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Penn State Football Aiming To Stay Focused, Avoid Complacency Following Win Over Villanova

Penn State football rolled past Villanova Saturday afternoon with a 38-17 victory at Beaver Stadium.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Nittany Lions improved to 4-0 on the season ahead of their primetime matchup against Indiana next Saturday.

It may be shocking that Penn State won by *only* 21 points, considering Penn State has been rolling and Villanova is an FCS team. It was a popular thought that Penn State would simply blow the Wildcats out similarly to the Nittany Lions’ 2019 win over Idaho. While the end result was what the team wanted, head coach James Franklin said this week felt a bit different than the past three weeks when it comes to preparation and mindset.

“I feel like our guys a little bit were enjoying people patting them on the back,” Franklin said. “We talked about it all week long. I don’t know if we had the same edge today that we’ve had in the previous three weeks.”

Franklin elaborated on the week of practice that his team had, specifically Wednesday. What he saw from his squad Wednesday isn’t something that happens often, but it’s certainly something that can’t happen moving forward when the level of competition is higher.

“I thought today was a little bit of an issue,” Franklin said. “And when I say today, I mean this week. We did not practice the way I think we should practice on Wednesday. We’ve had very little of that since I’ve been here…But I thought Wednesday we did not have a good practice.”

“I think they’re getting patted on the back,” Franklin said. “I think they’re reading articles, and we’ll make sure that there’s no leftovers of that come Sunday. I’ll make sure that we clear all those things out of the fridge.”

Franklin’s quarterback, Sean Clifford, agreed with his coach about Wednesday’s disappointing practice. While Clifford himself had a day (401 yards, four touchdowns), he still thinks the practice had an effect on Saturday’s game.

“Yeah, Wednesday’s practice wasn’t as good as we needed it to be,” Clifford said. “That’s from the leadership of the offense, it’s the leadership of the team. We can’t let that slide. We turned it around, but yeah, after Wednesday we had kind of a bad feeling — not bad like we were going to lose or play bad — it wasn’t up to our standard. We have a very, very high standard, and we talk about it every day. We can’t let one practice slip away.”

“I think that it honestly reflected a lot in this game,” Clifford said. “We still won, but there’s a lot of stuff that could be cleaned up.”

On the other side of the ball, Penn State’s starting defense gave up just three points, as the two touchdowns were given up when a mix of reserves were in the game. In fact, Villanova had just 106 total yards going into the fourth quarter thanks to Brent Pry’s suffocating defense.

Even with the dominant performance, linebacker Brandon Smith acknowledged that Wednesday’s practice wasn’t up to their standard, and that it can be used as a learning experience moving forward.

“In particular, I don’t know exactly why we had a bad practice,” Smith said. “It was just one of those things where the practice kind of just felt weird to everybody…It’s just one of those things where you just got to definitely just look at it as a learning point and definitely improve from there.”

As far as what’s next, Penn State has eight consecutive games against Big Ten opponents to close out its regular season. While a poor practice like Wednesday’s may fly against a team like Villanova, it almost certainly wouldn’t when the Nittany Lions play the likes of Ohio State and Iowa.

In the future, Clifford explained that everyone has to be on the same page from a mentality standpoint, and everyone just has to do their job.

“The leadership just has to be there, and we got to make sure that every guy is doing his job,” Clifford said. “It’s pretty simple. We got the guys in the room to do it. Everybody just has to have the same mentality every day. It can’t change, it can’t waiver.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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