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Penn State getting physical as spring practice continues

By Travis Johnson


UNIVERSITY PARK – A large crowd gathered at the far end of Holuba Hall on Saturday where Penn State conducted its fifth spring football practice.

This one – a fully padded session ripe with 11-on-11 work and full blown contact – gave head coach James Franklin plenty to be smile about afterward. That crowd along the sideline? Most of them are potential Nittany Lions – current high school players who took in the physical practice with their friends and families.

The physicality wasn’t just a one-off show. Franklin, a bit hoarse when talking with reporter afterward, wants everyone to get used to it.

“There will be more contact this spring,” Franklin said. “Right now we want to get the mental and physical toughness from morning workouts as well as from spring ball. And if you get a bump or bruise or scratch now we’ve got time to solve that problem before the start of camp.”

And so far the first five practices have centered on correcting problems that surfaced last season. Franklin and his staff, all of them new at this point last season, spent last spring introducing new concepts, learning their players’ names and attributes and trying to make unfamiliar pieces fit into their vision.

There are still new faces, however. But those newcomers have experience all around them – players who’ve spent more than a year in Franklin’s program who can help the newbies along.

Offensive linemen Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia took turns pointing out defensive fronts to junior college transfer Paris Palmer during 11-on-11s. Palmer spent time at left tackle for most of the portion open to reporters with returning starter Andrew Nelson on the right.

“I think the experience is the important thing,” Franklin said. “What they have to do is they have to have the confidence to do it. So if they’re lining up next to a young guy, they can’t sit there. They have to ID the front. They have to make the calls to allow that younger, less-experienced guy to play with more confidence because the veteran next to him is taking control.

“Last year we had some challenges because we only had one returning starter in Donovan (Smith) and a whole new offense so no one was confident in taking responsibility.”

Ideally Franklin wants to wrap spring practice with a strong idea of who his starting front five will be when training camp starts in August.

He also wants to feel comfortable that his team can improve specific areas that directly contributed to losses last season.

Penn State has been recreating in-game situations from last season where the Nittany Lions erred or failed to finish teams off. On Saturday Franklin flashed back to his team’s 16-14 November loss to Illinois.

Then, Penn State led 14-13 and the Nittany Lion offense got the ball back near midfield with 3:29 to go after Illini kicker David Reisner missed a 50-yard field goal. Illinois had two timeouts. But Penn State’s offense couldn’t close out the game. The Nittany Lions managed just nine yards and forced Illinois to only use one of its timeouts. Penn State had to punt after a Christian Hackenberg scramble came up just shy of a first down. Illinois won the game with a field goal seven plays later.

“I think whenever you can point back to a specific example it carries more weight,” Franklin said. “Especially when it was a situation when were weren’t successful in. If I can tell them, ‘This is the situation and this is exactly where we were at last year against Illinois, offense, you want to end the game on your terms – controlling your own fate, controlling your own destiny. Defense – we’re trying to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense.’”

Penn State didn’t need Hackenberg to scramble around wildly during the simulation Saturday. Instead, running backs Akeel Lynch and Nick Scott moved the ball and killed the 3:30 Franklin set on the clock behind strong blocking.

It was an early success Franklin hopes will carry over into training camp and eventually the season.

Breneman and Kline still limited

Tight end Adam Breneman and linebacker Ben Kline have been active in practice but are being held out of contact for now.

Breneman is coming off a knee injury while Kline has endured chest and Achilles injuries the past two seasons. Both players will likely be called upon to contribute when training camp opens but Franklin said he wants to take it easy on them for now.

“Kline has been out for a long time. Breneman has been out for a long time so to think they’re going to come in from the first day of spring ball and be full go and see no residual effects from it, that’s not going to happen,” Franklin said.

2015 Blue-White Weekend Details

2015 Blue-White Weekend Details

According to Coach James Franklin, there will be a new twist to the Blue-White game this year. The game will open with a kicking competition.

