Unfortunately for the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions, they will be without two key players when they face No. 9 Southern California in the Rose Bowl on Monday.
On Wednesday, Penn State released a statement saying that junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall and sophomore linebacker Manny Bowen will be suspended for the Rose Bowl for a "violation of team rules."
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 212-pound Blacknall wasn't heavily targeted by quarterback Trace McSorely during the season, but when he was, it was for big plays. Blacknall only hauled in 15 passes this year in nine games, sixth on the team. His 347 receiving yards in seven starts were tied with running back Saquon Barkley for fifth on the team. However, Blacknall's 23.1 yards-per-reception average leads the Nittany Lions. He has a team-long touchdown reception of 70 yards this season and is tied for third on the team with three touchdown receptions.
Blacknall, however, is easily coming off his best performance of his career in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin. Blacknall caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including the 70-yarder in the Lions' come-from-behind 38-31 win over Wisconsin.
The 6-1, 220-pound Bowen is tied for fourth on Penn State with 68 total tackles, playing in all 13 of the Lions' games, including 12 starts. He has two sacks and has broken up two passes. Bowen had six total tackles in the Big Ten Championship Game against the Badgers.
Penn State coach James Franklin said Tuesday that an unspecified number of players would not be available to participate in “The Granddaddy of Them All” due to suspension, but did not release the names of the players.
Both suspended players still made the trip to California.
Koa Farmer, a California native, will likely slide into Bowen's outside linebacker spot. It's expected that DeAndre Thompkins will get the Lions' share of the reps at Blacknall's now vacated starting spot.
Cabinda announces his return: It wasn't all doom and gloom for Penn State fans on Wednesday.
Fans of the Blue and White could celebrate the announcement that junior linebacker Jason Cabinda will return to Happy Valley in 2017 for his senior season, bypassing an opportunity to enter the NFL draft. The 6-1, 232-pound Cabinda made the announcement on his Twitter page, with a long message.
In part, Cabinda's message read: "After speaking with those closest to me who have my best interest at heart, I believe it would be best to completely focus on beating USC in the Rose Bowl. I am very excited to announce that I will be returning for my senior year and holding off entering the NFL draft for another year."
Despite missing five games for the Lions this season, Cabinda still racked up the third-most tackles on the team with 70, including one sack.
Cabinda's announcement comes on the heels of the news that junior tight end Mike Gesicki would also return for his senior year. The 6-6, 252-pound Gesicki, who made his announcement last Thursday, is second on the team in catches with 47 for 668 yards and four touchdowns.