As the biggest game of the 2008 season approaches for Penn State, the Nittany Lions have been preparing for a "battle in Columbus." Get the latest on PSU's prep right here in our exclusive Nittany Notes.

Saturday marks Penn State's fourth road game of the 2008 season as its travels to Columbus to face Ohio State. Here are the latest notes out of Penn State's closed practices.

Bring the Noise

"There's been a lot of talk from the coaches about shaking the noise in Columbus," an observer said. "They've been running drills with the noise cranked way up to practice their calls and shifts. It can really get deafening, but that is what they want to get them ready for. The guys are used to it being loud at home, but throw in the hostility and it can be nerve-racking."

Since Tuesday the players have been tested on their play with the "speakers cranked" in Holuba Hall. As another observer said, "Daryll [Clark] has done pretty well shifting the protection and communicating adjustments to the line. Everyone has to have a sharp focus on him in this game."

Although PSU played at Camp Randall Stadium at Wisconsin earlier this year, the team is expecting a lot more hostility in Ohio Stadium. "Wisconsin fans were down after an emotional loss to OSU. These Buckeye fans will be sky-high for their team to make a statement at home," an observer said.

Give Me Attitude

The consensus among observers is that the team on the whole is "energized" and "excited" to play this road game.

"Look, I know it's cliche, but this team has leadership that just has not been there recently," one observer told us. "Clark, A.Q. [Shipley], Derrick [Williams], Deon [Butler], Jordan [Norwood], [Evan] Royster, [Josh] Gaines, Anthony [Scirrotto], [Tony] Davis — these guys embrace the big challenges and get the team charged to go on the road."

"It think the poor showing in the first half of the Michigan game was just what the doctor ordered for this team," another observer shared. "I think the ole' egos were getting a bit inflated and the dose of reality — that you have to play every down or you done — helped them to refocus this week."

And what about the coaching staff?

The coaches also seem to have a bit of a different approach to this game. "The coaches seem more loose with a big game like this," one observer explained. "They are talking a lot about relaxing, playing our game and having fun. Every time we're out [on the practice field] they are talking about focus and fun."

As another observer said, "Even Joe [Paterno] is telling the team to enjoy this game, saying stuff like, 'You only get to play in games like this a few times during your life.' Or for him, a few dozen times [laughing]."

Ironing Out the Wrinkles

PSU fans are wondering a lot about whether the PSU Playbook will have a new chapter introduced in Columbus. When FOS asked this of Daryll Clark earlier this week during his conference call he said, "It's possible. It's possible. I can't get get into it. But there are some things we're working into the scheme for their defense."

In terms of what they are working in for OSU, one observer said, "The basic scheme and sets are pretty much the same as what you have seen with some shifts in the routes and options available to Daryll. A lot of people may not have noticed, but every week new elements have been introduced to the offense. I expect you could see some additional looks with the screen, draw and read-option. How and when [the coaches] use it depends on what the defense shows."

As another observer said, "There are some expectations that [Ohio State] is going to key on Royster and the run, so there are a couple different approaches for our offense depending on what they decided to throw out. I think the versatility and balance of this offense helps them out in this game."

Linebacker Lineup

In terms of linebackers, Penn State replaced Tyrell Sales and Josh Hull from the outside and middle positions, respectively, for Mike Mauti and Bani Gbadyu at point during the Michigan game. So where does the unit stnad currently?

So far in practice Hull, Sales, Gbadyu (see injury update below) and Navorro Bowman are in the first-team navy blue jersey. Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Mauti are in the second-team red uniform.

"I wouldn't count out the coaches making shifts if they need more speed or power in the lineup," an observer explained. "They know what is on the line and they have some great, great depth to work with."

Bruised from Battle

Safety Anthony Scirrotto has been in the red cross (non-contact) jersey all week due to the concussion he sustained against Michigan. "We'll see if he plays. They are observing him and are cautious with those types of injuries. He's pushing hard to play."

Gbadyu sprained an ankle in Tuesday's drills. He was shifted from a blue jersey to a red cross, but "should be fine to play."

Receiver Brett Brackett is fine and seeing first-team reps with the wideouts. Tight ends Andrew Quarles and Mickey Shuler are both seeing standard reps at tight end. is THE source for exclusive, inside coverage of Penn State football.


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