Penn State all business in Ireland

ASSOCIATED PRESS Quarterback Christian Hackenberg leads a group of Penn State players through Dublin Airport.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Quarterback Christian Hackenberg leads a group of Penn State players through Dublin Airport.
Posted: August 29, 2014

DUBLIN - James Franklin hasn't seen too much of Ireland. At least, not yet.

Franklin and the Nittany Lions arrived in Ireland early yesterday morning, but didn't visit Temple Bar or Dublin Castle. They did have dinner last night at the Guinness Storehouse, a top Dublin attraction.

The first-year coach, ahead of his inaugural game at Penn State - a clash with Central Florida on Saturday at Dublin's Croke Park - has made it known that this is a business trip. And so far, that's what it has been for the Lions.

"I haven't seen a whole lot . . . The stadium was awesome. The airport was awesome. I haven't been to the hotel yet," Franklin said. "The people were really nice. The shepherd's pie was awesome at lunch. That's about it."

Penn State cornerback Jordan Lucas decided not to go with the shepherd's pie. Getting adjusted to a foreign country, the junior defensive back wanted to keep things simple.

And on a hectic first day in Dublin, that's just what Penn State was trying to do - keep things simple.

Franklin said his players aren't tired, dazed or confused after the overseas flight. Rather, he thanked his players after an early evening practice for their focus and maturity throughout a day that was admittedly long.

Franklin, 42, acknowledged the first game of any season will have mental hurdles to clear. But this isn't just any opener.

"Obviously, going through a trip that we've gone through, there's some physical aspects that you have to be aware of," Franklin said. "The trip has made a physical challenge."

Following practice yesterday - which Franklin said was similar to what they do in State College - his players felt fine, for the most part. Lucas said his legs felt good, and quarterback Christian Hackenberg noted that it allowed the team to return to something familiar.

The Lions will continue to prepare at University College Dublin, a 20-minute drive from Croke Park. Franklin said having personnel scout out the location previously has eased the transition.

"Sometimes you don't completely know what you get yourself into until you show up," Franklin said. "But we're blessed and fortunate to be here."

Before practice, the Lions visited the venue for Saturday's season opener to kill some time. Croke Park, or "Croker," as it's affectionately called in Dublin, houses 82,300 fans, is the principal stadium and headquarters for the Gaelic Athletic Association and is Europe's third-largest stadium.

The field Penn State will play on is laid out on the Gaelic football pitch. Franklin was amazed at how small the American football field looked by comparison. Croke's dimensions for Gaelic football are roughly 473 x 282 feet. A college football field is 300 x 160.

"I almost did the 'Hoosiers' deal, take the measuring tape out there, make sure it's a 10-foot basket and everything was right," Franklin said.

With more room behind the end zones, Hackenberg said he might need to get acclimated to that odd depth perception.

The sophomore captain, on his first trip overseas, mentioned that's not the only thing he needs to get used to. Hackenberg said he was thrown off a bit by cars driving on the left side of the road.

"That was kind of weird," he said with a laugh. "I'm thinking if I had to drive, I'd be in five accidents already."

Thankfully, for the people of Dublin and Franklin's peace of mind, Hackenberg is preparing to drive the Lions' offense, not the team bus, come Saturday.

On Twitter: @jmcgonigal9

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