Penn State-Kent State Football Game Notes

Penn State University defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) tries to hammer through the offensive line of the University of Pittsburgh on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Penn State won 51-6. (Photo courtesy of Penn State Football)

UNIVERSITY PARK — No. 11/10 Penn State welcomes Kent State for its non-conference finale Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon on FS1.

It’s been two years since the Nittany Lions and Golden Flashes last tangled on the gridiron. The 2016 meeting was the season opener, marking quarterback Trace McSorley’s first career start and the debut of a new offensive system. McSorley threw two touchdown passes in the game, marking his second-straight game with a touchdown pass after throwing his first in relief in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. He also threw for a then-career high 209 passing yards. McSorley now enters this season’s contest with a 30-game streak for passing touchdowns and 23 200-yard passing games to his credit. Offensive lineman Ryan Bates, defensive tackle Kevin Givens and punter Blake Gillikin also made their first career starts against the Flashes in 2016.

The opening games of 2018 have proven no different in terms of young players stepping into bigger roles. Wide receiver KJ Hamler has three touchdowns in his first two career games, forcing overtime with a touchdown reception in the season opener against Appalachian State and scoring both of Penn State’s touchdowns in a back-and-forth first half at Pittsburgh. First-year starting running back Miles Sanders posted his first career 100-yard rushing game at Pitt, while Penn State’s top seven tacklers this season do not include any returning starters from last season.

Kent State is 1-1 to open 2018, only losing by a touchdown in its season opener at another Big Ten school, Illinois, and topping Howard in its home opener last week. The Golden Flashes are under the guidance of first-year head coach Sean Lewis.

This is the third and final non-conference game for Penn State this season. The Nittany Lions next face a short week in preparation for their Big Ten opener Friday night at Illinois.

HEAD COACH SEAN LEWIS

-Sean Lewis became Kent State University’s 22nd head football coach on Dec. 21, 2017.

-Lewis came to the Golden Flashes after serving as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Dino Babers at Syracuse. Lewis’ background stretches from his four-year playing career at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez, to winning the 2015 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship as the co-offensive coordinator at Bowling Green.

-Lewis became the youngest FBS head coach in the nation at the age of 31. That distinction was previously held by Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley at age 34.

-Lewis spent his previous six seasons alongside head coach Babers at Syracuse (2016-17), Bowling Green (2014-15) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13).

-A tight end and quarterback at Wisconsin, Lewis was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. Current Wisconsin Badger head coach Paul Chryst served as his offensive coordinator and position coach.

SCOUTING THE

GOLDEN FLASHES

-Kent State, a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC), is 1-1 entering Week 3, only losing to Big Ten-foe Illinois in the season opener by one touchdown and defeating FCS-level Howard, 54-14.

-Kent State led Illinois 17-3 at halftime before the Fighting Illini rallied for a 31-24 victory.

-The Golden Flashes are opening the season with a challenging non-conference slate, playing three of four games against “Autonomy Five” schools. They play at Ole Miss next week.

-Under the guidance of first-year head coach Sean Lewis, Kent State has dubbed its style of play as “FlashFAST” football. Lewis, who coached under Dino Babers at Bowling Green and Syracuse, uses an up-tempo offensive scheme. Syracuse led FBS with 86 plays per game in 2017 with Lewis on staff, and Kent State is averaging 83 plays per game (12th in FBS) this season. Lewis has also converted the Kent State defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.

-Kent State returns 49 letterwinners from last year, including 14 starters (6 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams).

-Linebacker Jim Jones was named as one Athlon Sports Top 50 underrated players entering 2018.

NON-CONFERENCE FINALE

-Penn State is playing its third-and-final non-conference game of the season.

-Penn State is seeking its seventh consecutive win over non-conference opponents during the regular season, dating back to a win 34-27 win over Temple in 2016.

-Under James Franklin (2014-pres.), Penn State is 14-2 against non-conference opposition during the regular season.

PENN STATE VS. MAC

-Penn State owns a 25-3 mark against the 2018 football alignment of the Mid-American Conference.

-The Nittany Lions have played 10 of the 13 members of the MAC, playing their first MAC opponent, Buffalo, on Nov. 29, 1900. The Lions lost, 10-0, that day on the road.

-Penn State has won six consecutive games against MAC opponents.

-PSU has played a MAC school every year since 2009.

-Upcoming games against MAC opponents include: Buffalo (Sept. 7, 2019), Ball State (Sept. 11, 2021), Central Michigan (Sept. 24, 2022) and Bowling Green (Sept. 7, 2024).

