UNIVERSITY PARK -- Most season tickets at Beaver Stadium will carry the same Nittany Lion Club donation fee next year, although Penn State is lowering the prices for more than 11,500 seats and introducing a new $200-per-seat contribution level between the goal lines on each sideline.
There will be no NLC or seat price increases next year in the STEP program, and the school also is implementing a new "One Team Commitment" program that will allow fans to earn Nittany Lion Club bonus points.
Four sideline sections on the upper decks -- EGU, ECU, WGU, WCU -- will be lowered from $400 per seat to $200. Those sections constitute the largest and most significant price reductions. (UPDATE: Four other sections will be lowered from $600 to $400: EFU, EDU, WFU and WDU.)
Penn State's attendance is down 4.8 percent so far this season, from an average of 101,427 last year to 96,553. The last home game against Temple drew 93,680, the smallest crowd since 1995.
"The changes this year are put into place with two goals in mind," PSU athletic director Dave Joyner said in a university statement. "One, offer our fans additional, more appealing options in order to maximize the number of Nittany Lion fans coming to Beaver Stadium and cheering on our team each week, and two, grow the revenues needed to maintain, in an increasingly difficult climate, the excellent competitive and classroom performance that Penn Staters everywhere expect."
Go to NittanyLionClub.com for more information on specific seat prices.
SUBHD: Della Valle impresses
During his senior year of high school at Shaler Area, Jesse Della Valle would lay in bed at night and contemplate his options of where to play college football.
He had two options -- accept a scholarship at a number of Division I-AA schools or take his chances and go to Penn State as a preferred walk-on. Della Valle eventually chose the latter of the two for the opportunity to play big-time college football.
"It was like, are you going to take the money, or are you going to take your dreams?" Della Valle said. "I was going to take my dreams."
Under the previous coaching staff, Della Valle failed to make an impact last season, appearing in just one game after being redshirted as a freshman. But with a new coaching staff came new opportunities, and a fresh start for all the current Lions.
"They didn't know any of us, we didn't know any of them," Della Valle said of the coaches. "So they were just basing it off talent, and that brings out the best in everyone because it's natural competition."
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien saw enough promise in the redshirt sophomore to reward him with a scholarship this summer.
One of the positions that needed to be filled after the summer was a return man after Justin Brown, who returned kicks and punts last season, transferred to Oklahoma.
Della Valle said it was an open competition, and the coaches wanted anyone on the team with previous experience of catching kicks to do so at practice. Prior to the Virginia game, in pregame warmups, the coaching staff noticed how naturally Della Valle was catching kicks.
Since then, he has been one of the two Lions back to receive punts, along with Evan Lewis. He is also the deep man on the kickoff return team with Alex Kenney. Della Valle also sees time on the punt coverage team and occasionally on the kickoff unit.
Della Valle said he and O'Brien have discussed his role on the team and that the coach is very open and honest with all of the players on the team about their role.
"He's always been very honest with me," Della Valle said.
SUBHD: Zwinak surprises
Before the season, O'Brien made it clear that Bill Belton was the team's starting running back and would be getting the bulk of the carries.
Then Belton hurt his ankle in the season opener and missed time. Derek Day injured his shoulder against Virginia and missed time as well. Curtis Dukes also battled injuries and was held out of the Temple game.
It gave an opportunity to a back that had his name buried on the depth chart, Zack Zwinak. The sophomore carried the ball 19 times last week against Illinois for a bruising 101 yards and two touchdowns.
"I came into this season saying I know we have a lot of guys playing this position," Zwinak said. "It is a stacked spot with a lot of talent."
The sophomore has continued to progress this season and climb his way into game action. He is another guy that O'Brien said has come in and accepted his role.
Zwinak said although the other Penn State running backs are healthy again he still is preparing to get game reps and help the team move the football.
"You have a certain job to do and you have to make sure you do that one job to the best of your ability," he said.
SUBHD: Back to track
While many of his Penn State teammates will be taking the winter months to lift weights and recover from the season, receiver Alex Kenney is planning on competing on the Lion indoor track team.
In addition to being a standout football player at State College Area High School, he also set the state indoor record for the 60-meter dash in 2010. Kenney competed in last year's Big Ten Indoor Track and Field championships and ran a team-best 6.96 in the 60 meters.
"With the old staff it was kind of a questionable situation [to run track], but I spoke to the strength coaches, and they seem to be OK with the idea," Kenney said.