WHEN: 4 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Beaver Stadium
LAST MEETING: This is the first meeting.
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COACHES: Massachusetts — Mark Whipple, 7th season, 49-29 (121-62 overall); Penn State — James Franklin, first season, 3-0 (27-15) overall
TELEVISION: BTN (commentators: Kevin Kugler, Glen Mason, Lisa Byington)
RADIO: WQWK 1450, WBUS 93.7 (announcers: Steve Jones, Jack Ham, Loren Crispell)
TIPS TO WIN:
For Penn State — Get the running game going. The Nittany Lions have to shore up their front five at some point to help balance out the offense and keep quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright. So far, Penn State does not have a 100-yard rusher this season — despite having two backs in Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak who combined for nearly 1,800 yards last season.
For UMass — Sustain drives. The Minutemen have 40 possessions this season and have mounted drives longer than four minutes just three times. As a result, UMass ranks 126th out of 129 FBS teams in average time of possession. The Minutemen are holding onto the football just 23:29 per game. That hasn’t helped out a defense that has been on the field for 238 plays.
UMASS PLAYER TO WATCH: Alex Kenney didn’t get many chances at all while at Penn State and could be extra motivated to show the Nittany Lions what they were missing out on — primarily his speed. The fifth-year senior started the first two games of the season for the Minutemen and said he is feeling more comfortable with the offense. He’s an explosive runner in the open field and few will be able to catch him if he gets behind the defense or coverage units.
PENN STATE PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Angelo Mangiro stood up after the Rutgers game and took question after question about why the offensive line has struggled so far. He made no excuses and pledged to be better. He’s the cog that will make the engine go and could be in store for some praise if the Nittany Lions can win the line of scrimmage consistently against UMass’s 3-4 defensive alignment.
KEY MATCHUP: The Minutemen need to limit the effectiveness of Penn State’s pressure-filled defense. It’ll be up to UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel to recognize blitz before the snap and adjust his protections accordingly. If he can’t do that, the UMass signal-caller will have a long, painful afternoon.