Game 13: Alabama Crimson Tide @ Penn State Nittany Lions
|GAME # 13
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Alabama Crimson Tide (3): 1-0
The 2010-2011 off season was a busy one for us at college football quest. Al and I did not put up our feet and eat wanker bonbons (name that TV show) as we had many quest activities.
The RV idea that was first hatched in Lubbock, Texas in November 2009 and further solidified in Iowa City last November has come to fruition (despite my belief that it would never happen). Over the winter, Al and I attended an RV show to do “research”. Really, we just wanted to get out of the house. That’s a joke because we had three kids with us, defeating any benefit to getting out. At the show we met with a guy who does RV rentals for Penn State weekends. After looking at the schedule for 2011, the Alabama at Penn State game jumped out, as we were supposed to go this game in Alabama last year (before Al slipped one past the goalie, which oddly enough happened again this year). In August, right before the season got underway, Al and I took the trip out to 84 RV Rentals in Sussex, NJ to book an RV for the trip to Penn State.
To digress a bit, I should point out that the RV show also spawned the idea of renting from a local vendor in State College and having the RV delivered and set-up in the RV lot for us, so we could essentially drive up with a car and be ready to go. This would mean not having to drive the RV 5 hours and over 220 miles. We actually did pursue this option but some RV place in State College lost our email request for the reservation, thus giving us no choice but to rent and drive there.
Also over the winter 2010-2011, Al’s cousin Zach thought it would be a good idea for us to get some media exposure on these trips. He offered to be our temporarily unpaid PR rep. Since he was offering to be our unpaid PR rep, it was an offer we could not refuse. He (M-Team Media Productions out of Houston, TX) got right to work creating a press release along with a list of media contacts for Penn State. It was my belief that this would be picked up by a grand total of no one. Have I mentioned that I tend to be somewhat cynical? I thought, “Who cares”. As you will see, I was quite wrong (as usual according to my wife). Let it be known that Al was the one who supported and nourished this idea by taking M-Team Media Productions to dinner numerous times in Houston and investing hours telling them about the quest and related activities. Al’s theory was that the smaller markets would love to hear our story and thus we could gradually build up to gaining some larger market exposure. I guess we are starting out with some large market exposure right off the bat. I will give credit where it is due, but the jury is still out if Al stays with this.
Additionally, during the summer of 2011, I sent an email to two media contacts within the Penn State athletic department. The purpose was to tell them about our quest and ask for information that would make our visit to Penn State better and to see if there were any unusual or different experiences they could help accommodate during our visit. Alas, I did not receive a reply. It is ok to say that we are too insignificant for them to spend any more than two seconds thinking about us but at least reply with a simple no. That would be the polite thing to do.
The Week Before Our Departure
The economics of renting a 32’ RV for the trip to Penn State was such that a third and fourth person was necessary to help defray some of the costs. You really do not save anything sleeping in an RV as opposed to a hotel, once you factor all the costs, especially, if it was only going to be Al and me. Our trips are always open to guests, but due to the economics, we really had to recruit guest “Questers” (go ahead and say that fast). You can read more about “Questers” on Singerpedia. We had recruited a third from our softball team, Pat. A fourth person ultimately fell through (Eric you bum), so there were three in an RV. The RV could accommodate more, 4 would have been ideal, but three of us it was. (Should we have invited Mr. S?)
To my surprise, the week before our departure, Al and I received an email from Zach (M-Team Media Productions), that a newspaper wanted to interview us. In the completely absurd belief that bad press is better than no press, we agreed. Both Al and I were interviewed by Brittany Horn of the Daily Collegian, me first, then Al. At the conclusion of my interview, she asked if she could interview my wife. This is where I started thinking that no press was far superior then any press that involved my wife. I acquiesced, and a few days later Brittany and my wife spoke. After reading the article, I give my wife full credit. She was very supportive and encouraging. Once my wife read the article she maintains she was misquoted and taken out of context. The article portrays her as far more accommodating then she really is. Oh well. On the flip side, having already known she wanted to interview the wives, Al convinced Brittany that Alexis was an angel and loved what we are doing, and thus there was no reason to interview her. But a large shout out to Brittany Horn at the Daily Collegian as she was our first.
Also, a week before our departure, Long Island was “blessed” with Hurricane Irene (Tropical Storm Irene for the insurance claim though). The first floor of Al’s house was literally destroyed by the hurricane, and almost made the trip an impossibility. Ironic that the RV trip was just a fun weekend and now perhaps Al could be living in one during construction.
Thursday, a Very Late Night
Time of departure: Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 22.30. Picture this…two cars pull up to my house at 10:30pm. Three guys start unloading and loading supplies into a car. I open my garage to load up all kinds of various supplies; tables, chairs, coolers, propane, etc. Now add a suspicious neighbor. Not a good scene. Fortunately, the neighbor was warned by her husband not to do anything about what she sees as it is none of her business. In any event, we get all of our supplies loaded for the drive to 84 RV Rentals.
Sometime between twelve-thirty and one am, we arrive at 84 RV Rentals. We then proceed to unpack the SUV and pack up the RV. This mostly consisted of us throwing things either underneath the RV or into the cabin. Needless to say, we forgot most of the RV lesson we were given in August. But I had a few notes. Thirty minutes or so later, we are on the road to Penn State in an RV.
