Penn State and its starving fan base floated on cloud nine Saturday night after knocking off then-No. 2 Ohio State. It represented the program’s first win against a Top 4 program since 1999.
The party might not have ended for the 107,000 folks who took part in the White Out game at Beaver Stadium. Even those people that couldn’t make it there have continued to bask in the glow of the historic victory.
Two groups had to move on, however. The players and the coaches returned to work this week looking to build on the win.
The No. 24 Nittany Lions can’t be distracted by the pats on the back as they head to Purdue Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN2) as a two-touchdown favorite in Las Vegas.
“I think when you have a young team like we do, that’s a challenge,” coach James Franklin told coaches in State College on Wednesday.
“I think one of the things that help us, is we don’t change our approach, ever. So I think since we didn’t change our approach on the front end, we don’t need to change our approach on the back end, and you know, it’s business as usual for us. It was a great game. It was a great environment and it was great to see our players go out and play well and it was great to see the fans enjoy it so much, and our alumni and letter men and all those things. But again, it’s on to the next game.”
That’s the point Franklin and his staff will continue driving home until kickoff at Purdue. While they’ve been in the business long enough to know it’s the necessary approach, it’s much easier for a group of 18- to 23-year-olds to get lost in the euphoria.
“Sunday we go out and make the corrections from the (Ohio State) game. Before we’re halfway through practice, we switch to Purdue and we were able to do that,” Franklin said.
“Then our conversation was that we’re not talking about Ohio State anymore, except for the guys that have to go to the Quarterback Club luncheon and the guys that have to go to the press conference. Besides that, we’re going to move forward and move on and learn from it and grow from it.”
Purdue put a scare into No. 7 Nebraska in Lincoln last week. The Boilermakers led 14-10 at halftime before the Huskers rallied.
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell was fired before the Nebraska game and replaced by interim head coach Gerad Parker. The change seemed to spark the Boilermakers.
“I thought their staff reacted really, really well to Coach Parker. Their team reacted really well to Coach Parker. They went to Nebraska, a top 10 team, and were winning at the half. So you talk about a team that’s reacted well, played really hard and played with really good energy,” Franklin said.
Purdue ranks fifth among conference teams in total offense (426.3 yards per game). It’s passing game, headed by quarterback David Blough, leads the league (306.0).
“Kind of a controlled passing attack, medium range, short passing game. Do a really good job with those things. They have two receivers that can hurt you,” Franklin said.
The Boilermakers aren’t enjoying as much success on defense. They’re yielding 441.0 yards (last in the B1G) and 33.3 points (13th in the B1G) a game.
Parker said they hoped to have injured all-conference defensive tackle Jake Replogle back for this week’s game.
Purdue kept the basic schemes installed by Hazell but that doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions expect everything to stay the same.
“There’s some similarities. But yeah, it changes things. You maybe can’t look back now at the last four or five games. You’ve got to look back maybe at the last game a little bit more than the previous games because some of the things that they have done there,” Franklin said.
Penn State will go from a raucous home environment Saturday to a flat one in West Lafayette. An announced crowd of 40,239 showed up at Ross-Ade Stadium two weeks ago for Purdue’s homecoming game against Iowa.
The Nittany Lions will be hoping to overcome a letdown and create emotion without the help of fans in the stands.
“Right now, all the focus is on Purdue and for us, it’s a Super Bowl every single week because the next game is our Super Bowl, it’s as simple as that. I think for us, taking that mentality and knowing that whatever you did the week before kind of isn’t enough,” linebacker Jason Cabinda told reporters in State College on Wednesday.
“We put that Ohio State win kind of behind us, and now it’s moving on to Purdue. And now it’s putting in even more work than we did against Ohio State to be 1-0 this week. That’s kind of the mantra and the mind-set that we take each week.”