Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Sept. 22

The Lions won going away, backups D.J. Crook and Cole Chiappialle got major face time, and even the running game blossomed before our eyes.

Penn State's defense, led by senior Adrian Amos, has quietly surprised so far this season.

Penn State’s defense, led by senior Adrian Amos, has quietly surprised so far this season.

Most everything went right with Penn State’s runaway victory over Massachusetts — a victory that keeps PSU unblemished at 4-0 for the first time in six years.

Let’s chat about that Monday evening and look ahead to the big homecoming clash with Northwestern.

But did we learn enough from the game? How do you see James Franklin’s team, particularly this offense, developing over the next month in the Big Ten?

Is Christian Hackenberg performing up to expectations?

If you can’t join me from 8 to 9 on Monday, drop in a question or comment at any time, and I’ll get to those first.

To get ready, check out my column on what Crook’s quarterback performance shows about this team.

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Podcast: PSU needs to improve after victory at Rutgers

Frank Bodani returns to action after surviving the commute to Piscataway, N.J. We talk about what needs to happen as Penn State moves into an easier portion of its schedule.

Posted in Big Ten, Bill Belton, Bill O'Brien, Christian Hackenberg, Deion Barnes, Frank Bodani, James Franklin, Jesse James, Jim Seip, Mike Hull | Leave a comment

Another linebacker, and another Jersey recruit, picks Penn State

First, Penn State rallied late to beat Rutgers in prime time, in their Big Ten debut.

The next day they grabbed yet another recruit from the Scarlet Knights’ back yard. That means James Franklin and his staff now have that extra linebacker recruit they really wanted.

James Franklin just won another New Jersey recruiting battle ... and stocked up Linebacker U. in the process.

James Franklin just won another New Jersey recruiting battle … and stocked up Linebacker U. in the process.

The Nittany Lions’ 20th member of their of their 2015 recruiting class – and their seventh member from New Jersey — is versatile athlete Daiquan Kelly, whose college future appears to be on defense.

Kelly is a three-star prospect in most national recruiting rankings but possesses even more upside, said Brian Dohn, an analyst with Scout.com. He was a verbal commit to Syracuse before immediately switching to Penn State on Sunday after getting word of a scholarship offer from Franklin.

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Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Sept. 15

Certainly, Penn State isn’t the most attractive 3-0 team around.

Penn State shouldn't need another last-minute victory this Saturday. But where are these Lions really headed?

Penn State shouldn’t need another last-minute victory this Saturday. But where are these Lions really headed?

Not even close.

But despite a young and mistake-prone offensive line, the Nittany Lions have found ways to pull out two heart-stopping victories and muck their way through a third. And in this less-than-impressive Big Ten, that is a definitive positive, for sure.

So let’s chat tonight about everything that happened at Rutgers and what it means going forward for James Franklin and company. Plus, the Lions also landed another recruit for the 2015 class. Who is he and where does he project as the 20th commitment?

Join me from 8 to 9, and tell me how you would “fix” the Lions … as well as what you are most pleasantly surprised about so far.

In the meantime, check out my column from today on Penn State’s work-in-progress offensive line … and what the future may hold.

Posted in Big Ten, Chat, Fans, Football, Frank Bodani, James Franklin, Penn State, Rutgers | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Sept. 8

Tonight’s regularly scheduled Penn State football chat just got a lot more interesting.

The Nittany Lions are once again eligible for NCAA postseason play, the NCAA said Monday afternoon, and their scholarship limits will be lifted for the 2015-16 season. The announcements came in the latest George Mitchell report in light of the Sandusky sanctions.

Can QB Christian Hackenberg keep throwing the Lions to victory? (Jason Plotkin -Daily Record/Sunday News)

Can QB Christian Hackenberg keep throwing the Lions to victory? (Jason Plotkin -Daily Record/Sunday News)

Join me tonight at 8 to chat about Penn State’s victory over Akron in James Franklin’s Beaver Stadium debut. Of course, we’ll also look ahead to Saturday night’s Big Ten clash at Rutgers and even beyond.

Where do you think this team is headed?

We’ll talk about all of that and more from 8 to 9 tonight. If you can’t make it then, drop in a question or comment at any time and I’ll get to those first.

