White-Out atmosphere pivotal in PSU rebuilding efforts

(Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader (TNS)
  • Penn State started the White-Out tradition at Beaver Stadium in 2004.
  • The Nittany Lions have gone just 5-7 in the 12 White-Out games.
  • PSU will have its 2016 White-Out contest at 8 Saturday night against No. 2 Ohio State.

Some remember the volume.

The plan to renovate Penn State's Beaver Stadium could cost more than $485 million.

Others think of the 100,000-plus dressed in white.

Grant Haley focuses on the field itself.

“You can feel the ground shaking,” the Penn State cornerback said of the Nittany Lions’ annual White-Out game.

“It’s not like a small earthquake, but you can definitely feel a little rumble on the ground.”

It will happen again Saturday when Penn State hosts No. 2 Ohio State at 8 p.m. While this young tradition hasn’t translated to a great record — just 5-7 since it first began in 2004 — it has been a critical recruiting tool for the Lions.

Pivotal to recruiting: Look no further than Penn State’s historic 43-40 four-overtime win over Michigan in 2013. More than a dozen high school prospects who were visiting for that game ended up joining the Lions over the following two national signing days.

“It makes you want to come, to go there and be part of something like that and achieve something like that,” safety Marcus Allen said. “When I was at the game, it really opened up my eyes to being part of a family like Penn State. And the locker room atmosphere was crazy afterward. It makes a kid want to come into that.”

Allen was one of a handful in attendance at that game who will start on Saturday, a group that includes RB Saquon Barkley, TE Mike Gesicki, CB John Reid, WR DeAndre Thompkins and, if he’s healthy, LB Jason Cabinda.

“I lost my mind,” Barkley said of the 2013 White Out. “It was amazing. I’d never seen anything like that.”

“I was happy to see it firsthand,” said Gesicki, who chose Penn State over Ohio State and a few dozen other schools in part because of that game. “One of the greatest atmospheres in college football. Nothing can really beat that.

“I think that can have an extremely positive effect on recruiting and all of that kind of stuff. It was a great atmosphere for myself. It was one of the reasons I came here. Not many places in the country can compete with what Penn State’s gonna bring on Saturday night.”

It figures to be the biggest recruiting weekend of the fall for the Lions, who are expected to host a handful of their top targets and a few who have already committed for the 2017 and 2018 signing classes.

Biggest crowd of season expected: Of course, there’s still a game to be played, too. It is expected to be the biggest crowd of the season and the student body’s Nittanyville tent village, which sets up outside of Beaver Stadium all week, has 667 campers registered.

As 20-point underdogs to the Buckeyes, the Lions State could use every bit of help they can get.

“We’re going to need the stadium to be the most difficult environment in the history of college football come Saturday night,” coach James Franklin said.

No pressure or anything.

Penn State hasn’t actually beaten Ohio State in Beaver Stadium since the program’s seminal win under the lights in 2005 that catapulted the program to its first Big Ten title in 11 years.

But the Lions have given the Buckeyes some heartburn in their first two trips to Happy Valley under Urban Meyer.

Back in 2012 in Bill O’Brien’s first year leading the Lions, Penn State struck first on a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone and went into halftime tied at 7-7. Ohio State used a last-minute touchdown to regain its footing before the break and Braxton Miller took over in the second half for a 35-23 win.

Two years later, it was Franklin’s first season and the Lions very nearly derailed the Bucks’ national championship hopes before falling 31-24 in double overtime.

“I wish,” Meyer deadpanned, “they saved the White Outs for other games. But I guess they used it for our game. It’s one of the top five atmospheres, again, in college football.”