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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Look to Knock Off Rust in a Hurry

by on October 22, 2020 3:22 PM

Rust is natural this time of year. Players haven't played, coaches haven't coached. It's just different when you're getting back out on the field for the first time.

Normally there is out of conference play. Sure, those big marquee matchups happen early in the year, but by in large the whole point of the out of conference slate is to get your feet back under you. Get a couple wins, get a couple things ironed out. Then get ready for the big games that really really matter.

But welcome to 2020, where nothing is normal and chaos has rendered traditional ways pointless. How you used to do something is no longer how it gets done. Forget what you thought, it's time to find a new way forward.

And that's where Penn State finds itself heading into its opening weekend. There's no game to ease into things, no time to really take your time. The Nittany Lions will face a testy Indiana squad that has given Penn State all it can handle in Bloomington over the years. This ain't no Akron, and Hoosiers will be happy to remind their visitors of that.

So about that rust.

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"I feel extremely confident and ready to go," Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said earlier this week. "I think that a lot of the guys on the offense would agree with me."

"I think it's going to be completely fine," he addd. "You know, I'm a big believer in taking mental reps and visualization as [being] a key driving force in my performance on a Saturday. I've grown dramatically in that field. And for me, I've taken more reps now mentally than I probably have in my whole life, especially for this game."

Of course Clifford wouldn't admit if he was concerned, that's not how things work, nevertheless there is some confidence to be had in the parts that Penn State returns this year. The offense is largely the same, albeit a new coordinator at the helm, the defense not far behind. The Nittany Lions will have to replace Micah Parsons at linebacker and Journey Brown at running back. The receivers will have to improve around Jahan Dotson and find their way in a hurry, but by in large there is continuity.

And the best way to make good on that is all in how you prepare.

"I say it's all in our preparation, just breaking them down film study and whatnot," linebacker Jesse Luketa said. "We're not gonna have the luxury of having time on our on our side, as we as we would like. Being detail oriented I feel like it's going to be exceptionally important for us going forward, especially during this time."

It will be unique no matter what. The absence of fans in the stands is unique, the idea of playing a Big Ten team off the bat is strange [although Penn State opens the 2021-22 season at Wisconsin] but football is football when it's all said and done.

Even if everything around it is strange.

"I've never really been a part [playing] a Big Ten team the first first week," Tight end Pat Freiermuth added.  "But you know, we're gonna have to come out and get ready to play. Indiana's a really good team. They're really fast on we're gonna have to go out and attack and we can't really go there and see what they do with go out and punch them in the mouth first. We have to go out and take pride in this is a big time team and a big time game. We can't come out and relax. We have to throw that first punch and continue to fight."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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