PSU Football 2008 Season Retrospective: Day 5

In anticipation of Penn State playing against USC in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, I’ve decided to use the twelve days leading up to the gridiron clash to review the incredible season the Nittany Lions have had. One game per day, with analysis you won’t find anywhere else.

GAME 5: Penn State Nittany Lions versus The Illinois Fighting Illini
September 27th, 2008

The Game Scenario

‘The Game Scenario’ is my best attempt at re-creating the ambiance of the game from the fan’s point of view. Keeping in mind that this section is likely to be subjective from my point of view, I will include a game preview or relevant article that was published before the game.

u-of-i-logoAfter three cupcake games and a sloppy drubbing of Temple, the Penn State Nittany Lions – as well as their fans – were ready to buck an unpleasant trend.

Yes, the 2008 version of the team was dazzling on offense, suffocating on defense, and armed with a wining mentality, but still had to build upon an impressive start. Not only were the Fighting Illini considered a worthy opponent thanks to the recently reanimated program’s win over the Nittany Lions last year, but they had the added advantage of being Penn State’s Big Ten opening opponent.  As the Collegian pointed out, the team had a 1-7 conference opener record since 2000.

The traveling Illinois team not only represented one of Penn State’s recent struggles, but was legitimately a hyped opponent. The Illini had kept pace with preseason BCS favorite Mizzou for most of the game Week 1, and looked formidable as ever despite the loss of tailback Rashard Mendenhall to the NFL. It was a high-stakes game under the lights, a full-stadium white-out, and the first chance the 2008 Penn State Nittany Lions had to prove they were for real.

Anecdotal Quote of The Game

I’ve chosen to add the most memorable quote from the game, along with a short explanation, to add a little character to this series. Keep in mind that these occurred during a football game, in the notoriously rowdy (and often inebriated) student section. These are far from being nuggets of wisdom.

“HOLY SH*T, THAT IS COOL!” – Unknown Penn State Fan, sitting in front of me

The Wave is a tried and true crowd activity at large sporting events (at smaller sporting events, like at a sibling’s soccer game, it’s something I do to be ironic/a dick). It’s remarkable in itself when thousands of fans can coordinate themselves with minimal communication (all while a game is going on) to the rising and falling pattern that is the wave.

In the glorious setting that was the all-stadium white out – with it’s pure Penn State passion evenly spread evenly throughout the stands – I saw, for the first time ever slow-m0 and fast-mo Waves.

The slow-motion variant was impressive, as if the entire Beaver Stadium populace had telepathically communicated to engineer a new twist on an old classic – but it was the faster version that blew everyone (including the gentleman cited above) away. The hyperactive rising and falling of snow white pom-poms on a canvas of white shirts in furious fashion was a sight that I won’t soon forget.

Stat of The Game

While I could do a thorough recounting of the game, the reality is that game summaries are available all over the internet. Instead, I’ll use one of these existing sources for one stat that really speaks for itself. Sadly, I won’t let it speak it for itself, and offer a short explanation as well.

Total Offensive Yards  – 844

This was a dramatic game in every sense – you had two teams with great expectations and stars on both sides of the ball, a nationally televised night game, and most importantly – big plays. Though the Nittany Lions would outgain the Illini by 100 (that and the two turnovers would decide the game), this was a back-and-forth scorefest that didn’t have any dull moments.

[Source: ESPN]

LOLPSU of The Game

If you have spent enough time on the Internet, it’s likely you’ve become familiar with LOLCats. LOLPSU is no different – with the exception of Penn Staters replacing the cats. Not as a adorable, but more relevant for our purposes.

Credit for the idea of combining sports with the internet meme is due to Grimey of LOLJocks. lookoverthereoverblownexpectations

A little harsh? Maybe – but nearly everyone had them ranked above us.

Three Obscure Facts

‘Three Obscure Facts’ is your chance to pick up information to lord over people that watch the Rose Bowl with you. It’s you’re secret to making it seem like you’re a better fan than them!

1. The fantastic trio at WR – Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood – are sometimes referred to as “The Smurfs,” in reference to their height.  Just like it doesn’t stop shorter guys like Hines Ward and DeSean Jackson from making plays in the NFL – I can’t imagine that it will keep the group from making it in the pros.

2. TE Andrew Quarless’ 17 yard touchdown reception that sealed the game up in the 4th quarter was his only score of the year. Dissapointing considering his production as a freshman (21 Receptions, 2 TDs), but being in Joe Paterno’s doghouse certainly doesn’t help.

3. After a lackluster performance in the Rose Bowl, Illinois QB Juice Williams worked out with Chicago native and Philadelphia Eagles signal caller Donovan McNabb. I wonder if there was a lesson about vomiting in big games?

Final Score

Penn State 38, Illinois 24

In a game that was much closer than what the score indicates, Penn State developed one of the many similarities to the 2005 Orange Bowl squad that would spur the media to draw comparisons – a conference opener win.

But perhaps the biggest story of the night was the stellar performance of WR Derrick Williams – who legitimized his hype as a recruit with a rushing touchdown, recieving score, and 94 yard kick return for a touchdown. It was time for the national media to recognize the talent of this team – and #2 was just the player to give them their wake-up call.

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About the Author


Mark McColey is a Senior majoring in Advertising and Labor-Employment relations. Among his loves are Penn State Football, The Steelers, The Penguins, The Simpsons, Tina Fey, and Arrested Development.

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