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Penn State Football Battles Through Adversity, Flu Bug In Win Over Rutgers

It was certainly a crazy week for Penn State football, to say the least.

True freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux stepped in for Sean Clifford after he left the game in the first quarter, and he put on a show for the 106k fans in attendance at Beaver Stadium. He completed 15-of-24 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns to lead the team to a 28-0 victory.

Fans watching the game may not have been able to tell, but there was a good amount of chaos behind the scenes in the Lasch Building leading up to the weekend.

Head coach James Franklin said that the Nittany Lions had 35 players out for one reason or another. Of the 35 players, 21 of them were out with the flu, and 14 players played through the illness. Clifford was one of the players who tried to play, but he couldn’t completely fight through it and left the game in the first quarter.

“On Thursday, it looked like a hospital ward in there,” Franklin said postgame. “There were IVs everywhere. Friday was the same way. We didn’t have a scholarship quarterback at Friday’s practice. We weren’t sure what was going to happen.”

Going further into detail, Franklin also mentioned that the defense got hit with the “first wave” earlier in the week, and the quarterbacks got hit later in the week, which caused some confusion as to who was going to start in the game.

“All the quarterbacks were there early in the week, and then, all of the sudden, they got knocked out,” Franklin said. “After Sean got the first round of IVs, he felt like he could go [Friday night].”

Clifford was absent during team warmup, and Franklin said that he was getting his second round of IVs after the staff told him to sleep in. Franklin also mentioned that linebackers Curtis Jacobs and Ellis Brooks spent the morning throwing up at breakfast.

“Between throw up and IVs, it was an interesting week,” Franklin said. “Literally, I’ve never been through something like this, especially at this point in the season when you’re already banged up. So, [I have] just a ton of respect for our guys and how they handled it. They never flinched and never panicked…That’s as much adversity as I’ve seen a program withstand in one week.”

Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie wasn’t surprised with how the team overcame the adversity thrown at them, and he attributes it to the special bond between the players.

“That’s how we’re built. We don’t make excuses,” Ebiketie said. “We rise up to the challenge…We [weren’t] surprised. We know we have to rise to the occasion, so I’m definitely proud of those guys.”

Punter and kicker Jordan Stout said this is one of the tightest knit teams that he has been a part of after the adversity it not only handled today, but all season.

“Our bond is incredible,” he said. “…In the offseason, we worked our butts off, and I think it made us much better. Through everyone getting the flu, through all of COVID, and through the adversity we’ve faced this season, I feel like this is one of the tightest knit groups Penn State has ever seen.”

Now that the week is over, Franklin hopes that he will have all of his team ready to go on the road against Michigan State next weekend.

“I’m hopeful that this thing will run though its course on the team, and we’ll have everybody back for next week, which we’re going to need to and go from there.”

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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