Penn State staying focused while having its fair share of fun ahead of Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON -- Penn State spent Christmas in Arlington as it prepares for Saturday's Cotton Bowl matchup with Memphis.

This will be the Nittany Lions' first appearance in the bowl game since 1974, as well as a first-ever meeting with the Tigers, the American Athletic Conference champions.

But with all the above, head coach James Franklin is keeping his guys focused and entertained.

"It's been humbling and I know how much hard work goes into it because we run major organizations and we know how much hard work goes into it," he said Friday at a news conference. "I want to make sure that the Cotton Bowl and the hotel, everybody knows how much we appreciate all the hard work and hospitality that we've received."

Also on Friday, the Nittany Lions practiced at AT&T Stadium to get used to the massive building and Jumbotron screens hanging over the field.

Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour spoke with the media about all things athletics-related, including Franklin's extension.

"He's an exceptional leader. He's a tremendous fit for Penn State," she said. "Obviously, the statistics around the wins and the success that we've had, I think speak very, very loudly and probably could stand on their own, but not at Penn State.

It's also the other things he is. He just called himself an educator, in his press conference. Not a lot of football coaches do that. James does it with frequency and he takes it very, very seriously. Clearly, it's an understatement to say that we're headed in the right direction."

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