Sep 16, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Penn State Nittany Lions running back Mehdi Flowers (right) runs the ball against Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Miles Scott (10) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Penn State’s defense dominates Illinois

Alex Felkins connected on three field goals and Penn State’s defense hounded Illinois into five turnovers Saturday afternoon, lifting the No 7 Nittany Lions to a 30-13 Big Ten victory over the Fighting Illini in Champaign, Ill.

A two-touchdown favorite, the Nittany Lions (3-0, 1-0) scored 13 points on the first three miscues by the home side, including a run by Kaytron Allen, and never trailed in the conference opener for both teams.

Sophomore quarterback Drew Allar was a modest 16 of 33 for 208 yards, but he did not turn the ball over in a game that was largely decided by Illinois mistakes, as the Nittany Lions scored 20 points off turnovers.

Allar has not thrown an interception in his 88 passes this season.

Penn State improved to 21-6 in the series, which dates to 1954. It has won seven of the past nine matchups.

Illinois’ Luke Altmyer had a rough outing. The Ole Miss transfer went 15 of 28 for 163 yards but surrendered four interceptions as the Fighting Illini (1-2, 0-1) lost for the second consecutive outing.

Backup John Paddock (10 of 16, 129 yards) threw a touchdown.

The visitors were able to score after Kobe King recovered a first-quarter fumble. However, Illinois’ defensive stand deep inside the red zone limited Penn State to Felkins’ 20-yarder at 5:27.

Linebacker Abdul Carter’s interception resulted in the kicker’s second boot – a 45-yarder late in the frame for a 6-0 lead.

Allen’s rushing touchdown from four yards out at 11:04 made it 13-0. That tally was set up by cornerback Daequan Hardy’s pick of Altmyer.

After Illinois blocked a 52-yard try by Felkins, Altmyer got the offense moving with just over six minutes left in the half. Reggie Love III cut it to six points when he bulled in from five yards to end the seven-play, 68-yard drive.

Felkins knocked home a 28-yarder on the final play of the half for a 16-7 edge.

Tyler Warren created some separation when he caught an 11-yard halfback pass from Trey Potts to push the lead to 23-7 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter’s first minute, Nicholas Singleton ran it in from 16 yards, while Illinois scored with 4:21 left on Malik Elzy’s 19-yard reception from Paddock.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) looks on from the field during a warm up prior to the game against the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Penn State presents challenges for scorched Illinois

Illinois brings the 125th-ranked defense into Saturday’s home game with No. 7 Penn State wounded and ready to make major changes.

Toledo put up 28 points in the season opener. In a 34-point outburst Friday night, Kansas scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions to drop the Fighting Illini to 1-1 and send head coach Bret Bielema back to the drawing board.

“Everything’s on the table because the standard of defense in which we play it’s just unacceptable,” Illini defensive coordinator Aaron Henry said of lineup changes discussed with the coaching staff ahead of the Nittany Lions’ visit to Champaign, Ill.

“You’ve got to believe in the people around you and you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get it right. Right now we’re in the foxhole doing whatever it takes to get it right and we will.”

There’s no time for Henry to exhale. Penn State outscored West Virginia and Delaware 101-22 and has the longest active streak in the nation with nine consecutive games with 30 or more points.

Quarterback Drew Allar has been as advertised in his first two career starts with four touchdowns, no turnovers and the sixth-best completion percentage in the FBS (78.2 percent).

Allar makes his first career start Saturday at Memorial Stadium, where the Nittany Lions last lost in 2014. Illinois has won only two of the past eight meetings overall, including the nine-overtime game in 2021.

Head coach James Franklin said teams are focused on the 1-2 punch at running back, Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, but expects Illinois to make adjustments after seeing Allar prove he’s more than a big name. If not, Allar gets the green light to keep his foot on the gas. He’s averaging 9.62 yards per pass attempt.

“I’m going to make the first-time starting quarterback prove that he can do it. No matter what the hype has been like, he’s still got to prove that he’s done it,” Franklin said of the mindset of playing Penn State early this season. “Well now, I think the defensive coordinators moving forward, you’re in a tough, tough spot.”

