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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Looking Forward to Challenge of Iowa Atmopshere

by on October 10, 2019 2:10 PM

There's something to be said about going to a place you've never been before. It's exciting, it's new and it presents a unique challenge. Win at Rutgers and Maryland? Done that. Go to the Big House? Done that too.

But Iowa City? That's new.

And this is the unique challenge Penn State faces this weekend as it takes on Iowa, grappling with a new environment as much as the opponent. The good news for James Franklin and his staff, a young corps of Nittany Lions aren't intimidated to go play somewhere difficult, they're excited for the challenge.

"We prepare for every game the same but at the same time you know it's a little different just because of the energy and atmosphere you're going to feel," offensive lineman Will Fries said this week. "That's something you can't really just shutout. As a team, kind of similar to Maryland. We have to feed off the energy of the stadium and not be intimidated by it and go out and attack Iowa the same way we would any other team."

There is a unique vibe around the younger players on Penn State's roster, both two weeks ago and this. Heading to College Park, the noisy and often angry crowd was a motivating factor not an intimidating one. This week there is once again the enjoyment that comes with traveling to play in one of the most difficult environments in the Big Ten. An older team may be leery of the obstacle, but this one appears to be enjoying the moment. 

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A little bit of "hey, this is kinda fun" making its way through a high stakes affair.

"I look forward to it," Linebacker Micah Parsons added. "Someone asked me, one of you guys said, "Where is the best place you play?" I would say Beaver Stadium. I hear Iowa is one of the best in the country, so I'm looking forward to really experiencing it. From what the guys said when they went out there, comeback, last drive victory, they said it was nuts. So I can't wait to experience it."

As for quarterback Sean Clifford, he has been to Iowa City, except last time as the third string quarterback. It was a front row seat to a unforgettable performance by Saquon Barkley and a last minute drive by Trace McSorley to pull out the game.

Clifford remembers all of that just like anyone else, but his defining memory is one he'll hope to repeat on Saturday.

"I do remember specifically that I had a great warmup, so just trying to transition that into this Saturday," Clifford said with a laugh. "Hitting all my throws."

Franklin's enthusiasm for traveling to Iowa is a little less robust, but following his team's solid performance during their first road trip of the season, and ear-splitting noise at practice, there is even a little room for the optimism that comes with good preparation.

"I think as long as you prepare them for what the environment is going to be like, then yes, they can take that nervous energy, which is natural, or they can take that energy from the stadium and use it for yourself," Franklin said. "I thought we did that on the road at Maryland, and you know, again, most of you guys were there, it was a great environment."

"What we have to do is our experienced players, we have to prepare them for the environment. We have to prepare the young guys that have never been in that environment before for what it's going to be like and our veteran players need to help with that, as well, but that's our process. That's what we do every single week."

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