A Dry Run for a New Era

April 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm Leave a comment

It was, in many ways, like any other Blue-White Saturday. Tailgaters crowded into the lots around Beaver Stadium, and the fans who made it into the building came hoping the rain would hold off, and wondering if an obvious starting quarterback would emerge. But there were plenty of signs, both inside the stadium and out, of just how different this year’s spring football game was.

Walking up through the paved lots across Curtain Road, I saw a banner towering over a tailgate bearing the message “Joe Deserved Better.” Not far from there, a table was set up with stickers and flyers promoting a few of the 86 candidates for this year’s Board of Trustees race. Inside, the rules for the scrimmage promised a new and novel scoring system — two points for an “explosive” play of 15 yards or more, and defensive scoring opportunities (six points for a turnover, four for a sack) — meant to increase the game’s competitiveness. And of course, there was the big guy in the ball cap and sweats pacing the sideline, Penn State’s new man in charge.

It is, as we knew it would be, a new day for the Nittany Lions.

Ultimately, we didn’t learn much in the defense’s 77-65 “win” that’ll mean much this fall. The quarterbacks remain a work in progress (though backups Shane McGregor and especially Paul Jones both showed signs that they’ll make the race interesting), and there’s no telling just how tight a grasp these players have of the potentially potent pro-style offense that Bill O’Brien brought with him from the New England Patriots. Those answers won’t come until the fall. What was clear is that Penn Staters’ passion for their program shows no signs of having waned. That’s not surprising, really, but it was still something we hadn’t had a chance to actually see.

What we saw Saturday: An estimated 60,000 people made their way into Beaver Stadium for a scrimmage, on an afternoon when the forecast called for day-long rain. The clouds lingered, but not until well after the game ended and the stadium was empty did the rain start to fall.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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