Penn State preps for 'seismic event' at Saturday's 'Whiteout' game vs. Michigan

The (Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
The "Whiteout" game has become an annual tradition at Beaver Stadium. This year's "Whiteout" game is Saturday night against Michigan.

Penn State coach James Franklin spends 8 seconds in the Beaver Stadium tunnel immersing himself in the “Whiteout” before running onto the field. Those 8 seconds, he said, are overwhelming.

“You see it and you hear it," Franklin said, "but you literally feel it."

Michigan on Saturday will feel the Penn State “Whiteout” for the sixth time, more than any visiting team, when it visits Beaver Stadium. The Lions seek to go 7-0 for the first time under Franklin, so the “Whiteout” arrives at the right time.

Or does it? Penn State has a losing record in full-stadium “Whiteout” games (5-6) dating to the first in incarnation in 2007. That’s a result of playing ranked teams (nine straight) in the annual marquee home date. The Lions are 2-1 against Michigan in full-stadium “Whiteout” games since 2013.

Franklin makes plea: As a result, Franklin didn’t take long after last week’s win over Iowa to pivot toward Michigan. The coach always urges fans to fill Beaver Stadium, but this plea took on more urgency.

“We need that whole stadium and that town rocking like it’s never been rocking before,” Franklin said. I’m talking about vibrating. … I’m talking about it being a seismic event the entire weekend."

The game, which is sold out, should challenge the Beaver Stadium attendance record, which was set with the last two “Whiteout” games. In 2017, a record crowd of 110,823 watched Penn State defeat Michigan 42-13.

Ohio State’s 27-26 win over Penn State last year broke the record by 66 fans (110,889).

“I mean, what can we really get in there?” Franklin asked Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “Scott [deputy athletic director Scott Sidwell] says 112,000. And then I think another 300,000 tailgating, another 600,000 alumni watching all over the country and the world, and then hopefully we can recruit another 500,000, maybe borderline, Penn State fans that we can get on board with us this weekend.”

"College football at its finest:" Offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez said the “Whiteout” is “college football at its finest,” a point Franklin said impacts not only Saturday game but also the team’s future. From a recruiting point, the “Whiteout" has been the most important game of the year. Players who attend often are convinced to commit because of the experience.

Franklin called the “Whiteout” a bucket-list night for recruits and fans alike.

“I remember [former Penn State tight end] Jesse James saying, 'If you come to the ‘Whiteout,’ it’s almost impossible for you not to come to Penn State,” Franklin said. "It’s almost impossible. So yeah, it’s very important for our future.

“… I would challenge our fans to understand that they’re going to have a dramatic impact on the game on Saturday but they’re also going to have a dramatic impact on the future. … And this is a bucket-list place to go visit when it comes to college football.

“That’s important for visiting fans. So that when Michigan fans come here, they go back and tell everybody that Happy Valley and Penn State is one of my favorite places to travel and see an away game. Although we’d like to get it to the point where they can’t get tickets, but you understand the point I’m making.”

History of the “Whiteout"

2004*: Purdue 20, Penn State 13

2005*: Penn State 17, Ohio State 10

2006*: Michigan 17, Penn State 10

2007: Penn State 31, Notre Dame 10

2008: Penn State 38, Illinois 24

2009: Iowa 21, Penn State 10

2010*: Penn State 41, Michigan 31

2011: Alabama 27, Penn State 11

2012: Ohio State 35, Penn State 23

2013: Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT)

2014: Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT)

2015: Michigan 28, Penn State 16

2016: Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

2017: Penn State 42, Michigan 13

2018: Ohio State 27, Penn State 26

*Student-section only