-Kent State is the lone MAC opponent Penn State faces this season.

PENN STATE-KENT

STATE CONNECTIONS

-Penn State redshirt senior RB, Mark Allen and sophomore DE Shane Simmons played with Kent State senior CB Darryl Marshall at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland.

-Penn State redshirt freshman DT Evan Presta and freshmen WR Henry Fessler and OL Juice Scruggs played with Kent State freshman DL Will Burns at Cathedral Prep in Erie, Pennsylvania.

-Penn State redshirt freshman WR KJ Hamler played with Kent State sophomore S Elvis Hines at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

COACHING CONNECTIONS

-Kent State inside linebackers coach, Will Windham spent a season as a defensive graduate assistant at Penn State in 2014, working with defensive line coach Sean Spencer.

-Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover coached Kent State offensive graduate assistant Matt Battaglia at Northern Illinois in 2010.

-Kent State head coach Sean Lewis played for Big Ten foe Wisconsin from 2004-07. He played in games against Penn State in 2006 (Wisconsin, W, 13-3) and 2007 (Penn State, W, 38-7).

NITTANY LIONS

FROM OHIO

-QB Sean Clifford – Cincinnati/St. Xavier

-OL Alex Gellerstedt – Dublin/Dublin Coffman

-OL Mike Miranda – Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls

-OL Juice Scruggs – Ashtabula/Cathedral Prep

-DT Antonio Shelton – Westerville/Westerville-North

-SN Chris Stoll – Westerville/St. Francis DeSales

HAMLER NAMED TO

HORNUNG HONOR ROLL

-Versatility is at the heart of the Paul Hornung Award, so WR KJ Hamler’s rushing and receiving touchdowns at Pitt in Week 2 earned him a place on the award’s weekly honor roll.

-Hamler took his first career rush 34 yards for a touchdown on Penn State’s first possession. He is the first Penn State wideout with a rushing touchdown since DeAndre Thompkins against Rutgers in 2015.

-Hamler had his second receiving touchdown of the season with a 14-yard catch in the second quarter.

-Hamler is the first Penn State wide receiver to have a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game since Derrick Williams accomplished the feat against Indiana in 2008.

-Hamler also returned three kickoffs for 73 yards, totaling 145 all-purpose yards in the game.

-The Paul Hornung Award is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung.

PENN STATE IN THE POLLS

-Penn State enters Week 3 ranked No. 10 in the Amway Coaches poll and No. 12 in the Associated Press poll.

-Penn State’s 26-straight weeks in the AP Top 25 is the eighth-longest active streak in FBS.

-Penn State has been ranked in the last 11 CFP rankings, dating back to its first-ever appearance in the first poll of the 2016 season.

MILESTONE WATCH

-Trace McSorley is 12 yards shy of 1,000 career rushing yards.

-257 yards shy of 8,000 career passing yards.

-38 completions shy of 600 career completions.

-81 attempts shy of 1,000 career pass attempts.

-269 yards shy of 9,000 career yards of total offense.

-17 TDs shy of 100 career touchdowns responsible for.

-Tommy Stevens is 112 yards shy of 500 career rushing yards.

-Miles Sanders is 416 yards shy of 1,000 career rushing yards.

-DeAndre Thompkins is 84 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards.

-Juwan Johnson is 139 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards.

MILESTONES ACHIEVED

-Miles Sanders surpassed 500 career rushing yards with an 118-yard effort against Pitt.

-DeAndre Thompkins surpassed 500 career punt return yards with a 29-yard return against App State.

STREAKING

-With a win over Appalachian State in the 2018 season opener, Penn State extended its home winning streak to 15 games, tied for sixth-longest in the school annals. It is the longest home winning streak since a 21-game streak from 1970-74.

-The Nittany Lions have scored 20 or more points in 25 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in program history, breaking the record of 20-straight games from 1993-95. It is also tied for the second-longest streak in Big Ten history with the 25-game streak by Michigan State (2013-15) and trails only the 46-game streak by Ohio State (2006-14).

-QB Trace McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games, dating to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, extending his school record. It is the longest active streak in FBS.

-Penn State has rushed for 200 yards in five consecutive games, dating back to last season’s Nebraska game on November 18, 2018.

-Penn State has made its last 156 extra points.

-Penn State has scored in nine-straight quarters (including overtime against App State).

WINNING WAYS

-Penn State is 22-3 in its last 25 games, the best span since going 37-3 from 1993-96.

-Over the last 25 games, only Alabama and Oklahoma (23-2) are better.

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