A sense of regularity has returned for Penn State football players and coaches after an irregular week in which the majority of them made their first trip overseas and won their season opener against a solid opponent in a foreign land.
With nearly 8,000 miles, 20 hours of travel time and a win over UCF in the Croke Park Classic under their belts, Penn State players were treated to another uncommon occurrence upon their return to Happy Valley — they had two days off.
First, they made a quick exit from Dublin, Ireland.
Following their 26-24 win over the Knights at Croke Park on Saturday, Penn State players hopped on a bus and drove directly to Dublin’s airport. They arrived stateside around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday and had a chance to sleep in that day before a brief set of meetings on Sunday night. Penn State usually practices on Sundays.
Monday was also an off-day — from football and classes — due to the Labor Day holiday.
“I think everyone is getting their legs back and we had the whole day off yesterday so that helped us,” senior linebacker Mike Hull said.
With their first home game looming, junior cornerback Jordan Lucas said it took some time for him to adjust. He woke up around 7 a.m. on Sunday feeling like he was still in Ireland — where Dublin is five hours ahead.
“We didn’t have to be inside the building until a little later in the evening (on Sunday) and that was the good part about it, we were able to come home, rest our heads, kind of put our feet up for a little while,” Lucas said. “But I think the hardest part was waking up in the mornings. I would wake up around 7 a.m. and my body felt like it was still in Ireland. So no matter what time I went to bed, I would wake up very early.”
Penn State coaches didn’t have the same time away. Head coach James Franklin said his staff was back inside the Lasch Building on Sunday morning preparing for their first home game since taking over in January.
And while players were away from the building, practice fields and classes on Monday, Franklin and his assistants didn’t take the day off despite the holiday. They were back at it, working on an early draft of the game plan for the Akron Zips, who will visit Beaver Stadium for a noon kickoff on Saturday.
“Myself and my staff have never had one of those. We labor on labor day,” Franklin said. “But I think it was really good for our players that they were able to have the time off and really rest up. So that worked out extremely well.”
In advance of their time away from the practice fields, Penn State players got a head start on cleaning up some of the mistakes they made against UCF. During their transatlantic flight, Players’ were treated with some in-flight viewing courtesy of team video coordinator Jevin Stone and his staff. Stone and his assistant Blake Newsock already had cutups of UCF film ready for players to watch and learn from on the way home from Dublin.
Senior linebacker Mike Hull said it helped players get a head-start on their preparations for Akron.
“I think everything went really well on Sunday,” Hull said. “We really just got some of the mistakes cleaned up from the game on Saturday and we really have started to move on toward Akron, getting that game plan installed.”
The Zips (1-0) are coming off a drubbing of Football Championship Subdivison foe Howard. Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl threw for 304 yards with four touchdown passes and the Zips rolled to a 41-0 win.
“The first thing is to get UCF out of our minds. That game is over and done with. That’s where it starts,” Lucas said. “The guys prepared, watching film and knowing their responsibilities throughout the week when we face Akron. They’re a good team. They have a good quarterback who can make plays with his feet and with his arm. We know exactly what we have to do when it comes to facing Akron.”