PSU will need own energy on the road
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State won’t have an electric whiteout atmosphere in its favor Saturday at Purdue, so the team is focusing this week in practice on ways to create its own positive energy.
“We talked all week long about our players bringing their own juice,” coach James Franklin said Wednesday.
Both of Penn State’s losses this season came on the road, and the team got off to miserable starts, trailing, 28-7, at Pitt and 28-0 at Michigan. The road struggles go far beyond that, however.
The Nittany Lions have lost their last seven true road games: the two this year, last year at Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Temple, and in 2014 at Illinois. Last season’s win at Maryland was on a neutral field at M&T Bank Stadium, and the last true road victory was at Indiana in 2014.
Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium seats only 57,236, and with the Boilermakers really struggling, the crowd might be in the 35,000 range. It will be much quieter than a typical Big Ten road game, so the PSU players have to find a way to get themselves fired up.
“We’re kind of taking a different approach to practice, with having no music, creating our own juice so we can try to start fast on the road,” running back Saquon Barkley said.
Asked who the best “juice man” on the team is, Barkley singled out safety Marcus Allen.
Franklin pointed out that, as a relatively new Big Ten coach, he hasn’t been to all the venues in the league yet.
“The more experience I gain and the staff gains of the Big Ten and what to expect in all of these different venues, that will help, as well,” he said of road success.
Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda returned from injuries to help lead PSU’s defense to the upset of Ohio State. Bell injured his hand on the second play of the opener against Kent State, while Bell hurt his leg in week two at Pitt.
“Me and (Bell) had been talking all week, and especially talk before the game, just go out there and lead,” Cabinda said. “Go out there and lead and go make plays. Be an example. And he’s won (Big Ten) Defensive Player of the Week, and he really went out there and embodied that. He was all over the field making a ton of plays. It was awesome.”
Bell had the best line of the day when he talked about what football means to him.
“I realize that nothing really affects me the way football does,” he said. “Nothing makes me more sad. Nothing makes me more happy. … Even the ladies.”
Franklin told a story of how quarterback Trace McSorley’s mom provides the offensive line with snacks the Friday before each game.
“She finds some local establishment that is a bakery or something in town, she brings something different each week for those guys and there’s always a little note in there,” Franklin said.
Barkley lobbied Wednesday night to be able to get some of the snacks. He said he told McSorley’s mom, “I block for your son, too.”
Phones blowing up
Franklin said he celebrated the win Saturday night, which he enjoyed. But he also got 348 text messages offering congratulations after the game.
“I did not enjoy that,” he said. “I basically text back: “Thank you,” “thanks brother,” “appreciate it,” and I copied and pasted that to everybody — men, women, coaches, neighbors, cousins, everybody.”
Cabinda also head from a lot of people, saying, “Yeah, my phone blew up after that game, Twitter, Snapchat and texts from home.”
Penn State is No. 24 this week in the AP poll, the first time the program has been ranked since entering the bowl game in 2011.
“I think it’s great,” Franklin said. “I think the poll that really matters is the one at the end of the season. … We’re appreciative of it, how people view our program and the direction the program is headed.”
Cabinda said the ranking reminded him of “kind of why I came here, really, was to the team get back to where it needs to be.”
McSorley was in the shotgun when PSU was finishing the game by kneeling in the victory formation. Most quarterbacks are under center in that situation, but Franklin said the offense never takes snaps under center, so he doesn’t think it makes sense to do so in that scenario either.