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, Jan. 9. Let’s get started.
Safety first for Marcus Allen
The very name of the position played by Penn State’s Marcus Allen — safety — implies a cautious approach, that he will lay back and do his part as the last line of defense.
In reality he is often the first line of defense, hurtling forward to make big plays, and big hits, near the line of scrimmage. He led the Nittany Lions with 110 tackles this season, and has 249 in three seasons. Yet he is without an interception in his career, which seems practically impossible for someone who has played 39 collegiate games in the secondary to date.
So the guy who so often plays so aggressively elected Sunday to take a conservative approach in regards to his final season of eligibility, announcing that he would forgo the NFL draft and return to the Lions this fall. He said in a statement he did so despite receiving “largely positive” feedback from the NFL, and after huddling with coach James Franklin, who was “equally … persuasive” in convincing him to come back.
It’s a sound move, even though Allen is coming off a big year. Not only did he make all those tackles, he also blocked the Ohio State field goal attempt that cornerback Grant Haley returned 60 yards for a touchdown in the 24-21 upset of the then-No. 2 Buckeyes on Oct. 22.
And Allen again teamed with Haley to stop Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with one minute left in the Big Ten championship game, clinching the Lions’ 38-31 victory.
By returning, Allen can continue to improve his ball skills, and by extension improve his draft stock. He is also the anchor of a secondary that not only returns Haley, but also the other starting cornerback, John Reid.
In all, the Lions will have seven starters back on that side of the ball, losing only Malik Golden, Allen’s partner at safety, as well as linebacker Brandon Bell and ends Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan.
They lose only two starters on offense — center Brian Gaia and wide receiver Chris Godwin — the primary reason they will be ranked among the nation’s top teams next season. That’s another reason Allen is wise to play it safe, just this once, and return to Happy Valley.
Penn State’s wrestling team, ranked second in the nation, beat No. 6 Nebraska 27-14 on Sunday, completing a weekend sweep of highly regarded programs. The Lions (6-0) also blitzed No. 12 Minnesota 33-6 on Friday.
PSU trailed 8-3 after three matches Sunday, but Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf – ranked No. 1 in the nation in their respective weight classes – scored major decisions at 149 and 157 to put the Lions ahead to stay. Retherford beat Collin Purinton 19-6, and Nolf topped No. 3 Tyler Berger 15-7.
Vincenzo Joseph followed with another major decision at 165, beating Dustin Williams 20-7, and after Geno Morelli nipped Micah Barnes 2-1 at 174, No. 2 Bo Nickal squared off against No. 3 T.J. Dudley at 184, in a meeting of 2016 NCAA runners-up.
According to an account by Pennlive.com’s Jim Carlson, Nickal held a 3-2 lead entering the final period but dominated thereafter, en route to a 10-5 victory.
PSU next hosts Rutgers on Friday.
Palestra works its magic
The Lions played in one of college basketball’s grand old buildings, Philadelphia’s Palestra, on Saturday and did themselves and the 90-year-old facility proud, gouging out a 72-63 victory over Michigan State.
Freshman forward Lamar Stevens led the way with 18 points, and afterward said the following, per Mike Jensen of Philly.com:
“I felt at home.”
And, well, he should have, seeing as he played last year at Roman Catholic High School, teaming with current PSU teammates Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick to win a Philadelphia Catholic League championship in the very same building.
Three other Lions have Philly ties – junior guard Shep Garner (another Roman graduate), redshirt freshman forward Mike Watkins (Math, Engineering and Sciences) and junior forward Julian Moore (Germantown Academy).
So too does coach Pat Chambers, who played at Philadelphia University (then Philadelphia Textile) under legendary coach Herb Magee and later served as an assistant at Villanova.
Simply put, this was a victory with far-reaching implications. Chambers is recruiting well in Philadelphia, something few of his Happy Valley predecessors have done. He needs to continue to do so, and playing a game like this in a venue like the Palestra can only help.
Ice hockey squad earns split
No. 2 PSU earned a split of a two-game set at Ohio State on Saturday, riding the strong goaltending of Peyton Jones (24 saves) to a 4-2 victory over the No. 11 Buckeyes.
OSU had snapped the Lions’ 13-game unbeaten string with a 3-0 victory on Friday.
Per the Daily Collegian, Brandon Biro broke a scoreless tie in the second period for the Lions (14-2-1) on Saturday, and third-period goals by Erik Autio and Ricky DeRosa staked PSU to a 3-0 lead. A pair of power-play goals by Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey cut the gap to one, but Penn State’s Chase Berger countered with an empty-netter.
The Lions host Michigan State on Friday and Saturday.