“One of the things we're talking about doing....is opening the spring game with a kicking competition before the game gets started just so I can make sure that these guys have got enough kicks in front of a crowd,” Franklin said.

While Franklin challenges his kickers in practice with air horns and other distractions, there’s nothing like kicking in front of a packed stadium.

Punters will also have a competition at half time. The Lions are in need to a kicker and a punter, so this competition will help Franklin see how his players perform.

On Sunday, as part of Blue-White weekend, Sheetz is sponsoring the 6th Annual Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run. On Sunday, April 19, there will be a 3 Mile Run and 1 Mile Family Fun Walk at Penn State. Last year, more than 4,000 runners and walkers took part in the event, raising more than $400,000. Proceeds go to Special Olympics Pennsylvania. The run begins in the vicinity of the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) on Curtin Road, moves through Penn State’s scenic campus, and concludes with runners racing through the Beaver Stadium Tunnel and onto Nittany Lion turf to finish the race at the 50-yard line.

Did you make reservations for your hotel yet? The Penn Stater and the Nittany Lion, as well as other area hotels, still have rooms available. Make your reservations before it’s too late!

Happy Valley Eateries with Entertainment

Though State College is a family town, we offer a vibrant nightlife. From bars and pubs to clubs, there is a variety of restaurants and bars offering entertainment and great food. Here are some of the local favorites:

The Arena Bar & Grill
The Arena has a menu of delicious classic American food, including sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pizza, salad, and more. They also feature some of the best local bands every weekend. Every Friday, the Arena features a modern rock band, and Saturdays they feature a classic rock band.

During the week nights, you can find events like open mic night, karaoke, and poker! Texas hold ’em poker tournaments are held Tuesdays at 7pm and 9pm and Thursdays at 6pm and 8pm with the chance to win gift card prizes!

Otto’s Pub and Brewery
Otto’s is one of the best places in State College for award winning draft beers and fresh food. The beer is brewed onsite, their beef comes from a local farm, and their American cuisine is made with local ingredients! They feature live music, drink specials, and trivia.

Bar Bleu
Serving up Kansas-City style barbecue and signature drinks, Bar Bleu is a local favorite. With entertainment options from pool and arcade games to live music, there’s something for everyone here. Check out the live music lounge from Thursday to Saturday.

Inferno
Inferno has great dinner service, a dance floor, and local DJs. With a full service bar and high definition TVs, you won’t miss the sports action of the night. The menu includes artisan pizza and modern Italian dishes.

Next time you’re going out for an evening, check out one of these local favorites for their great food and live entertainment! For more dining options, check out our full listing of restaurants.

Happy Valley Top Picks March 4th

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Catch up on the latest and greatest of Happy Valley with our Top Picks!
 
It's the 5th Annual Happy Valley's Got Talent, with two performances on Saturday, March 28 - a 2 PM matinee, featuring the Kids' Choice Awards, and a final performance at 7 PM at The State Theatre. Once again, this popular event will benefit Tides, a support program for grieving children, teens and families.
List of Top Picks for Upcoming Events - Click for More
SpikesFest
Penn State Indoor Multi-sport Facility
11 AM - 2 PM, March 7
A Hockey Day in the Valley PSU vs. Michigan
3 PM, Saturday, March 7
Various Local Wineries
March, all month long
'Round Happy Valley
A convenient location, clean and comfy rooms, and affordable rates make the Quality Inn the perfect pick for your stay in Happy Valley. 
A Penn State tradition since 1931, The Dining Room is a classic choice for the ultimate dining experience in Happy Valley. 
Get social with us
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Blue-White Weekend Schedules, Planning and More

Blue-White Weekend Schedules, Planning and More

It’s the kickoff to spring. It’s the unofficial alumni weekend at Penn State. It’s Blue-White weekend, and you can’t miss it! Pack your bags and head to Happy Valley from April 17th to 19th for a weekend of fun, football, and Penn State pride. HappyValley.com has everything you need to plan your weekend. First, find a room, B&B, lodge or cabin in our Places to Stay section, the ultimate guide to accommodations in and around Happy Valley.

