James Franklin makes Penn State spring debut
Spring arrived in Happy Valley in full force for the annual Penn State Blue-White Game presented by AAA, as an estimated 72,000 fans watched the Blue squad defeat the White squad, 37-0, inside a sun-drenched Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The crowd of 72,000 was third-largest in Blue-White Game history, trailing only 76,500 in 2009 and 73,000 in 2008. The temperature hit 70 degrees as the huge crowd took in Coach James Franklin’s first Blue-White Game.
After the return of the players’ pre-game autograph session opened the day, the team took to the field and made what Franklin called “great progress” in the locker room after the contest. The first-year Nittany Lion mentor expressed that he was pleased with the strides the squad made during the 15-practice spring session, but made a point that there was still ample of work to do before the team opens fall camp in August to begin on-field preparations for the Aug. 30 opener vs. UCF in the Croke Park Classic.
After Sam Ficken’s (Valparaiso, Ind.) 26-yard field goal opened the scoring for the Blue team with 9:26 left in the first quarter, sophomore running back Cole Chiappialle (Beaver Falls) piled up some points late in the second quarter.
Chiappialle carried the ball five times for 32 yards and two scores over the final three minutes of the half. After a punt, Chiappialle covered the final nine yards to paydirt to push the Blue team ahead, 10-0, and following Ryan Keiser’s (Selinsgrove) interception of D.J. Crook (West Barnstable, Mass.), he jolted 23 yards over the left side to make it 17-0 heading to the locker room. Chiappialle finished with nine carries for a game-high 63 rushing yards and added two catches for 17 yards.
The defense was on point for the Blue team, as well, recording four of the five turnovers in the game (3 INT, 1 Fumble). Keiser, Trevor Williams (Baltimore, Md.) and Matthew Baney (State College) all grabbed interceptions, while Keiser forced a fumble that Jesse Della Valle (Pittsburgh, Pa.) recovered. Adam Cole (Belle Vernon) recovered a fumble to account for the only turnover forced for the White squad.
Baney’s interception opened the scoring in the second half, as the junior rumbled for 28 yards to cross the goal line and push the Blue team ahead, 23-0.
A bit of trickery caught the White squad’s defense off guard late in the third quarter when wideout Eugene Lewis (Wilkes-Barre) found Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) down the right side line for a 56-yard touchdown pass. Lewis came in motion and freshman quarterback Michael O’Connor (Ottawa, Ontario) pitched the ball to the speedy receiver. After a few steps, Lewis stopped and connected with Zanellato, who was wide open behind the defense for a 56-yard scoring strike. Akeel Lynch (Toronto, Ontario) capped the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds late in the game to account for the 37-0 final score.
All four quarterbacks on the roster completed passes in the game, led by O’Connor’s 81 yards on 11-of-16 passing for the Blue team. Crook completed 10-of-17 passes for 68 yards for the White team. Eight different receivers caught passes for the Blue Team and 10 White squad receivers grabbed catches. Kyle Carter (Bear, Del.) led the Blue side with four grabs and Deshawn Baker (Philadelphia) grabbed a pair of catches for eight yards to pace the White contingent. Zanellato’s 68 yards on two catches led all receivers.
On defense, the Blue’s C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich.) led all players with five tackles, including 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Keiser forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and came away with three stops, as well. Cornberbacks Da’Quan Davis (Baltimore, Md.) and Devin Pryor (San Bernardino, Calif.) each had four stops to lead the White, with Davis recording four solo stops.
Four Nittany Lions were recognized for their spring practice efforts at halftime. Junior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel (West Branch, Mich.) was presented the Jim O’Hora Award, as the redshirt junior switched from defensive end to defensive tackle during the spring. Redshirt sophomore Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Md.) transitioned from defensive line to offensive guard and earned the Red Worrell Award. Junior defensive end Deion Barnes (Philadelphia) was selected by the coaching staff as the recipient of the Frank Patrick Memorial Award.
Franklin and his staff added a fourth award, Coaches Special Team Award, which was presented to Ficken.
The Worrell Award is presented to the offensive player whose spring contribution is most worthy of special tribute. The prize was first presented in 1958 and is named in the honor of the late Red Worrell, a high school All-American from Centerville HS who was tragically electrocuted in an accident after an exceptional season on the 1957 Nittany Lion freshman team. Past Worrell Award winners include former offensive coordinator Fran Ganter, Lydell Mitchell, Mickey Shuler, Steve Smith, Kyle Brady, Bryant Johnson, Rodney Kinlaw, Graham Zug, Matt Stankiewitch and Ty Howle, the 2013 recipient.
The defensive award is named in honor of Jim O’Hora, a long-time Penn State assistant coach who was a member of the coaching staff for 31 years. Loyalty and attitude especially characterized Jim O’Hora and has typified many of the previous winners, including Walker Lee Ashley, Andre Collins, Michael Haynes, Anthony Adams, Tim Shaw, Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill and Stephon Morris, along with Jordan Lucas and C.J. Olaniyan in 2013. The O’Hora Award was first presented in 1977.
The Frank Patrick Memorial “Total Commitment” Award goes to junior class squad members who consistently follow through with their responsibilities in all facets of the football program and do so in exemplary manner. This includes academic pursuits, off-season preparation, in-season commitment, demeanor and community service. Jeff Hartings, Wally Richardson, Justin Kurpeikis, Bryan Scott, Robbie Gould, Josh Hull, John Urschel and the 2013 duo of Miles Dieffenbach and Mike Hull are among the previous recipients. Patrick was a member of the Lions’ coaching staff from 1949-73.
Urschel, who won the James E. Sullivan Award Friday night in Orlando as the nation’s top amateur athlete, presented the Patrick Award to Barnes.
Franklin and nine other head coaches will be participating in the 17-stop Penn State Coaches Caravan, starting May 1 at the Pegula Ice Arena on the University Park campus and ending May 22 in Erie. Franklin is scheduled to appear at all 17 events. More than 4,500 Penn State alumni and fans have registered during the initial three weeks. For all the Coaches Caravan event dates and locations, go to alumni.psu.edu/events/coachescaravan.
Penn State returns 41 letterwinners and 15 starters (7 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist) and will host Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State (Nov. 29), Ohio State (Oct. 25), Northwestern (Sept. 27-Homecoming) and Maryland (Nov. 1) during its 2014 Big Ten home schedule. The Nittany Lions will play a trio of 2013 Top 10 teams this fall.
For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing season tickets, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit www.GoPSUsports.com or call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
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Article courtesy of PSU Athletics.