Posted in Beaver Stadium, Big Ten, Chat, Christian Hackenberg, Fans, Football, Frank Bodani, James Franklin, NCAA, Penn State, Rutgers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Podcast: What did PSU learn from its victory in Ireland?

Frank Bodani is back from Dublin and ready to talk about what to expect in Week 2 as the Nittany Lions take on Akron.

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Penn State goes to Dublin: My favorite Irish scenes in photos, videos

What a trip.

The Penn State football team crossed the pond to take on Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, and the Daily Record/Sunday News sent journalists Frank Bodani and Jason Plotkin along for the ride.

It was an action-packed five days that included Gaelic football and hurling, an American high school football game, culinary exploration, a pep rally, some fun and games with the people of Dublin and, oh yeah, the main-event football game in historic Croke Park.

Throw in a five-hour time difference, and you might have missed some of the awesome coverage from Frank and Jason. Here are some of my favorite scenes from the trip. What was your favorite?

No. 1: Can the Irish speak Pennsylvania Dutch?
This video is hands-down my favorite part of the trip. No question.

No. 2: The many faces of Franklin
We already knew James Franklin was an emotional guy. But I don’t think we had any idea just how expressive he’d be on the sidelines.

Penn State coach James Franklin expressed a range of emotions during the Croke Park Classic in Dublin on Saturday.

Penn State coach James Franklin expressed a range of emotions during the Croke Park Classic in Dublin on Saturday.

Related: This video, which could be titled “James Franklin hugs everyone: The story of Frank Bodani’s Croke Park footchase”

No. 3: Gaelic Games
This one makes the list because of how much fun the Nittany Lions had while learning the traditional Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football.

Malik Golden, center and other members of the Penn State football team erupt in cheers as the team witnesses a demonstration in hurling and Gaelic football at University College, Dublin on Thursday, August 28, 2014.  (Jason Plotkin - Daily Record/Sunday News)

Malik Golden, center and other members of the Penn State football team erupt in cheers as the team witnesses a demonstration in hurling and Gaelic football at University College, Dublin on Thursday, August 28, 2014. (Jason Plotkin – Daily Record/Sunday News)


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Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Sept. 2

The Nittany Lions are coming off a thrilling victory to open the season in Ireland. Now, they are preparing for James Franklin’s home opener in Beaver Stadium.

Christian Hackenberg set a school passing record in Ireland. But how beat-up will he get this season?

Christian Hackenberg set a school passing record in Ireland. But how beat-up will he get this season?

Let’s chat tonight at 8 about Ireland, Saturday’s game against underrated Akron and some of the stars moving forward, such as Christian Hackenberg and Jesse James and Mike Hull.

Some Big Ten and national analysts still aren’t giving Penn State much respect so far. What do you think? Are these guys for real for the long-term or do we need a few more weeks to truly decide?

Will the Lions be able to get their tailbacks going on Saturday?

In the meantime, check out my column on receiver DaeSean Hamilton and his breakout day and why it was extra special.

Posted in Beaver Stadium, Big Ten, Chat, Christian Hackenberg, Fans, Football, Frank Bodani, James Franklin, Jesse James, Mike Hull, Penn State | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playing for ancient wood and iconic steel in Ireland’s “cathedral”

crokeparklines

Workers line the field at Croke Park on Friday. (Jason Plotkin – Daily Record/Sunday News)

It’s the perfect and yet strangest combination of materials in producing a football trophy.

We’re billing it as the “world’s oldest and newest trophy.”On mobile? Click here to view photo gallery

It’s the Dan Rooney Trophy — what Penn State or Central Florida earns when it wins Saturday’s Croke Park Classic here in Dublin.

And it was on display at the stadium on the eve of the most unusual overseas matchup to open the season. Of most importance, we learned that the football on the trophy is carved from bog yew once buried underground for 4,500 years. And that the steel supporting it came from long-lost Three Rivers Stadium in the Steel City.

We’re not sure these Nittany Lions really care much for the historical perspective of such things. Croke Park personnel at least hope they take away the aura the stadium holds in this country. Every Irishman who plays in this place is an amateur, their teams representing home towns.

Here's a look at the Croke Park Classic trophy. (Frank Bodani - Daily Record/Sunday News)

Here’s a look at the Croke Park Classic trophy. (Frank Bodani – Daily Record/Sunday News)

And above stadium organizers don’t want anyone else walking on the grass (It’s a pitch, not a field). “You’ve got to earn your way, sacrifice,” our tour guide said. “It’s the one sort of respect or the one privilege the players get, is that they’re the only guys who walk out there.”

