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Column: How legit is the Penn State ‘White Out’?

Some thoughts from the 2014 Buckeyes-Nittany Lions showdown in Beaver Stadium.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Yesterday, we talked about how much the “White Out” really matters. Statistically, the Nittany Lions haven’t set the world on fire when they hold these kind of contests, going 7-7 since starting the craze in 2004. Ohio State has walked into Beaver Stadium— with Jim Tressel or Urban Meyer as head coach— for a White Out and walked out with a win; the Buckeyes have also left State College, Penn., with a loss after facing White Out conditions, too.

Back in 2014, I was a student at Ohio State. While I was there, I was a broadcaster for the student radio program— meaning that I covered just about every game from 2013-15. I had the opportunity to go to 12 Big Ten stadiums for games, and outside of Ohio Stadium, there was only one real contender when it came to environment: Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a weirdly warm October night in 2014— at least to me. I was expecting the temperature to drop into the low 40s since, well, it was almost November. However, the temperature fluttered between the upper and mid 50s.

To get to Beaver Stadium, you weave around campus, and end up parking in one of many grassy lots. It’s not exactly a hike from parking area to stadium, but because the signage on the outside of the stadium is so huge, it feels closer than it is. Like walking through a major city and seeing a certain landmark, it’s farther than it appears. On the walk, I noticed just about every person wearing white. The White Out didn’t feel like a suggestion, but more of a standard operating procedure.

When all of the white shirts— and occasional person with blue and white face paint— found their seats, it was a spectacular sight to see. It was a literal sea of white. When you combine that with the “We Are Penn State” chants, players running out of the tunnel, and the cadence of the white pom-poms in the stands, the atmosphere is one of the most electric in the Big Ten. Ohio State’s “Script Ohio” is still No. 1, but after seeing in-person the “Jump Around” at Wisconsin and the “M Club” banner thing that Michigan does before games, the White Out is firmly in second, if we’re grading ambiances in the Big Ten.

Granted, I’ve only been to one White Out— and it was a primetime matchup, just like the 2018 edition. I don’t want to make a blanket statement and say what I saw will always be the case at every White Out that PSU puts on. But, every time Ohio State made a great play and took control of the game, the crowd was still a momentum factor that had to be accounted for. The first drive in 2014 featured then-QB Christian Hackenberg throwing an interception— which, if we’re being honest, looked like it hit the ground— to the Buckeyes’ Vonn Bell. When OSU pulled away 17-0 and seemed to have the game in the bag, the Nittany Lions clawed back with an interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. All it takes is one play to go Penn State’s way, and Beaver Stadium reverberates with chanting and jumping; and you start having flashbacks of that Nittany Lion crying/roar sound effect, like the one our Matt Tamanini wrote about in his column about “hating” PSU a little more than the Team Up North.

I made my way down to field level with less than six minutes left in regulation, and was in the opposite end zone when Sam Ficken hit a game-tying 31-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining. When that kick connected, the place erupted. Of all of the places I’ve been— both foreign and domestic— I’ve never felt as unsure about my surroundings as I did that night at Beaver Stadium. The atmosphere, legitimately, felt different. In a way, it’s like you walked into the middle of a lion’s den and don’t know whether or not the beast is going to charge at you or stare you down, waiting for you to turn your back.

Fortunately, Ohio State won that game thanks to Joey Bosa pushing running back Akeel Lynch into Hackenberg for a walk-off sack in the second OT frame. The crowd and stadium got brought back down to earth, and all felt alright with the world again.

Last year, you could say I was unfortunate to be in attendance at the Iowa-OSU game. From the get-go it was all Hawkeyes, but the atmosphere in the air was different: people were expecting the Buckeyes to march back and break hearts in Iowa City. Even in the third quarter, the feeling in the air was that J.T. Barrett was going to lead the charge and comeback. I didn’t get that same feeling at Penn State in 2014, where OSU held a 17-0 lead. It felt like PSU was always in the game.

The tiniest bit of momentum goes a long way for the Nittany Lions when they are at home. Sure, PSU has a .500 record at home in these types of games, but remember, most of them had Joe Paterno as the coach— and in only three of those years (2005, 2008 and 2009) were they contenders in the Big Ten.

James Franklin’s arrival has put a modern spin on this series, and he’s had the Nittany Lions competitive versus OSU ever since. You just hope the Buckeye offense/defense has something drawn up this year to make these games not so close, and to mitigate the fires up White Out crowd.