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Quoted: Penn State vs. Wisconsin

Quoted: Penn State vs. Wisconsin



By: Pasquale Tartaro

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In all of his years playing or coaching college football, Penn State head coach James Franklin has never made the trip to Camp Randall Stadium in Wisconsin.
That will change this Saturday at noon, as the Nittany Lions will open their season on the road against a formidable Badgers squad.
Players and coaches met with the media throughout the week to discuss their collective mindset heading into Madison.
Franklin alluded to how quarterback Sean Clifford has benefited from the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich: “Mike has been different and I think in a lot of ways, it’s been good for Sean. Mike is aggressive in how he coaches. I think that’s important because come Saturdays, it’s going to be an aggressive game.”
As a fifth-year senior, Clifford is playing in his fourth offense for his fourth coordinator. Franklin believes that such continued exposure to various offensive-minds will only enhance Clifford’s development.
Boasting coaching experience at programs such as Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Texas, Yurcich’s track record as a quarterback developer is undeniably impressive.
Known for his creative play-calling, particularly in the red zone and on third downs, there is a firm belief around the program that Yurcich will slow the game down for Clifford and thus, help the Nittany Lions move the chains in an efficient manner on Saturday.
Though the idea of simulating the true experience of playing a Big Ten football game on the road may be unrealistic, redshirt senior safety Jonathan Sutherland believes the team has taken the necessary steps to prepare for this upcoming weekend: “We try to prep our guys during practice on the loud speakers and what not. We know what they’re about, we’re going to just stick to what we do and just prepare for them as we would anyone else.”
Moreover, Franklin had also mentioned his staff ramping the music during practice, in addition to completing a scrimmage on a Saturday at noon, in order to somewhat replicate logistical aspects of the challenge that lies ahead of his team.
Once the season kicks off in hostile territory, however, Penn State will need to focus on carrying over the sense of togetherness and continuity that has emitted from its training camp practices.
Senior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher: “There’s not groups here and there that are close, I think everybody on the team is close. That goes a long way during the season because when you look to your left and your right, your brothers have your back just based off that relationship you’ve formed all year.”
Given the trials of tribulations presented by an unprecedented season in 2020, it’s easy to imagine how recent adversity has generated collective solidarity.
What may have proved to be difficult for the players, however, was the hiatus leading up until the commencement of the 2021 college football season.
This year’s Penn State team is not only a close group, but one that is eager to step on the field, showcase its improvement and meet Wisconsin’s level of toughness.
Senior cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields: “They’ve built their program on physicality, so if that’s what we need to bring, that’s what we’re going to do. I think we’re a physical bunch, so I can’t wait to go play Penn State football.”
Wisconsin has rightfully earned its identity as a physical team that likes to ground and pound the football in the run game.
Along with his teammates and coaching staff, Fields believes that the Nittany Lions have the personnel and athleticism to not only accept this sort of battle in the trenches, but to even welcome it once the first whistle blows.