This past weekend, eleven of my friends and I packed the cars with everything blue and white that we owned, hit the road, and braved the trip all the way out to the Big House at the University of Michigan for what may be Penn State’s most anticipated away game of the year (not counting the potential bowl game). After a quadruple overtime victory during Homecoming weekend last year under the lights of Beaver Stadium, it was going to be really hard for this game –really ANY game–to top the previous year’s, but we were hopeful. Unfortunately we didn’t come out as the victors. Penn State fell short on the field, and between the combination of a rough game and some bad calls, we found ourselves leaving Ann Arbor disappointed. Despite the loss, I had a very positive away game experience and I wouldn’t trade that weekend road trip for the world.
My friends and I had been planning to travel to Michigan for well over a year and we were excited to make the plan a reality. After traveling to Ohio State for a tough defeat last year, we were determined to have a better away game experience– especially those of us who would be graduating in the spring. We found a cheap hotel ($36 per person for 2 nights) in Toledo, OH, which is about 6 hours from Happy Valley and a 50 minute drive from Ann Arbor. This definitely saved money staying a little further away from the stadium. On the way to the stadium, we stopped at a grocery store and all chipped in to buy food for tailgating ($10 per person). Other costs included tailgate parking ($40 per car), gas (~$100 per car), and tickets ($75 each). We ordered our tickets through Stub Hub, although Penn State does sell tickets to students for away games. In total, I spent about $160 for the weekend, which is a pretty good budget in my opinion for such an elaborate road trip. You can definitely find other ways to cut down costs for away games if you’re interested in going as a student!
I was impressed by the sportsmanship of Michigan’s fans. They were very welcoming, and the number of friendly interactions seemed to outnumber the negative. At one point, we were tailgating and ran out of propane for our grill and some Michigan fans gave us some of theirs. Any time that you enter another school’s territory, there is always apprehension about the rivalry and how fans will handle it, but interactions with Michigan fans seemed to all be in good competitive spirit– before, during, and after the game. After we had lost, their fans didn’t try to add insult to injury at all.
The Big House
This may seem incredibly redundant, but my first thought as I entered the Big House was, “Wow, this is big.” From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but the layout is completely different than the tall climbing structure of Beaver Stadium. I knew that it was the largest stadium in the U.S. and the third largest in the world, but I was surprised that it seemed so much larger than Beaver Stadium, which is 2nd largest in the U.S. and fourth largest in the world. The layout I was blown away when they announced the attendance as 113,085– this was only the 8th highest attendance that Michigan Stadium has ever seen. Something that I really liked about the crowd atmosphere was how the entire stadium was given yellow shakers– it really made the whole stadium unified. The strange part was that despite the size and attendance, it wasn’t nearly as loud as Penn State. No matter where you are in Beaver Stadium, when there’s a kickoff or any kind of cheer, it becomes absolutely deafening. Michigan fans just weren’t nearly as loud. One of my favorite parts was seeing the different songs, chants, cheers, and traditions that students at Michigan take part in, although they did not have nearly as many. Every time there was a successful drive, their band and student section would break out into their fight song, “The Victors,” which sings, “Hail,” over and over again. It got very repetitive after the first quarter alone. I enjoy the variety of Penn State. With fight songs alone, we have “Fight On State”, but we also have “The Nittany Lion,” “Victory,” and our beloved Alma Mater, among others. Not to mention popular traditions like Zombie Nation, Seven Nation Army, POWER, Sweet Caroline, slow wave, cow bell, and tossing girls for touchdowns to add to the fun mix of things. The Michigan student section was certainly impressive and well represented, but it lacked a certain unrivaled spark that Penn State’s has. It made me appreciate being part of Penn State’s student section even more. Michigan did a phenomenal job on their halftime show. To add excitement to the night game atmosphere, they turned out all the lights in the stadium so it was entirely dark. All around the stadium, people had yellow and blue flashing glasses which lit up the stadium, creating the effect of being at a Coldplay concert. It looked amazing, and to top it all off, their band performed a light show with giant glowing spheres and light up equipment.
Penn State Proud
Going to an away football game is something that I recommend every Penn Stater do at least once. It offers a unique perspective on other schools’ history and traditions– especially if you have the chance to visit another school in the B1G. Being the away team offers a glimpse at a different side of pride and teaches many valuable lessons about sportsmanship and the competitive spirit. Most of all, being in another stadium really makes you appreciate the spirit of Penn State. There truly is no place that I would rather be on a Saturday than Beaver Stadium, and nobody else I’d rather be with than my 107,000 closest friends all decked out in blue and white. It’s absolutely unrivaled.
Check out my video about my road trip experience and Invasion of the Big House!!