I watched what arguably may have been the best team Penn State has played so far this season from a different location.
As a prospective Penn State student, I received an invitation to the Penn State-Schuylkill campus in Schuylkill Haven, PA for the university's annual "Penn State Day," which is an open house for all prospective students.
It was a rainy day, but everything at the open house went ahead as planned.
I have never stepped foot onto a Penn State campus until yesterday, and when I did, I had an overwhelming feel of euphoria.
Penn State-Schuylkill is one of Penn State's 19 satellite campuses, and with a student population of 1,000 it is a small campus.
Walking down the promenade there were countless "We Are...Penn State" banners hanging from the lightposts in blue and white, with the Nittany Lions logo adorned at the top of every banner.
I saw the alibaster Nittany Lion on it's stone pedastal, and as I approached the Student-Community Center building, I saw the beloved Penn State mascot, greeting and waving to everyone. I felt at home.
Fast-forward to 30 minutes before gametime.
I walked over to the campus from my motel room, which was about a quarter-mile away. When I approached the campus it was dark and the rain was still falling steadily. All the lights around the walkways were lit, and once again I found myself walking down the promenade while all around me everything was completely still, and quiet.
I entered the Student-Community Center, and found a small gathering of about six students and a couple people from the PSU staff.
I was recognized from earlier in the day, welcomed, and told that "at eight o'clock we will have the tailgate food ready."
By eight o'clock there was a larger gathering of about 20 students dressed in their best blue and white, with chants of "We are...hungry!..." Well not really, but it was obvious at how hungry everyone was, and I could relate to the feeling as I was feeling the pangs of hunger myself.
The room was abuzz with hopes of the Nittany Lions being victorious over the Buckeyes, and from time-to-time there would be a blurb on the 103 inch flat screen about the Buckeyes, and I'd hear a smattering of boo's come from the growing assembly of students.
By eight o'clock the Chancellor arrived, and he and his wife took a seat amongst us to cheer on our Nittany Lions.
By a quarter after eight everyone had found a seat and while we were enjoying delicious plates of pulled pork, hamburgers, chicken wings, and macaroni salad we had seen the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions exchange the ball back and forth countless times. This was setting up to be a real grind-it-out, defensive football game—my favorite!
For a while it seemed as though neither team could find a rhythm on offense. It was seemingly obvious that both offenses were holding back. The freshman quarterback for the Buckeyes, Terrelle Pryor, did not want to commit any costly turnovers by making errant passes, and Daryll Clark of Penn State was holding onto the ball way too long, and kept forcing a lot of passes to his receivers.
Finally, Penn State got on the board with a successful field goal, making it 3-0—the room erupted with cheers and applause.
From that point until halftime everything got really quiet as the tension grew greater and greater—watching the ball exchange possession over and over, with nothing more than an Ohio State field goal to round out the first half.
At the halfway point we all chatted amongst ourselves, and many theories on what the outcome of this game would be in the second half. For the most part, everyone's opinion was either this game will open up and become a blowout on either side, or it would be a edge of your seat defensive and low-scoring battle. As it turned out, it would be the latter of the two.
There were many more scoreless exchanges, until finally a Penn State defender was able to pop the ball out of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor's grasp while he was running for the first down.
The feeling of anxiety was overwhelming while I watched that ball bounce around on the field, first untouched, then while players from both teams were scrambling for it falling all over each other—I watched as the ball eluded the fingertips of one Nittany Lion defender's hand, then eluding the grasp of an Ohio State defender—finally everyone from both sides piled on top of the ball, and with luck a Penn State defender came up with the ball. The room erupted with yells, cheers, and applause.
That was the momentum-changing moment as the Nittany Lions regrouped, and drove a short distance down the field to set up for a quarterback sneak and get the score, making it 10-6 after the ensuing extra point.
The students cheered, high-fived, and that's when the moment I had been longing to experience happened. The chants of "We are...PENN STATE!" began, and where was I? I was in the cafeteria getting a drink of water, the one time I leave the room for an amount of time that could have been no longer than ten seconds, I miss the one moment I had been longing to experience! I rushed back out to the foyer in hopes of getting in on one last "We are...PENN STATE!" chant, but to no avail.
I settled back into my seat, and watched as the game started to get a little more heated. We were only up by four points, and all the Buckeyes needed was a touchdown and we'd have to drive for another touchdown.
Thankfully, the Penn State defense proved too much for the befuddled Buckeyes, and were forced to punt.
On their last offensive drive, the Nittany Lions rolled downfield and were only able to come away with a successful field goal, making the score 13-6.
On Ohio State's last drive of the game it looked as though they were going to make something magical happen, and make Jim Tressell look like a genius.
On the last play of the Buckeyes' possession, Terrelle Pryor threw a rocket for the endzone, and it was over—I knew it would end this way, because with history (not winning a game in Columbus, Ohio since 1978) against Penn State, this is how it was supposed to end, and Ohio State would rally in the waning minutes of a defensive battle, coming out on top—but not before Penn State defender, Lydell Sargeant intercepted Terrelle Pryor at the goal line with 27 seconds left in the game.
After the interception, the Nittany Lions would line up in the victory formation, take a knee, and sealed their hard-fought victory, 13-6.
The students, faculty, and I went nuts! What a terrific ending to a terrific day at a beautiful campus with some really great fans of a great 9-0 Penn State team.
I hope to be there at Penn State—as a student next year, and cheering on our Nittany Lions! Go Penn State!
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