Despite Criticism, Freshmen-Only ‘Blue-White’ Event Concludes As Roaring Success

Nearly 8,000 first-year Penn State students packed Beaver Stadium Saturday for the first time in their college careers to enjoy a modified version of the annual Blue-White spring scrimmage.

Although this weekend’s practice was anything but a normal Penn State football gameday experience, the university deserves praise and applause for making the event special for each and every student in attendance. For many students without established ties to the school, the two-hour production first introduced them to Penn State pride.

Prior to the action on the gridiron, the “Beaver Stadium – 101” crash-course into Penn State football cheers and traditions immediately involved the spread out, yet united, student body from the get-go. Blue Band director Gregory Drane spearheaded the effort by teaching the words, motions, and cadence of each traditional chant in a clever and engaging manner.

Personally, especially for a scheduled kickoff time slated just after noon, I have never experienced a more jubilant, energetic, and engaged crowd engrossed in pregame festivities than the freshmen-only group on Saturday. The visible enjoyment that comes with soaking into what it truly means to be a Penn Stater was more evident than ever before.

Aside from playing classic Blue Band hits including “Rock and Roll,” “Fight on, State,” and the “Floating Lion Drill Music” from the stands, Beaver Stadium music man PJ Mullen provided further excitement to Nittany Nation’s newest members by playing hype tunes including “Power,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Wagon Wheel.”

Ahead of kickoff, watching the pregame pump-up video for the first time in nearly two years was an extremely refreshing sight. The clips reminded the freshmen class of the long lineage of stars who once called Happy Valley home, including Franco Harris, Tamba Hali, and Allen Robinson. For many who have never seen the video, the bits including full-stadium White Outs only heightened optimism for next fall’s potential return to normalcy.

During the game, the return of big plays in front of an energetic student body provided the players, and even James Franklin, a renewed sense of appreciation for even a small crowd of loyal fans.

“We announced that it was 7,500 fans or somewhere in that ballpark,” Franklin said postgame. “After last season, it felt like 75,000.”

From Kalen King’s pick-six to Devyn Ford’s electric kickoff return for a touchdown, Saturday provided the already-juiced crowd with plenty of memorable fireworks. Oddly, “Zombie Nation” never made an appearance over the loudspeakers following the game-defining plays, but the lack thereof will make the soundtrack’s re-introduction that much sweeter come September’s regular-season action.

Following the game’s final whistle, the team gathered shoulder-to-shoulder facing the south end zone for the freshmen class’s first playing of the Alma Mater as a unified student body. With the words flashing on both scoreboards, the majority of the crowd attempted to sing Dear Old State’s defining tune as one…even if folks didn’t know the words (yet!).

Naturally, as a life-long Penn Stater, it was a grueling effort to fight back tears while “raising the song.” At that moment, I truly felt as though my time as a Penn State student felt normal. Although seniors deserved the nod to attend the event just as much as freshmen, the day in Beaver Stadium served as the ultimate highlight for an otherwise tumultuous initial year for many on campus.

To cap off the day, the entire student body rushed to the front row of the stadium’s perimeter to greet the team on one final lap around the field. Smiles radiated from opposing ends of the stadium as Sean Clifford selfies and James Franklin high-fives concluded a consensus five-star afternoon for all freshmen in attendance.

Overall, the highlight-filled day provided the freshman class with a safe, fun-filled afternoon on Penn State’s behalf. While both parties have received an insurmountable amount of criticism over the past year-and-a-half, Saturday’s event was truly executed to a T.

The Class of 2024 owes you a sincere thank you, Penn State. We can’t wait to rock Beaver Stadium with everyone else in a few months.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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