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Gameday Observations: Illinois

Well, that sucked.

No matter how you slice it, Saturday was a pretty awful day to be a Penn State football fan. Sure, Homecoming was fun, but a nine-overtime loss to Illinois was just about enough to ruin any Nittany Lion’s afternoon.

Although this weekend’s game was certainly one to forget, there were a few fleeting moments of fun at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Here are a few noteworthy things we saw in the stands, tailgate lots, and beyond.

Gate A Deserves An A+

I feel like I talk about this every week at this point, but student entry has been a breeze at Gate A this season. Rainy conditions and a matchup with Illinois undoubtedly deterred some students from packing the lines early, but the gate was a ghost town about one hour before kickoff. Not a single line!

Oddly, though, my crew and I needed to show our Penn State IDs after scanning our tickets. Athletics always says you need to, but we’d been asked only once so far this season (against Indiana on October 2). I’ve always got mine on me, but it’s strange how entry guidelines seem to change from game to game.

Kevin Kelly Serves As Honorary Captain

Penn State reunions always feel a little more special during Homecoming, and that was no different for former Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly, who served as the Nittany Lions’ honorary captain against Illinois.

Fans at home likely remember Kelly best as Penn State’s 2006 Orange Bowl hero after he converted the game-winning field goal in triple overtime. Kinda reminds you of Saturday’s game, huh? Well, with a different outcome, of course.

Nittany Lions Reunite

While countless Nittany Lions reunited over Homecoming weekend, a group of former Nittany Lion mascots reunited at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. About halfway through the game, a handful of Penn Staters who formerly served as the Symbol of Our Best took the field to show they’ve still got it.

Among them was Zach Sowa, who recently held the mantle himself until he graduated in spring 2020. He and the other former mascots took the field to throw t-shirts into the crowd, pal around with the Nittany Lion, and flash off the muscles with some trademark one-handed pushups. Spoiler: They all nailed them.

S-Zone Throws It Back

Not to be dramatic, but Penn State’s pink and black S-Zone is hot. This weekend’s student section threw it back to Penn State’s famed original school colors.

Personally, I’m extremely jealous of those t-shirts (mostly because I’ll never get one myself). Senior year sadness!

PJ Mustipher Is Rolling In Style

Out for the rest of the year after suffering a season-ending injury against Iowa, Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher was absolutely vibing on Saturday. He seemed to be in good spirits while he led the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel on an electric scooter with a Red Bull and sunflower seeds in hand.

Mustipher’s loss was certainly felt on Saturday when the Nittany Lions gave up more than 350 rushing yards to Illinois. However, his presence in the locker room should help Penn State greatly as the team pushes through a brutal Big Ten schedule. Honestly, it was great seeing him out there.

Generations Of Greatness = Great

Speaking of throwbacks, how could you not love Penn State’s retro-styled uniforms? Complete with numbers on helmets and squeaky-clean white cleats, these bad boys paid homage to the Nittany Lions’ past with plenty of little details. We wouldn’t mind seeing them more than once a season, that’s for sure.

Beaver Stadium’s end zones also got a nice facelift for the throwback game. For the first time since 2017, Penn State brought back the diamond-studded end zones that were a fixture for the program back in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. We wouldn’t be mad if they became a permanent addition, though.

This Week’s Nittany Lion ‘Fit Check

If you’ve been paying attention to the Symbol of Our Best like we have this season, you’ve probably noticed the Lion’s eclectic wardrobe and accessories. So far, we’ve seen royal capes, leaf blowers, and even Bob Ross and Ferris Bueller costumes.

This week’s Nittany Lion ‘fit was clean and simple. A sleeveless sweatshirt with a throwback Nittany Lion logo did plenty to wow the crowd and remind us of Penn State’s past. Plus, it made it easy for the Symbol of Our Best to really show off the guns, eh?

Penn State Makes History

Although you probably weren’t thinking about college football history as Penn State and Illinois pathetically drudged through overtime period after overtime period, the Nittany Lions and Illini did wind up writing their names into the record books on Saturday.

The game wound up as college football’s first nine-overtime game in FBS history. Hell, it was the first eight-overtime game, too. A handful of matchups over the years had stretched to seven overtimes, but a new rule requiring only two-point conversions from triple overtime on made it easier to stretch the game out.

Saturday’s loss to Illinois was excruciating, but at least it made history, right?

Blue Band Show Impresses

Once again, the Blue Band put on a memorable halftime show to continue a strong season. This time, the band was joined by generations of its alumni, too.

Among the most notable songs included was My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome To The Black Parade” — a track whose first few notes are enough to rile up any former emo kid. Just look how excited Onward State alum David Abruzzese got!

If the Blue Band is taking any requests for its next punk-emo performance, let’s throw in some Modern Baseball for good measure. Or maybe American Football would be more thematically appropriate? Oh, well. Surprise us!

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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