IOWA CITY – Pink and black and gold, it promises to be a colorful night under the lights tonight at Kinnick Stadium.
Fourth-ranked Penn State begins defense of the Big Ten football championship it won a year ago with a night game at Iowa, which hopes to recapture the magic it had in upsetting second-rated Michigan under the lights at Kinnick Stadium last season.
“Night games at Kinnick, they’re special," Iowa center James Daniels said.
He went on to talk about how the white gloves most players wear seem to take on a bluish hue under the lights.
“I noticed that right away my freshman year," Daniels said. “Everything looks and feels a little different for a night game."
Iowa has a 10-4 record all-time under the lights at Kinnick Stadium, including wins in the four games it has hosted at night in the past two seasons.
The last team to beat the Hawkeyes at home at night was Penn State, which started quickly and rolled to a 38-14 win in its most recent visit to Kinnick Stadium in 2012.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin will bring a talent-rich team to Iowa tonight, pairing an aggressive defense with an offense led by a veteran quarterback in Trace McSorley and a pair of preseason all-Americans in running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki.
He will also bring a curiosity about a venue he has heard a lot about but has never visited before.
Franklin brought up the topic of Kinnick Stadium’s storied pink locker rooms during his weekly news conference of Tuesday, calling it one of the “cooler, historical kind of thing in college football from a tradition standpoint."
Like the former Hawkeye coach who first slapped pink paint on the locker room walls at Kinnick Stadium, Hayden Fry, Franklin received an undergraduate degree in psychology.
The East Stroudsburg State graduate said he planned to discuss the pink locker rooms with his players this week before the Nittany Lions arrived in Iowa City.
“I’m going to talk to our guys about it being a really, really nice gesture by the University of Iowa to welcome Penn State since our original school colors are pink and black," Franklin said. “… I’m not going to make a big deal about it, but I am going to have some fun with it, then just kind of move on."
Franklin has had his team focusing on the atmosphere they can expect while looking to add to its 3-0 record in Penn State’s first road game of the season.
“I wanted to educate myself on what to expect. I’ve talked to a lot of people, asked a lot of questions, and I know that place is going to be rocking," Franklin said.
The Nittany Lions have prepared with plenty of loud music on the practice field this week, attempting to simulate the environment that will greet Penn State tonight.
“We expect it to be a pretty crazy scene," Barkley said. “We know it will be loud and that the sidelines are tight. We’ve seen what it was like against Michigan last year. We’ve got to be ready to deal with that."
Iowa has won its last three home games against top-five teams, including last season’s 14-13 win over the Wolverines.
Linebacker Josey Jewell says the confluence of football under the lights and the challenge presented by a top-level opponent seems to bring out the best in the Hawkeyes.
“To me personally, I don’t care if we play at night or 11 in the morning. I always want to be on top of my game, but there is a unique atmosphere and usually a pretty good opponent when we do get the chance to plat night," Jewell said. “It’s a pretty cool thing, but it’s even better when we play our best."