Penn State football coach James Franklin has instructed the Nittany Lions to stay in the present throughout his tenure and not to talk about the past or the future.
A controversial 36-35 overtime loss at Indiana last year, however, might be in the backs of the Lions’ minds as fourth-ranked Penn State (1-0 Big Ten, 4-0) prepares to face Indiana (0-1, 2-2) Saturday night at 7:30 at Beaver Stadium (TV-ABC, WEEU-AM/830).
But neither defensive tackle and team captain PJ Mustipher or Franklin would admit it Tuesday.
“We don’t believe in revenge games,” Mustipher said. “We’re just focused on this week. We can’t focus on last year because last year already happened. We can’t do anything about it. We can’t go back and change time.
“We’re focused on getting ready for this 2021 Indiana team.”
In the 2020 opener, the eighth-ranked Lions led the Hoosiers 28-20 late in regulation before quarterback Michael Penix ran for both the touchdown and the game-tying 2-point conversion in the final seconds.
In overtime, Penn State had the football first and scored when Sean Clifford threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Parker Washington and Jake Pinegar kicked the PAT to make it 35-28.
Indiana answered when Penix hit Whop Philyor for a 9-yard touchdown. Hoosiers coach Tom Allen decided to go for two points and the win before Penix ran and stretched for the pylon in the left corner of the end zone with Jaquan Brisker tackling him. The officials ruled that Penix had reached the end zone with the ball before he or the ball touched out of bounds.
Franklin was asked whether there’s a revenge factor this week for Penn State.
“Our entire focus and energy is on beating Indiana this Saturday this season,” he said. “Although previous records are interesting to look at, at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is you have to find a way to beat the team that you are playing this Saturday.”
Indiana used the win over Penn State, only its second in 24 meetings, as a springboard to a 6-1 season and a berth in the Outback Bowl, where the Hoosiers lost to Mississippi.
“There’s no question that it was a big win,” Allen said Monday, “when you beat a team of that caliber in regards to their tradition, the way they’ve won, how good they are and being a top 10 team at that point.
“We all know how that game played itself out. To be able to come back there in the end on that final drive, win in overtime, it just gives a tremendous surge of confidence to your guys.”
Penn State rolled up a huge advantage in total yards, 488-211, against Indiana, but committed three turnovers.
“I think a lot of people get tired of hearing about this 1-0 stuff each week,” Mustipher said. “But for us, it’s so important to do because if we start thinking about this game or that game, then we’re not all bought in on the game we have to play.
“And if you’re not focused, you’re gonna lose. This year I’m really starting to understand how important it is, especially if you want to achieve your goals at the end of the season.”
Mustipher pointed to another previous loss as a learning experience. Penn State was 8-0 and ranked fifth in the country before losing at Minnesota 31-26 in 2019.
“Everybody who was here for that game can use it as experience,” Mustipher said. “We went up there and got humbled. When you play in the Big Ten and you play great teams every week, you can’t be comfortable on any Saturday. You’re liable to lose.”
Franklin said after Penn State’s 38-17 win over Villanova, a game in which the Lions netted just 80 rushing yards, that the offensive line lacked an edge after a poor practice earlier last week.
“I’m looking for fanatical effort,” he said. “I’m looking for an amount of aggressiveness that is right up to the edge of what is legal and appropriate, from the snap of the ball until the whistle is blown.”
Indiana has battled Penn State in their last three meetings, losing 33-27 in 2018 as a 14-point underdog and 34-27 in 2019 as a 15-point underdog. Franklin was asked why the Hoosiers seem to match up well with the Lions.
“I think Tom’s done a really good job,” Franklin said. “I think they’ve got a good scheme and I think they play hard, and I think they’ve recruited well. To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s just Penn State. Their program has improved and they’re doing that against a lot of people.”
Source: Berkshire mont