The Nittany Lions average 230 rushing yards per game. Singleton has four TDs and Allen is gaining 5.3 yards per carry.

Illinois’ first-year starter Luke Altmyer survived two starts under heavy pressure as Bielema searches for the right combination on the offensive line. Altmyer made an impossible throw while being hit in the chinstrap on the game-winning drive to beat Toledo, had a 72-yard touchdown run at Kansas and was able to walk off the field after a second-half targeting penalty on Jayhawks defensive lineman Austin Booker. Booker was flagged and ejected for the third quarter spear.

“I’m very excited about where our offense can go,” Bielema said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Carl Nassib (94) reacts after sacking New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

DE Carl Nassib announces ‘bittersweet’ retirement

Defensive end Carl Nassib, the NFL’s first openly gay active player when he came out in 2021, plans to retire.

Nassib said Wednesday on social media that he will shift his focus to Rayze, the app he launched to connect people with the 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the network that need volunteers or donations.

“This would have been my 23rd football season,” Nassib confirmed in an interview with People. “I’ve been playing football since I was 8 years old, and I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

A former walk-on at Penn State, Nassib was the 65th overall pick in the 2016 draft by Cleveland. He played in 99 games over seven seasons with the Browns (2016-17), Las Vegas Raiders (2020-21) and two stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018-19, 2022).

Nassib, 30, said he will miss the persistent pursuit of excellence required in the NFL, where “you have to earn your keep every single day.”

“Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined. I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.”

Nassib said the league is interested in maintaining a connection in a to-be-determined role that will not interfere with his work as CEO of Rayze.

“Maintaining that relationship shows that the NFL is continuing to support me. They’ve supported me so much over the last two years, and I really couldn’t have done it without that support,” he told People.

With the Raiders in 2021, Nassib made the decision to make his sexual preference public for the first time. He said he was positive no one “would really care.”

“But it was just such a good feeling to have all that support,” he said.

Nassib said that he hatched the idea for Rayze while with the Buccaneers and doing community work at a juvenile detention center.

“Now, partnering with Volunteer Match, we will have over 80,000 volunteering opportunities on Rayze later this year,” Nassib said.

–Field Level Media

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar (15) and center Hunter Nourzad (64) point out a detail in the West Virginia defense during the season opener at Beaver Stadium September 2, 2023, in State College.

No. 7 Penn State presents massive challenge for Delaware

Drew Allar was as good as advertised in his first career start at quarterback for No. 7 Penn State.

Allar will look to follow the strong outing when the Nittany Lions (1-0) host FCS program Delaware on Saturday at University Park, Pa.

Allar completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 38-15 victory over West Virginia.

He is the first Penn State quarterback to pass for at least 300 yards in his first career start since Michael Robinson threw for 379 against Wisconsin in 2013.

“It’s really rewarding,” Allar said. “I mean, as a quarterback the only stat I really care about are the wins at the end of the day. To beat a team like West Virginia in a great environment is definitely really cool, especially being my first start.”

Allar is being counted on to replace Penn State all-time passing-yardage leader Sean Clifford (10,661). Allar threw four touchdown passes against no interceptions in 60 attempts as the backup last season.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin was impressed with what he saw from the 6-foot-5 Allar last week.

“I thought he did a really good job of managing the game from a decision-making standpoint,” Franklin said. “He’s extremely poised. Like we’ve talked about in the past, he’s mobile for a big guy who does a great job of climbing a pocket and keeping his eyes up. I was very pleased.”

Receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith caught two touchdown passes, including a 72-yarder. He had four receptions for 123 yards.

Defensively, linebackers Abdul Carter, Dominic DeLuca, Curtis Jacobs each recorded a sack. Jacobs had 10 tackles for his third career double-digit output.

Jacobs was pleased to see the offense put together a 10-play, 81-yard touchdown drive after West Virginia scored a touchdown early in the second quarter to tie the game at 7.

“We’re resilient. Obviously, they came down and punched us in the mouth early with that touchdown,” Jacobs said. “And to see the offense come right back out and strike down the score. It gives you confidence just being able to play complementary football like that.”

