Planning for success: Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Offensive tackle Adam Gress offered a slight shrug.

He didn't have any simple answer as to why his Nittany Lions seemed to struggle on the road. He wasn't totally sure why PSU dropped a game to Indiana, 44-24, and Ohio State, 63-14, while away from Beaver Stadium.

"I doubt that's really related to being on the road," he said. "I wouldn't say that it has that much to do with being on the road as it does with how the game went."

Penn State has only played away from Happy Valley twice this conference season -- losing both times -- and, although the Nittany Lions don't seem to know the cause for those two road woes, they're hoping for a change on Saturday against Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers are 7-2 , and they're 4-1 so far at home. Their only loss at TFC Bank Stadium came more than six weeks ago against Iowa.

"We didn't really address it," defensive end Anthony Zettel said of those road troubles. "This is a big game for us. … Sometimes they might go bad, but we're going to come out prepared."

Added Bill O'Brien: "Obviously, we haven't played as well on the road. It's hard to pinpoint why. Hopefully that changes."

Sure, the sample size -- two games -- is a bit small and it might be too early to label a two-game skid on the road a trend. But it's just one more question mark the Nittany Lions will have to deal with this weekend.

Minnesota is playing its best football of the season right now. Philip Nelson threw for a career-high 298 passing yards last week, and his team's riding a three-game Big Ten win streak thanks to Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana. Penn State's inconsistent defense will be matched up against a run-first offense that's starting to open up the playbook -- and the Lions seemed much more concerned with that than any notion of trouble on the road.

"They're 7-2," cornerback Adrian Amos said. "And that says something because you really don't go 7-2 being a slouch team."

O'Brien said his team will focus on Minnesota's tells for play-action passes. He'll help coach the defense to stay on top of routes. And he'll try to mix up the tempo on offense to throw the Gophers off.

If they do all that, O'Brien intimated, those road woes will start turning into road wins.

"We'll string some good practices together and be ready to go on Saturday," he said. "So, hopefully, we can change the tide of not playing well on the road right now."