“NOEL! GET UP IT’S GAMEDAY, GODDAMMIT!” wasn’t something I was used to waking up to. “Noel, wake up, you’re gonna be late for first period” was a more common refrain.
It was 8 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2011, and Rob Bolden was starting at quarterback for the Nittany Lions (at the time, I had no idea how depressing that sentence would be.) After a few forced glugs of our old pal Vlad and a singalong to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night,” I tossed on my No. 25 Silas Redd jersey and made the short walk from Pinchot Hall to Beaver Stadium.
The magnitude of it all never really hits you until you’re there. I was barely 18 and I was buzzed, and I was on my way to my first Penn State game. I didn’t grow up a Nittany Lion by any means. I’m from Long Island and my dad went to Hofstra, so my attachment to Happy Valley existed almost solely as an artificial one. I adopted Penn State, I attended Penn State for a few weeks, but I didn’t love Penn State. Not yet at least.
Getting to the student section for the first time isn’t something you can really prepare yourself for. I’d been to Giants Stadium (max capacity: 80,242) before, but watching the Jets attempt to play football was nothing like the energy packed inside Beaver Stadium that day. I didn’t know the words to the Alma Mater or any of the fight songs, as I’d spent most of Be A Part From The Start looking for cute girls in the crowd with my floormates. It was still the era of the much-maligned “Greatest Show in College Football” opener, but my first “We Are!” chant came and went, and watching the Blue and White rush the field overshadowed anything bad that could have ever happened on that day. The first play of the game was a 95 yard kickoff return by Chaz Powell and his awesome hair. The place went absolutely nuts. It didn’t matter that we were playing the Indiana State Sycamores, because it meant we could spend the day chanting “Larry Bird doesn’t play quarterback.”
Football doesn’t, or shouldn’t, define Penn State. There are a nigh-infinite number of reasons to love this place. But for me, for the first time, I knew what it meant to be a Penn Stater. I was in love and I didn’t care who knew it. I was home.
Here are your prop bets for the stupid stuff people will do before, and the events during, 2014 home opener. It’s against the Akron Zips and it’s my last one as a student. The coach, the players, and the pre-game are different, but I’ll still be just as wide-eyed as I was three years ago.
Underage drinkers cited: 30
Total arrests: 60
Failed “We Are!” chants by freshmen: 273
Blue Band parents complaining about the loss of Tailgreat: 200
Apparel referencing former coaches (O’Brien’s Lions, Joe Knows Football, Rip Engle Tha Gawd, etc.): 15,000
Senior citizen beer bongs: 1
Burgers cooked: 100,000
“Sweet Caroline” renditions: 409
Number of people who know where Akron is: 5
Number of kangaroos in Akron: 0
An obnoxious RV ruins your puny-by-comparison tailgate: Even
Someone falls down the hill by the BJC: 5-1
Mike forgets to bring the god damn hot dog buns again. What else is new?: 10-1
James Franklin visits the fans: 15-1
Franco Harris shows up: 20-1
You lose a heartbreaker in Kan Jam or Cornhole: 20.5-1
The beer is hot as the game gets close, but you drink it anyway: 25-1
You see someone wearing a Ki-Jana Carter custom jersey: 100-1
Mark Emmert shows up: 60,000,000-1
Shirtless, body-painted student bros: 250
Purses/backpacks thrown out because of the no-bags policy: 750
Female students lifted in the air: 200
Fat guys lifted in the air: 2
Students who don’t know the Alma Mater: 4,000
Akron fans in attendance: Akron has fans?
No. 1 Jerseys: 5,000
“We Want the Lion!” chants: 5
Zombie Nation appearances: 2
Freshmen kicked out for being too drunk: 10
Hackenberg touchdown passes: 4
James Franklin bro hugs: 75
Snapchats of Beaver Stadium: 30,000
Someone gets dropped by the group tossing them: 5-1
“We Want ‘Bama” chant: 10-1
A kid gets booed for sitting down: 10-1
“I Believe” chant: 15-1
The offensive line looks competent: 25-1
“Joe Paterno” chant: 50-1
Someone drops the Lion: 100-1
A recruit is shown on the new Jumbotron: 125-1
The new Feature Twirler screws up: 150-1
Fullback dive on second down: 409-1
Having service in Beaver Stadium: 1,000,000-1
Have a great gameday, and remember, Every Day Should Be Saturday.