Game Day Observations: University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia Cavaliers, is an easy four and a half hour drive from State College. Despite the loss, the atmosphere was enjoyable and hospitable — which could prove to be a rarity for traveling Penn State fans in the near future. Here’s what I took away from my trip to beautiful Scott Stadium:
- Sam Ficken is the most frustrating Penn State player I’ve ever seen on the field, and I was around during the early-2000′s “dark years.” As Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.
- The University of Virginia is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful college campuses in America, a recognition that is certainly warranted. It seemed like every building had the elegance of Old Main, and there was even an outdoor amphitheater with bowl seating right in the middle of campus. There wasn’t an unappealing area in any part of campus that I explored (i.e. no Hammond Building).
- Charlottesville is similar to State College in that there is a distinct campus and then a University Drive with restaurants, shops, and nightlife. Downtown Charlottesville wasn’t nearly as extensive as downtown State College in the immediate area of campus, but there were enough shitty late night pizza places to remind me of home.
- The University of Virginia has some of the classiest fans I’ve ever encountered in college football. They beat us in an embarrassing way, and considering our current situation, there was an open invitation for rudeness, but it never happened. I walked around for 3 days in Penn State gear and not once did I hear a Sandusky-related joke. I even explored the nightlife of Charlottesville the day of the loss in a Penn State jersey, and most UVa students just stared at me, almost like they felt sorry.
- That being said, the nightlife was infested with Penn Staters. I figured we’d travel well since there are tons of alumni in the area, but the downtown bars and restaurants were about half full of Penn State fans both nights. Even at the game, a large part of the stadium was there to support Penn State.
- Scott Stadium is undoubtedly one of the nicer venues in the ACC. It’s nestled right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and the tailgating scene was lively, especially for a noon kickoff. The grassy hill with open seating is a nice touch (UVA must not have STEP).
- Their student section sucks. There were many times when Penn State was on offense, even during big drives, and the stadium was silent. It was without a doubt the weakest crowd noise I’ve ever heard at a regular season Penn State game, and I’ve been to Indiana and Northwestern. The Penn State fan section was often louder at various points in the game.
- Steven Bench, the backup quarterback who came in when McGloin got hurt, was going insane on the way into the locker room at halftime. I’m talking jumping, cursing, banging his helmet — the whole deal. It was out of passion, not anger. If you follow Bench on Twitter, this comes as no surprise, but it was clear he was excited to get his first reps in a Penn State uniform.
- Ficken missed a field goal and McGloin walked into the locker room holding his arm limp within about 45 seconds of each other. That wasn’t a fun sight.
- I’m always skeptical of “live” mascots, but the Cavalier riding on top of a horse was pretty cool. ATTN: Penn State sports marketing drones, don’t get any ideas. We don’t need any mountain lions on the field.
- The best cheer, by far, is reserved for every time Virginia scores. The entire stadium sings the fight song with no piped in music or help from the band. The lyrics do contain the word “gay” in them, so Penn State PR would have forced us to change that tradition by now if it were us, but enjoy it while you got it, UVa.
Luckily, there are no more away games for the next couple weeks, until that ominous ten hour drive to Champaign, Illinois at the end of the month. We’ll be back with our “Observations” series next weekend against Navy, when Penn State should pick up its first win. Should.