Football vs. Michigan, team entrance and fireworks

Fireworks shoot off the top of the scoreboard as Penn State players take the field before the game against Michigan at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 19, 2019. The No. 7 Nittany Lions defeated the No. 16 Wolverines, 28-21.

When things are operating normally, there’s always some type of sport going on in Happy Valley.

Whether it’s a Saturday in Beaver Stadium or a midweek 9 p.m. game in the Bryce Jordan Center, sports fans always have something to do when they have some free time.

Coming into school as an out-of-state student without knowing anybody else, one thing was certain — there would always be sports to keep me company.

Penn State sports are second to none, and a few specific games stand out in the few months I was able to witness them first hand.

Below is my ranking of the top-5 games I attended during my freshman year at Penn State.

Men’s basketball versus Maryland-Eastern Shore

This game wasn’t very interesting in terms of competition, but it was my introduction to Nittany Lion basketball.

Lamar Stevens and company were coming off a 14-18 campaign in which they lost 13 conference matchups.

This season, however, was a far cry from last year’s ugly finish. The Nittany Lions were primed to make the NCAA Tournament and had one of the best seasons in Penn State history.

The Nittany Lions’ season-opener against Maryland-Eastern Shore was the first time I had seen the team with my own eyes. Oh man, did they impress.

From that point forward, I knew Penn State would at least be an exciting team to keep an eye on. I didn’t think the season would turn out the way it did, though.

But more on that later.

Men's Basketball vs. Maryland Eastern Shore, Seth Lundy (1)

Forward Seth Lundy (1) tries to dribble past Maryland Eastern Shore defense during the men’s basketball game at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Penn State won 84-46.

Football versus Buffalo

Just a week after a 79-7 rout of Idaho, James Franklin and his team were in deep trouble at halftime against an undermatched opponent.

Down 10-7 at the intermission, Penn State was reeling in the confines of Beaver Stadium.

Running into the locker room, the team was booed by its own fans. Something needed to change, and quickly if the Nittany Lions wanted to avoid an early-season upset.

Making it to the game three hours before kickoff, I somehow secured a front-row seat even though I wasn’t a member of Nittanyville.

A handful of students started to leave at halftime, expecting Penn State to lose to the Bulls and ultimately mar the 2019 season just two games in. I stuck around, simply because I had nothing better to do with my Saturday night.

And I’m really glad I did.

The second half was the best half of football Penn State played all season, going on a 38-3 run to pick up its second win of the young campaign.

Seeing around 100,000 people cheer on their team against a MAC opponent was eye-opening. The first true contest of the 2019 season, this game showed me just how beneficial the home-field advantage was and always will be for the Nittany Lions.

Buffalo, Pat Freiermuth (87)

Tight end Pat Freiermuth (87) celebrates earning a touchdown during the game against Buffalo at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Penn State defeated Buffalo 45-13.

Men’s basketball versus Minnesota

Entering its Saturday noon game against the Golden Gophers in the BJC, Penn State was riding a five-game Big Ten win streak that included two wins over ranked opponents.

In other words, fans were getting very excited for Nittany Lion basketball.

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In front of 15,261 fans, Penn State avoided a second-half meltdown to eventually defeat Minnesota 83-77.

Having gone to numerous college basketball games in the past, I have experienced some crazy crowds — this one takes the cake as craziest.

Every fan packed into the BJC was making noise, causing one of the loudest experiences of my life and one that I will not soon forget.

If I had to choose one men’s basketball game to relive, it wouldn’t be the upset of Maryland or the nail-biter against Rutgers. It would be this one against Minnesota, the day that the BJC was the loudest it has ever been.

Penn State Men's Basketball Vs. Minnesota, Brockington (12) Jumps for ball against Carr (5) and Omersa (21)

Izaiah Brockington (12, SO, G) jumps for the ball against Minnesota's Marcus Carr (5, So, G) and Jarvis Omersa (21, SO, F) during Penn State's game against Minnesota at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. The No. 22 Nittany Lions defeated the Golden Gophers, 83-77.

Men’s lacrosse against Yale

A game that isn’t basketball or football? Crazy, I know.

Penn State men’s lacrosse has been one of the best teams on campus for the past couple of years, and its game against Yale this past season was the most star-studded affair in the history of Panzer Stadium.

Two of the best teams in the nation, the Nittany Lions were the No. 1 team in college lacrosse while Yale sat at No. 3 in the poll.

This game was going to be a battle.

Unlike the other games on this list, I was covering this game as a member of The Daily Collegian’s men’s lacrosse beat.

Sitting in the press box, I was able to witness the back-and-forth tilt from an angle in which I could see all the action — and there was a lot of it.

Ultimately losing 12-10, the Nittany Lions used a late push to put the Bulldogs on their toes. This game wasn’t really over until the final buzzer sounded, a testament to both teams’ willingness to keep fighting.

As I walked down into the stands making my way to postgame interviews, I saw fans of both teams giving a standing ovation while the players were shaking hands. This really put it into perspective for me — this was one of the most competitive and entertaining games I’ll see in my time as a student.

Penn State Men's Lacross Vs Yale, Funk (47) Collides with Yale"s Soelberg (2)

Penn State defender Brett Funk (47) collides with Yale's Logan Soelberg (2) during the lacrosse game on Saturday, Feb 22, 2020 at Panzer Stadium.

Football versus Michigan

The Penn State White Out. Need I say more?

The most riveting sight in all of college athletics, this year’s iteration of the biggest home game of the year was worth every penny of the expensive season tickets I was forced to buy.

As soon as Michigan’s offense trotted onto the field, everyone in the audience could see where this game was heading.

Having to take a timeout, the first play of scrimmage for the Wolverines exemplified what the White Out is: a raucous crowd of 114,000 people inhibiting the away team’s performance.

Sitting in the bottom of the stands once again, I was in awe when I turned around to see if the student section had filled up yet. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be in the same place at the same time with so many people. It’s simply too difficult to put into words.

Let’s be honest, though. Next year’s White Out against Ohio State will likely be even crazier and louder. Be sure to get those season tickets, even if it means waking up at 6:30 a.m. on a random summer day.

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