UNIVERSITY PARK — At long last, football will return to Happy Valley on Saturday when Penn State opens its 2018 season at home against Appalachian State.
The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State, ranked No. 9 in the preseason in the Amway Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press preseason poll, is coming off a second straight 11-win season. The Nittany Lions are hoping to extend their current 14-game home winning streak.
ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions will begin life without star running back Saquon Barkley, one of several standouts from last season to move on. Barkley is now a member of the New York Giants in the NFL after being selected No. 2 overall in April’s draft.
But the cupboard is far from bare for the Lions. Preseason All-American and Heisman hopeful Trace McSorley returns for his third season as starting quarterback, and will join seven other returning starters on offense. An experienced offensive line is poised to be a cornerstone of the unit, which has been among the most prolific in the nation the past two seasons. The Lions only lost three offensive starters besides Barkley, but all four of them are now members of the NFL.
Running back Miles Sanders is expected to take over in the backfield for Barkley, while wideouts Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins are hoping to fill the void on the flanks.
On defense, Penn State lost both starting defensive tackles, its middle linebacker and both safeties to graduation. But all-conference cornerback Amani Oruwariye returns, along with redshirt junior John Reid, who sat out last season with an injury. Up front, defensive end Shareef Miller is expected to take a step forward this season.
In all, Penn State brings back 13 starters and 39 lettermen on both sides of the ball.
Penn State has won five straight season openers. They are 49-9 in season openers at Beaver Stadium.
ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE: You may remember the Mountaineers from 2007, when they became just the second FCS team to beat a ranked FBS team by defeating No. 5 Michigian 34-32 in the Big House. App State is hoping to spring a similar upset in Happy Valley.
Now a FBS team playing in the Sun Belt Conference, the Mountaineers have reached bowls in each of the last three seasons and have claimed the Sun Belt Conference Championship in the past two.
Coach Scott Satterfield is in his 23rd season as either a player or coach with the Mountaineers. He took over as head coach in 2013 after playing at App State from 1991-95 and serving as an assistant coach from 1998-2008 and again in 2012.
During that time, the Mountaineers have won three NCAA Division I FCS national titles and eight conference championships.
App State brings back 11 starters — six on offense, five on defense — from last season. Junior cornerback Clifton Duck was tabbed the Sun Belt Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and he was joined on the preseason All-Sun Belt first team by senior running back Jalin Moore, junior offensive lineman Victor Johnson, junior tight end Collin Reed and senior linebacker Anthony Flory.
Second-team picks included senior defensive back Tae Hayes and senior defensive lineman Myquon Stout.
GAME DAY AT BEAVER STADIUM: The Beaver Stadium parking lots will open Saturday at 8 a.m. The Penn State All-Sports Museum is open from 9 a.m.-Noon, Fan Fest on Curtin Road begins at 11 a.m., and the Beaver Stadium ticket office, near Gate E, opens at 11:30 a.m. Team arrival is scheduled for approximately 1 p.m. and the stadium gates will open at 1:30 p.m., including the students’ Gate A.
During the team arrival, the Nittany Lions’ team captains will hand out footballs signed by the captains and head coach James Franklin to fans lined up on Curtin Road.
A new fun event for fans this year is the live entertainment on a stage just south of the stadium on Curtin Road prior to and after the team arrival. Bands are scheduled to play at five home games. On Saturday, Velveeta will play from 11:30 a.m. until the gates open at 1:30 p.m.
Also, on Saturday, members of the Penn State wrestling team will be available to visit with fans, accompanied by the 2018 NCAA Championship trophy, from 12-1 p.m. near the Beaver Stadium south tunnel on Curtin Road. The 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championship trophy also will be available for fan photos starting at 1:30 p.m. on the Pepsi Deck, above Gate A.
The most significant fan experience enhancement are the 95 new flat panel TVs that are being added to existing and new locations throughout the stadium. The TVs are larger (65-86”) than the previous units and are HD quality and also feature an L bar graphic that will provide in-game statistics and other information.
Also, light pole banners have been added around the perimeter of Beaver Stadium to welcome and inform fans and add to the game day atmosphere.
Fans are encouraged to be environmentally responsible and participate in Penn State’s recycling and sustainability efforts by separating recyclable items before, during and after the game. Blue recycling bags and clear trash bags are located throughout the Beaver Stadium parking lots, including the entrance to most lots.
New for this season, bottles and cans only should be placed in the blue recycling bags. All other items should be placed in the clear trash bags. Bags should be securely closed and left where fans parked and they will be picked up after the lots close.
Early arriving fans every Saturday will have an opportunity to receive discounts at the concession stands and watch other college football games on the stadium videoboards.
Some of the incentives Penn State Athletics implemented in 2016 to encourage fans to enter the stadium early will return this season:
- Fans will receive up to a 20 percent concessions discount ($1 off a $5 purchase, $2 off a $10 purchase etc.) during the first 45 minutes after the gates are open. Creamery ice cream will be available at stadium concessions locations. Cash, credit card and LionCash purchases are accepted at the concourse concession stands.
- Other college football games will be shown on the stadium videoboards starting two hours before kickoff until approximately 70 minutes before the game. For noon games, highlights of previous Penn State games will be shown on the videoboards.
- The 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championship trophy also will be available for fan photos starting at 1:30 p.m. on the Pepsi Deck, above Gate A.
TRAFFIC UPDATE: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is alerting drivers that they could encounter delays as they travel to Beaver Stadium this fall, with restrictions and changes coming from the Harrisburg area via U.S. 322, Altoona, Williamsport, and via I-80 in western Pennsylvania and at the Bellefonte/State College interchange with Route 26/I-99 (Exit 161).