The kind of “out” students have at Beaver Stadium doesn’t matter to Bill O’Brien. He just wants fans to come out and cheer on the Nittany Lions.
Penn State faces No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, and there has been a student whiteout organized for the game.
“The crowd noise, the student section, these guys feed off of that,” O’Brien said. “So whether it’s a whiteout, this-out, that-out, I don’t know. I just need them in the stands at noon going nuts for this football team because we have got to have a great home field advantage.”
With this week being Homecoming on top of a student whiteout against an undefeated and ranked opponent, Saturday’s contest has turned into one of the more prominent games in the Big Ten this weekend.
Northwestern has started the 2012 campaign with five straight victories, including a 15-point win against Indiana in the team’s Big Ten opener last week. Meanwhile, Penn State has shaken off a 0-2 start to win three games in a row, including its first conference game last week at Illinois.
A victory would keep Penn State atop the Big Ten Leaders Division, and junior linebacker Glenn Carson called the game against the Wildcats a “must win.”
“I have been around for two seasons, and I know what the big game feel is, and this is definitely a big game,” Carson said. “We are all really focused for this game, and it is a must win. We are really looking forward to playing this game, and it’s absolutely one of the biggest games that I ever played in.”
Northwestern is the first-ranked opponent the Lions have faced this season, and if they can manage a victory Saturday, it will snap their current seven-game losing streak to ranked teams.
The Wildcats are fueled by an offense that scores 33.8 points per game and led by junior quarterback Kain Colter. Northwestern went off for 704 yards last week against Indiana, and Penn State defenders are focusing on a way to slow down Colter — who lines up at both quarterback and wide receiver — and the rest of the team’s offense.
On the other side of the ball, sophomore running back Bill Belton said a good defense against the Wildcats might be a good offense.
“Northwestern has a high-powered offense, so it is definitely important for us to control the ball and kind of slow them down a bit to give our defense a break,” Belton said. “Going into this weekend, we basically have a gameplan to help our defense out.”
Penn State’s defense has allowed 13.6 points per game, fewer than any of Northwestern’s first five opponents. During the Lions’ winning streak, they have given up nine points per game compared to allowing 20.5 points per contest in their two losses.
And even though it’s been nothing but wins for the last three weeks, Carson said he will not soon forget those two blemishes on the schedule.
“It’s keeping us hungry and, although we have a three-game streak here, we’re still hungry and upset about those two losses in the beginning,” Carson said. “That’s what makes us a team. We still think about those two losses in a sense that we should have won those two games. We’re upset about it, and we’re trying to make up for it and win.”