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Emotions Running High for Franklin's First Home Game

by on September 05, 2014 3:00 PM

It’s a familiar scene that’s playing out in downtown State College Friday afternoon, but the first of a new era.

Thousands of blue and white faithful are swarming into town from the farthest corners of Pennsylvania and beyond, bristling with excitement for the Penn State football game against the University of Akron tomorrow – Coach James Franklin’s first home game.

Jim and Marge Shaffer haven’t missed a home game in over 20 years, and they had no plans to start this weekend. They say Franklin brings a real sense of energy to the team, making them extremely excited for this season.

“He’s very exuberant about being here, and it shows,” Jim says. “He’s way different than anything we’ve seen here in years.”

Though he says he was sad to see former coach Bill O’Brien leave, he feels confident that Franklin has what it takes to lead to Penn State to victory – especially after seeing the Nittany Lions’ hard earned victory last week over UCF.

“Akron is what they, in the Civil War, might have called cannon fodder,” Shaffer says with a laugh.

Fellow season ticket holder Joe Sychterz is also excited to see where this season takes the Nittany Lions, but warns against the danger of getting too confident. Akron, like any other football team, has surely worked hard to prepare for their games, and he feels Penn State needs to play just as hard.

Sychterz says that last week’s game in Dublin showed that Penn State is still “a young team” in need of more work, but feels that they have the proper motivation to bring their best to the field each game this season.

“If anything, the [NCAA] sanctions have energized these kids to do better,” he says. “I think they’ve really brought us closer together as a school.”

Kyle Reigh, a Penn State graduate student, says the entire atmosphere of the town has changed now that football season has begun. With alumni and other fans filling the town, he says “everywhere feels very alive.”

The season is off the a strong start for Reigh, who expected UCF’s offense “to run all over us last week, but the defense really stepped it up.” Reigh says he always expected O’Brien to return to the NFL, but feels Franklin is the perfect successor: energetic, enthusiastic, a great recruiter, and a real “player’s coach.”

“I’m a total sucker for football, and I just love watching them play,” Penn State senior John Matus says. “But I’m still going to enjoy myself and have a great time even if we get blown out – though winning is definitely better.”

Jim Shaffer agrees, saying that just as much of the home game experience has to do with the community and tradition associated with Penn State football. Each game he sees with his children – also Penn State alumni – and they tailgate together before each contest.

“Later on, we might even get into some of that partying – although maybe not like some of these 21 year olds,” Shaffer laughs.

Win or lose, he knows that Penn State will keep fighting, and he’ll keep coming back to watch. Though Penn State football may be entering a new era, some things never change.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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