Penn State visits Iowa with a reminder: Keep your helmets close at Kinnick Stadium

The (Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa tackles Maryland running back Lorenzo Harrison III on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in College Park, Maryland. Penn State visits Iowa on Saturday night. Luketa says he knows to keep his helmet close by.

Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa has readied himself with a travel tip for his first game at Iowa: Keep your helmet close.

“I’ve been told that if you take your helmet off, the fans will take it and pass it up into the stadium," Luketa said. "That’s something I’m not trying to experience, so I’m going to make sure I keep my helmet on my head."

Unbeaten Penn State heads to Iowa for another night game, and those who were there in 2017 expect every bit of the loud and intense environment. Penn State won that game 21-19 on Trace McSorley’s walk-off touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson, who shushed the crowd from the end zone.

Sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons is among those making his first trip to Iowa City. He’s eager to see whether the stories are true.

“I hear Iowa is one of the best in the country, so I’m looking forward to really experiencing it,” Parsons said. “From what the guys said when they went out there [in 2017], with a comeback, last-drive victory, they said it was nuts. So I can’t wait.”

Penn State coach James Franklin is 3-0 against Iowa, including the road game two years ago. He said Iowa benefits from the tight quarters of Kinnick Stadium, where the bleachers almost hang over the sideline, making the noise sound so close.

Franklin added that he can feel Iowa’s passion at Kinnick Stadium, which is a centerpiece of the state’s sporting community. He’s also a fan of Iowa’s pink visiting locker room, which has been a conversation piece for years.

“Some people hit me up about, 'Are you going to go in and cover the walls?’ and that kind of stuff. No, we are going to embrace it,” Franklin said. “I think the pink locker room is awesome. I think it’s one of the better stories in college football.”

Asked how he might try to throw an opposing team off balance, Parsons had his own idea.

“I’d say put in ants or something in the room,” Parsons said, “Some bugs. I get creeped out by bugs.”

Home-run Hamler: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz still can see Penn State’s KJ Hamler racing downfield on a 67-yard kickoff return last year that blunted the momentum of his team’s fourth-quarter touchdown. The Hawkeyes had cut their deficit to 3 points, but Hamler’s response set up a field goal that secured Penn State’s 30-24 victory.

Hamler finished with a game-high 188 all-purpose yards, generating 96 of those on five receptions. The receiver covered plenty of ground, something Ferentz hopes to defend against Saturday.

“He really hurt us last year and he’s done that to other people as well, so it’s not like we’re the only ones,” Ferentz said. "He’s one of those rare players who has the capability of hitting a home run. There aren’t a lot of guys like that in baseball, there aren’t a lot of guys like that in football, but he truly is one of those guys."

Nittany Notes: Franklin did not update the progress of injured receivers Justin Shorter or Cam Sullivan-Brown, who didn’t play against Purdue. Shorter remains listed as a possible starter on Penn State’s depth chart with Daniel George, who made his first start last week.

Penn State and Ohio State are the nation’s only two teams ranked among the top 5 in scoring offense and scoring defense. The Lions are second in scoring defense (7.8 ppg) and fifth in offense (47 ppg).

Programming reminder: Penn State’s episode of HBO’s 24/7 College Sports series will air at 10 p.m. Wednesday.