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What a Difference 2 Years Makes: Penn State

Posting may be light this weekend, as the VB crew is on the road to see its team get killed in State College. Hopefully I'll be able to get something up Saturday night, but I guarantee nothing, and I fully expect to have to hold FNL until monday.

Speaking of Friday Night Lights, by the time you read this, it is highly likely that we are in Youngstown to see Fitzgerald Toussaint, Isaiah Bell, and the rest of the Liberty Leopards as they face off against Warren Howland. Full report, of course, included when we get around to posting early next week.

We'll be back as soon as possible, and in the meantime, Go Blue!

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from a ridiculously long post I've been working on for OSU week. Since the PSU portion of the story is both very long and relevant to this week's game, I've decided to post it as a standalone.

October 14, 2006 provided a roadtrip opportunity. We left for State College on Thursday night, so Danny could visit his girlfriend, a freshman at Penn State. By the time we got there, it was nearly midnight, so we dropped off Danny and his friend, then Paul and I explored the campus a bit, and paid way too much for one night in a hotel.

The next day, we were completely free from responsibility. We explored the town, bought Penn State gear (I’m an avid collector of any and all college merchandise), went for a ride on the Nittany Lion (a phrase which here means “sat on a stationary statue”), and generally took in the Penn State experience. It is at this time that I should probably recommend against going to an away game 40+ hours before it starts unless you have something or someone to see there, or are 21.

That night, Paternoville was certainly an experience itself, and the atmosphere among the student body was awesome. Of course, a friendly PSU fan offered me a paper plate to tape over the Michigan decal on the back of my car, to avoid getting all my windows broken. After failing to find a random couch to stay on (are there even house parties at Penn State?), we found a parking lot that didn't seem to be a towing threat, tilted the seats in my car back, and slept. When we woke up the next morning, we found my passenger seat permanently reclined. This was a bad omen.

Fortunately for us, Penn State’s media relations office had furnished us with a parking pass. Unfortunately for us, their instructions on reaching the parking lot were something short of “subpar.” After finally dealing with myriad parking lot attendants, we left the car in the Black Lot and trudged back to the dorms. Once there, we snagged something to eat in a food court (all the while managing to avoid being stabbed by Chris Baker) and camped out on a couple of couches in a common room. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, catching up on sleep from the previous night, the games that we watched are kind of hazy. I remember seeing Indiana shock Iowa, diminishing the importance of our tilt against the Hawkeyes the following week. Whatever, I guess it would be that much easier to focus on tonight’s game.

As we left the commons area, I stripped off my Penn State sweatshirt, under which I had been wearing a maize Michigan shirt all along (take that, punks!). After revealing to the unwitting Nittany Lions all around me that I had been nothing more than a mole from the beginning, I became the recipient of all sorts of "friendly trash talk," a phrase which here means “death threats.” On the death march back to my car, one thing really struck me: the Penn State fans had no doubt that they would win this game. Perhaps it’s just a difference between the fan bases, but I think the general tailgating attitude in Ann Arbor is mortal fear (or this year, resignation), especially when facing a more-highly ranked team that didn’t get housed by Notre Dame (Zing!). If I could extract that excitement from their fan base without getting the "threatening asshole" factor, I would certainly love to inject it into Michigan fans. There was no sense of entitlement, just excitement leading to confidence.

After changing into Official Media Costumes and arriving at the empty stadium, I took some time to snap a few glamour shots of the Beav. Beaver may be one of the most minor league hockey-like venues in the conference (of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sparty’s eye lasers), but the facility itself is nothing short of impressive. I'm not one for electronic music, especially when said music is "Zombie Nation," and the pump-up videos on the board were bordering on brutally cheesy, but there are certainly aspects of the game experience that are redeeming. The inside of the stadium (you know, the part that doesn't look like an erector set) is certainly one of them.

The students started to filter in before the rest of the fans. This took place two hours before the game started. Every single one was wearing white. Are you taking notes Michigan students? Be more like that. Always. The white-out was in full force. Like I had been weeks earlier against Notre Dame, I was on the sidelines. This time, I knew I wasn’t alone. Mike, Adrian, and Alan were definitely there. Steve Breaston may have been the unsung hero of the game (as he was for much of the 2006 season). Though the defense played well, I managed to hear a spirited Ron English rip into them at halftime. They responded.

The details have faded with time, but I remember the sense of elation once more, as the visiting fan section celebrated following the win. Danny was equal parts confused and excited. After Notre Dame, I couldn't stop smiling for a week. Again, I was ecstatic on the drive home. This time, it was too long, and I was too tired to smile the whole way.

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“What a Difference 2 Years Makes: Penn State”