For Trace McSorley, it started the day before the opener last year.
Preparing to make his first career start as Penn State’s quarterback, McSorley couldn’t help but feel a little different before facing Kent State last September.
“I never got an overwhelmed feeling — just a lot of anticipation and excitement,” McSorley said. “Just going around the Friday before and walking to class, I just had some jitters. Some butterflies. But once I got to it and got going in my gameday routine, it started to go away.”
So how are things now that McSorley and the No. 6 Nittany Lions are ready to start 2017 against Akron on Saturday?
“I still get it a little bit,” the junior from Virginia said. “Anticipation. Excitement. You never know with a new year what’s gonna happen. So there’s excitement to get back out there again in front of the fans and start playing again.”
There was a bit of nervous anticipation for those in the Beaver Stadium bleachers a year ago, as well. That was the debut of Joe Moorhead’s new offense. And while it was slow to get started, it eventually evolved into a Big Ten championship unit.
As it is, this will be the fourth home opener for James Franklin since he took over as the Lions’ head coach. By coincidence, his first game at Beaver Stadium back in September 2014 was also against Akron, after the Lions had knocked off UCF over in Dublin, Ireland.
“To be honest with you, I know it was three years ago — it seems like 10 years ago,” Franklin said. “It seems like forever ago.”
That one was a 21-3 win for the Lions, who looked to be a bit sluggish after an emotional and tiring trip across the Atlantic the week before. Penn State led just 7-3 midway through the third quarter, and yes, there were some boos sprinkled in.
Franklin said he isn’t one to hang onto details like that from specific games. But there was a part of that 2014 opener that still sticks with him.
“I remember the emotion of running out through the stadium, through the gates for the first time,” Franklin said. “I remember that. … I just kind of look at the last three years as kind of a whirlwind, and all those experiences and all those opportunities have got us to this point.
“I wouldn’t change a thing that’s happened over the last three years. All those experiences, all those opportunities, all those challenges have got us to this point.”
THREE AND OUT
If Akron is going to be able to keep up with Penn State’s offense, the Zips will need the old Thomas Woodson back at quarterback.
That’s what coach Terry Bowden had early in 2016 as his team started off strong but saw injuries to Woodson and others derail the season and prevent the Zips from reaching a second straight bowl game.
Woodson has had a lengthy rehab process from shoulder surgery but is expected to start against the Lions.
“He’s really come on,” Bowden said at his weekly press conference. “I don’t know if he’s as sharp as he was when we think back to before he got hurt. He seems to be there. He’s really throwing the ball well. There may be some getting back to where he was before.”
Earning his spot
Even the most ardent Penn State fan can be forgiven for not recognizing the name Desi Davis. After all, the redshirt junior cornerback has yet to see the field in any of his first three seasons with the team. Before that, he was a true walk-on — someone who showed up at a tryout during the spring semester in 2014 and made the team.
And yet, when a scholarship opened up at the end of training camp when fellow corner T.J. Johnson transferred to Cincinnati, the coaches chose to give it to Davis.
Though Penn State did not publicly announce the decision, offers of congratulations from teammates and family came to Davis on Twitter at the start of the week.
So why Davis, a graduate of Harriton High School in the Philadelphia suburbs? Though he didn’t appear in a game for the Lions last season, the program named him the Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year at its postseason banquet.
He’s now inherited the No. 12 jersey worn by another corner, Jordan Smith, who came up with some big plays during 2016. This month could provide an opportunity for Davis to get his shot.
Moving it along
Penn State has eagerly reported this summer that ticket sales for the season are better than they’ve been nearly a decade. Now the school just wants those fans to get to their seats a little faster.
With security lines filling up as large numbers of fans wait to enter Beaver stadium, the school is again trying to spread things out by offering incentives to get inside earlier.
From 10 a.m. when the gates first open until 10:45, concessions will be 20 percent off. Penn State’s White Out T-shirt will also be sold at a discount inside the stadium until 11 a.m.
The school has also added 31 entry lanes around the stadium to try and speed up the process.