When the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0) travel to State College for their Saturday night matchup with the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2), there will be more than just a motivated team anticipating their arrival.
Over 100,000 blue-and-white clad fans will form a waiting monster—all huddled closely together inside the cement walls of Beaver Stadium. Those walls unify every shout, jeer and scream into one singular shotgun blast of hysteria that will reverberate through the helmets of every Ohio State football player for three straight hours.
That monster is relentless. That monster feeds off the weakness of its opponent.
That monster has taken Ohio State down before.
In 2005, the sixth ranked Buckeyes made a similar trip to Happy Valley for a prime-time matchup with the undefeated (5-0) Nittany Lions. Most expected Ohio State to control the game with its shutdown defense and the playmaking ability of Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes on offense.
Penn State had different plans. That monster in the stands made sure things ended differently.
At the end of the night, Ohio State was looking for a way to shake off both the 17-10 defeat and the ringing in its ears. Penn State's defense was relentless in its effort to shut the Buckeyes down, and the crowd noise only grew as the evening went along.
Asked to explain the atmosphere that night, freshman receiver Deon Butler only needed four words: "That was pure pandemonium."
Two years later, a few members of the Ohio State team elaborated.
"Penn State (in 2005), that was probably... that was by far the loudest stadium I've ever been in," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said.
Offensive guard Ben Person added, "It was that night game, they had that white out, and that student section... I swear that student section was a quarter of the stadium."
That crowd was fueled by its emerging team after a tumultuous few seasons. That crowd was desperate to see its team return to glory. That crowd created one of the greatest home-field advantages in college football.
That crowd was a monster.
And like the monsters you see in scary movies, it has the ability to revitalize itself every year. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will be walking into a house of horrors Saturday night.
Like the crowd in 2005, this year's monster has watched its team emerge after a tumultuous event. Rocked by the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal and legendary coach Joe Paterno's fall from grace, Penn State's football team opened the season with back-to-back losses.
Since then, though, the Nittany Lions have ripped off five straight victories. The margin of victory during their current win streak is a hair over 20 points, and quarterback Matt McGloin has been a surprisingly effective leader for the offense.
That stretch not only woke the monster up; it gave it confidence the week Ohio State comes to town. And for the first time all year, the monster will be at full strength.
Fans haven't been this excited for a game all year. You can tell that the excitement, anticipation and electricity is building, waiting to erupt on Saturday night.
Students have camped outside the stadium all week, holding their place in line for Saturday night:
Awesome overhead shot of Gate A and Nittanyville this week - twitter.com/NittanyvillePS…— Nittanyville (@NittanyvillePSU) October 24, 2012
Slaying this beast won't be easy for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. The fans in those tents haven't just been waiting for this opportunity since last Saturday. Those fans have been desperate to see their team compete at a high level all season long. Doing so requires Penn State to beat a high-level opponent, which is exactly what the Buckeyes are.
Ohio State's 2005 team fell to that monster. If this year's team doesn't strike early, it's giving that monster a chance to return to past glory alongside the team it cheers for.
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