Indiana junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. dove for the pylon to knock off No. 8 Penn State on Oct. 24, 2020. Since then, Indiana football has achieved a top 10 ranking of its own and its first preseason ranking in the AP Poll since 1969.
Before their 2021 matchup, Penn State is again a top 10 team, sitting at No. 4. Indiana sits at 2-2 with losses to two top 10 teams — Iowa and the University of Cincinnati.
Unlike 2020 when the teams faced off in an empty Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers will have to play the Nittany Lions with a full crowd at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
Penn State will have a “Stripe Out” theme for the game. Sections will alternate by color, creating navy blue and white stripes in the stadium’s stands.
In a press conference Monday, head coach Tom Allen said the good news for Indiana is that the team has already played two road games — first in a hostile environment in Iowa, then in a blackout night game at Western Kentucky University.
“Experiencing that as a team is very, very important,” Allen said. “Definitely a lot different feel than a year ago, without question.”
Penix said he expects a large, loud crowd to be in the stands. Senior linebacker Micah McFadden said he believes Penn State will be looking for revenge after last year, when the game was decided on a successful two-point conversion by Penix in overtime.
When it comes to changing up plays prior to the snap, Penix said the crowd won’t make it much more difficult. He’ll need to walk up to the offensive line rather than making the call from the backfield, he said.
“We know it’s gonna get loud on big downs and, you know, first few drives of the game,” Penix said. “We’ve just gotta make sure that we over-communicate.”
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said the emphasis on communication is to ensure that every offensive player is on the same page. Sheridan has a direct understanding of the environment a quarterback faces in Happy Valley — he played at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, as a quarterback at Michigan.
Indiana will pump crowd noise in during practices this week for simulation, but Sheridan said he doesn’t believe it’ll get close to the actual environment Indiana will face.
“It’ll be nothing like the whole experience on Saturday — it doesn’t matter how loud we get the speakers,” Sheridan said.
In addition to having already been on the road twice this season, Sheridan said veteran players with experience in louder environments will help mitigate the effects.
Allen said that the night game necessitates adjustments for Indiana, which mostly practices in the mornings. Players love playing at night though, and Allen loves to coach at night.
“I feel good about the flow we're creating — our guys, the rhythm we're getting into,” Allen said. “It's going to be an awesome environment, a great opportunity. Once again, we're adjusting. I think our guys are getting pretty comfortable with it.