July 23, 2010

10 Minutes Or Less: 2002 Penn State vs. Nebraska

Ah, my freshman year of college: It's a time that I fondly look back upon as it invokes memories such as meeting people that I still call 'friends' to this very day, discovering the joys of beer, and 'Wal-Mart runs' which consisted of a few friends and I getting dropped off at a local Wal-Mart that was several miles away from campus, buying a whole bunch of cheap DVD's, and then walking back to campus in the dark through these creepy backwoods while debating about which one of us would die first if we were in a horror film.

What really causes me to look back fondly on my freshman year though, was the fact that it was during the same season where on a muggy September night, Penn State annihilated a 7th-ranked Nebraska squad 40-7 on national television, sparking a (what nobody thought at the time) brief return to PSU's winning ways after suffering back-to-back losing seasons. It's one of the few memories from the Dark Years that I haven't tried like hell to erase from my mind and remains my favorite non-2005 Ohio State Beaver Stadium memory.

While the players merely saw this game as an opportunity to prove their worth to a national TV audience in primetime, the fans took things a little more personally. You see, this was the first time Penn State and Nebraska met after that controversial 1994 season where the Huskers were handed both the AP and Coaches Poll national titles instead of having them rightfully split between the two schools. "Fuck Nebraska"chants were highly audible from the student section and while I don't flinch at college kids cursing an opposing team, I was rather appalled by their behavior post-game. Everywhere I walked there was some jackass getting in the faces of Nebraska fans and yelling Go back to Lincoln! and other incendiary comments that were more expletive-laced. It was a moment where I began to realize that PSU's fan base (at least, the students) were no classier than any other school's, especially considering they were doing this to arguably the nicest group of opposing fans in the country.

I could go into a barrage of details on the game itself but that would take away focus from the video. Instead, here's some things to look for in the video:

  • "Operation Visine." Still a few years away from the advent of White-Outs, the athletic department encouraged PSU fans to wear blue in order to combat the well-traveled Nebraska fans' "Sea of Red." Certainly, images of Nebraska's trip to Notre Dame in 2000 had to have been haunting Tim Curley in his sleep.
  • Zack Mills back when he could throw the ball well. He was still a month away from suffering a shoulder injury at Wisconsin where he would never be the same passer ever again.

  • Larry Johnson starting to show flashes of what would turn out to become a record-setting year for him (i.e. the first and only Penn Stater to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season)

  • America being introduced to Michael Robinson, followed by Bob Griese claiming the kid will never play quarterback. Griese was right, as usual...

  • Karma biting Nebraska in the ass, two plays after the refs nullified a fumble recovery TD by Michael Haynes from Nebraska QB Jamaal Lord by ruling it an 'incomplete pass,' Rich Gardner turned an overthrown pass by Lord into a pick-six that blew the game wide open. It was easily one of the most electric moments I've personally experienced in all my years attending games at the Beav. This also occurred before the stadium security began cracking down on people in the student section who created a hailstorm of nachos and water/soda after every touchdown. I was fortunate enough to be sitting only seven rows away from the field, so I only took a few drops of water to my shirt. Others probably weren't as lucky...

  • 110,753 fans setting a Beaver Stadium record for attendance and probably breaking several fire codes in the process. It's a record that I should add, still stands to this very day.

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  1. There was just an Operation Visine... no Code Blue.

    My favorite game ever.

  2. Elsen: It's neck-and-neck between this game and 05 OSU if you ask me. I slightly favor 05 OSU given the circumstances surrounding the program at the time (i.e. First 5-0 start since the pre-Dark Years, upsetting a Top 10 Buckeye team in primetime and showing the country we truly were back).

    Brett: Thanks for the correction. I remember reading about the athletic department hyping up a "Sea of Blue" for the game, but that's obviously not the same as "Code Blue."

  3. The murderer gets a highlight, but no David Kimball lighting up the returner on the kickoff???

    Still nice to see this as one of the 10min or less. Keep these coming.

  4. I could watch that 1st drive of the second half all day long (and I can because I have the DVD!).

    And that crowd explosion when Gardner picked the ball... that was infinitely louder than Lowry's interception or Hali's strip-sack. I'll go to my grave believing/knowing that.

  5. Right after that Rich Gardner pick-six, a D-lineman wearing '94 comes to celebrate.

    Yeah, I meant to use the apostrophe.

  6. Wow...this brought back excellent memories. Mills was such a babyface...lol

    My Brother from Nebraska drove up to watch this and spent the night mad as hell...lol

    This reminded me of the '99 game vs. Arizona (which I happened to enjoy from the field as security) and the chants of "overrated" that flurried about.

    Good times!

  7. As a Nebraska fan, I was less upset that Penn State demolished my beloved Huskers than the behavior of the fans. I heard people tell my brother and I to "Go back to Middle America" all day. Then, as I was walking back to my car to get something before the game started, somebody hit me with a horseshoe. A freakin horseshoe! When I turned around, everybody seemed to feel this was a tolerable act. Needless to say, I moved on without saying a word.
    The Beavers were the better team, that's for sure. The 2003 game was amazing, and I look forward to renewing the rivalry this year in Happy Valley. I just REALLY hope the fans are better.

  8. Sorry to hear that, Nathan. I can assure you that not all PSU fans are like that. Sure, we've got the belligerent assholes that think doing stuff like throw a horseshoe at an opposing fan is cool/funny/OK, just like I'm sure there are Nebraska (and Ohio State and Michigan and on and on) fans that have done stupid stuff.

    I look forward to meeting the Huskers yearly from now on; next time you're in Happy Valley, let us know and we can (hopefully) steer you in the right direction.

  9. Nathan,

    I remember walking towards downtown after the game and seeing similar behavior to what you were describing. It made me sick as a PSU fan to see that type of treatment being given to Husker fans. I regret not speaking out against such behavior when I saw it happen. I hope that everyone is far better behaved when Nebraska comes back to the Beav in November and that if you choose to come again, you will receive better treatment.