Larry, who sits in front of us, showed up this year with a new T-shirt expressing his feelings about Penn State's new parking fees for day-of-game parking. Evidently a lot of his friends hadn't gotten the message that day of game parking would be $40 as opposed to $15 if ordered ahead of time.
Add to that Larry's belief that the STEP program is greedy and will drive a lot of people out of the stadium. He truly believes he could sell some of his P$U T-shirts on e-Bay. He has even applied for a trademark on the shirt design he has created.
But, Larry is among Penn State fans who are in fact renewing for 2011 and beyond. Despite his grumbling.
Karen and Dave joined us for their first game at Beaver Stadium. Karen, a newly minted PhD. from Texas A&M and recently hired as an assistant professor by the Smeal College of Business, was shocked that the student section wasn't full by kickoff. Karen also remarked that at Texas A&M, people who leave before the end of the game are hissed at and called "2 percent-ers". That is, they give only 2 percent rather than 100 percent. Well it appears that at Beaver Stadium, we have a very large number of "2 percent-ers"! The stadium was at least 50% empty by the end of the game.
Janet and John, to our left, drove from Florida to Quakertown PA then got into a van with Janet's brother Dave and his wife Sharon, to drive to Beaver Stadium for their annual Labor Day game.
We see Janet and John every year on this weekend because it's the most convenient time for them to travel to PA., and they don't care who Penn State plays. Dave is a season ticket holder who comes each week in the season. Sharon joins him occasionally but only when the weather is good. An old friend and former co-worker of Terry's, Dave and Terry catch up on news over the last nine months.
Thus it is all through Beaver Stadium: old relationships being re-visited, new relationships being established. Catching up with folks we see only 7-8 times per year at fall football games. Or perhaps only once per year, as is the case with Janet and John, unless we happen to play a Bowl game in Florida.
This year the discussion around us was "are you keeping your seats?" STEP plan intentions for 2011 were required to be submitted by September 1.
In our section, $100 seats in the even seats of WBU, it appears that most are staying put and will retain their seat locations.
Barely two inches away, on the other side of the railing, people with $400 seats face a more difficult choice and a substantial increase in price. The decisions there appear to be more mixed.
To our right, people are being relocated for the new student section. There the long-term relationships will be disrupted and people are much more distressed about their future seating arrangements at Beaver Stadium.
Other discussions in the stands or at tailgates revolved around the Big Ten Divisions...generally people are pleased with the division line-up and excited about the 2011 season.
This might in fact help the STEP plan be implemented at least temporarily: a home game schedule that includes Alabama, Iowa, and Nebraska is too attractive to pass up. That and the fact that the Penn State team next year should be pretty good.
When it came to the choice of Robert Bolden, a true freshman, as quarterback, people were excited, curious, and a bit nervous about what that meant for the Penn State team.
We had all heard rumors about Robert Bolden being good. But what we feared was that the reason Bolden was chosen was that the other two contenders - sophomores Newsome and McGloin - somehow weren't good enough.
But having watched this first game, and the poise and ease with which Bolden conducted himself, we can now start to believe that Bolden is THE BEST choice and squarely beat out two very good quarterbacks with his talent and quick learning ability.
We had been told that we would see all three quarterbacks play. But for the first three quarters, it was all Robert Bolden. He completed 20 of his 29 pass attempts for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns, a 68% completion percentage with only one interception. There was also a total of 29 running plays, for 137 yards. Brett Brackett also impressed, as did Stephon Green and Silas Reed, another true freshman.
Backup QB Newsome showed a bit of what he could do in the fourth quarter when he scrambled for 21 total yards and a touchdown.
In the entire game, Penn State lost 20 yards from 3 penalties. That was also an encouraging sign, especially for the first game of the season with a new quarterback and offensive line. In contrast, Youngstown State lost 65 yards on 8 penalties.
Our special teams play looked more solid than last year. Collin Wagner nailed all three of his 40+ yard field goals and made it look easy. Punter Anthory Fera impressed with a 45-yard punt and his kickoffs. Chaz Powell broke through for a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was just chosen by the Big Ten Network as the "Sprint Epic Play of the Day".
In fact, we were more disappointed in the defense during the first half than the offense. Sloppy tackling allowed Youngstown State to look more impressive than they really are. But half-time adjustments shut them down in the second half. Linebacker Chris Colasanti made an impression with 13 tackles.
Coach Joe Paterno continues to surprise. According to Centre Daily Times press reports on the quarterback choice, the coaches were unanimous that Bolden should get the nod. So for the first time in his 45-year career as head coach, Joe Paterno allows a true freshman to start. That is truly remarkable, for we all know how stubborn Joe can be.
But Coach Joe is clearly slowing down. We could all see it as he walked rather slowly to the sidelines as the team ran through the band formation as they entered Beaver Stadium. While that is a cause for concern, Joe's mind is as creative as ever.
On to next week. The #1 defending national champion Alabama is hardly Youngstown State. All the weaknesses of a young team and a very young and inexperienced quarterback will be exploited!
We'll see how well Penn State prepares for that.