History of The White House, A Penn State Spectacle
The Penn State White House is reserved for only the most exciting matchups, the kind of games you circle on your calendar months in advance. And since its official inception in 2007, it has quickly become one of Penn State’s most beloved traditions.
The first organized student white out took place during the Purdue game on Oct. 9, 2004, and there have been plenty of student section white outs ever since. However, the idea of an all-stadium White House did not come to fruition until 2007, when Penn State hosted the second of a two-game series against Notre Dame.
Since that game against the Irish, there’s been a White House each season with the exception of 2010. Citing a weak home schedule, the athletic department wisely chose to defer the event to the following season for a game against national powerhouse Alabama.
Everybody enjoys a nice student section white out, and we’ve debated about having a white out for every home game, but in this writer’s humble opinion, nothing moves the needle quite like a full stadium White House. Seeing 110,000 fans all dressed in white transforms Beaver Stadium into one of the most breathtaking venues in the country, and Penn Staters take pride in a tradition that has been (shamelessly) imitated by other teams over the years.
Without further ado, here’s a look back at the history of the White House.
October 8, 2007 – No. 14 Penn State 31, Notre Dame 10
A crowd of 110,078 all dressed in white, the third-largest attendance in Beaver Stadium history looked on with delight as No. 14 Penn State smothered an inexperienced Notre Dame squad, 31-10.
Penn State entered the contest against unranked Notre Dame seeking revenge after an embarrassing 41-17 defeat at the hands of the Irish one year prior in South Bend. The defense, led by the stout linebacking duo of Dan Connor and Sean Lee, made life miserable for Notre Dame’s true freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The highly touted signal caller was sacked six times as the Irish could only muster 144 total yards of offense, including zero yards rushing.
Connor, who would go on to receive the Chuck Bednarik Award at the end of season as the nation’s best defensive player, totaled 12 tackles in the game en route to being named Walter Camp and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
“It’s a revenge game, and you’re beating one of the powerhouses of college football year in and year out,” Connor told the AP after the game. “It’s something we wanted to do and we’re proud of.”
After a sluggish start that saw the Irish take an early 7-0 lead on an Anthony Morelli pick-six, Derrick Williams returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter to ignite the monochrome crowd and send Zombie Nation blasting over the loudspeakers. Morelli made up for his mistake midway through the second quarter when he hooked up with Jordan Norwood to put the Lions on top for good.
Running back Austin Scott paced the Lions’ offense on the ground, gashing the Notre Dame defense for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
The crowd appeared to cause numerous communication problems for the Irish offense, which was whistled for several offsides and delay-of-game penalties. In total, Notre Dame committed 14 penalties for 97 yards.
“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” senior wideout Terrell Golden said after the game. “A lot of the guys were saying that this is why we come to Penn State. You hear legends about 110,000, but playing in front of them is something you just have to experience. You cannot put it in words.”
September 27, 2008 – No. 12 Penn State 38, No. 22 Illinois 24
After blitzing through a soft non-conference schedule to a 5-0 start, No. 12 Penn State faced its first real challenge of the season in the form of the 22nd-ranked Fighting Illini.
Derrick Williams, one of the most hyped recruits in Penn State history, delivered the best performance of his college career in Penn State’s victory, its 24th win in the last 26 games at Beaver Stadium. The senior caught a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown, and returned a kickoff 94 yards with 14:47 remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Nittany Lions. It was the first time that trifecta had been accomplished by a Penn State player under coach Joe Paterno.
“This is the first time he’s really had a chance to break out,” Paterno said after the game. “Derrick’s been in tough games and made big plays … He’s a heck of an athlete.”
Williams brushed off the admiration, choosing instead to deflect attention toward his teammates.
“Oh yeah, it was definitely a big play, but when I was running, did you see how easy that was?” Williams said. “It was the guys up in front of me that did their jobs, all I had to do was run.”
September 26, 2009 – Iowa 21, No. 5 Penn State 10
On a cold, rainy night in Happy Valley, Iowa walked into a packed crowd at Beaver Stadium and silenced No. 5 Penn State, a team looking to avenge its painful upset loss to the Hawkeyes one year earlier that kept the Nittany Lions from reaching the National Championship game.
