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Freshman 101: How to Survive Football Weekend

Hey, freshmen! You’re now winding down the second week of your first semester at Penn State. At this point, hopefully you’ve mastered your class schedule, rode the blue loop to downtown a few times, and regretted a few late night slices of Canyon Pizza. This weekend will be your first taste of one of the best aspects of The Pennsylvania State University: Penn State football. You are lucky enough to attend a university with one of the most storied football programs in the country, with the best student section in the country. When filled to capacity, Beaver Stadium has the third largest population of any place in Pennsylvania, and that doesn’ include the thousands of people who don’t even have tickets to the game, who are just there to tailgate and have a good time. While Week 1 against Indiana State isn’t exactly a marquee matchup, it will be a nice dress rehearsal for Week 2’s battle with No. 2 Alabama. Here’s what you should keep in mind in order to survive your first Penn State Football weekend.

Stock Up On Necessary Supplies
As freshmen, the chaotic atmosphere in State College on Saturdays will definitely be overwhelming at first. To avoid the chaos that downtown State College will present, make sure you stock up on necessary supplies you’ll need to properly enjoy your weekend. First and foremost, if you plan on drinking, stock up on beer before game day. Navigating around State College to try and buy beer on game day can be a nightmare. It is safe to say that 90% of the people who will be near Beaver Stadium will have a beer in their hand. You’ll also need a pack or two of Solo cups. There are undercover cops patrolling the tailgate fields, so don’t drink from beer cans or bottles. Drinking from a large cup from somewhere like McDonald’s is a good trick. Don’t draw attention to yourself if you’re underage.

Additionally, if you plan on having a tailgate, you have to have your grilling supplies. Obviously, you’ll need a grill of some sort. You don’t need anything fancy. Instead, focus on reliability. I’d recommend charcoal instead of propane tanks. Drunken people combined with a propane tank isn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

Edit 8/3: Thanks to our commenters for making us aware that charcoal is, in fact, prohibited at Penn State tailgates. We regret the error!

Your go-to choices for food are your standard burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and sometimes sausage. Never forget to bring buns, condiments, plates, or for the fancy tailgate spreads, silverware.

Pace Your Drinking
The atmosphere in Happy Valley on a football Saturday is simply unmatched. You’ll be among over 100,000 people, many of whom are drinking heavily. It is important not to make the mistake of getting too drunk and ultimately not making it into Beaver Stadium. This happens more than you might think. Don’t drink more than you can handle. You DO NOT want to miss out on your first game.

If you are planning on enjoying a handful of frosty beverages, depending upon what time opening kickoff is, you’ll need to alter your drinking to be sufficiently drunk, but not too drunk to support the Nittany Lions to the fullest when game time rolls around.

This weekend’s game against Indiana State starts at noon. Games that start at noon are both a blessing and a curse for Penn State students. The bad part about noon games is that after a week of waking up early for classes, you have to wake up early again. Tailgates for noon games will start around 8 a.m. For freshmen, you are conveniently located in East Halls, so your walk to Beaver Stadium isn’t far. If you don’t know how to get to the stadium, all you need to do is follow the crowd eastward.

Your drinking pace needs to be pretty frantic. This is where that beer bong you bought during senior week will come in hand. The best part about noon games, however, is that you’ll have the afternoon to nap before going out that night.

Dress Properly
The weather is often the last thing you think about when preparing for game day. While this weekend’s game calls for temperatures in the 80s, the majority of Penn State’s games will be played when temperatures are less than ideal. With the wind chill, game time temperatures will often hover around or below freezing. And when it is hot and sunny, professors love to laugh at students’ sunburns the Monday after. To avoid this, as lame as it sounds, put on sunscreen before you go bake in the afternoon sun.

To have a good time, it is absolutely essential to dress properly for a football game. No matter what the time of the game is, you will be outside for several hours. Layering up is crucial. You should overdress when in doubt. You’ll be happy when you have that extra sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirt on, while your friend is struggling with the bitter cold. You can always remove clothing if you get too warm.

Proper footwear is also really important. You never want your feet to be cold or wet—that can ruin your experience. State College is prone to snow and rain. A great pair of boots and multiple layers of socks are musts for staying warm.

Also, never forget a hat or your warmest pair of gloves. Not dressing properly can make or break your Penn State football experience.

Arrange a Meeting Place
As I said before, there will be hundreds of thousands of people swarming into Happy Valley on any given football Saturday. Because of this, getting any reception from your cell phone will be an issue. You must establish a meeting place for your group in case you get separated for any reason. Shit happens. Friends want to meet up with other friends, and among the crowds it is way too easy for people to get separated. Before the festivities begin, pick a landmark, like the Joe Paterno statue for example, that everyone should meet at once the game ends. This is another thing that continually gets overlooked, and something that can dramatically affect your overall experience.

Arrive Early
All students who are sitting in the student section must enter Beaver Stadium through Gate A. Entry through Gate A is usually a very slow, drawn out process, and it could take upwards of an hour to get to your seat. To avoid this, get to the gate early. There’s nothing wrong with entering the game well before kickoff. Actually, I would recommend this. Getting into the stadium early ensures you’ll have the best seats. Student sections seats are now first-come, first-served. If you didn’t already know, your tickets are scanned at the gate electronically through your student ID card, so you’ll need to bring that along. Don’t forget your ID!

Respect Those Around You
Being in the student section is a privilege. Penn State’s student section is one of the most intense atmospheres in college sports. You’ll be around thousands of other students, who are all there for one cause: to support our football team. Don’t be the asshole in your section that causes problems for everyone. Support the team, but don’t be obnoxious.

Support the Team
You might feel stupid when you don’t know the bevy of cheers and songs performed by the student section, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be loud and support the Nittany Lions. The year’s home schedule is one of the best of the past few years. With home games against Alabama, Iowa, and Nebraska, this week’s matchup against lowly Indiana State will be your chance to get acclimated with the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium. By the time the Crimson Tide rolls into Happy Valley, you’ll have your first game under your belt, and you’ll have successfully survived your first Penn State football weekend.

About the Author

Sam Cooper

Sam is a senior originally from Newtown, PA who majors in print journalism and is a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. His athletic peak was age 11 so he decided to grow a beard and write about sports instead.

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