Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Penn State

Fortunately many of my trips to Happy Valley have been successful. Those that weren't definitely were ones to forget. 1994 I experienced one of the worst losses against one of the best teams in Penn State history. Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter showed why they earned their all-Big Ten honors on the day they played the Hawkeyes. In 2007 the Nittany Lions played well on an unseasonably hot October day that kept Iowa from doing much of anything.

However every other time the Hawkeyes have come away very successful in one of college football's best-known stadiums, Beaver Stadium. And the first four of those wins had a common bond.

Rain wasn't the common denominator in those wins, but in 1996 it never stopped raining from the minute we stepped off the plane until taking the return trip. As you've read from earlier posts there are some stadiums that don't provide shelter from the elements for the end zone camera. Beaver Stadium was one of those at that time. Another make-shift booth was created atop a scoreboard that also housed the speaker system--the speaker system that always played the annoying Nittany Lion Roar. So not only did I have to put up with rain, but also a constant, "ROAR."

At the half in a close competitive game I was looking for any way to warm up. It was cold and damp and a hot chocolate seller wandered by. That was my best solution to feel better again, but the young man selling them couldn't keep the rain out and mine was cold and watered down. The highlight of the game was a Tim Dwight punt return for a touchdown and the Hawkeyes won 21-20. I placed the hot chocolate mug on a shelf in my office to remind me of the conditions.

In 2000 was our next trip. The odds were stacked against us as it was a rebuilding project for the Hawkeyes and head coach Kirk Ferentz, who signed his contract days before the game. He only had two career wins as the head coach of the black and gold.

It was another cool, autumn day for football. Nittany Lion fans weren't sure what they were watching, but they had expected to take care of the underrated Iowa team. My end zone location was different than the time before as renovations to the historic stadium were underway. I wasn't near the speakers, I was covered, but now I could touch the fans. At halftime I decided I would try the hot chocolate again and see if it had the same magic as 1996. And it did. The Hawkeyes won in double overtime and was the beginning of a very successful career for those from Iowa City. That mug made my office as well.

2002 was a different experience. It was one of the best football teams in Iowa history playing its first Big Ten game of the season. I knew what was on the line. A day where temps reached the 70s, would they be selling hot chocolate on this warm day? Or did they know of my streak with hot chocolate mugs? Iowa got out to an early lead and in the third led by as much as 35-13. Did I need to worry about hot chocolate on this day? As many Iowa fans know, I did. In the fourth quarter with the Nittany Lions storming back I had a student of mine run to the concession stand and buy me that hot chocolate. Despite another two overtime game, the hot chocolate mug won out and another Blue and White mug made its way back to Iowa City.

2004 was no different, but it was a cooler day-more appropriate of the drink. Another hot chocolate, another win. But the streak came to an end in 2007. I couldn't find one that day as temps rose into the 70s. It didn't matter as the Hawkeye didn't show much promise to overcome an early 20 point deficit and the Hawkeyes walked away from Beaver Stadium losers for the first time in over a decade.

The streak of the mug was fun while it lasted, but we since retired the tradition. The rains still are prevalent. A hard rain preceeded the 2009 matuch-up. That night it didn't matter. Penn State had one highlight from the night - the first play of the game. But after that it was all down hill and the Hawkeyes proved to a nationally televised audience it didn't need any superstitions. The better teams always wins, which were the Hawkeye on numerous

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