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By Chris Morelli
Blue White Illustrated Magazine Editor
On Favorite Jersey Day at Beaver Stadium, it was fun to walk around and see all of the classics. 22. 11. 12. 31. 25. 91. 24. 40. 32. If you are a Penn State fan, you can name the player most closely associated with that number.
If you took a good hard look at all the jerseys in the stands on Saturday, you probably didn't see a No. 41 in the crowd.
But make no mistake about it, No. 41 is an integral part of the 2009 Nittany Lions.
No. 41 is, of course, punter Jeremy Boone. And while it would have been hard to find someone outside of the Boone family who had on No. 41, the guy should become a fan favorite this year.
In the season opener with Akron, Boone punted just twice, averaging 43 yards per punt. Against Syracuse in Week Two, he punted three times, averaging 50 yard per kick and placed two inside the 20-yard line.
Boone has been quite a find for the Nittany Lions. And with the way the offense has been running over the first three weeks of the season, he may be more important than many expected.
Still, Boone just goes about his business. He said that he doesn't watch the scoreboard or the clock.
"I don't even look at the scoreboard. The only time I do is to see how much is on the game clock. Once I start worrying about other stuff, then I'll get myself in trouble. I watch. I see it's third down. I see where we are on the field. I think, 'what am I gonna do if I'm called to punt?' I really don't see much of the game, though. I do see a lot of third downs so I can get ready for fourth down," Boone said.
So while over 100,000 have their eyes glued to the field, Boone isn't even watching the game - most of the time.
"To be honest, I'm always over at the kicking net hanging out with the kickers. I'm always thinking, 'what would happen if I had to punt out of this situation?' We're never critiquing how the offense or how the defense is doing because that's not our territory," Boone said. "We have to worry about the kicking and punting. Once we start worrying about the other things, then we're not going to be as successful."
Against the Orange, Boone had a highlight-film 35-yard punt that landed at the Syracuse 10-yard line and was downed at the 2. That type of punt, he said, was his downfall in 2008. He spent the summer working on that very kick.
"That's the area I struggled with last year, that 30- to 40-yard kick. With that kick, you can really try to get into the ball. I know if I can hit that ball, I can give our defense a great starting position. I'm just trying to drive the ball into the corner and give our defenders a chance to get down there," Boone said.
With the two punts inside the 20-yard line, Syracuse had a lot of real estate to cover if it was going to find the end zone. That fact was not lost on Orange QB Greg Paulus.
"We were working inside our 3-yard line two straight possessions," Paulus said. "You have to give (Boone) a little bit of credit there."
So far, Boone has enjoyed just about perfect punting conditions. Sure, it rained prior to the Syracuse tilt, but the field was dry come kickoff. However, Boone knows it's not going to be like that for the next nine weeks. There are going to be some challenges down the road. And Boone may be asked to win some games by pinning an opponent deep.
"We do wet balls and what not. It's a challenge, but if you don't want a challenge, you shouldn't be out there. I embrace whatever conditions we have out there," Boone said. "That's one of the nice things about playing in the Big Ten. You're gonna have rain, you're gonna have snow. You're not going to be able to predict the weather. It's fun."
Boone is also helping the Lions' new kicker, State College Area High School product Collin Wagner, adjust to the collegiate game. While Wagner has struggled in the early going, Boone said that all is well.
"He's doing great. He's just gotta stay ready for the next kick. What just happened, you can't do anything about it," Boone said. "You just have to worry about your next kick."
And don't watch the game, of course.
Chris Morelli is the editor of Blue White Illustrated. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Here's a preview of what else is in this issue:
In this week's edition of Phil's Corner, Blue White Illustrated publisher Phil Grosz examines how two unlikely players, wideout Graham Zug and defensive tackle Devon Still have stepped up in the areas that the Nittany Lions have needed the most through the first three games.
You won't want to miss this edition of Phil's Corner.
As always, Blue White Illustrated provides the best, most insightful game coverage anywhere. Take a look at our game story, the highs and lows of the game, statistics, game grades and our weekly 'At the Game' feature column.
Plus, take a look at the Nittany Notes section detailing Penn State's most recent commitment!
BWI contributor Eric Thomas provides a complete game preview and key matchups from the game. Don't miss this must-read before the game on Saturday night.
The White Out
BWI special contributor Mary Jo Haverbeck goes into detail looking at the history of Penn State's now infamous White Out games and the effect they've had on the Nittany Lions' most recent success.
You definitely won't want to miss this special story.
Don't miss any of these stories, plus of course, Varsity Views, Scorecard and The Tail End!
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