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FTK: A Look Behind Penn State Football’s Commitment to THON

Everyone at Penn State stops to take part in THON – even the football program.



Nov 10, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; A detailed view of the THON sticker on the helmet of a Penn State Nittany Lions player during a warmup prior to a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Whiteout, BJC wrestling duals, graduation weekend, and THON. Events like these have taken a near folkloric aura on Penn State’s community calendar. They are moments when it feels like the entire campus pauses in reverence for what is occurring.

Each event has its own unique characteristics. But none carries the societal significance as does the 46-hour dance marathon. This year’s THON was another success, with $15,006,132 raised to help fight pediatric cancer. 

Even the behemoth that is Penn State football stops for THON. On Saturday, the football program held its annual THON Explorers Program inside the Lasch Building. We were invited inside to help capture the sights and sounds of what will become a lifelong memory for the THON children and their families.

A “Football Adventure”

Usually the headquarters for a college football power, the Lasch Building was transformed into a carnival Saturday. Streamers, balloons, and games were spread throughout, all following the theme of a “Football Adventure.”

So much is expected of these 18- to 22-year-old men that, at times, we can forget that they are really still kids themselves. On Saturday, we saw many Nittany Lions let their inner child out.

Hunter Nourzad, touted for his versatility on the offensive line, decided to try a new style of face paint. In media availability, Olu Fashanu applauded Nourzad’s intelligence in the switch to center this offseason. No word on if the new look will be carried over with him.

Watching the offensive linemen on the ping pong table was one of the most entertaining spectacles. There’s a reason the best linemen in the NFL attract massive paydays. Only so many humans on planet earth can be that large and maintain speed and agility. Drew Shelton took a break from pancaking defenders on the field to show that he also has a lighter touch. 

And yes, Drew Allar got in on the fun as well. If he wasn’t cheering on the THON kids at the shuffleboard table, the former five-star quarterback was showing that his pocket presence extends well beyond the football field.

Creating a Great Memory

Fun aside, many players understand the impact that they can have on the lives of children suffering from cancer.

While recognizing that they still have a job to do, wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith said that it would be “selfish” of the team not to dedicate this time to the THON kids. He stressed the importance of overcoming the daily grind of being a college football player and making an impact.

“I take pride in giving the kids a great memory – a once-in-a-lifetime memory,” Lambert-Smith said. “It’s a great experience overall.”

In a way, the experience is also special for the players. A college football season can take its toll, even one as successful as the 2022 season for Penn State. There is minimal downtime. Having the opportunity to stop and reconnect with the community goes just as far for some players as it does for those invited into Lasch. 

“Anytime we can get time away from football and just [be] around other people socially, it’s always good,” cornerback Kalen King said. “To have visitors – especially kids – it’s definitely a benefit for us.”

For the Kids

Of course, having an event like this and not discussing football is hard. It’s the elephant in the room – especially when those rooms are in the football building.

Overall, this team feels it has something to prove in 2023. Even a day like Saturday doesn’t distract from that ultimate goal.

“Going to the Rose Bowl was great…but we know we can go much farther than that,” offensive tackle Olu Fashanu said when asked why he decided to return to Penn State.

But it’s a long off-season. And honestly, football discussions can wait. In the coming days, we will continue to break down all the football-related news and notes from our time with the players on Saturday.

Football is important. It’s why I write, and why many of you come to Basic Blues Nation. But this weekend is about something more. This weekend is For the Kids.


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Penn State is dominating the 2022-23 athletic calendar

Few athletic departments, if any, are seeing levels of success like Penn State right now.



Penn State football, Penn State wrestling
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) celebrates on the podium after defeating the Utah Utes in the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Since the start of the most recent school year, the Penn State Nittany Lions have been on quite the hot streak. To kick things off — from September through January — the Penn State football team made an impressive run. Since then, the Lions have seen a great deal of success across many other sports as well, including some men’s basketball, hockey, Penn State wrestling, and more.

Penn State football kicks off incredible run for PSU athletics

At the beginning of the 2022-23 calendar, the Penn State football team came into the season unranked for the first time since the Nittany Lions’ incredible Big Ten title run in 2016. In Week 1, Penn State took down the eventual Big Ten West Champs (Purdue) on the road before destroying the eventual MAC East champs (Ohio) in Week 2, and Auburn in Week 3.

The Nittany Lions’ season started hot, and despite some road bumps along the way (losses at Michigan and vs. Ohio State), Penn State came away with an incredible season to say the least. All said and done, James Franklin and his team finished 11-2, won the Rose Bowl, snapped Penn State’s top 10 losing streak, and finished ranked in the top 10 for the fourth time in the past six full seasons.

