Lions, Hens looking for same thing in return to field

Sep. 9—The challenge for Ryan Carty's charges is simple enough, on paper.

Don't make this game into something it isn't. Don't get overwhelmed by the noise. Don't become awed by the opponent's size and speed and pedigree. Don't dwell on the fact that the stadium they're playing in holds more than 107,000 fans, while just a little more than 106,000 saw your seven home games last season in person.

For the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens' second-year head coach, the trick to success Saturday afternoon won't be shocking college football and upsetting No. 7 Penn State when they kick off at noon from Beaver Stadium. It will be something much more commonplace. Something the Nittany Lions will try to do themselves.

"I think it's the same thing you'd get out of any second game of the season: You want to have improvement from week one to week two," Carty said. "I know it's an old adage, that that's probably the biggest (week) of improvement. And it usually is, actually. It's coachspeak for a reason.

"Can we go out there and not make the same mistakes twice? Can we learn from the things we did well and poorly? Can we learn from other people's mistakes and successes in the film room? How well are we adjusting as a team and how well are we practicing? I think the thing that we're really going to harp on is our preparation this week."

Carty's Blue Hens didn't have much to complain about after the opening-week win against Stony Brook, in which they piled up 559 total yards and sprinted to a three-touchdown lead before finishing off a 37-13 win.

But there's a big gap between Stony Brook — like Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision contender — and the Nittany Lions, who have championship hopes in the Big Ten and a fairly clean performance of their own from which to build.

They cruised past West Virginia, 38-15, in their opener last Saturday, despite a few special teams woes and a lack of turnovers on defense that head coach James Franklin said he'd like to see remedied against Delaware a week before conference play opens.

"Your first couple weeks in the season, I think you can make significant strides, and you need to make significant strides," Franklin said. "I think the best programs improve and learn and make corrections after wins. They don't have to have setbacks, wake-up calls to be able to do it."

Franklin conceded, "that's easier said than done." And Carty knows it will be the same for his club.

Penn State is easily the highest-ranked FBS team Delaware will have faced in its 134 years of existence, and Carty said Beaver Stadium is the biggest venue in which anybody on the Blue Hens' sideline Saturday has played.

It's difficult to focus on a talent like Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar, he said, when they'll face a team with a slew of players who will go down among the most physically gifted they'll see at any point once they return to FCS play. So, success comes down not necessarily to the score, but to how his players handle the spectacle of playing statistically the best team they've faced, in front of the biggest crowd they'll likely see.

"It's the same thing we had talked about going into week one," Carty said. "You have to really be focused on who you are, know yourself inside and out and how well you do your jobs. And I think the same is going to be the case against the team where you're going into an environment that's obviously a tough one to play in, against a team who's obviously on paper more talented. You have to make sure that you go out there and focus on yourself, do the right things, do your job, do your 1/11th and play so hard."

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