would be tough for PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour to match, Jones added, meaning that Franklin would do well to keep his list of potential future hires updated.
It’s now official: There is an award for everything. Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover was named one of 10 assistant coaches of the week by coachingsearch.com, and backup punter Chris Gulla, who holds for Tyler Davis’ placements, has been named a candidate for the Mortell Holder of the Year.
Limegrover, fired last season as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator, has certainly done yeoman’s work in his first year on the staff, working around injuries to starting tackles Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon to transform the Lions’ trouble spot into a strong point.
Paris Palmer became the starting left tackle when Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury against Maryland on Oct. 8, with Mahon moving from the left flank to Nelson’s old spot on the right side. Then Mahon suffered a foot injury three plays into Saturday’s game, leading to the insertion of Chasz Wright. As the statistics indicate, the Lions barely skipped a beat.
Back in the spring, Limegrover moved senior Brian Gaia from guard to center. Redshirt freshman Ryan Bates emerged as the regular left guard before the opener, and freshman Connor McGovern won the job at right guard early in the season.
As for Gulla, his is an important job, no question. It has, in fact, become his only job since he was beaten out as the regular punter last season.
Still – holder of the year? That’s a thing?
2016 Mortell Holder of the Year candidate list: pic.twitter.com/GL1niJGZ4I
— Peter Mortell (@PMortell1) November 4, 2016
Focus on field hockey
As noted on Land of 10 Sunday, Penn State beat Maryland 2-1 to win the Big Ten field hockey championship for the first time since 2012. Here, courtesy of the Big Ten Network’s Twitter feed, is some reaction from tournament MVP Gini Bramley, who scored the decisive goal for PSU, and veteran coach Char Morett-Curtiss, who earned her 500th career victory.
She scored the game-winning goal, and she won @bigten tourney MVP.
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) November 6, 2016
500th career win ✔️
2016 @bigten tourney title ✔️
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) November 6, 2016