Delaware (1-0) opened its season with a 37-13 victory over host Stony Brook on Thursday in Coastal Athletic Association play. The Blue Hens, ranked No. 19 in the FCS coaches poll, had a 559-327 edge in total offense.

Now Delaware will be on the type of stage it hasn’t seen before — Penn State drew 110,747 fans for the opener against West Virginia. The game at Stony Brook was attended by 11,132.

“We’re excited about it,” Blue Hens coach Ryan Carty said Monday on a conference call. “It’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and showcase who we are and play against the best.”

Ryan O’Connor completed 24 of 38 passes for 346 yards and one touchdown against Stony Brook in his first career start. Marcus Yarns rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, while Chandler Harvin had five catches for 100 yards.

Defensive backs Tyron Herring, Christian Pierce and Ty Davis all had interceptions. Davis returned his 50 yards for a touchdown.

Of course, visiting Penn State is vastly different than a road game at Stony Brook. Carty said crowd noise will be pumped into parts of practices, but otherwise his club won’t change its routine.

“We’re going to try to not make it too big of a moment,” said Carty, “but we also have to make sure we are dialed in and focused in preparations so we can go out there and perform.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) drops back to throw against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Allar shines as No. 7 Penn St. downs West Virginia

Drew Allar threw for a career-best 325 yards and three touchdowns as No. 7 Penn State captured a 38-15 victory over West Virginia in State College, Pa., on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.

In his first collegiate start, Allar completed 21 of 29 passes and didn’t turn the ball over. His favorite target was Harrison Wallace Jr., who caught seven passes for 72 yards.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith provided big-time playmaking for the Nittany Lions, hauling in four catches for 123 yards and two scores. Nicholas Singleton paced the Penn State rushing attack with 70 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Garrett Greene completed 16 of 27 passes for 162 yards for the Mountaineers. CJ Donaldson Jr. powered West Virginia’s running game with 81 yards and a score on 18 carries.

After WVU’s opening series ended in a punt, Penn State got on the board quickly as Allar found Lambert-Smith, and the wideout scampered 72 yards for a touchdown. The Mountaineers responded after an exchange of possessions with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a goal-line dive from Donaldson for a touchdown.

But then Penn State scored 24 straight points, taking a commanding lead midway through the fourth quarter after Allar found Malik McClain for a 25-yard touchdown.

West Virginia finally responded after that score, with Greene finding the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. However, with just 3:34 left to play, there wasn’t enough time left for the Mountaineers to erase what was then a 16-point deficit. With backups in for the final series, Penn State scored once more, as Beau Pribula rushed for his first career touchdown.

It was the first meeting between Penn State and West Virginia since 1992. The two sides played each other in almost every year between 1940 and 1992, but the series stopped when Penn State joined the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions will visit the Mountaineers in a return game next season on Aug. 31 in Morgantown, W.Va.

–Field Level Media

Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. motions to the Nittany Lion faithful after Minnesota is penalized for a second false start in the first quarter at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in State College.

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Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. touts self as ‘CB1’

Self-confident Penn State defensive back Joey Porter Jr. made his father proud at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, touting himself as the best corner in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“I feel like I’m CB1 for a reason,” Porter Jr. said in a 15-minute media session in Indianapolis. “I feel like I’m the best corner here. I’m here to show my talents and prove why.”

Porter Jr. finds himself at the top of a deep and talented class of cornerbacks that includes Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Illinois’ Devin Weatherspoon and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, all viewed as likely first-round picks.

Porter Jr.’s father, Joey Sr., was an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and also played for the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals in 13 NFL seasons. He was a four-time All-Pro — and first-team all-attitude.

Porter Jr. is highly physical and aggressive, especially for the cornerback position, has great size at 6-foot-2, 195 and stacks swagger the way his old man stockpiled sacks (98.0 in his career).

Trained on the Steelers’ practice fields, Porter Jr. said he used to practice coverage technique and fundamentals covering Antonio Brown. He played basketball with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s sons and naturally would appreciate landing in Pittsburgh on draft day. The Steelers drafted Joey Porter Sr. in the third round in 1999 and he played for the team through the 2006 season.

Porter Jr. isn’t all talk. He didn’t allow a touchdown in press coverage last season and Pro Football Focus calculated opponent QB rating against Porter in press coverage at 58.0.

