Penn State Football: Four Reasons Why This Season Opener Is Different
Penn State's game on Saturday will fall 364 days since the Nittany Lions opened up their 2012 season and first under head coach Bill O'Brien. The past year has been nothing short of both exciting and dramatic for the Penn State faithful, but it has also been a learning experience for O'Brien who is looking to avenge a 0-2 start to the season last year.
So what makes this season's first game different than last year? A lot of things, but here are four of the most important.
Last season Penn State came out to an emotional and energy filled crowd on a day maybe unlike any other in college football history. The Nittany Lions started strong but seemed to look burnt out as the game wore on. This weekend will be similar in the sense that it will be another hot day with season-opening emotions running high. But O'Brien is ready for it this time.
"Early in the season, that's an issue for both teams. One of the things you've seen recently around here, it's been pretty hot for the most part. Yesterday was hot and today's hot. It’s good to get out there and practice around the time we'll be playing the game. That’s important," O'Brien said.
"I think early in the game, just like any first game, it's a big game being played in a venue like MetLife Stadium, everyone will be jacked up. Both sides of the ball will be pumped up. There will be a little bit of hyperventilating going on, and we've got to do a good job of calming these guys down and making sure we keep our poise on the sideline and get into the flow of the game quickly. I don’t think (the heat) is a concern for us, but I think that's something that both sides are probably looking at."
2. Been There Done That:
A year under the belt can do wonders even for the likes of O'Brien who is not one to lack self-confidence in the first place. While O'Brien was the new kid on the block last year, Syracuse coach Scott Shafer is the one trying to navigate new waters.
"This time last year was a blur," O'Brien said. "I was trying to do as good a job as I could with our staff to keep our team together and get them ready for the first game. Obviously, personally, I didn't do a good enough job in that first game because we didn't win."
"Last year is last year and this is a new year. Hopefully, personally, I've done enough in the off-season to really study what we do, how we practice, how we lift weights, how we condition, how I call plays, what we're doing on defense and how to improve our special teams. Hopefully, you’ll see some improvements. Hopefully, we've taught them well, and they'll be ready to go on Saturday."
"Judging by the fact that I had (Zwinak) as the third or fourth team running back at the beginning of the year, I would say that that's some bad coaching," O'Brien said. "Because I think, in about, whatever it was, 8 1/2 games, he gained 1,000 yards. Zach is a tough guy. I love coaching Zach. He's very hard on himself. He demands perfection of himself. He's tough. He's a big guy. He can run. He's got deceptive speed, and you know, he can catch the ball. He loves playing at Penn State. Again, he's a big part of our team."
4. Fighting The Right Battles:
"You've got an 18 and a 19-year-old guy here," O'Brien said. "That's part of it. They basically just got to Penn State. Christian got here a little over a month ago and Tyler has only been in since January. Last year we had a seasoned quarterback who had been through a lot here at Penn State, he was going into his fifth year, it was a totally different story last year."