PENN STATE PREVIEW: BALL STATE

Penn State at Wisconsin. Penn State 16 – Wisconsin 10. Photo by Steve Manuel

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: No. 11/13 Penn State (1-0) vs. Ball State (0-1). 3:30 p.m. kickoff (ET), broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where fans will be in attendance for a game for the first time since Nov. 30, 2019, a 27-6 win over Rutgers.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): Mostly sunny with a high of 74 degrees. Near perfect weather for a day of tailgating. and football.

The line: Penn State – 22.5

All-time series: This is the first-ever meeting between the Nittany Lions and Cardinals.

Last meeting: N/A

Throwback classic (2009): Without a game to relive between these two opponents, I took a quick look back at Penn State’s second game of the 2009 season, a 28-7 win over Syracuse. Senior quarterback Darryl Clark passed for 240 yards and tossed a couple of touchdowns as the Nittany Lions cruised to an out-of-conference win.

Last week: Penn State went on the road and picked up a huge road win over then-No. 12 Wisconsin at Camp Randall.

The lead: Penn State returns home after that huge victory in Madison to face the defending MAC Champions, Ball State. While the Cardinals aren’t quite the level of opposition as the Badgers were, this Week Two contest won’t be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination for the Nittany Lions. Ball State returns 21 starters from last year’s conference title winning team, including second-team All-MAC quarterback Drew Pitt. Penn State head coach James Franklin said in his weekly press conference that he does believe in the idea of “trap games,” and this game would certainly fit that bill. It makes his “1-0” mantra extra important this week. Don’t expect Penn State to look past the Cardinals after that win over Wisconsin and next week’s White Out showdown with Auburn looming — it’s just not in their DNA.

Penn State at Wisconsin. Penn State 16 – Wisconsin 10. Photo by Steve Manuel

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions avoid mistakes. Penn State played turnover-free football last week and if that trend continues, it should see off any potential upset from Ball State. Sean Clifford and the offense grew into the game a week ago and most importantly avoided turnovers. If they pick up where they left off, the home fans will leave happy.

Ball State wins if: Penn State’s turnover woes from a year ago return and the defense’s performance last week can’t be duplicated. The Cardinals come into this one with plenty of confidence that they can walk away with a win. The last thing the Nittany Lions want to do is make mistakes and feed into the Cardinals’ belief.

Count on: A raucous atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium. It’s been 651 days (We think we did the math right!) since fans of the blue and white got to see their in action at home. As James Franklin tweeted throughout the week, this is going to be one big family reunion. It might not reach the levels of noise and excitement as next week’s game with Auburn, but it will still be a ton of fun. We’re jazzed up to see the return of tailgates, team arrival, the Blue Band performing pre-game and at halftime, and all that makes Saturdays in Happy Valley the best show in college football.

Keep an eye on: the Penn State running game. The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball against Wisconsin’s stout front seven last week. Expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to try and get Noah Cain and the rest of the Lawn Boyz going early. If Penn State can run more effectively this week, it should open up the passing game a lot more for Sean Clifford and co.

Trivia tidbit: Penn State snapped Wisconsin’s 25-game home opener win streak with the victory in Madison in Week One.

Predictions:

John Patishnock: Penn State 38, Ball State 17
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 33, Ball State 20

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Wednesday Night Lights

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions continued fall camp at Beaver Stadium on Wednesday night. Franklin said the team will practice at the stadium again Saturday, mirroring the game day routine at Madison for the Sept. 4 opener against Wisconsin, including going through the pregame meal and walkthrough. Photo credit: John Patishnock

The aura of Beaver Stadium is always there. Always. Even when the place is nearly empty. Actually, perhaps especially when it’s nearly empty.

That was the scene around 9 p.m. Wednesday night as Penn State was finishing practice and the media portion was waiting to start. The photo above was taken from the north side of the stadium, right at the back of the end zone. From there, you could look out and imagine all the great plays and noteworthy Nittany Lions who have elevated the program to where it is today.

Today, Penn State’s ranked again in the AP preseason poll and is nearing the end of fall camp, which means gearing up for the first game week of the season. Following the work out — which the media saw for the first 20 minutes — head coach James Franklin said that the team would practice at the stadium again Saturday in preparation for the season opener at Wisconsin on Sept. 4. It’ll be an 11 a.m. local kick, and Franklin said the Nittany Lions will mirror the game day routine. That’ll include the pregame meal and walkthrough, and then the team will scrimmage at Beaver Stadium at the exact time that the game will kick in Madison to help the players’ body clocks get acclimated.

For someone’s who as dedicated to details as Franklin, that shouldn’t be surprising. You can watch Franklin’s entire post-practice presser below, courtesy of Penn State Athletics.

Along with Franklin, tight ends coach and letterman Ty Howle, tight end Brenton Strange, and safety Jaquan Brisker also chatted about the progress the team’s made so far in camp. I asked Howle if he’s had much of a chance to talk with fellow lettermen who are back with the team in coaching roles, and if so, if he’s noticed certain themes that bond lettermen from different generations.

“Absolutely,” said Howle, who mentioned a few times how much he’s thrilled to be back at his alma mater. You can watch Howle’s media availability below, also courtesy of Penn State Athletics, and my interaction with him begins shortly after the 6:00 mark.

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The Rose Brothers Lead the Line

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It’s Alumni Reunion Weekend here in Happy Valley, an annual chance for those of us at the Alumni Association to meet and hear stories from some of our most dedicated alums. Among this year’s returnees is Don Rose ’70, who’s in town from Lancaster with his wife, Sandra ’66.

We talked a bit of football with Don, who then pulled out this photo recently sent to him by his little brother, Steve ’74, ’82g, who would eventually follow Don to State College. That’s the sibling duo back in the fall of 1967, in their stances in front of the south end zone of Beaver Stadium. Don couldn’t remember who took the picture, or how exactly they got on the field, but the scoreboard gives a hint at the date: Sometime in mid-November, not long after the Nittany Lions upset third-ranked North Carolina State.

The stadium looks a bit different now, but for the record, Don’s still got a full head of hair.

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A Drone’s-Eye View of Beaver Stadium

By day, Jesse Brown is an IT consultant in Penn State’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations—one of the go-to guys on an incredibly helpful and friendly tech staff that we’re lucky to have. But by night (and on certain mornings and weekends), Brown is an amateur drone pilot who has compiled some very cool footage of Beaver Stadium, all controlled via an app on his iPad.

With the Nittany Lions’ home opener this Saturday, we recently caught up with Brown Continue reading