Penn State Football

Penn State football notes: Crook relishes chance to play for Nittany Lions

CDT photo

With just over six minutes to play in the third quarter, D.J. Crook nodded on Penn State’s sideline and mouthed his final words into the headset that puts him in constant communication with coaches up in the press box.

The West Barnstable, Mass. native took the headset off, removed the wires and battery pack from his waist, grabbed a football and started throwing some warmup passes.

Minutes later, Crook was throwing his first real collegiate passes, including his first collegiate touchdown in Penn State’s 48-7 win over Massachusetts at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

Penn State coaches plan to redshirt scholarship backup quarterback Trace McSorley, which will afford Crook, a walk-on, with playing time in mop-up situations.

“Mop-up duty, whatever it’s called, I’m out there and I’m happy to be out there,” Crook said. “I want to compete. I’m really grateful that I got the chance today.”

Crook made the most of his opportunity.

He completed 6 of 9 passes for 57 yards and gunned an 11-yard touchdown throw to tight end Brent Wilkerson to cap Penn State’s scoring.

It was a nice change of scenery for Crook, who spends most of his days each week watching film on opposing offenses and trying to replicate them on Penn State’s scout team along with fellow walk-on quarterback Billy Fessler.

Crook said he took extra snaps with the first and second team offenses this week in preparation for this game.

“Usually on Tuesdays, I’ll watch the scout film, get to see what they’re doing so I can mimic what they do. But after that, I’m watching our film, getting ready for adjustments for the game.”

Ficken eclipses 200-point mark

With his two first-quarter field goals, Sam Ficken became the 11th player in Penn State history to surpass 200 points.

Ficken hit kicks of 42 and 40 yards and nailed six extra points to put his career points total at 207. He currently is eighth in Penn State’s scoring history and trails seventh-place Curtis Enis by 23 points. Ficken passed Ki-Jana Carter (204), Larry Johnson (206) and Massimo Manca (206) with his performance on Saturday.

He also made good on his promise to improve his kickoffs. Ficken said he wanted to drive the ball better and did just that, forcing UMass returners to settle for eight touchbacks on nine kickoffs.

Reserves get work

Head coach James Franklin opted to get a handful of his younger players some work in the second half.

Wendy Laurent checked in at right guard for the second offense and converted defensive tackle Albert Hall entered at right tackle. Cole Chiappialle handled rushing duties for the second offense. Evan Galimberti, Andrew Terlingo and Dom Salomone also played on offense.

On defense, Von Walker, Gary Wooten and Matt Baney saw second-half snaps at linebacker. Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels entered at defensive end while Malik Golden took reps at safety and Christian Campbell entered at corner. Daniel Pasquariello punted in the fourth quarter.

“We were able to get a bunch of guys experience,” Franklin said. “Our plan after the first series of the second half was we would start to substitute. So basically, those guys got to play the whole third quarter and all of the fourth quarter, which was huge.

Kenney not a factor for UMass

Former Penn State receiver Alex Kenney started the game by forcing his old team to play on its heels.

The State College native and former State College High track and field and football standout took a reverse sweep 18 yards on the Minutemen’s first play of the game. He began the second half with an 11-yard gain on a similar play but did not touch the ball after that.

Kenney was targeted just twice in the passing game.