UNIVERSITY PARK — Fighter planes soared over the clear central Pennsylvania sky, a crowd approaching 100,000 fans roared and coach Bill OBrien ordered captains Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley and P.J. Byers to take the ball if Penn State won the coin toss.
The Nittany Lions did, and quickly advanced into Navy territory.
Matt McGloin completed three early passes and the Nittany Lions ran the ball forcefully. Seven players after the drive started, they owned a 7-0 lead.
Penn States opening acts are earning encouraging reviews. The Nittany Lions (1-2), who meet Temple (1-1) on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, have outscored opponents 28-0 in the first quarter.
Two of Penn States three game-opening drives have yielded touchdowns.
Were just dialed in and focused going into the game, said wide receiver Allen Robinson, who had a 45-yard reception five plays into the Navy game. Its something we are going to continue to do.
The Nittany Lions starts look like this: 11 plays, 67 yards, 5:39 against Ohio University, 17 plays, 75 yards, 6:27 at Virginia and 7 plays, 72 yards, 3:31 against Navy. OBrien won his first coin toss last Saturday. Ohio and Virginia, which defeated the Nittany Lions, both deferred the ball to the second half.
We work in the locker room on just getting ready go and getting ready to play, running back Michael Zordich said.
Stankiewitch, the Nittany Lions veteran center, said intensity has sparked the quick starts. But Stankiewitch warned that staying stoked for four quarters remains a priority. Penn State has scored just 14 fourth-quarter points.
We have to carry that intensity throughout the whole game, Stankiewitch said. Coach O'Brien really stresses that. He's not worried about our first quarter and our second quarter. Hes worried about our fourth quarter and that's finishing. We have to keep that intensity throughout the whole game.
Stankiewitch said OBrien breaks game into three parts, including a scripted phase that applies to the early stages of each game. The other parts involve situations that might arise and fourth-quarter football.
McGloin said the Nittany Lions enter each game with a clear idea of what might occur on the opening drive.
We have some plays we like to call early on and some plays that we think will work early on, he said. We don't sit down and write out 12 or 15 plays that no matter what we are going to run these plays. That's not how it works.
But we have plays setup. We are ready to go. We are anxious. We know it's important to get off to a good start, especially for our offense.
McGloin represents a big reason for the fast starts. Hes 12 of 19 for 149 and two touchdowns on opening drives.
Starting fast is nothing new for OBrien. The New England Patriots scored touchdowns on their first four opening drives last season. OBrien served as the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2011.
As an offense we know its important for us to get out there and get off to a quick start, McGloin said.
Ready to play the hometown team
Redshirt freshman defensive end Deion Barnes is the lone Penn State player from Philadelphia expected to play against the Owls. His recruiting story is a disappointing one from Temples perspective.
He said the Owls didnt contact him until late in the recruiting process. Barnes already held offers from nearly every Big Ten school, including Penn State, when Temple called.
Barnes graduated from Philadelphias Northeast High School in 2011. The Owls experienced a coaching change after the 2010 season with Al Golden leaving for Miami. Steve
Addazio was hired as Gold-ens replacement on Dec. 22, 2010.
Temple actually recruited me late, which I was surprised by at that time, Barnes said. All the big schools were coming after me. I couldnt really consider them at all.
Addazio, whose program returns to the Big East Conference this season, said Barnes is the type of player the Owls must keep close to home. Barnes leads the Nittany Lions with three sacks.
I think there is no question, Addazio said. We have our new facility, our new conference. Its kind of a new Temple. I think that you are hoping to get a few of those guys. That will happen. Thats part of the growth with where we are at.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy