Lee and Lions Ready to Hit the Road

Penn State's junior linebacker says the team has practiced well as it looks for its first away win of the season. The Nittany Lions take on resurgent Indiana in Bloomington Saturday.

With victories over Iowa and Wisconsin, Penn State is starting to re-establish itself as one of the Big Ten's better teams. But doesn't a team have to prove it can win on the road before it can truly claim to be good? Sean Lee thinks so.

“Yeah, I absolutely agree with that,” the junior linebacker said. “We haven't played well on the road, and if you want to be a legitimate team, you have to win on the road.”

The Nittany Lions were missing a spark in their previous forays outside Beaver Stadium, falling to Michigan and Illinois. The trip to Indiana this weekend, while not exactly a do-over, does give the team a shot at reclaiming some of its preseason luster. The Hoosiers may not be a traditional Big Ten power, but they are 5-2 and boast a skilled offense and a sack-happy defense.

The Nittany Lions' road difficulties predate the start of the current season. They have won just two of their past seven road games, their last victory coming nearly a year ago, a 12-0 shutout at Purdue.

Lee said the team was flat in practice leading up to this year's trip to Illinois. It showed, as the Illini sprinted to a 21-10 first-half lead en route to a 27-20 victory.

The Hoosiers' offensive scheme is comparable to the one that caught Penn State flat-footed in Champaign last month. If anything, Indiana looks even more formidable than Illinois, at least in terms of its passing game. Indiana sophomore Kellen Lewis is a more accurate passer than Juice Williams. He's second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency with 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Moreover, he is dangerous afoot, ranking third in the league in total offense with an average of 300.6 yards a game.

Is Penn State ready for that? Lee is optimistic.

“Before the Illinois [game], when we played a similar offense, we didn't have as crisp a week of practice as we wanted to,” he said. “This week, we're trying to keep the intensity we had [against Wisconsin]. That should help us going into the game.”

Despite the team's recent difficulties, Memorial Stadium has a special place in the hearts of Penn State fans. Three years, ago it played host to a game that signaled the Lions' emergence from their malaise of the early 2000s. Penn State held off Indiana on a goal-line stand that day, winning, 22-18. The Lions went on to rout Michigan State the following week and went 11-1 in 2005.

Lee was a high school senior at the time, but he remembers the impact the game had.

“That was huge for the program at the time,” he said. “I remember Paul [Posluszny] had a great game that week. When I was being recruited, I remember getting a letter from Penn State saying Paul was the [Big Ten] defensive player of the week. So that was a big win for the program. It kind of jump-started us.”


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