UNIVERSITY PARK -- Kinnick Stadium historically has been an almost unsolvable mystery for visiting teams, with opposing teams going just 7-25 on Iowa's home field since 2008.
The stadium is infamously known for its all-pink visiting locker room that is an attempt to get inside the heads of the opposing team. The 70,000 fans who pack the stands on a regular basis also contribute to what many Penn State players called one of the most hostile environments in college football.
"Iowa's stadium is pretty vicious," defensive end Pete Massaro said. "It's definitely a tough place to play."
Massaro likened Iowa's stadium to Alabama's and Ohio State's. Penn State has played night games in all three venues in the past few seasons.
Quarterback Matt McGloin stressed the importance to the team of getting off to a good start in Saturday's game in an attempt to quiet the expected sellout crowd.
"Their fans are going to be geared up all day and ready to come in and heckle us," McGloin said.
Saturday night will give the Nittany Lions an opportunity to win at Iowa for the first time since 1999.
The most notable loss in that span came in early November during the 2008 season. Penn State came into the game with a perfect record and ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, but went on to lose its first game of the season, 24-23, on a last-second field goal.
Two seasons ago, the final result was another bad loss to the Hawkeyes.
Offensive tackle Mike Farrell recalled the cold and windy early October night in 2010, when the Lions last visited Kinnick Stadium.
"I just remember the start of that game at kickoff was really a lot of fun, and there was a lot of electricity," he said.
The Lions went on to get throttled in prime time by the Hawkeyes, 24-3.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien is no stranger to playing in hostile environments from his days as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator. The Patriots play many prime-time games in raucous venues such as MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants.
"It's going to be an electric atmosphere," the coach said. "The crowd noise is definitely going to be a factor, so we've got to make sure that we deal with that in the right way."
The coach said although he will be unable to fully replicate Saturday night's expected noise, the team has been practicing with piped in music to imitate the Hawkeye crowd. The team has also been practicing a bit later in the afternoon in order to get used to catching passes and fielding kicks under the lights.
Farrell said Kinnick Stadium holds crowd noise in exceptionally well, which makes it seem even louder. McGloin said the fans are "right on top of you" on the sidelines, and it will make it difficult for the offense to get the calls in and communicate with each other.
"Our players are only going to be able to communicate with each other through verbal communication and through signaling," O'Brien said. "That's a big part of practice this week, and that's what we're trying to do."
SUBHD: RB committee
Bill Belton is listed officially as the team's starting running back for the week's game. He is continuing to work his way back to full health after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the season opener against Ohio.
Zach Zwinak, who received the bulk of the carries against Northwestern, said Wednesday he does not know what role he will play Saturday.
Zwinak said he does not find out what his role will be in a game until later in the week. He said that ensures a healthy competition in practice between him and Belton, since they do not know their roles until later in the week.
"We keep pushing each other because we never know exactly what we are going to be doing," Zwinak said. "We push each other and help each other out, and when we find out our role we do what we have to do."
Belton appeared to be moving fine in Wednesday's portion of the practice that was open to the media.
In other injury news, offensive tackle Donovan Smith still had a club-like cast on his right hand during practice. The club first appeared two weeks ago. Smith was still running with the first team offense.
SUBHD: Back to work
Many players took the opportunity over the weekend to get out of town for a few days and enjoy time with their family and friends.
Massaro visited his girlfriend in Connecticut and attended the UConn-Temple game Saturday afternoon.
Although the bye week gave the Lions an opportunity to get off their feet, heal up and relax, Farrell said the team was eager to return to practice on Monday.
He admitted coming back to the practice field after a few days off can be hard to do, but he credited O'Brien's enthusiasm for making the team want to get to work.
"Coach O'Brien did a great job having a great level of energy and intensity from the time we walked into the building on Monday to get ready for Iowa," Farrell said.
McGloin said the team has had some of its best practices this week, and the intensity level has picked up right where it left off after the Northwestern game.
Farrell said the team owed it to the coaching staff to come out and practice hard after being allowed to have last weekend off.
"Any time the coaches do a great job on something like that, you as players want to show up and show them they made right decisions," he said.