Here are 20 quick observations from Penn State’s home opener, a 44-13 victory over Ball State. The win was Penn State’s 300th at Beaver Stadium.
As always, members will continue to receive The Football Letter email on Monday that recaps the Nittany Lions’ game featuring editor John Black’s letter, a full photo gallery from Steve Manuel, and much more.
1. Friday night’s downtown pep rally was the perfect way to jumpstart the first home football weekend in Happy Valley. Seeing Brandon Short was an especially cool highlight. He’s back living in Happy Valley with his family, and he took time for photos with fans and also for a photo with the Nittany Lion with his children, a photo you can see on our Twitter account.
2. The Nittany Lion and Penn State Cheerleaders welcomed visitors and drivers along College Avenue before the pep rally. Check out this Twitter thread for videos and photos. The Nittany Lion even directed traffic.
3. Penn State men’s and women’s hoops coaches Micah Shrewsberry and Carolyn Kieger spoke during the pep rally, encouraging fans to pack the BJC this basketball season. Hope that happens, as both coaches have been creating a lot of goodwill and momentum by connecting with fans and students this year.
4. Speaking of Shrewsberry, he welcomed good friend and current Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens to Beaver Stadium on Saturday. While shooting in the north end zone, I casually looked over during a timeout and saw Stevens standing with Shrewsberry, taking in the atmosphere. I got the impression Stevens was trying to fly under the radar, though I managed to get a little bit of video. Andrew Clay from WTAJ snapped this photo of Stevens, who was sporting a Penn State hat.
5. Good to see team arrival back this season. A few changes were put in place to allow for more room between the players and fans, though nothing that dampened the enthusiasm. You can see team arrival and the Blue Buses pulling up on our Twitter account.
6. The Nittany Lion welcomed the crowd Saturday with the usual pregame routine of running to the middle of the field and then signaling each section to cheer. Always gives me goosebumps. You can see the Nittany Lion in action yesterday on our Twitter account.
7. If you ever see a large tailgate in front of the Penn State landmark in front of Beaver Stadium (facing the Ag Arena), that’s hosted by Paul Anderson, who’s with our Nashville (Middle Tennessee) Chapter. We plan on visiting their tailgate sometime this season to learn more about how Paul and his group serve as a connecting point for Penn Staters — it’s an amazing location, after all — and when I spoke with Paul for a few minutes Saturday, he sounded in high spirits. Penn Staters had been stopping by his tailgate, and he sounded excited for both the upcoming season and to share his passion for Penn State. We’ll talk soon, Paul.
8. The pregame military flyover was a special tribute on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We got video of the flyover, and you can see that on our Twitter account.
9. On my way out of the stadium late Saturday night, I ran into three phenomenal Alumni Association volunteers: Anand Ganjam ’15, Mike McHugh ’12, and Lianna Trigg ’15. All three are currently serving on Alumni Council, and Ganjam is the current Alumni Association vice president; he’ll be our president in a couple years. Chatting with them for a few minutes was a great way to cap off an awesome day at Beaver Stadium.
10. As I left the stadium on the west side, lots of fans were still tailgating, with about two dozen parties going on in the west lot alone. That was nice to see.
11. A few times over the first two games of the season, Sean Clifford has actually taken some snaps under center, something that was never (we don’t think) done in previous years. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has brought that addition with him. After years of being asked when the quarterback will take a snap under center, or when Penn State will recruit a fullback — these topics have become something of a running joke with Franklin and the reporters over the years — Franklin teased after the game that he thought taking a snap under center would’ve led to a bigger reaction from fans. But “everybody’s moved on,” he joked. Sports Illustrated’s Mark Wogenrich posted a nice video of Franklin talking about the subject.
12. Like many players on the team, Jesse Luketa is such an easy guy to root for. He’s occupying a hybrid role this fall, playing both linebacker and defensive end, and he had one of the nicest and most impressive interception returns for TD you’ll ever see. After the game, Penn State cornerback Marquis Wilson said it was the best interception he’s ever seen. Hard to disagree with that assessment.
13. If Jahan Dotson isn’t included in any conversation about who’s the best wide receiver in the country, he should be. After breaking free behind the Wisconsin defense last week for a touchdown, this week he scored after catching a short pass and eluding several defenders as he streaked into the north end zone.
14. Speaking of Clifford, he seems to be more comfortable each time we see him. You’d never know he’s working with a new offensive coordinator (again) this season.
15. Go onto the field at Beaver Stadium for the singing of the alma mater and James Franklin’s pregame lap. Both videos are on our Twitter account. You can also see a special moment for Franklin, who hugged his family before and after his traditional pregame lap.
16. After arriving at Beaver Stadium early Saturday, a regular habit for me, I noticed two additions in the south tunnel that immediately jumped out. Blue/ambient lighting was added, giving the feeling that the team is walking out into a rock concert for the game, which is an apt comparison. Also, a huge banner reading “1-0” was added right above where the players leave the tunnel and go onto the field. It’s one of the last images that the players see before taking the field, reinforcing one of James Franklin’s biggest mantras. You can see a photo of each addition on our Twitter page.
17. You can relive Saturday at Beaver Stadium, or in some ways experience it in a new way, with our highlight video. Each week, we’ll have two highlights videos: one on social that features the Blue Band, Penn State Cheerleaders, Lionettes, fan and crowd shots, team arrival, pregame warmups, and much more. Then, we’ll have game highlights on each episode of Football Letter Live. Visit our Twitter page for the highlight video detailing Saturday’s home opener.
18. The White Out returns for Saturday night’s matchup against Auburn. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC. It’ll be the first time the two teams meet outside of a bowl.
19. ESPN’s College Game Day is returning to Happy Valley for the fifth straight season. Penn State’s the only school to host the wildly popular show for the past five years, and if you have time to stop by campus either Friday or Saturday morning to see the set-up, it’ll be well worth your time.
20. Go State. Beat the Tigers.
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