Game Day Observations: Illinois
I can’t remember the last time I witnessed Penn State put a whooping on another Big Ten school on the road. That’s exactly what happened in Champaign, Illinois on Saturday, and it couldn’t have felt better to walk around town wearing Penn State gear after the 35-7 bloodbath. Here are my observations from the town and the game:
- Never again will I take for granted Eastern Standard Time. The game was scheduled for 11 a.m. in Champaign, which as you can imagine, was not fun to get up for. Imagine Penn State students trying to get for an 11 a.m. kickoff on a Saturday morning? It wouldn’t happen.
- Champaign itself could best be described as underwhelming. The campus was nice, but not as photogenic as most of the Big Ten. The bar scene and town were also mediocre for Big Ten standards. We were able to find a few nice spots with extensive drink selections and decent food, but unlike most college towns, there was no defining element that stood out. On Saturday night, only one bar had a line, and even then it only took five minutes to get in. There wasn’t a lot of tailgating activity, either, and it seemed confined to one average size lot. But, can you blame them?
- On the other hand, this was the first away game I’ve been to since November where I haven’t gotten any flak for the Sandusky situation. So kudos to the Illini for being good hosts.
- Memorial Stadium reminded me a lot of Beaver Stadium. Bench seating and old concrete, meager food options, but an old school charm that can’t be written off.
- As was well documented on Twitter, attendance wasn’t good. The stands filled up about mid-way through the 1st quarter, and although not near capacity, the stripe effect could still be seen. However, the place really emptied out in the third quarter, and by the end of the game, only about 5,000 remained (and less than 500 students). Here are a few shots at max capacity and then with 14:00 to play in the 4th quarter.
- The game required an abnormal number of replays from the officiating crew. However, unlike Beaver Stadium, the replays were shown on the scoreboard so the fans could see all of the different angles, like everyone at home saw on their television. I don’t understand why more stadiums don’t do this.
- The Blue Band made their annual away game trip to Illinois this year, which was of course, nostalgic. Unfortunately, Illinois didn’t allow the band to perform during pregame, but during the game they were almost always louder than the crowd noise. As Director Richard Bundy said before the game, “A lot of alumni came all the way here to see you.” They didn’t disappoint.
- At one point in the middle of the game, both the Illini marching band and the Blue Band were playing “Seven Nation Army” simultaneously. It was like my living hell.
- The Illini Marching band also already learned how to play Gangnam Style. Please, oh please, Blue Band, don’t follow suit.
- How in the hell was Illinois favored in this game? The line right before kickoff was Illinois -3. I should’ve bet my student loan.
- I’d never seen a player get ejected at a football game before, but this hit by Earnest Thomas III sent him to the showers early. It was a dirty play, but I’m not sure if an ejection was warranted. Either way, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the call.
- The Illinois team entrance before the game was the best I’ve seen at any stadium. A camera man was pointed outside of the doors to the locker room while loud, intimidating music played in the stadium. The allure wore off when Tim Beckman walked our first, but it was still an incredible effect.
- Shout out to the loyal readers from the Penn State Chicago Alumni Association chapter for the free drinks and good vibes Saturday night downtown.
See you back next week after the unofficial student white out game against Northwestern. Hopefully Penn State will be able to fend off the undefeated and nationally ranked Wildcats in front of all the alumni here for Homecoming.