But they made a rare exception for Penn State, and presumably the Knights from UCF. They got to not only tour the historic stadium leading up to Saturday’s game, they got to check out the grass.

The point is that renovated Croke Park is much more than a landmark of a stadium. Not only does it hold the biggest matches in Ireland’s beloved Gaelic Games, its significance runs much deeper, considering it was the site of “Bloody Sunday” in 1920, when British forces stormed the place during an event with shots fired and 14 left dead.

“This is a cathedral. This is probably one of the most iconic places in Dublin. It’s hallowed ground,” said stadium director Peter McKenna. “Everything about here is relevant of what our identity is, what our culture is. This is the most important building in the city.”

And that’s saying something for a medieval city.

Now, it becomes the destination for 14,500 traveling Penn State fans who expect to badly outnumber the Central Florida supporters (only 1,500). The 35,000 or so other hopefuls in the stands will be made up of curious folks from Dublin and the rest of Europe.

Penn State’s following is “probably a little more than what we expected,” McKenna said. Though it doesn’t stack up to the 35,000 Americans who traveled here two years ago to watch Notre Dame play Navy at newer Aviva Stadium.

McKenna described that as the largest “movement of Americans at peacetime.”

Certainly, tomorrow will be something altogether different for first-year coach James Franklin and his program that is staring down a third-straight year of not being allowed into a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions.

This is their first game of a new season and of yet another new era. They will play and then immediately load up and fly home, arriving in State College early Sunday morning.

If nothing else, they hope to take that ancient wood and iconic steel with them.

Posted in bowl game, coaching staff, Fans, Football, Frank Bodani, James Franklin, Penn State, PSU alumni | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Ireland, it’s all in the pudding … for breakfast, that is.

Penn State playing football in Ireland means that I must do my best to explore the culture of the homeland.

Which means I was driven to find a top-shelf Irish breakfast.

We dived into this "full Irish breakfast" in downtown Dublin. Those two little "cakes" on the right??

We dived into this “full Irish breakfast” in downtown Dublin. Those two little “cakes” on the right??

Because, like I always say about Penn State road trips, since everyone has to eat, it might as well be an adventure. And so a recommendation took photographer Jason Plotkin and I to Bewley’s Grafton Street Café in the heart of Dublin.

Getting there involved walking past new Aviva Stadium, the glass and steel structure that looks like a harp on its side. It meant meeting Penn State fans from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the train platform on our way downtown.

It meant walking on narrow streets where cars and double-decked buses fly around curves on the left side of the road and everyone’s front door seems to be painted one bright color or another.

It was a gorgeous, sunny morning. Wednesday here felt like late-October in State College. Thursday felt like a bowl game in Tampa, Florida. Every stone stone wall on a winding street that guarded some tightly-fitted cottages reminded me of the movie, Billy Elliot.

Finally, it was time for breakfast.

Bewley’s Café is known as Dublin’s largest (400 seats), oldest (1927) and busiest (1 million customers a year). Manager Sean Duffy told stories of the restaurant’s stunning history in regards to the tea and coffee trades. He talked about those brilliant hand-painted stained glass windows adorning the dining room that are more than 80 years old.

Of course, we came for the food.

Things started with perfectly-designed, art-topped cups of cappuccinos. No sugar was needed, Duffy explained, because the milk is of such high quality. And the milk is so good because of the cows that produce it. And the cows are so special because of the “grass and the rain” and …

The highlight, though, was the “full Irish breakfast.” It’s a top-seller with at least a few thousand served here every week.

It included potato farl (a pancake), grilled ham, sausage, a tomato half, tiny mushrooms, a poached egg and two slices of toast. It was accompanied by fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Everything is grilled so it is healthier, Duffy explained with a straight face, and we wanted to believe him. We also added a giant, made-in-house fruit scone, another Bewley special.

But the plate’s Tour de force was the traditional black and white pudding. The blood pudding. Those two petite, innocent-looking dollops, almost resembling tiny pastries.

I had heard of this stuff. I pretty much could guess what it was made of, but I didn’t really want to know. I felt compelled to try it because I was in Ireland and that’s what you do when you’re in Ireland, right?

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