But new general manager Omar Khan won’t have the luxury of adding this Porter in the third round. Based on most draft projections, Khan would be fortunate if Porter was still on the board when Pittsburgh is scheduled to use its first pick at No. 17.

“I think it would mean a lot to my family. Been in the Pittsburgh area a while, staying home would mean a lot,” Porter said.

Porter said he models his game and style after former Seahawks and 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and Rams corner Jalen Ramsey.

The Steelers are dedicating plenty of time and energy to visiting with cornerbacks in this draft class. Gonzalez, projected as a top-10 pick, said he was blown away by his meeting with Tomlin and paused his combine itinerary to call his father to inform him the Steelers’ coach was “even cooler than we thought.”

Gonzalez also said he came away wide-eyed from a meeting with the New England Patriots, calling head coach Bill Belichick “a legend.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021;  College Station, Texas, USA;  Kent State Golden Flashes wide receiver Dante Cephas (14) receives the pass from Kent State Golden Flashes quarterback Dustin Crum (not shown) during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State lands coveted transfer WR Dante Cephas

Former Kent State wide receiver Dante Cephas, considered one of the best players in the transfer portal this offseason, committed Sunday night to Penn State.

Cephas was a first-team All-MAC selection in both 2021 and 2022. He had 82 receptions for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021 and 48 catches for 744 yards and three TDs last season, playing just nine games while battling an injury.

The Nittany Lions have sent several receivers to the NFL in recent years, including Chris Godwin, K.J. Hamler and Jahan Dotson. Penn State wideout Parker Washington is likely to be a draft pick in April.

Cephas’ decision came on the same day that Penn State parted ways with receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield in a surprise move.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Harrison Wallace III (6) makes a catch against Utah Utes safety R.J. Hubert (11) in the second half of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn State pulls away from No. 8 Utah to win Rose Bowl

Sean Clifford passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns, Nicholas Singleton rushed for 120 yards and two scores and No. 11 Penn State dominated the second half while defeating No. 8 Utah 35-21 in the Rose Bowl on Monday at Pasadena, Calif.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) became the first team in Rose Bowl history to have multiple touchdown plays from scrimmage of more than 80 yards in the same game. Singleton rushed 87 yards for a TD in the third quarter, and Clifford teamed up with KeAndre Lambert-Smith on an 88-yard scoring pass in the fourth.

Kaytron Allen added a rushing touchdown and Mitchell Tinsley caught a scoring reception for Penn State, which scored the first 21 points of a rainy second half.

Quarterback Cameron Rising departed for the Utes (10-4) due to a left knee injury in the third quarter and didn’t return. He completed 8 of 21 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception and rushed for 47 yards on 10 attempts.

It marked the second straight Rose Bowl in which Rising was knocked out of the contest with an injury. He sustained a head injury in the fourth quarter of the Utes’ 48-45 loss to Ohio State in last year’s game.

Bryson Barnes replaced Rising and completed 10 of 19 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed for a touchdown, and Thomas Yassmin and Jaylen Dixon had scoring receptions.

Penn State was backed up in its own end in a tie game when Singleton broke free on a third-and-2 play for his 87-yard run, the third-longest in Rose Bowl history. Singleton was in the clear by his own 30-yard line en route to giving his team a 21-14 lead with 9:25 left in the third quarter.

Rising was injured on Utah’s next drive after scrambling 9 yards for a first down with 8:31 left.

The Nittany Lions went for the other big strike on the first play of the final stanza to take a 14-point lead. Lambert-Smith managed to get wide open in the Utah secondary and Clifford hit him for the 88-yard score that was the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history.

Penn State increased the lead to 35-14 when Allen scored from the 1 with 10:36 left in the game. Barnes and Dixon teamed up on a late 5-yard touchdown pass for the Utes.

Earlier, Singleton scored the game’s first points on a 5-yard run with seven seconds left in the first quarter.

Utah tied the game when Rising hit Yassmin on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 7:55 left in the first half. Clifford tossed a 10-yard scoring pass to Tinsley to give Penn State a 14-7 lead with 4:47 remaining until the break before Jackson scored on a 19-yard run to tie it at 14 with 2:38 left.

