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Jahan Dotson ‘Excited’ For Daunting Top-25 Road Battle In Season Opener

In just three short days, No. 19 Penn State football will open its season against No. 12 Wisconsin in a highly anticipated matchup between two nationally ranked powers.

Although the start of the season will be defined by college football’s return to normalcy, immediately facing such a potent conference opponent on the road is anything but typical for the Nittany Lions. In fact, Penn State has not played a top-25 foe to open a season since No. 2 Miami invaded Beaver Stadium in 2001 and left with a 33-7 win.

Furthermore, the Nittany Lions have opened away from home only four times in the last 20 years. The task of taking on the Big Ten West’s most talented team in front of a full-capacity crowd is certainly daunting, but wide receiver Jahan Dotson is excited to see his team’s makeup and maturity from the first snap.

“We were excited. I was excited,” Dotson said while describing his reaction to the season opener’s reveal. “It’s a big test week one. You get to see what your team is made about from week one with an opponent who is ranked pretty high in the country. We just can’t wait to go out there and play. We’ve been hitting each other literally all spring, all fall camp. We just can’t wait to see some red and hit red.”

Dotson, who is returning as the Big Ten’s leader in receiving yards from a year ago, underwent his most productive offseason as a Nittany Lion after electing to return for his final year of eligibility. During the eight-month period, he devoted his craft to mastering Mike Yurcich’s new playbook and improving his game-changing speed. Currently, the Pennsylvania native holds the second-fastest 40-yard dash time in program history at 4.33 seconds. 

“I feel like this probably was my best camp so far,” Dotson said. “I’ve been making a lot of plays, [and have been] getting to know the playbook very well. I’ve got a good grasp on it. One thing I’ve been focusing on this year is just being consistent every single day and making sure that my coaches and my teammates know what I’m going to bring to the table every single day, and that’s playing at a high level.”

Despite finishing his junior campaign on a four-game winning streak, Dotson and his teammates still have yet to forget last season’s program-worst five-game losing spell to begin conference play. With a healthy mix of seasoned veterans and newcomers in the locker room, Dotson believes the unit is mature enough to avoid repeating its year-old trend of starting slow and unprepared. 

“This is kind of a kudos to our coaching staff, [but] the people that we bring in here, they’re ready from day one,” Dotson said. “We don’t really bring in kids that aren’t mature enough to play right away. We bring in top recruits every year that are ready to play whenever their number is called, whether that’s the first game of their freshman year or the first game of their senior year. We have a lot of guys who are ready to play right now. We have a lot of guys who can go.”

As a senior in a position of leadership, Dotson has been able to cultivate team bonding to an unforeseen level since the loosening of pandemic restrictions allowed for more in-person contact. Despite seeing each other nearly every day in an organized setting, players have gone out of their way to connect with others aside from football-related activities leading up to the season’s commencement. 

“I honestly will say, the camaraderie around this team, I’ve never been around anything like it before. It’s truly amazing,” Dotson said. “During camp, the three, four weeks we were in camp, of course we were together every single day and we have one off day, but that off day, we’re literally all still with each other… This team is closer than any team I’ve ever been a part of, and that’s kind of what separates us is the brotherhood around here.”

For many of Penn State’s young stars Dotson has taken under his wing, including two starters in Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert Smith, Saturday’s kickoff will mark their first time playing in front of a full-stadium crowd. Dotson knows it’s easy to let the hostility of an opposing atmosphere rattle young players, but he hopes that all of the program’s freshmen and sophomores are able to soak in the moment and rely on their training to drown out the noise. 

“Yesterday, we were walking back from dinner. I was walking with Parker Washington, Winston Eubanks, and KeAndre Lambert[-Smith], and none of those guys have ever experienced a crowd like ours, like Penn State’s, or a crowd like we’re going to have at Wisconsin,” Dotson said. “So, it was kind of pretty cool to kind of be the only one that’s experienced something like that. I was telling them that Coach Franklin preaches to us all the time that you’re going to resort back to your training when things go south. That couldn’t be more true than anything.”

In the spring, Dotson set a goal for the upcoming season based on the mantra, “be legendary”. On Saturday, the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year hopeful will take the first step towards cementing legendary status if the Nittany Lions are able to pull off the road upset under his leadership.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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