Penn State wrestling wins national title

On Saturday, the Penn State wrestling team — led by legendary head coach Cael Sanderson — won its 10th national title in the past 12 tournaments. Sanderson, who took over the program before the 2009-10 season, has turned the Nittany Lions into the greatest college sports dynast of our time, and doesn’t appear to be finished yet. Two weeks ago, Penn State claimed its 7th-ever Big Ten tournament title not long after bringing home the regular season title with a 16-0 overall record and an 8-0 Big Ten record.

During the NCAA tournament, Penn State wrestling tied the program record for All-Americans (8) before winning the 11th national championship in program history just minutes into the first session on Saturday. The Nittany Lions also claimed two individual national titles.

Men’s basketball makes impressive run

Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Penn State basketball program did not appear to be in very good shape. The Nittany Lions had not been to the NCAA tournament in over ten years (2011), and had not won a tournament game in over 20 years (2001). Under second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry, the Nittany Lions defied all odds and performed well above expectations. Additionally, Penn State basketball broke a few records (such as the Penn State and Big Ten record for most 3-pointers made in a single season), and even appeared in the conference title game against Purdue.

On Saturday night, Penn State basketball was narrowly eliminated from the NCAA tournament by the 2-seed Texas Longhorns; however, this is only the beginning for Nittany Lion hoops. Now, it’s time for AD Pat Kraft and the administration to give Micah Shrewsberry whatever he wants to keep him in State College for the long haul.

Hockey (M) will have a shot at the national title

On Sunday night, the Nittany Lions earned the elusive bid to the NCAA tournament and will compete for the national championship. Seeing as the Penn State hockey team (men’s) is currently ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll and No. 8 in the pairwise, the Nittany Lions will undoubtedly get their bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament. It has been a historic season in Hockey Valley — the Lions have pulled off numerous massive upsets over multiple No. 1 teams and more — though as of late, Penn State has slowly declined a bit.

After dropping in round one of the Big Ten tournament to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions will look to bounce-back and make a run at the national championship this spring.

Hockey (W) wins first-ever conference title

For the first time in program history, the Penn State hockey team (women’s) won a conference title last month. Goalie Josie Bothun was named CHA Tournament MVP en route to a 2-1 win over Mercyhurst in the CHA tournament championship game — the Lions made the NCAA tournament as well, though fell short to Quinnipiac in round one.

Many spring sports off to a hot start

Thus far, during the 2023 spring/summer athletic schedule, the Penn State Nittany Lions are doing quite well. The Penn State men’s lacrosse team is currently ranked in the top-5 with a 5-2 record, and are heading into a massive game against Maryland next weekend.

The Penn State men’s volleyball team is currently ranked No. 2 in the land with an 18-2 record — the men’s team just upset No. 1 Hawaii in a massive road showdown and will host Ohio State at Rec Hall on Tuesday.

The Penn State baseball team is not ranked, though does boast an impressive 11-5 record on the season. The Nittany Lions opened their home schedule with a 6-1 win over Georgetown on Saturday and followed it up with a 7-2 win on Sunday.

The Penn State softball team is also off to a great start, boasting an outstanding 17-4 record to star the year. The ladies will host Pitt in State College on Tuesday.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics.

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Urban Meyer says the pressure is on for Penn State football in 2023

Does former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer have a point about James Franklin and Penn State?



Urban Meyer comments on Penn State football
Oct 28, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (left) and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer greet before the game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Recently, former Florida and Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer had some words on the Penn State Nittany Lions. According to the former Buckeye coach — who won a national title and more during his time in Columbus — there is a lot of pressure for James Franklin and his Penn State football team to meet the Nittany Lions’ high expectations this fall.

Penn State football heads into the 2023 season with huge expectations

The past few years have been full of ups and downs for the Penn State football program. After winning the Big Ten in 2016 — the team’s first year back from the sanctions set in 2012 — the Nittany Lions had a solid four-year stretch. From 2016-2019, Penn State football had three 11-win seasons, one 9-win season, won a Big Ten title, and two New Year’s Six bowls. Additionally, the Lions finished ranked in all four seasons, and finished top 10 in three of those seasons.

After going 11-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl in 2019, Penn State slipped into a hole that it took years to climb out of. In Week 1 of the 2020 season, the Nittany Lions fell on the road to Indiana; Penn State’s first loss of 2020 was just one of many disappointing moments that season, which ended up being the Lions’ first losing season under head coach James Franklin.

In 2020, Penn State football started off 5-0 and climbed its way into the top-4 before many key injuries seemingly forced the Lions into a 2-6 finish. Penn State’s 24-10 loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl, which dropped the team’s record to 7-6 on the season, was just salt in the wound for many fans. Despite a stellar four-year stretch from 2019-2019, Penn State started the new decade with an 11-11 record though two seasons. That being said, with a young, healthy team in 2022, the Nittany Lions bounced-back against all odds.