–Field Level Media

Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrates after being named MVP in the victory against the Southern California Trojans in the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Rising, Utah relish Rose Bowl return to face Penn St.

Utah enjoyed its first-ever Rose Bowl appearance for most of last year’s game but arrives back in Pasadena, Calif., adorned with the unfinished-business label.

The Utes fell to Ohio State on a late field goal last year, and now No. 8 Utah will compete against another Big Ten powerhouse program on Monday when it faces No. 11 Penn State at the famed stadium below the San Gabriel Mountains.

It has been a recurring theme for the Utes (10-3) when they discuss being in the Rose Bowl for the second straight season.

Utah never trailed over the first 55-plus minutes of the 48-45 loss to the Buckeyes and sustained a tough blow when standout quarterback Cam Rising exited due to a head injury early in the fourth quarter.

Rising, who played high school football 50 miles to the west in Newbury Park, Calif., is excited about having a second opportunity to play in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

“It just means the world,” said Rising, who has passed for 2,939 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. “To go back to the Rose Bowl again, it just means there’s unfinished business that we want to go out there and finish.”

Despite last year’s loss, the Utes have an 11-4 bowl record under coach Kyle Whittingham.

And Whittingham sees returning to the scene and knowing the pageantry and buildup to game day being something that is immensely valuable.

“I think that’s always a positive thing,” Whittingham said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything. It doesn’t mean you’re going to play great or anything like that. But it does give you a reference point and some opportunity to learn from what you did well or didn’t do so well in last year’s preparation and apply it this year for the better.”

The Utes have won six of their past seven games, including two victories over Southern California. The second one was a 47-24 whipping in the Pac-12 title game at Las Vegas.

Utah All-America cornerback Clark Phillips entered the bowl season tied for second nationally with six interceptions.

Penn State (10-2) enters with four straight victories, and its losses were to two of the four College Football Playoff participants: No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin is preparing for a tough task, as he is having trouble identifying weaknesses in the Utes.

“If you’re a true football guy, if you watch them, that’s what a true football team is supposed to be like,” Franklin said ahead of the first-ever meeting between the programs.

The contest is the final one for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, who is in his sixth season with the program. Clifford passed for 2,543 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the 2022 regular season.

The Nittany Lions saw star cornerback Joey Porter Jr. opt out of the Rose Bowl and declare for the draft. Receiver Parker Washington, who would have missed the Rose Bowl due to a leg injury, also declared for the draft.

Star left tackle Olu Fashanu is bypassing the draft and returning for the 2023 season, but he hadn’t decided whether he would play in the Rose Bowl. Center Juice Scruggs and defensive end Nick Tarburton both declared for the draft but will play in the game.

Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher was one of the Penn State players who elected not to opt out of the Rose Bowl.

“We don’t have a lot of opt-outs, and I think it’s just the magnitude of the game,” Mustipher said. “We haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 2016, so it’s not easy to do, and I think guys want to experience what it’s like to go to a Rose Bowl, what it’s like to win a Rose Bowl and all that kind of stuff.”

Penn State, which has lost three of four previous Rose Bowls, has just two wins in its past six bowl games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Parker Washington (3) makes a catch as Ohio State Buckeyes safety Tanner McCalister (15) defends during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State defeated Penn State 44-31. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State WR Parker Washington declares for NFL draft

Penn State receiver Parker Washington announced Friday that he is entering the NFL draft.

Washington had 46 catches for 611 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games this season before missing the final two regular-season games with an undisclosed season-ending injury.

“The memories I have made during my time so far with this Penn State family has been and will always be unforgettable,” Washington wrote on Twitter. “… Thank you to my family and coaches for the discussions, for helping me weigh the pros and cons, for helping me choose the next path in my journey. With that being said, I will be declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft.”

Washington’s best outing of the season came when he caught 11 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown in a 44-31 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 29.

Overall, Washington caught 146 passes for 1,920 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. The receptions rank ninth in school history and the yardage ranks 12th.

Washington caught at least one pass in all 32 games of his Nittany Lions career.

–Field Level Media