After forcing an Iowa three-and-out to start the game, Penn State’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a 79-yard bomb from Daryll Clark to Chaz Powell for a touchdown that sent the White House crowd into a frenzy. For a moment, it seemed as if the Lions were going to walk all over Iowa, a team that had given them fits in the last decade, winning seven of the last eight meetings.
But things only went downhill from there.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Iowa’s defense, led by future All-American defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, clamped down on quarterback Clark and the Penn State spread HD offense. Facing relentless pressure, Clark completed just 22 percent of his passes after starting the game 5-for-5 as the normally reliable senior QB finished the game with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
The nail in the coffin came in the form of a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter. Clayborn broke through Penn State’s line and got two hands on the ball just as Jeremy Boone was about to kick it away. The 6-foot-3, 282-pound defensive end scooped up the ball and rumbled untouched into the end zone to give Iowa an improbable 11-10 lead with 12:21 remaining.
“I thought the kids hung in there, tried to come back, and they kept making mistakes,” coach Joe Paterno said.
“It was a team loss. No one person, or one play lost it,” Paterno added. “We got licked.”
September 10, 2011 – No. 3 Alabama 27, No. 23 Penn State 11
Having already dispatched Penn State easily, 24-3, just one season earlier in Tuscaloosa, the third-ranked Crimson Tide was poised to leave Happy Valley with another win over the Nittany Lions.
And that’s exactly what it did.
While the game was never really that close, Penn State showed signs of promise. The defense, often the lone bright spot of the Rob Bolden era, kept the Nittany Lions in it for much of the game. The unit held Alabama to less than 400 yards of total offense, limiting future Heisman candidate A.J. McCarron to 163 yards passing.
Predictably, Alabama’s duo of freakish running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy (both of whom start in the NFL today) combined for nearly 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns while averaging six yards per carry.
For Penn State, Bolden and Matt McGloin combined to complete 12 of 39 passes for 144 yards and one interception.
“We certainly deserved a whooping today,” Paterno said. “I think we’ve just got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Penn State won its next seven games and be ranked as highly as No. 12 in the polls, but stumbled against No. 19 Nebraska at home and No. 12 Wisconsin on the road in the final month of the season before suffering an ugly 30-14 loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.
October 27, 2012 – No. 9 Ohio State 35, Penn State 23
After dropping the first two games of the Bill O’Brien era in agonizing fashion, Penn State rallied to win five straight to set up an evening clash against the ninth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a game jokingly referred to as the “Ineligi-Bowl.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Mike Hull snuck through the Ohio State line and blocked a punt on the goal line that was recovered in the end zone by Michael Yancich to give the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead and the sellout crowd a reason to lose its collective mind.
Penn State maintained a 7-7 game into halftime, but after the break, it was the Braxton Miller show for Ohio State.
After a Ryan Shazier interception return for a touchdown on Penn State’s first possession of the second half gave the Buckeyes a one-touchdown lead, Miller led the Buckeyes down to the one-yard line with 3:30 left to go in the third quarter. Facing third and goal, Miller pulled off one of the more incredible jukes you’ll ever see.
On a zone read, Miller pulled the ball back just as running back Carlos Hyde was dropped by Penn State’s Sean Stanley, stepped forward, quickly jumped back to evade would-be tacklers, eluded a defender, and dived headfirst into the end zone for the score.
In fact, Miller seemed so wrapped up in the backfield that the “Woo Hoo!” sound signaling a Penn State defensive stop briefly blared over the loudspeakers before silence befell a shocked Beaver Stadium.
“I don’t know who was around me,” Miller said after the game. “My instincts just took over after that.”
After Miller added two more touchdowns – one with his legs, and one with his arm – Ohio State escaped Happy Valley with its perfect record still intact. It was all smiles for the Buckeyes, while Penn State left dejected having squandered a chance for an upset win in a symbolic season.
“This was a big game, and honestly you come to Penn State to win big games like this,” guard John Urschel said after the game. “It was a tough fought game and we stayed close with them but they pulled away. We just need to put this one away and move forward.”
October 12, 2013 – Penn State 43, No. 18 Michigan 40 (4 OT)
I think we all remember how this one played out, no?
Let’s hope for another classic on Saturday.
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About the Author
Bryce Jordan Stevenson is a Penn State junior whose name may or may not sound a bit familiar to you.
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