I tried to let my feelings settle from my trip to Penn State before typing this blog up. A week passed, and yet, the buzz still very much occupies my mind. Much like the inaugural season of #SendJayAway in 2022 – being able to visit Happy Valley for the White Out made for one of those bucket list trips that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’ll dive into the full trip at some point but the focus of this blog is the tailgate and the game. I can’t wait to tell y’all all about.
After taking it easy Friday night, we awoke Saturday morning with the goal of maximizing our tailgating experience in State College. To that end, we made it to our parking spot by 9:45 a.m. What time was kickoff set for you ask? 7:30 at night.
It didn’t matter that Central Pennsylvania was experiencing the remnants of a tropical storm – fans from all over the state and beyond gathered to pregame one of the must-attend moments in all of sports. And the revelry, as with any college football game, starts with a proper tailgate.
The Set Up
My gracious host Jake (also my co-host of Apollo’s College Football Podcast – the Get Back Coach) had filled me in on how the tailgating scene worked at Penn State but I don’t think I was fully prepared for the scale of the undertaking.
When we rolled into Lot 34 with a caravan of six vehicles, the moment we stopped the unloading process began. Tents to get out of the elements, generators to provide power, cooking essentials, and of course coolers were hastily unloaded.
In some places, paid tailgates that don’t require you to work tend to be more commonplace.
The operation I participated in at Penn State flew in the face of that trend and I loved every second of it.
The DIY aspect only added to the atmosphere, making you truly feel at home. Sure, it may save time to pay for someone to set up your tailgate – but a true tailgate takes work. Like with the DVA Tailgate at LSU, this crew poured their heart into it.
We kicked off things on the food front with a bit of pizza and breakfast sandwiches to set a base for a marathon day. Not long after that sandwich, beer consuming commenced.
After getting a few brews in, Jake led the way on a tour around some more of the Tailgate lots. Many of the tailgating lots surrounding ours possessed similar vibes. Folks continued to roll into the parking lots, unload with a surprising amount of efficiency, and begin tailgating.
After making our way back towards the road, we crossed into one of the RV lots where I immediately had flashbacks to the Talladega infield. That level of sheer degeneracy may not have been reached by the Penn State RV tailgates, but the energy felt tangible in a similar fashion. To see rows upon rows of RVs lined up just added to my excitment for kickoff.
We circled further towards the stadium and visited our buddy Joe at some of the paid tailgates before heading back to our base at Lot 34. More beverage consumption occurred. From Flip Cup to Thunderstruck, the tailgate games kept the energy high into the late stages of the marathon. Suddenly, I glanced at my phone and realized the time to walk to Happy Valley was upon us.
Beaver Stadium in White Out Conditions
WE ARE… pic.twitter.com/Z5lb8kl7bL— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) September 24, 2023
I count myself immeasurably lucky to find myself among those who played in some of the best venues in sports. Texas A&M’s Kyle Field and LSU’s Tiger Stadium stand a tier above most stadiums. However, with my visit to Happy Valley for the White Out, adding another stadium to that tier felt like a no-brainer.
From the moment you step into Beaver Stadium for the White Out, you can’t help but be in awe of the moment. Hundreds of thousands of diehard Nittany Lions all clad in white. Truthfully, I think the rainy conditions that led to an almost misty view only added to the mystique.
From the first defensive snap, the Nittany Lion faithful responded to the call. With rain falling, the crowd noise was deafening. A wall of sound forced the Iowa struggling offense to cope with a hostile environment. In turn, the Penn State defense fed off of and fed into the rabid Penn State supporters only amplifying the electricity of the environment – a positive feedback loop that led to a dominant Penn State victory. For not a moment was the result in doubt. The Nittany Lions battered the Iowa Hawkeyes from pillar to post.
The Walk Back
And so it was with the mist continuing to swirl that we headed down the steps and made our way back to the car that I soaked in those last few moments in Happy Valley. Gazing from the terrace back out towards the lots, I couldn’t help but bask in one of the best tailgates and game experiences I’ve had the fortune to take in over the course of my life.
Though the wait to exit the lot may have taken longer than I would have liked, I could have nothing for gratitude for what should be a bucket list item for any fan of sports. Beaver Stadium immediately vaulted to the top of my sporting experiences. State College was an absolute gem and I can’t wait to journey back for another Penn State game – and believe me I will be back. Thank you to Jake and the rest of the crew for the incredible hospitality. The White Out lived up to the hype and then some.