Week 5 - Penn State at Illinois

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
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Trip End Nov 26, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jason is a Penn State grad, so this is actually the first game where either of us have a real rooting interest other than for the team of whoever we went to the game with. Since it didn't look like we were going to make it to Happy Valley on the trip, Illinois seemed like as good a place as any to catch a Penn State game. This was a bit of a weird away game this year, for obvious reasons. That being said, I only heard one thing negative said about Penn State the whole day, and that was the guy behind us telling about a t-shirt he saw with a tasteless joke on it. We sat right behind the Penn State band, which would have been an obvious target, but I didn't hear anything at all. Kudos to the Illinois fans for staying classy.

Stadium - Memorial Stadium is pretty boxy looking from the outside. It was built as a Memorial to the Illinois soldiers who died in WW I. Their names are on the columns on the East and West sides of the building. It's a fairly old stadium. It opened in 1923, and Red Grange was on the first team to play there. There have been some recent improvements made, but it still has a way to go to catch up with the other stadiums in the Big 10 and beyond. Rating - 5 of 10.

Tailgating - It seems to be a midwestern trend so far, but the tailgating at Illinois was pretty good. There was quite a bit of parking for tailgating near the stadium, and the parking lots were full of footballs flying and bratwurst cooking. It was an 11:00am kickoff, but that didn't seem to put a damper on the tailgating. They also had some stuff set up for kids to do, which was a nice touch. Rating - 7 of 10.

The Game - We actually expected a closer game with both teams not looking very good thus far this season. However, Penn State dominated from the time Illinois fumbled the first punt of the game. Illinois kept hurting themselves with mistakes, including an offsides on a Penn State field goal, which eventually led to a touchdown. The outcome wasn't really in question after halftime, and Penn State ended up winning 35-7. Rating - 3 of 10.

The Band - There is a bonus this week, since the Penn State band was there, too. Since they played first, I'll start with them.

Penn State - The Penn State band performed fairly well at the halftime show. They did a Wizard of Oz theme for their halftime show, and it was pretty good. They sounded good, but their marching was a bit off, especially since I suspect that this is the same show they played at the last home game (this is what we did when I was at Iowa State). There is one thing about them that bothered me, though, both as a former marching band member and as a Penn State grad. I wouldn't have noticed this if I hadn't sat directly behind the band, so maybe the following criticism is a bit unfair. But, here you go. They played a lot between plays, which is great, but a few of them seemed to feel like it was optional whether they played or not. Three of the trombone players in the back row only played about half the time, and 4-5 other band members moved to the row behind the trombones and didn't even bring their instruments. They were definitely in the minority, as most of the band played throughout the whole game. But, my feeling about these few people is that if you don't want to participate, why join the band in the first place? Rating - 7 of 10

Illinois - The Illinois band was really good. They did some very complicated marching, including some crazy pinwheels to start the show off, while keeping a rich, full sound the whole time. They also did a great job of holding formation through all the craziness. Nice work. Rating - 9 of 10

Fans - There are a lot of factors that go into rating the fans. First and foremost is how they treat the fans from the opposing team. Other factors include how well they support their own team in a positive manner, how much yelling and complaining there is, and whether or not they know when to cheer (when their defense is on the field) and when to keep quiet (when their offense is on the field). As far as we could tell, the Illinois fans were very respectful of the Penn State fans and marching band. I also didn't hear any negative yelling at the team or the refs from where we were sitting. We didn't hear a lot of positive yelling, either. I can only recall one time after the first Penn State touchdown where the Illinois fans seemed fired up, and that was on a 4th down play deep in Illinois territory. There seemed to be a lot of apathy. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the stadium was half empty. We did notice, though, that as we were leaving the stadium at the end of the game the tailgating parking lots were full of people. Rating - 5 of 10

Best Player - The easy part of this is eliminating anybody from the Illinois team. As for Penn State, there were three players with standout performances. QB Matt McGloin had a pretty decent day with 211 yards passing for 1 TD and no interceptions to go along with 2 rushing touchdowns. RB Zach Zwinak ran for 100 yards and 2 TDs. But the player of the game has to go to LB Michael Mauti. He picked off two passes, including one for a 99-yard return to preserve a 21-0 lead going into halftime. (Notice I said preserve...he got tripped up at the 1-yard line with one second left on the clock, and the field goal was blocked.)

Overall - This was a pretty good experience. It was actually the first game where all four of us went. The weather was great, the hotel was a 15 minute walk from the stadium, and the Illinois fans were fun to be around. Unfortunately, the game wasn't very close, but it was still a good day. Rating - 6 of 10
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