‘Toughest Place To Play’: Penn State Football Confident In Preparation For Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium
Kinnick Stadium has been known for its tough environment for years. It’s widely known as one of the loudest and toughest places to play in all of college football. And as a result, Iowa has a well-documented history of upsetting highly ranked teams at home.
Back in 2016, the Hawkeyes took down No. 3 Michigan 14-13 on a game-winning field goal as time expired. Just two weeks later, Iowa defeated No. 16 ranked Nebraska 40-10. The next season, Iowa completed another huge upset, demolishing No. 3 Ohio State 55-24. No. 4 Penn State was nearly upset by Iowa that season as well, had it not been for a miraculous Trace McSorley touchdown pass as time expired.
Although Penn State escaped Kinnick with a win, defensive lineman Shaka Toney recalls that game against Iowa and the deafening crowd as an experience he’ll never forget. It was his first road game in college and certainly left a mark on him that lasts two years later.
“I remember standing next to Antonio Shelton on our last offensive drive and I couldn’t hear a thing. He was right next to me, and we were screaming at each other,” Toney said. “That noise and that environment, that’s probably the toughest place to play on the road. You can feel the intensity in the air.
“I think Iowa is probably one of the toughest stadiums to play at in America. It is always going to be a challenge for anybody who goes in there. You know the history of them beating top teams there.”
If history’s any indication, No. 10 Penn State will certainly have its hands full when dealing with the thundering environment posed by the Iowa crowd in prime time this weekend.
After silencing what was supposed to be a hostile road crowd at Maryland two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions won’t have the luxury of playing in a stadium that’s more than half blue and white.
Even with Iowa coming off a crushing 10-3 loss to Michigan, the Nittany Lions’ first true road game will also likely be much closer than the 59-0 drubbing they handed the Terps. For one, Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium is no Kinnick. But additionally, this is a classic Iowa team with a stout, stingy defense.
But the team doesn’t seem too deterred. After all, tests like this are what make or break dream seasons.
“It’s loud. It’s hostile. They are on top of you,” head coach James Franklin said. “They feed off their crowd. We hope to prepare our guys in a way that we can feed off the energy in the stadium. You know, this is why you come to Penn State, to play in games like this and in these types of environments.”
To prepare for the noise levels the Nittany Lions expect this weekend, Franklin has, as he normally does before big road games, upped the intensity of his practices by blasting music through large speakers. The speakers are intended to simulate the ear-splitting cheers and music that make communicating on the field so hard during these games.
“It comes pretty darn close to where you can’t hear yourself think,” Toney said. “A lot of time I want to put earplugs in at practice. We blast stadium music and crowd noise at the highest volume possible.”
That type of preparation, along with the team’s hot streak to start the season, has plenty of players excited for this weekend — whether it’s their first trip to Iowa City or second go-around.
“I think anyone that’s been there knows how passionate those fans are and how great of an atmosphere it is,” offensive lineman Will Fries said. “We are expecting a great atmosphere again and really just a memorable experience under those lights. That was my first Big Ten play. I’m excited to go back there and play there again.”
“I hear Iowa is one of the best in the country, so I’m looking forward to really experiencing it,” sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons said. “From what the guys said when they went out there, comeback, last-drive victory, they said it was nuts. I can’t wait to experience it.”
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