In Penn State’s most recent season, James Franklin and his squad came into the year unranked for the first time since 2016. Early-on, it was clear that the 2022 team was special; however, Penn State hit a few road bumps at Michigan and against Ohio State. Despite these two losses — both to CFP teams — Penn State managed to win out and finish 10-2 with an incredibly young roster. The 10-2 record was good enough to send the Lions to the Rose Bowl against No. 8 Utah — Penn State football defeated the Utes 35-21 to snap its top 10 losing streak, bring home another NY6 bowl, and win the program’s second-ever Rose Bowl game to close out the 2022 season.

While this was all great for the program, it also has set some incredibly high expectations heading into 2023.

Urban Meyer claims the pressure is on for the Nittany Lions in 2023

Recently, on The Hard Count (On3), former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had some praise, and some added pressure for the Penn State football team heading into a new season this fall. While the Lions may be young, Penn State is experienced, has a veteran coaching staff, and is arguably more talented than just about anyone in the nation with star players like Drew Allar on offense and Abdul Carter on defense.

Here is what Meyer had to say about the Penn State Nittany Lions:

“I think it’s an enormous amount of pressure,” Meyer said on The Hard Count. “… In ’16, they had a great year. They beat us. They have to beat the Wolverines, they have to beat the Buckeyes. I’ll tell you what, they’re loaded. They have two running backs that are elite.

“That quarterback that’s going to take over is tremendous. We got to do several of his games. James Franklin has done a really good job. But he’s got to close the deal and, unfortunately, they’ve got to go to The Horseshoe this year. It’s a tough place to play.”

To Meyer’s point: yes, Franklin has done a great job with turning the Penn State football program back into a winner. That being said, the Nittany Lions need to keep climbing the ladder and get from NY6 status to CFP status eventually, and 2023 is looking like a perfect opportunity. Both Michigan and Ohio State are looking stacked this year; but then again, so are the Nittany Lions.

Like Urban Meyer, many Penn State fans are tired of looking to next year for greater success — it’s time that Penn State football finally breaks through its glass ceiling and reaches the next level.

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Who will replace Juice Scruggs as Penn State’s starting center in 2023?

Who will be stepping up and starting at center for Penn State in 2023? James Franklin breaks down what he thinks.



Penn State football center Juice Scruggs
Oct 22, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) celebrates with offensive linesman Juice Scruggs (70) after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Minnesota 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Earlier this week, Penn State head coach James Franklin spoke to the media ahead of the Nittany Lions’ first spring ball practice. For Penn State football, the 2023 season has many high expectations — still, the Lions have some work to do when it comes to replacing key contributors from last year’s Rose Bowl-winning team. One of the biggest questions marks that Franklin and his staff will need to address heading into Penn State’s matchup with West Virginia will be who is replacing veteran center Juice Scruggs.

Scruggs, who served as Penn State’s starting center over the past few seasons, will be taking his talents to the NFL during the draft next month. This leaves a vacancy in the middle of the Lions’ offensive line, a line that is looking great on paper thus far.

Penn State football: Who is replacing Juice Scruggs at center in 2023?

Penn State football has an issue on its hands when it comes to replacing Juice Scruggs, who earned All-Big Ten honors in 2022 and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021. That being said, the Nittany Lions have a very fixable problem on their hands — Penn State’s offensive line has some solid depth and James Franklin feels the Lions can address this loss.

“At center, yeah, I think Hunter [Nourzad], I think is going to be in a competition with [Nick] Dawkins.,” head coach James Franklin said during his first spring ball press conference. “I think there’s some other guys, I think Vega [Ioane] will take some center reps. I think [Sal] Wormley could take some center reps as well. And then [Dominic] Rulli and [Ian] Harvie will be there as well. It allows us to have, you know, on paper a four-deep from practice perspective. Which I think will be really valuable for those guys.

“But part of it is Hunter will also be one of those guys that starts out slightly modified for the first two practices to see how it goes. But it will be a competition with Nourzad and Dawkins and some of those other guys that we have listed as guards, but we’ll also get them some center reps as well. Then Rulli’s a guy that’s done some really nice things that the staff’s been impressed with. We’ll see kind of the step he’s taken since the season ended.”

Could Hunter Nourzad take over as Penn State’s center?

From 2018-2021, Hunter Nourzad played the majority of his college football career for Cornell. In 2022, Nourzad entered the portal and ended up in State College. Just one season into his Penn State football career, Hunter Nourzad appeared in 11 of the Nittany Lions’ 13 games a season ago, making eight starts, en route to earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media.

Heading into 2022, it looks like the battle for Penn State’s starting center role will come down to Nourzad and academic All-Big Ten redshirt junior Nick Dawkins. That is how James Franklin sees everything playing out, at least.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics.

For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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