Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Distractions after Rout of Pitt, Challenge Is Focusing on Major Underdog Kent State

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Distractions after Rout of Pitt, Challenge Is Focusing on Major Underdog Kent State

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is just a few days removed from a satisfying 51-6 victory against Pitt at Heinz Field.

And in little more than a week, the Nittany Lions will visit Illinois, the first step on a journey they hope will end in a Big Ten title and berth in the College Football Playoff field.

But before that trip to Champaign, Penn State must face a Kent State team that figures to be, in almost every imaginable way, overmatched. The Golden Flashes will enter their game at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium as a five-touchdown underdog, give or take an extra point or two.

Penn State is 2-0 and ranked No. 11 in the nation. Kent State is 1-1, with a 31-24 loss at Illinois and a 54-14 victory at home against Howard.

And while teams from the Mid-American Conference routinely play Big Ten opponents and occasionally beat them - Toledo upset Penn State, 24-6, at Beaver Stadium in 2000 - Kent State's history against the Nittany Lions can't be particularly encouraging for it.

Penn State has won all five previous meetings, including a 33-13 decision in 2016 and a 34-0 victory three years before that.

Each game in the all-time series has been contested at Beaver Stadium, where Penn State has won its past 15 games. That ties the sixth-longest such streak in school history.

But despite all the precedents and evidence, Nittany Lions coaches and players insist they don't view the game as merely a four-quarter formality.

"We're playing a team that expects to come in and not only compete, but win," coach James Franklin said.

Sean Lewis, Kent State's first-year coach, is coming off a two-season stint as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator at Syracuse.He was a tight end and kick returner at Wisconsin and oversees what Franklin described as "probably the fastest tempo [offensive] team that we've seen since we've been here."

"They like to run the counter," Franklin said. …

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