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Penn State’s Beaver Stadium Advantage: 16-Win Home Streak Ranks No. 3

by on September 16, 2018 7:30 PM

Leave it to Beaver: Penn State is money at home these days.

There’s a lot for James Franklin and Penn State to like — on the field and at the box office — when it comes to playing at home these days.

Many days, in fact.

When Ohio State comes to town for the Sept. 29 WhiteOut, it will be 1,043 days since the Nittany Lions last lost in Beaver Stadium.

That would be the 28-16 loss to Michigan on Nov. 21, 2015.

Since then, the Nittany Lions are riding a 16-game home winning streak. It’s the third-longest active string in the nation, behind Alabama (20) and USC (17), according to the NCAA.

Stanford (11) and Clemson (10) round out the top 5, followed by five schools with nine consecutive home victories: Army, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Washington and Washington State. 

It’s even possible that by the time the Urban Renewal Project hits the Kentucky bluegrass turf of Beaver Stadium in 13 days, Penn State’s home streak could be the longest active home winning string in the nation. Not a jumbo chance, though, given dominant the Tide have been lately. It depends in large part how Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M squad — 2-1 in 2018 — does this Saturday against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

After Alabama hosts Texas A&M, Nick Saban & Co. host Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 29 (likely concluded before what is shaping up as an 8 p.m. Penn State-Ohio State kick), while USC (1-2) hosts 3-0 Washington State in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum this Saturday and is at Arizona on Sept. 29.

During the streak, Franklin’s Lions have beaten Akron, Appalachian State, Georgia State, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State (twice), Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Pitt, Rutgers, Nebraska and Temple.

Those 16 victories are by a combined score of 671 to 266. That’s an average final of 42 to 16 — so while CJF, Moorpoints and RPO Ricky are to be congratulated, so should defensive coordinator Brent Pry.

Two of victories have been in overtime, two by shutout, three by 52 or more points. And only four by single digits — the two most recent coming against App State two weeks ago and Ohio State in 2016. Nine have come over Penn State’s 13 Big Ten Conference foes. The Nittany Lions get a Beaver Stadium crack at those not on the list beginning with Wisconsin this Nov. 10, with Purdue (2019), Northwestern (2020) and Illinois (2021) slated for later visits.

ATTENDANT RISING CROWDS

With the wins have come more fans:

Beaver Stadium attendance is nearing a return to the pre-STEP, pre-scandal levels that were soaring back in 2008-09, when Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions had a combined record of 22-4.

That 2008 Penn State team was a blockbuster with a versatile running QB and a fleet of wide receivers and won handily, by an average score of 39 to 14. (Sound familiar?) That ’08 squad scored 166 points in their first three games — the 2018 Lions have scored 159 — rose to high as No. 3, won the Big Ten and went to the Rose Bowl.

For the first two home games of the 2018 season, Penn State drew 211,760 fans — 105,232 for season-opener Appalachian State and 106,528 tickets sold for Saturday’s Kent State game, won 63-10 by PSU (with perhaps #101k in attendance). That’s 178 more people than the combined attendance for Akron (101,681) and Pitt (109,898) for the two games that opened Penn State’s 2017 home season.

The last time Penn State was in that Beaver Stadium attendance neighborhood for the opening two games was back in 2007-2009. Taken as a two-home combo to open the season, the Nittany Lions drew 217,756 for Florida International and Notre Dame in 2007; 214,736 for Coastal Carolina and Oregon State in 2008; and 211,355 for Akron and Syracuse in 2009.

That’s a far cry from post-scandal 2013, when the first two home games of the season — against Eastern Michigan and UCF — drew just a tick under 93,000 each and 185,718 overall.

DOLLARS AND SENSE

Franklin has noticed. And has done the math.

“I want to thank the fans,” Franklin said to start his post-Kent State presser. “I thought we had a really good crowd for an out-of-conference noon game.

“If you think about when we got here and what our attendance numbers were early in the season — compared to where they are now — there is a tremendous improvement. So, I want to thank the fans and the Penn State community for rallying behind us. That was awesome.”

From that nadir of 2013 to the heights of 2018, attendance for Penn State’s first two home games has jumped 13,021 fans per contest — that’s an impressive hike of 14%.

Now, figure that each one of those 1,300 additional fans contributes $100 to the Penn State till, counting a minimum donation to get tickets, the ticket itself, concessions and parking. That jump in attendance can add up to $1.3 million per home game, compared to 2013 — and up to $9 million per season, if the trend continues. The highest per-game average attendance for season in Beaver Stadium was 108,917 in 2007, when Paterno's Nittany Lions drew over #108.9k four times — against Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.

The jump in attendance and accompanying revenue increase are key reasons Franklin got a contract extension through 2022 and will receive a guaranteed salary of $5.35 million in 2019 — which computes to $14,657 per day — and that isn’t counting the opportunity for an $1 million in bonuses. (See Franklin’s most recent contract here.)

TO BE FRANK(LIN) WITH YOU

But Franklin isn’t satisfied. With the fans, I mean.

Minutes after the Nittany Lions eeked out a 45-38 overtime win over Appalachian State after surrendering 28 points in 11-fourth quarter minutes two weeks ago, the Penn State coach said he expected more from the Beaver Stadium faithful.

In a post-game Q&A with Brian Tripp streamed on in-house GoPSUSports after the game (watch it here), Franklin challenged Penn State’s fans — who, I can attest were quite loud, having been on the field for the final five minutes of regulation as well as OT— to be even better.

“I thought the crowd was great — season-opening game,” Franklin said after App State. “Coming through the RV section from the hotel you could tell it was going to be a good crowd just based on that. Then looking around the stadium, I looked (at) 105,000, it looked like 105,000, it felt like 105,000.

But…but...but:

Franklin wants more, and that includes the nation’s largest and most vocal college football student section.

“I still think we can be louder. I really do,” Franklin said. “There are times where we can be suffocating on defense with the support of our fans. And our fans are awesome, so don’t take that the wrong way. But I think we can take that to a whole ’nother level. I don’t know if (App State) jumped offsides once. We have to take pride in how many times we make people jump offsides or (have) delay of games, things like that, because they can’t hear.”

Then, ever the PR practitioner even just minutes after narrowly avoiding a huge upset, Franklin looked directly at the camera and shook his right hand:

“So, I’m challenging Nittany Nation. I’m challenging Beaver Stadium. We got more in us. We can make it very difficult for people at home.”

Perhaps the chance of earning consecutive home victory No. 17 requires it.

Not to mention that following the Buckeyes, 2018 home contests vs. Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland are still to come.



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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