STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – In his seven seasons as Ohio State’s head coach, Urban Meyer brought the Buckeyes to Penn State four times, when more than 110,000 fans were bathed in white and the decibel level left one’s ears ringing for days.
Meyer’s team managed to win three of the four games at the “White Out.” Even so, now that he’s stepped away from coaching and doing television, he doesn’t miss Happy Valley.
“The best thing about the ‘White Out’ is that I don’t have to be there this week,” Meyer said this week on the Big Ten Network. “I think it’s the toughest environment in the country.
“There’s no getting used to it. Once you’re in that thing, it’s awful. It’s the toughest place to go play a game.”
That’s just the way Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin and his fans like it. Saturday night’s game between the seventh-ranked Lions and No. 16 Michigan will mark the ninth straight season that a ranked opponent will be on the opposite sideline for the “White Out.”
Franklin has said he wants the noise level to be “seismic” and hopes Penn State fans “can create an environment here that’s the toughest environment in all of college football.
“I tell people, I’ll have that eight seconds where I’m standing there in the tunnel and you see it and you hear it, but you literally feel it,” he said. “You literally feel it. I’ll enjoy that eight seconds and then you run out and you’re so consumed doing your job from that point on, it’s kind of hard.”
It’s harder for the opposition, especially on offense. The crowd cranks up the noise to try to disrupt the visitors’ communication, and the Lions defense enjoys it.
“Everybody is really loud,” defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said. “For me, that really helps. For this defense, that really helps because you can’t hear anybody next to you, in front of you or behind you.
“We’re just communicating. You can always give hand signals to the guy next to you. That’s what we do on the defensive line. If you don’t get the call, you just signal over to your brother.”
The previous 11 full-stadium “White Out” games have had their share of memorable moments, perhaps no two as outstanding as the four-overtime game against Michigan in 2013, won 43-40 by the Lions, and the 2016 contest where Penn State’s Grant Haley returned a blocked punt 60 yards for a late touchdown and a 24-21 victory over Ohio State.
The thrills haven’t all gone the Lions’ way. They are 5-6 in “White Out” games and seek to square the ledger Saturday night.
The day kicks off with ESPN’s College GameDay from the HUB Lawn on campus, the seventh time the popular show has originated from Penn State.