Here are 20 insights from our weekend trip to see Penn State battle Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes erased a 17-3 deficit to win 23-20, as numerous Nittany Lions — including three team captains in Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, and Jonathan Sutherland — left the game because of injuries.
1. Friday was an adventure for the Alumni Association staff. Some colleagues flew to Chicago and drove to Cedar Rapids (about a 3.5 hour-drive). We were all booked for an early flight, which got delayed, and then canceled, and some of us got rebooked on the 6 p.m. direct flight. Then, that flight got delayed and canceled. I figured that was it — we weren’t all making the trip to Iowa, myself included. Miss out on a Top-5 matchup? It hurt. I was on hold with the travel agency and couldn’t get through. Nobody could find a reasonable flight that’d get us into Iowa on time. We were looking at other airports. It seemed lost. Colleagues had even left to go home. I was right behind them, when I decided to stop at the airline counter for a last-ditch effort to see what was possible.
Then, something happened like out of a movie. People hung around, stayed by the counter. Eventually, a call was made. A head count followed. I called colleagues who turned around on the road and returned to the airport, with still no guarantee. But it was possible we’d get a new plane into State College specifically for our flight. And it happened. We had to wait, and we didn’t get into Iowa until midnight local time, but it was so worth it to be there to gather with Penn Staters at our events and see the Nittany Lions give one hell of a battle. Here’s a photo I took as I got on the plane out of State College on Friday night. P.S., it was probably closer to six hours at the airport, but I was out of it. Thanks to everyone at United who helped get us to the game.
2. I was disappointed to miss Friday night’s mixer and not see alumni and friends, including Central Iowa Chapter President Herb Meier ’73. Meier was a guest on last week’s episode of Football Letter Live, and you can see our conversation with him starting around the 13:30 mark.
3. For the third time in six years, we traveled to Iowa and held our pep rally at Duane Banks Field, home to Iowa’s baseball team. Here was the scene as we set up and prepared for the crowd.
4. We had some internet connection issues during our live stream of Saturday’s pep rally. Specifically, it dropped a few times, though only for a moment or two. Thanks to everyone who stayed with us, and you can watch the pep rally (broken into sections) on our Facebook video page.
5. The Pep Band closed out the pep rally with the alma mater, and you can see (and hear) the student, cheer team, Nittany Lion, and Penn Staters enjoying the moment.
6. There’s still time to join us at one of our three remaining pep rallies this regular season. View more information and sign up for the pep rallies at Ohio State (Oct. 30), Maryland (Nov. 6), and Michigan State (Nov. 27). We hope to see you on the road at some point this season.
7. After setting up, we walked around the tailgating lots a bit. Lots filled up quickly Saturday, and here’s one view with Kinnick Stadium in the background.
8. Iowa’s press box is absolutely gorgeous. We snapped this photo a few hours before kickoff.
9. Penn State legend LaVar Arrington was in the house for the game, after he appeared on FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff show to preview the game. You can see LaVar on set in this video from FOX’s College Football Twitter account, and we also snapped a quick photo of LaVar on the Penn State sideline shortly before kickoff. As you can imagine, he was popular among the Penn Staters who traveled, taking time for a photo with a young fan, moments before James Franklin led the Nittany Lions onto the field.
10. Say what you want about the fans — and we will in the next couple of notes — however, the wave to the children’s hospital at the end of the first quarter is a wonderful tradition that brings a lot of joy to the children facing much bigger battles off the field. You can see the moment on our Facebook page.
11. A lot’s been written and said about Iowa’s fans booing Penn State’s injured players. Obviously, the fans thought the players were faking to slow down Iowa’s offense, which in a word, is “absurd.” The Hawkeyes don’t run an upbeat, fast-paced offense. They huddle. They take time off the clock. Good for James Franklin directly addressing this after the game. Lions247’s Tyler Donohue shared Franklin’s response.
12. Following up on the last point: Outside of Nebraska, I’ve been to every away venue in the Big Ten, and Saturday was the third time I’ve seen Penn State play Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. While every fan base (even ours) has fans who act inappropriately and crudely, Iowa has more fans than most who fit into this category. Will that change in the future? Unfortunately, I doubt it, since Hawkeye coaches joined in the mocking. Here’s just one video making the rounds on social media.
13. After the game ended, you could see some Penn State fans applauding the team as players and coaches walked off the field. In addition to fans, family members also traveled, including Tariq Castro-Fields’ parents. Earlier this season, I finally introduced myself to a gentleman who I see at nearly every game, home and away. He usually has an appearance in our highlight videos, and I just wanted to thank him for always being so energetic. Turned out he’s Castro-Fields’ father, and he and his family attended the game at Kinnick Stadium. We shared a fist-bump when I saw him, and seeing him and his family and saying “hello” and “good to see you” has quickly become a nice tradition for me.
14. Just about every player available to the media afterward was asked about the fans booing their injured teammates. The Nittany Lions displayed an incredible level of maturity in their responses, showing much more class than the crowd. We shared Ellis Brooks’ insight, as he said Iowa “has loving (our emphasis) fans,” while adding that it’s a “weird” thing to have happen. You can view Brooks’ entire response on our Twitter page.
15. “Resilient” was one of the first words I thought of after Jordan Stout shared the message he had for teammates after the game, regarding the team still being in position to achieve all of is goals: “Don’t forget the goals, don’t forget what we’re pushing for. We’re going for a national championship, Big Ten championship. This doesn’t matter. We’re coming back stronger.” You can see Stout’s full response on our Twitter page.
16. Senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie described Saturday’s setback as “just a bump on the road.” That response is a good indicator of the maturity level of Ebiketie, who is viewed as a leader even though this is his first year with the program after transferring from Temple.
17. We also spoke with standout linebacker Jesse Luketa. He discussed the team’s defensive performance, participating in the traditional wave, and much more. Visit our YouTube channel to see the whole discussion. You can also visit our Twitter channel for a shortened version, where he talks about the wave and why he’s confident the defense will bounce back.
18. Friday night, Lion Ambassadors hosted Haunted Valley, one of the many popular events they hold to celebrate and uphold Penn State spirit and tradition. You can see some photos from the event on the group’s Facebook page.
19. Even with the bye, we’ll still have a new episode of Football Letter Live this week. Sign up and hear from letterman Garry Gilliam ’13 and Paralympian and volunteer leader Jake Schrom ’11.
20. Rest up this week, Penn Staters. There’s still a lot of football to be played in the nation’s toughest conference and division.
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