Missing the Penn State whiteout vs. OSU
When Penn State started playing in the Big Ten in 1993, it lost its traditional rivals like Pitt and West Virginia, so the league invented the Land Grant Trophy and declared a Penn State-Michigan State rivalry.
While there have been some great PSU-MSU games, every PSU fan knows the path to “elite” status, Big Ten championships, and national championships runs directly through Ohio State.
The PSU-OSU rivalry has produced some of the greatest college football games of all time.
The combination of one “great” and one “elite” team, two of the most passionate fan bases, and two of the largest stadiums in the world has resulted in the most memorable sporting events I have ever attended.
There have been four PSU-Ohio State whiteout games at Beaver Stadium, but it seems like every Ohio State game at Penn State has been at night.
A silver haze floats above the OSU players from the Beaver Stadium lights reflecting off their polished gray helmets, and the stadium is filled for warm-ups and the pre-game festivities.
In 2001, Penn State was losing 27-9. I was walking under the stands in the south end zone when I got pushed to the top of the field entrance under the goal post at the same time that PSU quarterback Zack Mills ran 64 yards down the field for a touchdown.
I swear the field shook like an earthquake from the sound of 100,000 fans screaming as Mills flew down the field. And then PSU came back and won the game, 29-27.
I have also witnessed some memorable games in Columbus.
In 1998, the No. 7 ranked Nittany Lions, led by LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown, faced off against the No. 1 ranked OSU team loaded with soon-to-be NFL players.
Unlike Beaver Stadium, Ohio Stadium has multiple levels with overhangs. As Penn State was getting destroyed 28-9 on a rainy day, it took me about a quarter to figure out why the rain appeared to come down harder after every big OSU play.
The games from 2016 to 2018 reminded me of an Ali-Frazier trilogy.
I don’t think any Penn State or Ohio State fan will forget the 2016 game when Grant Haley returned a Marcus Allen blocked field goal to win the game.
My seats are behind the visiting teams bench at Beaver Stadium and, unlike any other coach I have ever seen, Urban Meyer stood alone far down the field from the center of the team for many plays, and I remember him rushing up the sideline in a fruitless attempt to call a timeout before the rushed kick.
In 2017, the Buckeyes returned the favor in Columbus when they rallied from 11 points down in the final five minutes to beat No. 2 Penn State.
As the entire state of Ohio stormed the field, I sat stunned in my seat for at least 30 minutes after the game. A picture on the wall of the club section in Ohio Stadium shows the fans covering the field and one PSU fan (me) sitting in the completely empty stands.
And then in 2018, when Chase Young tackled Miles Sanders on fourth down to seal a 27-26 win, the largest crowd in PSU history, 110,889, fell silent.
For this year’s visit, the stadium, due to the coronavirus, will be silent for 3¢ hours.
No amplified music or sounds will ever replace 110,000 passionate fans watching Penn State play its top rival.
The silence will be deafening.
Kaufman is an Altoona native, attorney and traveling sports fan. He hosts a radio show called “Ira on Sports” in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is available on Sound Cloud and iTunes under Ira on Sports.