Send them to Illinois to face a team that tried poaching their players. Fill a stadium with rowdy fans wearing black and yellow. Put them up against a team coached by somebody who might be looking for another job in the near future.
Even delay their flight.
None of it seems to bother them. Penn State's football act flourishes in opposing Big Ten stadiums.
The Nittany Lions bludgeoned another conference opponent Saturday, thumping Purdue 34-9 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Penn State's first two conference road trips under coach Bill O'Brien resulted in 35-7 and 38-14 victories at Illinois and Iowa, respectively.
Three Big Ten road games. Three victories by a combined 107-30.
This trip included a glitch, as mechanical troubles delayed Friday's team flight. The Nittany Lions didn't arrive at the team hotel until around 10 p.m. The gaffe did nothing to slow Penn State, which built a 20-3 halftime lead Saturday.
“Our mindset is that we want to get out to a good start,” said Matt McGloin, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns to become the first Penn State quarterback to notch a fifth 300-yard passing game. “We want to make them adjust to us. We don't want to give them the benefit of playing at home. We want to take the fans out as early as possible.”
Purdue (3-6, 0-5) fans might have been out of this game before it started. Only 40,098 purchased or accepted tickets and less than 10,000 remained in the stadium when Caleb TerBush, the third quarterback the Boilermakers used, completed a meaningless 2-yard touchdown pass to Antavian Edison on the game's final play.
Penn State added to the Boilermakers' woes, who have meandered off the tracks under fourth-year coach Danny Hope, a candidate to get fired when the season ends. How bad was it for Hope on Saturday? Penn State kicker Sam Ficken outscored the Boilermakers 10-9.
O'Brien has no such job security questions. His team rebounded from last weekend's 35-23 loss to Ohio State by collecting 506 yards of offense and seven tackles for losses.
Penn State thrived despite losing senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, one of the team's best and most respected players, to his left knee injury early in the second quarter. The injury was initially diagnosed as a sprain, but O'Brien said “it will take a couple of days” to determine the extend of the injury. Hill said doctors told him he didn't suffer any ligament damage.
Hill's injury and the flight delay weren't the only issues Penn State overcame this past week. Heavy rains forced the team to stage three straight practices in Holuba Hall instead of outdoors.
“I can't say enough about these kids,” O'Brien said. “They play hard, they practice hard and they love to play for each other. It's fun to coach them.”
Penn State scored 10 points in the first quarter, including six on fullback Michael Zordich's shifty 6-yard touchdown. The Nittany Lions then scored 10 points in the second quarter, including six on Zordich's powerful 5-yard run.
A 14-point third quarter, which included McGloin's touchdown passes to Jesse James and Brandon Moseby-Felder expanded the lead to 34-3.
Moseby-Felder, a junior who was slowed by a hamstring injury this past spring, grabbed six passes for 129 yards. Sophomore Zach Zwinak replaced Bill Belton as the starting tailback and rushed for 134 yards on 21 carries. McGloin completed passes to nine different receivers.
“We played efficiently on offense,” Zwinak said.
Purdue tried attacking Penn State's defense with three different quarters. All three struggled sustaining drives. Robert Marve started and completed 22 of 39 passes for 138 yards. TerBush, who started seven straight games before losing his job to Marve, completed 10 of 20 passes for 155 yards. TerBush didn't enter the game until the second half. Rob Henry completed 1 of 2 passes for minus-5 yards.
“Any win is a good win and getting one on the road is even better,” said senior James Terry, one of the players who replaced Hill at defensive tackle. “We pride ourselves on being road warriors. We just go out there on the road and try to play our best.”
Up next? A trip to Nebraska next week.
The game should be Penn State's toughest road contest. The Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1) lead the Legends Division and rallied to defeat Michigan State 28-24 on Saturday.
Their stadium is regarded as one of the nation's top venues. Their fan base is passionate.
It's the type of game Penn State relishes.
“When we go on the road, it's just us,” O'Brien said. “There's something to be said about that. It's our team, it's our staff, it's the doctors, it's the trainers, it's the sports information people, it's just the core people.
“It is somewhat of a good feeling when it's just you in that hotel room and meetings and then come here and nobody is really for you. These kids came out and played hard. I think they like that mentality.”