After all the doom and gloom talk surrounding the Penn State Football Program over the past two years, it was refreshing to see a sold out Beaver Stadium joining together in a moment of euphoria after the Nittany Lions defeated Michigan 43-40 in four overtimes.
Standing on the field Saturday night listening to the loudest “We Are Penn State” chant I’ve ever heard made me realize that Penn State Football is definitely heading back in the right direction.
When the team was placed under penalty by the NCAA last summer after all of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky situation, many people were not sure what to think about Penn State. There were those who wanted nothing to do with the program due to the sensitive nature of the situation that went on. There were also those who stuck by the school, but lost interest in the football team, knowing it would be difficult to compete with a slim roster.
Due to everything that went on, attendance went on a steep decline. Beaver Stadium, which used to sell out for every game regardless of the opponent, has now sat half empty every home weekend.
While head coach Bill O’Brien has done an excellent job since taking over the program, the school has still been affected by the NCAA sanctions hanging over its head. Even in light of the recent good news that some scholarships would be restored, attending a Penn State game still didn’t have the same feel as it used to.
However, Saturday’s thrilling comeback victory in overtime proved that regardless of popular belief, Penn State football is very much alive and well.
The stadium was filled beyond capacity and looked magnificent as the raucous crowd, expect for some scattered pockets of maize and blue, donned white shirts to show unity and support for the young men playing the game on the field. Hearing the crowd and seeing nearly every seat full was a great sight to see.
After Bill Belton’s 2-yard touchdown run gave the Nittany Lions the comeback victory in the fourth overtime, nobody seemed to move. It was as if Penn State fans wanted this moment to stand still in time so they could remember it forever. People stayed in their seats and continued to scream their praises for their beloved Nittany Lions.
Experiencing what I saw on Saturday night cannot be tarnished by loss of scholarships and a bowl ban. If there were any questions about the program battling through the sanctions, they were answered against Michigan.
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