Happy Times in Happy Valley Whiteout
On Thursday, Penn State fans received some heartbreaking news about their football team.
Sandy Barbour, Penn State Director of Athletics released a letter detailing how the university would handle stadium capacity for the 2020 football season.
"As of today, the current large gatherings guidance from the Governor’s Office limits capacity to 250 people for outside events and 25 people for inside events,” the letter reads. “Therefore, under the current conditions and current state orders, our fall sports events would be conducted without fans in the general seating areas of our facilities.”
Even though I'm a senior at the University of Alabama, Penn State Football means a lot to my family.
I have two older brothers who graduated from Penn State in 2012 and 2018.
Having been on campus for the last three years, I've been inside Bryant Denny for many Alabama games. These games have been exciting and full of energy, but I'm here to say that Alabama can't hold a candle to a White-Out game inside Beaver Stadium.
I'm sure this statement is going to anger many Alabama fans, but even with our newly installed flashy LED lights, the atmosphere between the two is incomparable.
The White Out tradition officially started in 2004, and has since been described as "the best atmosphere in college football."
White Out games have provided plenty of entertainment in recent years, most notably unranked Penn State's 24-21 upset win over No. 2 Ohio State in 2016. This was the infamous game where Grant Haley blocked a field goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown in the 4th quarter, giving PSU a 24-21 lead. After an Evan Schwann sack to seal the game, fans rushed the field and pandemonium ensued in the streets as the fans celebrated.
I've been to quite a few white out games myself, but none more nerve-wracking than October 29, 2011.
A storm known as "The 2011 Halloween nor'easter” hit State College, and it was a cold Saturday draped in wet snow.
My family and I attempted to tailgate in the snow, but were quickly drenched within 30-minutes. The snow gear we had didn't last very long, and the conditions were absolutely miserable.
My brother and I broke off from our parents shortly before kickoff, so that we could meet up with our older brother and his friends who had student section tickets for us.
The game was scheduled for a 3:30 kickoff against the Fighting Illini, but I wasn't sure if I could make it that long.
Sitting at 408 career wins before the game, Penn State coach Joe Paterno had the chance to get win number 409. With this milestone, he would surpass Eddie Robinson and become the winningest college football coach in history.
I remember standing in the student section cold and tired as I glanced up at the scoreboard at halftime, which read 0-0.
I was quickly revived and brought back to life after I heard the Blue Band perform PSU's fight song, "Fight On, State".
State came out of the tunnel with tons of energy, and the stadium erupted. I was fully expecting a completely different second half from the Nittany Lions.
As the night fell, and what little warmth there was taken by it, Illinois took a 7–0 lead in the 3rd quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Penn State continued to stall on offense, but their defense battled and they forced Illinois into a 4th and 10 on their own 46 yard-line with 12 minutes left in the fourth-quarter.
A blocked punt by Brad Bars gave Penn State's offense a much-needed spark, which led to their first score of the game, a thirty-yard field goal by Anthony Fera.
With 3:04 left in the final quarter, they trailed 7-3 and needed some magic from QB Matt McGloin. The scrappy QB led Penn State on the game-winning drive that started off with an impressive first-down catch by WR, Derek Moye, who was coming off a broken bone in his left foot and wasn't even supposed to suit up for the game.
Down 7-10, Illinois marched down the field and had a chance to send the game to overtime with a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Derek Dimke was perfect on the year up until this point, and was the most accurate field goal kicker in Illinois football history.
As Dimke lined up to try the kick, I saw something that still gives me chills to this day.
The students began moving closer to the end-zone, in hopes to distract the kicker. Hundreds of students cheered as loud and proud as they could, some even tossed snowballs onto the field.
It was as if everything was moving in slow motion, as the kick went up and we heard the ball ricochet off the upright, the fans began to cheer. Penn State had beaten Illinois, coach Paterno now had his 409th career win.
This win really stuck with me over the next six years, and I hoped that someday I could have this type of college experience. When it came down to choosing where I wanted to attend college, I knew that I had to go to a school who had a rich and successful football history.
The magic that I witnessed in Beaver Stadium on that snowy October day meant a lot to me. The team had fought tooth and nail to secure the win, which is what football is all about.
It’s like hall of fame coach Vince Lombardi once said: "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."
I wasn't aware of it at the time, but not only was this Paterno’s 409th career win, it was also his last game ever as a coach of Penn State.
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the tragic news that circulated following the win, but that's not what this article is about.
This article is about how a football game changed my perspective and made me want to push myself to work hard, so that I could attend college someday.
As of right now this tradition will be put on hold, but someday in the near future, fans will once again be able to experience this White Out wonderland.
The truth of the matter is that there's no better place to see a college football game then Happy Valley.
Maybe when we’re all able to get back into Bryant-Denny stadium again to watch the Tide roll, we can dig deep, and generate the spirit I saw at Penn State that day.
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