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Gameday Observations: Ball State

For the first time since November 30, 2019, Penn State football welcomed a full-capacity crowd to Beaver Stadium this weekend. Throughout an incredible afternoon, the Nittany Lions rolled to a big win, the tailgate lots teemed with life, and for once, all felt right in Happy Valley.

On such a joyous occasion, there was a lot going on in the stands, tailgate lots, and beyond. Here are a few noteworthy things we saw over the weekend.

Tailgating Heaven Returns

Not to overexaggerate, but it was hard not to get emotional while walking through the tailgate lots Saturday morning and afternoon. Everywhere you looked, friends and families were cooking up a storm and partying like there’s no tomorrow. These folks waited years for such an occasion, and they certainly didn’t miss their mark.

Naturally, the tailgating action should get cranked up to 11 next week ahead of Penn State football’s annual White Out against Auburn. When the tailgate lots open at 8 a.m. ahead of a 7:30 p.m. kick, you know you’re in for a good one.

The Student Section…Little Rusty!

But hey, let’s not be too hard on them. At least the vast majority of freshmen and sophomores in the stands this weekend had never been to a Penn State game before, let alone sat in the country’s top student section. However, it’s clear there’s some room for improvement over the next six home games.

Off the top of my head, shaker etiquette was rusty (and yes, they’re called shakers. “Pom-poms” won’t be tolerated!). Remember, kids. Shake in front of you and avoid reaching back and smacking someone in the face. You’ve got about 107,000 neighbors, so mind the swing.

Oh, and if you’re going to popcorn someone after a touchdown, steer clear of rotating them between tosses. I’m probably not the only person who felt a little woozy after getting kicked in the head Saturday.

Additionally, skip the “Fuck Ball State” chant, or any like-minded substitute, next time you’re at Beaver Stadium. It’s effective, sure, but it’s lazy, and such a low-hanging fruit shouldn’t be the go-to chant for a student section proclaiming to be the nation’s best.

Safety Remains A Concern

When you’ve got thousands of first-timers in the stands, overall safety naturally takes a hit. Overcrowded aisles were particularly hazardous throughout the student section.

Additionally, entering the student section was a frightening affair as well. Pushing and shoving won’t get you in the bleachers any faster, folks, so save the hassle and be patient. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the poor ushers attempting to wrangle with a crowd of overserved students attempting to force their way into the stands. If you were checking tickets on the ground-level entrance for section SD at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday, you deserve a raise.

Finally, I’m not about to get on my soapbox and complain about COVID-19 safety in the stadium. However, it was hard not to look around and feel the slightest tinge of cognitive dissonance knowing some folks there were probably going to wind up contracting the virus or its more aggressive delta variant. Few folks, if any, wore masks, but it didn’t help that enforcement of Penn State’s supposed indoor masking policy was an absolute joke.

Penn State Recognizes 9/11’s 20th Anniversary

Although Saturday was essentially a nonstop party doubled as a family reunion, Beaver Stadium took many opportunities to recognize the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Most notably, Beaver Stadium observed a moment of silence before kickoff that led into a military flyover. Penn State’s honorary captains for the day were the wife and now-grown children of former Penn State kicker Patrick Dwyer, who died on September 11, 2001, while working on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

At halftime, the Blue Band put on an absolute show while honoring those who died in the attacks.

Paper Tickets…Still A Thing!

Thank goodness for paper tickets. When Penn State announced a full switch to mobile ticketing, I got a little nervous my favorite college keepsake would be a thing of the past. Now, imagine my surprise and delight when I received my coveted paper ticket after scanning my ticket from my phone.

There’s simply something so special about paper tickets for students. I’m overjoyed that I’ll get to properly finish out my collection as I wind down my senior season in Beaver Stadium.

Guests Galore

Penn State football routinely referred to Saturday’s game as a family reunion, and that was certainly no joke. Throughout the game, familiar faces from all across Happy Valley appeared on the field, in the stands, and everywhere in between.

Among the most notable guests were Penn State basketball coaches Micah Shrewsberry and Carolyn Kieger and Penn State letterman and trustee Brandon Short. Shrewsberry’s longtime coaching partner Brad Stevens, who worked with him at Butler and with the Boston Celtics, was also in attendance.

A few keen eyes might’ve spotted Penn State letterman Journey Brown on the sidelines, too. Brown served as Penn State’s up-and-coming running back before medically retiring from football last fall due to a newly discovered heart condition.

Beaver Stadium Upgrades

Following an offseason chock-full of renovations, Beaver Stadium debuted some sleek new upgrades over the weekend. Penn State expanded and refurbished a few gates around the stadium as it attempted to simplify entrance policies.

Penn State also showed off a new “1-0” wordmark above the stadium’s south tunnel exit, which serves as a reminder of James Franklin’s go-to mantra before the team runs out of the tunnel. Some new blue and white lights add some much-needed flair down there, too.

Condom Balloons

That’s right. If you paid good attention to the student section Saturday afternoon, you undoubtedly noticed a few condom balloons floating around. Nature is healing!

Although condom balloons certainly aren’t new rowdy stadiums, they recently left their mark on Penn State in 2019 when the Nittany Lions hosted Indiana.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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