For both of the past two Blue-White Games, the estimated attendance has been 71,000.
That ranked Penn State No. 4 among all spring games last year.
Nebraska, all hot and bothered over a brand new Frost was first, at 86,818, followed by SEC CFPers Georgia (82,184) and Alabama (74,732).
I bet Penn State’s attendance is close to #77k on Saturday.
That should put the Nittany Lions’ exhibition in the Top 3 of the 183 college football spring games being held this year — with 95 of them on Saturday, according to fbschedules.com.
The record attendance for Penn State’s annual football scrimmage is 76,500, set in sunny, 80-degree conditions on April 25, 2009, which came on the heels of the Nittany Lions’ 11-2 season in 2008, when they won a share of the Big Ten title and played in the Rose Bowl.
With AccuWeather predicting mostly sunny skies and a high of 71 by the 3 p.m. kickoff in Beaver Stadium, a record is very possible. (The forecast is here.)
The RealFeel will be 76 degrees at kickoff.
Honestly, though, the real feel will be more for the Blue and White part of the game — for the homecoming, for the tailgates, for the fun, for the feel-good stories rather than the actual game.
After all, wasn’t it James Franklin who implored a room of a couple hundred drunken crazy students last Friday night at Champs Downtown “to show these guys how we party in State College”?
(Not sure that was the best message to come from a leader on a campus in the national spotlight over a death due to fraternity hazing and binge drinking, but that’s for you and Sandy Barbour to decide. One Penn State student this week told me that a female friend of hers said she had 20 drinks from 5 p.m. to close that night at Champs.)
Of course, as he heads into his sixth spring game at Penn State, Franklin also gets what the Blue-White Game is all about.
THE COLE, ARIC & VON SHOW
On one level, it’s about football and all-time great human interest stories:
Like Mr. Nice Guy Cole Chiappialle, who once rushed for 404 yards for Blackhawk High School game, and then ran away for two touchdowns, 80 yards and our hearts in the 2014 Blue-White Game — just five weeks after his mother passed away. (Read my story here.)
And like Aric Heffelfinger from Seward, Pa., who ran for 92 yards in the 2002 Blue-White Game — on just five carries, including a 51-yarder, a feat that was surpassed by what he did in the classroom, earning a 3.82 GPA while concurrently getting his bachelor’s and master’s degree while running on the scout team. (Read it here.)
And like Central Mountain’s very own Von Walker, an incredibly likeable and versatile walk-on who played so well in the 2015 Blue-White Game that I mused he was the “most interesting man on Penn State’s defense.” Just two days after that story ran, Walker got put on scholarship — the result of my article, I’ve told him...and he agreed.
Still, at their core, those stories are as much about Blue and White as they are about football.
WHAT JAMES SAID
When you boil it down, Penn State’s final official “practice” of the spring season is more of a celebration than a close examination of whether Lamont Wade has mastered the switch to safety or if Sean Clifford is legit competition for Tommy Stevens to win the No. 1 QB job.
Franklin said so on Wednesday.
“This weekend is, obviously a huge weekend, I found out around here,” Franklin said. “Obviously, Blue-White weekend is a huge weekend for Penn State football. It’s a big weekend for the campus. There are so many things built around it — other sporting events, other university events, fund-raising activities, all types of stuff. It’s important for our community, the restaurants, the bars, all of it. So, we’re just a small part of it.
“Last year we had a really good crowd. The year before that we had a really good crowd. I’m excited to see what it is. The weather is supposed to be excellent.”
That all types of stuff includes: a pre-game autograph session at the stadium, a fan fest and a surplus athletic equipment sale. There are Penn State home games and matches in tennis, softball, baseball and golf. There’s an alumni field hockey game, a figure skating show in Pegula on Saturday night, and the Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run on Sunday.
Plus, there’s a free panel discussion involving former Nittany Lions and current NFL players Donovan Smith, Allen Robinson and Adrian Amos at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the HUB Auditorium. (Details here.)
Plus, a bit of football as well.
The Blue-White Game on Saturday counts as one of Penn State’s 15 NCAA-permissible practices this spring. Franklin’s squad has already had 13 real practices; plus, there’s a walk-through on Friday and the game on Saturday, which gets them to 15. It is those 13 practices before the scrimmage on Saturday that impact the 2019 Nittany Lions’ development the most.
“Probably not what you want to hear, but these 13 spring practices are much more valuable for us. The spring is great,” Franklin said. “You see a lot of people (other schools) not doing spring games or doing skellys (7-on-7) or individual (drills) or they’re cancelling. For us, the 13 practices are critical.”
“The spring game — I do think there is still value to going to the stadium and competing in that environment, especially when we get 75,000 people to show up for the game,” Franklin added.
“But for coaches, it’s always more about the practices where you can control a little bit of the situations and the environment.”