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Student rally cry snowballs into stadium-wide tradition

by on October 17, 2019 8:19 AM

UNIVERSITY PARK — White Out conditions are expected on Penn State’s University Park campus this weekend, but the news isn’t coming from the trusted professionals at Accu-Weather, nor does it have anything to do with a blizzard.

This White Out will happen when more than 100,000 people pack into Beaver Stadium to watch the No. 7 Nittany Lions take on Big Ten opponent Michigan in a nationally televised college gridiron clash with league championship implications.

The White Out has become one of this century’s most storied of Penn State traditions. But why?

The first Penn State White Out occurred on Oct. 9, 2004. A sign outside of Beaver Stadium gives a brief look into where it all began.

“With its team in a rare slump, 20,000 students wore white as a show of strength when their Nittany Lions played Purdue on Oct. 9, 2004. The unified student section began a transformation of the game day atmosphere into a force that affected opposing teams. Students in white energized the stadium, disrupting and demoralizing future opponents. Within two years, Penn State had a championship team and their fans gained national attention. Broadcasters declared, ‘This is the best student section in college football,’” reads the plaque.

The student section then continued the tradition at a selected game each season until 2007. On Sept. 8 of that year, Charlie Weis brought his Notre Dame squad to town for a clash with Nittany Lions. There, not only did the students show up clad in white, many of the other fans did as well. When the final whistle sounded, ending the game, 110,078 fans mostly dressed in white, cheered the 31-10 Nittany Lion win.

Since that win over Notre Dame, the student tradition has evolved to include the entire Nittany Lion Nation, and now is used to pump up the team, students and fans when the Lions play the biggest game of the season within the confines of Beaver Stadium.

This student tradition had now grown into something owned by the entire Penn State football community.

“I would describe it as electric,” said Adam Jones, who lives in State College. He graduated from Penn State and moved back to town after he retired. He said he has been to most of the White Out games, and noted that Saturday will be an entire day of tailgating and preparing for the

game with his family, another recognized Penn State tradition.

He said he is excited for the big show.

“It is loud … louder than a regular game. Usually it is reserved for a big opponent, but the best way I can describe it is electric.”

This Saturday will be the 12th full stadium White Out, and surprisingly, Penn State’s record in White Out games is sub-.500, at five wins against six losses. It is the fourth time Michigan has been the White Out opponent, and Penn State holds the upper hand in those matches, 2-1.

The first full stadium White Out game against the team from Ann Arbor occurred on Oct. 12, 2013, when fans were treated to an epic contest which saw Penn State best the visitors 43-40 in four overtimes. The attendance for that game was 107,884.

On Nov. 21, 2015, the No. 13th-ranked Wolverines came to town, and before 107,418 fans, Penn State fell 28-16.

The most recent White Out against Michigan came on Oct. 21, 2017, when Penn State beat a 19th-ranked Wolverines’ team, 42-13, in front of a Beaver Stadium crowd of 110,823.

With this weekend’s contest, Michigan and Ohio State will share the honor of being the opponents that Penn State has hosted most during White Out games. Last season, the Lions fell 27-26 to the Buckeyes during the Sept. 29 clash.

On Monday night (Oct. 14), students began setting up their tents for “Nittanyville” outside of the stadium, waiting in line to be the first in the stadium and get the best seats in the student section.

Penn State freshmen Hailey Laugermaun and Marissa Hunt piled a ton of blankets into their tent and said they slept “pretty good” outside of the stadium on the night of Oct. 14. They said they are excited to experience a White Out.

“I expect a lot of noise, super excited fans and a great game,” said Hunt.

And to go along with the White Out, ESPN’s College GameDay program will be broadcasting live from the HUB lawn before the game.

Saturday’s broadcast will mark the eighth time College GameDay has originated from Penn State and the first time it has done so in back-toback-to-back years.

It was also in Happy Valley in 1997 (Michigan), 1999 (Arizona), 2005 (Ohio State), 2007 (Ohio State), 2009 (Iowa), 2017 (Michigan) and 2018 (Ohio State).

Penn State is 3-4 with GameDay on campus, defeating Arizona (1999), Ohio State (2005) and Michigan (2017).

This is the 19th time College GameDay has been at the site of a Penn State game overall.

Centre County Gazette editor G. Kerry Webster contributed to this article. Statistical information was sourced from .


Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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