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Game Week Arrives as Lions Prep for Trip Across the Pond

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7247379.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The long wait is nearly over for the Nittany Lions and their first international game in program history.

Penn State is scheduled to board a United 747-400 charter flight in Harrisburg on Tuesday night to begin its quest across the pond for the season-opener against UCF in Dublin, Ireland
(Saturday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2).

Monday is an off day for the players, but the Lasch Football Complex remained a hub of activity as the staff busily finalizes all of the logistics that go along with transporting equipment and a travel party of more than 300 members to Ireland for the season-opener.

The Croke Park Classic was announced on July 14, 2013. From that day forward, the support staffs inside the athletic department have been organizing and planning for the trip to Dublin. The first game of a season always presents a set of logistical challenges, but to open a season 3,370 miles away from Beaver Stadium is unique.

When the original announcement was made in 2013, a small group from the athletic department was on site in Dublin to preliminarily take a look at the area. A second site visit of the practice site, hotels and the Croke Park stadium took place in late April to iron out more details. The Nittany Lions will practice it University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland's largest university (30,000 students), beginning on Wednesday.

"It is a challenge. There are a lot of moving parts," said Director of Operations Michael Hazel. "When you are going overseas, you are required to complete certain documents and documentation where you basically have to list every item that you are taking with you. From a box of 24 pencils to 180 socks to 190 cleats whatever you are taking, it needs listed A to Z...That's probably the most difficult part - making sure you have everything accountable."

All of the cargo being transported to the game must be sent to Harrisburg prior to the plane's departure on Tuesday night.
With the exception of the Gatorade supply for the team, which left several days ago on a ship, all of the equipment will be transported by plane. Once it arrives in Dublin and the group clears customs, the cargo then must be delivered to the practice site at UCD, the hotel and the stadium.

In all, approximately 20,000 pounds of cargo will be transported to Dublin for the game. The list includes more than 9,000 individual items, ranging from 12 pads of Post It notes to 225 spare metal detachable cleats to 500 blue index cards.

With a travel party in excess of 300 people, which includes nearly 120 players, the group is allotting approximately two hours to clear customs upon arrival in Dublin on Wednesday morning. The travel party will disperse over eight buses for the trip. Each set of personal luggage will be assigned a color-coded tag for organization throughout the bus transportation process.

Penn State's first day in Ireland will be a long one. After an overnight flight, the travel party will go straight from the airport to Croke Park for lunch and a tour of the stadium. From there, the group will go to practice. The team travel party will not arrive at the hotel until after practice in the evening on Wednesday. While the day will be long, the idea is to keep everyone awake as long as possible on the first day to get acclimated to the time change (Five hours ahead of State College).

In addition to three days of practice leading up to Saturday's game, the team is scheduled to have dinner at the Guinness Storehouse on Thursday and enjoy a bus tour of the city on Friday.

The return trip to the United States will take place following dinner at the stadium after the game ends. The return flight will land in Pittsburgh before the group boards buses for State College after clearing customs late on Saturday night.

The buses are scheduled to arrive in the overnight hours early on Sunday morning. The coaching staff will head home for a couple hours of sleep before working on prep for the noon home opener against Akron on Sept. 6.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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