On Sept. 3, we'll find out just how explosive the newest addition to the Big East will be against Bradley's awe-inspiring Penn State defense. Kickoff time against South Florida is at 3:30 p.m. The evening before (Sept. 2), the equally awe-inspiring Football Eve at Beaver Stadium will be held. This second annual event will feature festivities outside the stadium starting at 6:30 p.m. and events inside—including a pep rally with Coach Joe Paterno—beginning at 8 p.m.
After a 4-7 season last year—albeit ending on a high note with back-to-back victories against Indiana and Michigan State—the 2005 Nittany Lions will have a different look and feel. For one thing, Paterno broke with tradition and showed off a couple of his highly touted freshmen recruits—Derrick Williams and Justin King—during the spring Blue White Game and at speaking engagements this summer. For another, the quarterback situation has been resolved for months—it'll be Michael Robinson ("MRob") running the show.
Personally speaking, I'm as jazzed about Penn State football as I've ever been, and I've been in the stands since the 1950s when my dad would take me to games at old Beaver Field. The players I've chatted with briefly over the summer—co-captains Paul Posluszny, Alan Zemaitis, and Michael Robinson, as well as Matthew Rice and Anwar Phillips—are determined to turn things around. They want to restore "The Winning Tradition" to our great University and cap the season with a bowl victory. I'm convinced they will. I've told them the Penn State Alumni Association is 1,000 percent behind them this season, and they are grateful for our loyalty.
As Penn State football begins its 119th season, we can show our support, once again, by coming to the games in droves and cheering our beloved Nittany Lions on to victory. As I write this, individual game tickets are still available for six home games (Ohio State is sold out) and can be purchased at www.GoPSUsports.com or by calling 800-833-5533.
Like Bradley, we can take nothing for granted this season—and certainly not the first three non-conference games. We want our alumni in the stands for our second Big East opponent, Cincinnati, on Sept. 10 (noon kickoff) and Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan, on Sept. 17 (3:30 p.m. kickoff). September weather in Happy Valley is generally beautiful, and the first three home games provide a wonderful opportunity to stroll around campus and see the incredible new buildings, several of which are just opening this month. And while you're at it, walk over to the Hintz Family Alumni Center and enjoy our newly completed Alumni Gardens.
If you can make it to the Big Ten opener against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., on Sept. 24, we'd love to see you there. The Penn State Alumni Association will be out in force, holding our first pep rally of the season. We'll be located in the Blue-and-White tent on the Peter N. Jans Community Golf Course (two blocks from Ryan Field), 1031 Central Street, Evanston. With cheerleaders, the pep band, Penn State President Graham Spanier, and more, we'll get you fired up before the Nittany Lions muzzle the Wildcats. Our tent opens three hours before kickoff time, which has not yet been announced.
Our Big Ten home opener takes place on Oct. 1, versus Minnesota, and it's time for some payback, big time. We haven't beaten the Gophers since 1998, but this year's victory will reverse that unfortunate trend.
Ohio State comes to Beaver Stadium on Oct. 8, with kickoff at 7 p.m. or 7:45 p.m. for this nationally televised contest (start time depends on whether the game will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPN, respectively). The Buckeyes are loaded with talent again this year and, as Ohio State's alumni magazine will tell you, are gunning for the Big Ten and national championships.
Then the Nittany Lions are off to Ann Arbor for what should be an epic clash in the Big House on Oct. 15. Rolling back onto our schedule after a two-year absence, the Michigan Wolverines will be in contention for conference and national titles as well. The Penn State Alumni Association will hold a pep rally in the Blue-and-White tent on the University of Michigan golf course (between holes one and nine, adjacent to the clubhouse along State Street). Again, we'll open the tent three hours before kickoff.
The following week offers another road game, in Champaign against the Fighting Illini, who like Michigan have come back onto the schedule after a two-year hiatus. Of interest here is their new coach, Ron Zook, who was deposed by the Florida Gators after a 23-14 three-year tenure. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., which means our Blue-and-White pep rally tent opens at 4 p.m. We'll be located conveniently at the corner of Kirby Avenue and First Street, about 1,000 feet from Memorial Stadium's west side.
Purdue comes to town for Homecoming on Oct. 29. The evening before features the annual Homecoming Parade, and we are hoping for a really big turnout from our chapters and affiliate groups. After the Homecoming Parade, we will hold a thank-you event in the Hintz Family Alumni Center for returning alums who marched in the parade. You may recall that last year Purdue nipped us 20-13 in Beaver Stadium, so we have serious business to transact on the gridiron. Kickoff time has yet to be announced.
The following week, Nov. 5, brings the Wisconsin Badgers to town. This is Coach Barry Alvarez's last year, as he will retire from coaching after 16 seasons and three Rose Bowl wins at Wisconsin. In addition to a Nittany Lion victory, the game's other highlight will come at halftime when the Alumni Association's Alumni Council will be recognized on the field.
After a week off, the season wraps up against Michigan State on Nov. 19 in East Lansing. As the two schools are celebrating their 150th anniversaries (chartered within 10 days of each other in February 1855), our College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society is taking a contingent out to celebrate with MSU's ag alumni, as part of an event called "Autumn Fest." We'll be doing our pep rally three hours before the game, but this one will have some Sesquicentennial twists before our two teams compete for the land-grant trophy. The coveted cup is in Penn State's possession, resulting from our 37-13 stomping of the Spartans last year.
As I look at it, we start the season with a two-game winning streak, dating back to our goal-line stand at Indiana last November. With the support of our alumni, the reversal of fortune continues on Sept. 3 and runs all season long. This year we'll help Penn State take back its winning tradition.