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While You Were Away…

Welcome back, folks! The holidays have come and a new semester is finally here. And while you were kicked back at home watching football and chowing down on home-cooked meals, you probably weren’t paying attention to everything happening in Happy Valley.

Although some students won’t return to campus until mid-February, those who do might notice a few changes around Dear Old State and its community at large.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you missed in State College and at Penn State while you were home for winter break:

News

  • Happy Valley’s favorite minor league baseball team, the State College Spikes, were “saved” in late November. Originally at risk of losing affiliation with Major League Baseball, the Spikes will become a founding member of the MLB Draft League and continue showcasing the sport’s top prospects.
  • A new restaurant, Big Dean’s Hot Chicken, announced it’s coming to State College this year. It’ll occupy Qdoba’s former location at 208 W. College Ave. and serve food inspired by the “deep south.”
  • State College police asked for help identifying individuals occupying a former fraternity house at 329 E. Prospect Avenue. Seven individuals in question were reportedly involved in the alleged misconduct, including taking an unconscious, intoxicated woman from inside the house and leaving her on a nearby sidewalk over Halloween weekend.
  • Following a COVID=19 Dashboard update on December 15, Penn State crossed 5,000 all-time student coronavirus cases at University Park. Since then, the university hasn’t updated its testing dashboard in nearly a month.
  • A timely nor’easter blanked Centre County with more than 15 inches of snow. The storm resulted in more snowfall than the entire 2019-20 season and broke State College’s 24-hour December snowfall record by nearly 3 inches. Plus, it made for some great photos.
  • Penn State pushed back the start of in-person learning to February 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision will keep the dorms closed, forcing thousands of students to take classes from home for the time being.
  • Penn State Health sued former Nittany Lions running back Ki-Jana Carter for allegedly failing to make good on a deal to supply 400,000 surgical masks through his firm.
  • Former state senate candidate Ezra Nanes announced his intention to run for State College mayor in the fall. He’s the first candidate to officially announce a campaign.
  • Bally’s Corporation signed an agreement with investor and Penn State alumnus Ira Lubert to develop a planned $120 million mini-casino “near the Nittany Mall.” Pending approval, construction should begin in the first half of 2021 and take about a year to complete.
  • State College Borough responded to a federal lawsuit filed by the parents of Osaze Osagie, saying the police officers involved in his 2019 shooting death followed their training and that it was a “necessary act of self-defense,” by the officer who fired the shots. The statement also publicly named the involved officers for the first time.
  • Penn State began administering the coronavirus vaccine to 50 workers identified as part of the “critical workforce” involved in health and wellness disciplines.
  • Penn State’s Board of Trustees adjusted room and board rates to accommodate the university’s remote period. The reductions will save the average student 16.3%.

Sports

  • Penn State football wrapped up a hectic 2020 season with four straight wins over Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Illinois. The Nittany Lions wound up opting out of a potential bowl game to spend the holidays with their families.
  • Nittany Lion legend Trace McSorley turned heads by throwing his first NFL touchdown back on December 2. The former Penn State quarterback entered the Baltimore Ravens’ matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and ripped off a 70-yard score to Marquise Brown. Naturally, fans went nuts.
  • Penn State football crossed 900 all-time wins, placing the program in the upper echelon of college football. Only eight schools have surpassed that mark.
  • A handful of Nittany Lions, including Pat Freiermuth, Jayson Oweh, Shaka Toney, and Lamont Wade, declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
  • Former Penn State men’s basketball star Lamar Stevens scored his first NBA points with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s currently averaging nearly 15 minutes with the team as he works his way into a more significant role.
  • Penn State women’s volleyball released its spring schedule. The No. 9 Nittany Lions will begin their season with a road trip to Michigan on Friday, January 22.
  • Penn State men’s basketball postponed four games and paused team activities amid positive coronavirus cases within the program. The Nittany Lions resumed practice last week and got back on track with a game against Purdue on January 17.
  • Penn State football hired Mike Yurcich as its new offensive coordinator. The former Texas coordinator’s offenses have averaged 6.49 yards per play, which ranks first among offensive coordinators since 2013.
  • Thanks to a 6-1-1 start, Penn State women’s hockey earned a national ranking for the first time in program history.
  • Penn State wrestling delayed the start of its season due to positive coronavirus tests within the program. Should it resume practice soon, the team’s season would begin when it hosts Michigan State on January 24.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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