STATE COLLEGE — For the first time in nearly two years, fans will pour into Beaver Stadium today for No. 11 Penn State’s home opener.
Earlier this summer, Penn State (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) officials announced a return to full-capacity crowds at athletic events. On Tuesday, Penn State Deputy director of athletics Scott Sidwell said only 4,000 tickets remained available for the game against Ball State from the Mid-American Conference — and they were going quickly.
“It’s huge to me, being that it’s my senior year,” Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson said Wednesday about the return of fans. “One of the best fan bases in the country. It’s a major opportunity for me, for my teammates who haven’t experienced that. I can’t wait.”
While Dotson and Penn State’s other veteran players have competed in front of fans inside of the 107,000-seat stadium, the experience will be a first for freshmen, redshirt freshmen and transfers.
Penn State during fall camp had a couple of scrimmages inside Beaver Stadium with the hopes of giving players a feel for the experience.
Last week’s season-opener at Wisconsin gave new players a taste of what to expect from a game day, but eighth-year Penn State coach James Franklin said playing at home brings some challenges.
He mentioned ticket requests from friends and family, and lodging recommendations as things players and coaches deal with during home weekends.
“When you’re at home, there are just more of those things on their plate,” Franklin said this week. “We have a higher percentage of friends and families in town, and if you’re not careful, as a young player, those things can be a distraction.”
In highlighting just how new the experience will be for Penn State’s newer players, Franklin shared part of a conversation he recently had with a Nittany Lions player.
“One of the guys was just asking me about the pregame music, and I’m like, ‘That’s not on my responsibilities,'” Franklin said with a laugh.
Somewhat lost in this week’s pregame buildup is that the Ball State (1-0) game will also mark the first time five Penn State assistants will coach before a full-capacity home crowd.
Since January 2020, the Nittany Lions have added Phil Trautwein (offensive line), Taylor Stubblefield (wide receivers), John Scott Jr. (defensive line), Anthony Poindexter (safeties, co-defensive coordinator) and Mike Yurcich (offensive coordinator) to the staff.
“I’m like the rookies. I have no idea what to expect, how it works out, getting off the bus and walking through the tunnel, and all that kind of stuff,” Scott said. “I’m excited. When I took this job, that’s all people talked about, ‘Man, you’re going to feel the game-day environment. You’re going to feel the crowd. You’re going to feel State College.'”
Penn State has dubbed the game its "107K Family Reunion," a nod to the much-anticipated gathering.
“I’ve been waiting all year for our fans to get back out there,” Dotson said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1).
Ball State at No. 11 Penn State
When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Beaver Stadium
Last meeting/series history: This is the first meeting between the programs
TV/radio/: FOX SPORTS 1; WKOK 1070AM
No. 11 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Penn State will not release depth charts this season.
BALL STATE (1-0, 0-0 Mid-American Conference)
Ball State has not released a depth chart this week.