White Out Crowd Creates Early Edge In Penn State’s Win Over Minnesota

Penn State football didn’t exactly come out swinging Saturday night against Minnesota.

The offense generated just 14 yards through its first three drives, which resulted in two three-and-outs and a bad Sean Clifford interception. Clifford, who was greeted by a mixture of boos and half-hearted cheers when announced as the starter, was feeling the heat.

“Realistically, we have a passionate fan base,” the quarterback said after the game. “I understand that. They can think what they want to think.”

But the same fans who were initially apathetic toward Clifford helped bring the Nittany Lions back into the game.

The raucous crowd of 109,813 — all donning white — helped create five false start penalties in the first two quarters. Two of Minnesota’s first three drives resulted in negative yardage. Even though the Gophers knocked in a field goal after Clifford’s interception, the offense was stalled by the White Out crowd.

“[The fans] had a huge impact tonight,” James Franklin said postgame. “You’re talking about an offense that wants to run the ball and RPO and for them to get off schedule because we had five false start penalties. I’m going to give our fans credit for that.”

Minnesota’s offense came into the game with the best third-down completion percentage in the country but went just 2-for-13 against Penn State. The Gophers’ offense was thrown completely out of sync, allowing the Nittany Lions to settle in amid their slow start.

The blowout-level final score makes it hard to remember how even the game was early on. Things were tied up after one quarter and the Nittany Lions took just a seven-point lead into the locker room.

But, the hostile crowd helped level the playing field while Yurcich & Co. worked on their offensive kinks. Penn State’s defense played tough against a talented rusher in Mohamed Ibrahim. It was complementary football at its finest.

“It was our twelfth player on the field, for sure,” Kalen King said postgame. “It’s a hostile environment. Just having them here really, really helped us out.”

The environment may have helped Penn State on the offensive side of the ball, too.

Late in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions got a free play on offense thanks to the Gophers jumping offside. Clifford was able to take a shot down the field and completed a beautiful 30-yard pass to Mitchell Tinsley. It helped spark the offense and carried into a 21-point explosion in the third quarter.

Penn State is used to playing in front of these crowds and was able to easily navigate the noise. It had one early false start and one offside penalty called in the third quarter.

“That’s energy. That’s Beaver Stadium. That’s the white out,” safety Ji’Ayir Brown said postgame. “So I definitely felt all of that.”

The impact of the White Out environment went outside of the white lines, too.

More than 100 recruits were in attendance Saturday and even more were likely watching from home. The White Out is among Penn State’s best recruiting pitches and it’s an easy sell when you win by nearly 30 points.

“If you look at our roster and you talk to players, which I know you guys have, how many of them have been to the White Out and said, ‘You know, I want to play in that type of environment.’,” Franklin said. “It helps from a bunch of different perspectives.”

The crowd may have been uneasy about Franklin and Clifford coming into the game, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone wearing white leaving the stadium without a smile on their face Saturday.

The season nearly had the life sucked out of it after the Michigan loss, but the Nittany Lions faithful rallied the troops and created a vintage atmosphere against the Gophers. The crowd may not have seen a scoop-and-score or a four-overtime finish, but it had a palpable impact on a much-needed win.

Now, Penn State has another huge game on its home slate. The Buckeyes come to town next week, and Franklin knows he’s going to need a similar crowd for that one.

“We’re going to need that again next Saturday. So don’t allow anybody to get our tickets. Let’s dominate that stadium next week again with our fans and make it a real challenging environment,” he said.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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