STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – University at Buffalo true freshman safety Brandon Stanback is from Harrisburg, Pa., just 90 minutes from the Penn State campus.
Yet Stanback did not grow up a Penn State fan, which probably is a good thing. Maybe he won’t be starry-eyed today when he plays the biggest game of his life.
“I was neither a Penn State or a Pitt fan,” Stanback said after UB’s practice Thursday. “I’m a Jets fan. Most of my family is from New Jersey and the New York area.”
UB hopes the game won’t be too big for Stanback, because it appears he will start at safety for a second straight week. UB’s No. 1 free safety, sophomore Andrews Dadeboe, suffered a minor leg injury in practice last week. He sat out the opener against Albany and practiced on a limited basis this week. UB coach Lance Leipold said Dadeboe will be a game-time decision.
Stanback became the first true freshman to start an opener for UB since 2011.
“He played like a freshman,” Leipold said. “He showed a lot of good things and he had some other moments. He gives us some speed that we need on the defense.”
Stanback ran on a state-champion 4x100 relay team for McDevitt High School and holds the school-record triple jump of 45 feet, 8 inches.
UB will receive $95,000 for playing at Penn State, which is a customary payout for a top Power Five conference school. UB committed most of that money to building the new club seating section at UB Stadium, which it expects to be a significant revenue generator for the program.
Penn State coach James Franklin hinted at a shuffle on the offensive line in the wake of last week’s loss, even though he said a week ago he was playing his team’s “best five.” New left tackle Paris Palmer, who struggled versus Temple, seems to have a tenuous grip on his job. Franklin also suggested using a platoon system on the O-line.
Penn State will have a new middle linebacker after Nyeem Wartman-White suffered a season-ending injury. Junior Gary Wooten is the backup, but Penn State could shift weak-side ’backer Jason Cabinda to the middle. Two other defensive starters are questionable: strong-side linebacker Brandon Bell and cornerback Grant Haley.
UB will be without second-string junior guard Roubbens Joseph. He suffered a leg injury in practice this week.
UB has 12 starters who played in the 2013 opener at Ohio State, before a crowd of 103,980 at “the Horseshoe.”
How does UB avoid being overwhelmed by the Beaver Stadium atmosphere? UB quarterback Joe Licata recalls advice he received from wideout Alex Neutz before the Ohio State game.
“When I was a sophomore going to play at Ohio State Neutz said to me, ‘We’re just playing catch out there,’” Licata said. “At the end of the day it’s 11-on-11 football.”
“We have to stay focused on the process, focused on your plays, and you can’t control the environment,” said guard Dillon Guy, who started the game at Ohio State. “What you can control is your assignment. As everyone stays locked in, it really shouldn’t be an issue.”
UB practiced this week with loud noise running through speakers.
“Communication has to be sharp, especially early in the game,” Leipold said. “Hopefully we get them settled down as fast as we can, and then it just goes back to being another football game.”