They would love to smell roses as the New Year rolls in. They would love to feel the Miami Beach sand in between their toes. They would love to watch the crystal football shine in the light while their beloved 81-year-old coach raises it into the night.
But if you ask any Penn Stater which day they have marked off in their calendar, they won’t tell you January 1. They won’t say January 8th either.
Nope, it’s October 18, 2008—the day the Nittany Lions face Michigan at Beaver Stadium.
Title dreams are always there, they never go away—but beating Michigan has become the must have of must haves for those who bleed blue and white.
The Nittany Lions haven’t defeated Michigan since 1996—November 16, 1996 to be exact. It’s pushing 12 years now, and since that day, hearing Michigan’s fight song has been extra painful to the majority of the Penn State faithful – kind of like nails on a chalkboard played at max volume over a speaker the size of Michigan Stadium. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Enter the 2008 Nittany Lions, a team on a mission—a team packed with seniors and impact players—a team with talent on offense and defense. They’re a team disciplined enough that they won’t overlook any match, whether it be at Wisconsin this coming weekend, or Michigan at home the following weekend—or anyone else.
Enter the 2008 Wolverines—a squad that isn’t your typical Michigan team. They’re winning games like Lindsay Lohan is passing driver’s tests. Wisconsin comeback aside, which was an impressive victory in its own right, Michigan is still the innocent bunny hiding in a corner surrounded by college football’s carnivores.
Forty-five points and a record 431 total yards to Juice Williams last weekend—ouch. The Wolverines even made Notre Dame look like a powerhouse carnivore. Seven fumbles against the Domers—Michigan couldn’t even get Cheetos to stick to their fingers that day.
Let’s face it; “Rich Rod” needs some time to adapt this program into his system. He will get them there; but it’s just going to take time.
Enter the Penn State Homecoming weekend, which happens to be this match-up—a rarity for teams to schedule power programs on the same weekend as Homecoming.
Still, it’s Penn State’s Homecoming, where fans come extra hungry and tailgate extra hard—swallowing down an extra burger, chugging down an extra beer… or ten. Beaver Stadium will be a few decibels louder. The Lions faithful will be donned in so much white that Casper would be jealous. Alums and students young and old come to “welcome” in the Wolverines—only to cheer against them with reckless abandon.
So let’s rehash it all again; Penn State, playing well and riding a high, coupled with a vulnerable Michigan team, molded in with a nine-game losing streak to the Wolverines dating back to 1996, add in Homecoming, and nearly 110,000 fans – most of which who will be donning Penn State colors.
Yep, it’s safe to say that this day will be a ticket scalper’s wet dream – the one where they’re doing the backstroke in a pile of Benjamins. The Penn State garb will be flying off the shelves, along with the non-PSU affiliated t-shirts sold in State College, such as “A drinking town with a football problem”, or the go-to staple “Joe Knows Football”.
Speaking of Paterno, he would never admit that one game is so important – in fact, any Penn Stater would agree to douse themselves in Buckeye red if anyone caught him on camera saying so—because plain and simple, it just won’t happen—and in turn, the players wouldn’t say it either. They know better, but that doesn’t mean they won’t think it.
Paterno will never say it. The players will only think it. But the fans will do nothing but vocalize it—loud and proud, up into the Happy Valley skies.
Yes, my friends, on October 18, central Pennsylvania will erupt, but not due to a football game. This will be more than a game. It’ll be an event, and if Penn State can’t find a way to exercise its Michigan demons this season, it’ll soon be a curse.
October 18… if you’re smart, you’ll tune in, it’s sure to be one heck of an event.