Schedule of Events

  • Penn State kicks off at 4 PM on Saturday, and as always, admission and parking are free! Stadium parking lots open at 8:00 a.m. If you can’t be here in person, the game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
  • Come out early for the Gameday Fan Festival, featuring vendors and kids activities, located on Curtin Road near Beaver Stadium.
  • The team autograph session begins at 10:45-11:30 a.m. in Beaver Stadium. Players may sign one item per person to give as many fans as possible an opportunity. The team arrives at the stadium at 10:15 a.m., and stadium gates A and B will open at 10:30 a.m. Gates C, D and F will open at 12:00 p.m. for the game.
  • Stick around Sunday for the 6th Annual Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run/Family Fun Walk to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Finish at the 50-yard line in Beaver Stadium for the three mile run or one mile walk, then head over to the Creamery for a reward! Register here.

More Fun in Happy Valley

Blue-White weekend offers more than just football and tailgating. It’s a chance to meet up with family and friends for springtime fun at one of Happy Valley’s best attractions. Spend the day at Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, just a 40-minute drive from State College. Boating, biking, hiking, and more are available in this nearby outdoor oasis! Or, check out Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park on route 192 five miles past Centre Hall. In addition to being America’s only water cavern, Penn’s Cave offers an exciting wildlife tour via bus or Jeep. Our Attractions page will help you make the most of your weekend!

MUST-SEE at Eisenhower Auditorium: it’s the perfect opportunity for a long weekend. On Monday, April 20 at 7:30 PM Center for the Performance Arts presents four-time Tony Award-winning musical Lerner & Loewe’s CAMELOT.

You’re here, you’re hungry. Lucky for you, Happy Valley’s local food scene is thriving. For everything from burgers to beer, steak to spirits and so much more, we’ve got you covered in our 2015 Food Guide. Eating local has never been so good or so easy. We’ve got featured information on new locations like Downtown’s Liberty Craft House and Lemont’s Happy Valley Brewing Company, plus all your favorites like Otto’s, Mario’s, and more.

Before you head home, remember that a new year calls for new apparel. Check out our Shopping Pages for all the best in clothing, accessories and tailgate gear to get ready for the 2015 season.

 

Book Your Blue-White Weekend

Book Your Blue-White Weekend

It’s the kickoff to spring. It’s the unofficial alumni weekend at Penn State. It’s Blue-White weekend, and you can’t miss it! Pack your bags and head to Happy Valley from April 17th to 19th for a weekend of fun, football, and Penn State pride. HappyValley.com has everything you need to plan your weekend.

Home Base

Our Places to Stay section is the ultimate guide to accommodations in and around Happy Valley from the best hotels to charming B&Bs to lodges and cabins in our great outdoors.

The Gear

No doubt you have lot of blue and white gear. But a new year calls for new apparel. Check out our Shopping Pages for all the best in clothing, accessories and tailgate gear to get ready for the 2015 season.

The Game

Grab your tailgating supplies, and enjoy some good food, great friends, and Penn State spirit before the kickoff at 4 P.M. on Saturday April 18th. Tailgating is just tradition here in State College! Don’t miss the pre-game autograph session.

The Fun

Blue-White weekend offers more than just football and tailgating. It’s a chance to meet up with family and friends for warm weather fun at one of Happy Valley’s best attractions. Spend the day at Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, a 40-minute drive from State College. Check out Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park. Our Attractions page will help you plan.

You’re here, you’re hungry. Lucky for you, Happy Valley’s local food scene is growing every year. Check out our Where to Eat section for everything from burgers to beer, steak to spirits and so much more.

Now that your weekend is mapped out, what’s to stop you? Make your plans today. Join us in April for a weekend of tradition, tailgating, football, and fun.