Driving in an RV
Lessons learned while driving an RV…..
> First and foremost, it is MOST important to nap before attempting to drive a 32ft RV at 1AM for the first time.
> RV’s are large, and although cutting a corner is dangerous when turning, it’s the outside back of the truck that is most dangerous.
> Things are prone to moving around in a RV, especially when you just toss them onto the couch. It is generally wise to tie them down or you will find yourself constantly getting damage assessment reports from Pat.
> Other people can sleep in the RV while it is in motion. Al would like to state that this is a sucky feature.
> There are multiple entrances to the storage areas of the RV; you should ensure that you lock them all.
> It is impossible for cruise control to work in an RV as the engine downshifts every 30 seconds.
> Al boastfully states that “Al is a very good RV driver”. I agree and thus congratulations are in order as Al is now nominated as our permanent RV driver.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Knowing that our departure was in the middle of the night, knowing that we wanted to get into the RV lot as early as possible, knowing that we were driving straight through to the RV lot, and knowing that we wanted to fill up the RV with supplies before our arrival, I did the smart thing. I scouted the 24 hour Wal-Mart’s and Target’s that were just off the highway en route to Penn State. This would allow us to pull off the highway without too much local road navigation in a 32’ RV and supply up. Of course, you can’t always get what you want as we found out upon arriving at the 24 hour Wal-Mart in Bloomsburg, PA. When you approach a 24 hour Wal-Mart and you see no lights anywhere as far as the eye could see, you should proceed with caution or just turn around. Especially when driving an RV. Unbeknown to us, the 24 hour Wal-Mart was closed due to rolling blackouts due to the extreme flooding the area had been experiencing. It was so dark that we could not even find the front entrance to the store after driving around the entire building and parking lot. This was a very freaky sight as the only light in the entire area was coming from the RV headlights. Onto Plan B (man with one plan says what?).
After we put some more miles between us and the pitch blackness of Bloomsburg, it is at this point that Al declares that he has never slept on the side of the road and would like for that to be his next experience. I beg to differ as it just cannot be that Al has never slept on the side of a road and at least this time he will be inside an RV (it is true Al has slept on the side of a road, but it was for a different reason). In any event, we pull into a roadside truck rest area for what was supposed to be a 1 hour nap. Note to future selves, when pulling over to sleep in a rest stop, try to park in the rest stop, not on the side of the highway as you really feel those trucks zipping past at 70mph. Three hours later (not one), we are back on the road to Penn State.
But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need as we pulled into a Wal-Mart just outside of State College. We proceeded to spend far more money on supplies for the RV than we would ever spend if we ate every meal out and we had a lot of fun doing it. In a stroke of good fortune, there happened to be a liquor store in the same strip mall as the Wal-Mart. So, we were able to supply up with liquid refreshment at the same stop. The RV also got itself some liquid refreshment as well.
The RV Parking Lot
Finally, we arrive in the Penn State overnight RV parking lot, fully supplied. Al had very carefully during the drive, calculated precisely the direction we wanted to park so as to avoid sun glare on the TV we had brought for tailgating. We learned quickly, with the help of our friendly drunk neighbors, that when parking an RV, spacing for your bbq and TV area is more important than the sun glare. Thus we had to re-park the RV, spinning it around in tight quarters after everyone else had already set up shop. We began to unpack and prep the RV for our stay, per the very specific instructions given to us during our RV tutorial. It was at this point when we realized that you should always check if the propane is on before leaving. Not our fault but that could have been real bad.
My initial belief in year 4 of the quest (“Is that all it has been?” says Beth) is that the Big 10 just does not travel like they do in the SEC. My evidence is courtesy of the Penn State parking department, who told us that if we arrive by Friday night “The RV lot will be half empty”. We did not believe this would be the case for a game against Alabama but they stated that this is the case for PSU conference games as well. This was of course, dead wrong. The lot was full by Friday morning. Good thing we got there early.
Al went online and found the article in the Daily Collegian about our trip. It was amazing that they dedicated 1/3 of a page in the main section to our trip. Thanks Brittany.
As it turns out, the local NBC affiliate saw the article and wanted to come interview us for a segment on the local news. The interview went well and it turns out that it aired on the local news. Later, we saw the video of it from their web site and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Al looked like someone who had been driving an RV overnight. Pat’s brilliant statement that he is “not really with us” apparently ended up on the cutting room floor. After all those years being brainwashed by Joel, he didn’t keep it with us. For shame, Pat, for shame.
We later found out that the PSU ratio station posted our press release on their web site, but declined an interview when we stopped by. People were making out in the small studio when we walked in claiming the manager wasn’t there. Not cool.
Campus, State College, & Beaver Stadium
After the interview, it was time to head onto campus and the surrounding town. First stop was food. Findlay Commons, you are in desperate need of an efficiency expert. Also, can anyone explain why there were three signs telling me that eating food while in line before paying is theft? I am also not sure if that is legally theft, if I am in line to pay and have every intention of paying. Do I not also need “mens rea”? Lawyers please weigh in. It should also not be my fault that your line is interminable.
Anyway, we walked around campus and did the obligatory shopping in the campus bookstore. Interesting Penn State fact, the bookstore cannot sell shot glasses because of the drinking problem on campus. But they can sell beer steins, high balls, low balls, and martini glasses. This is the problem with bureaucrats. Does anyone (other than PSU administration) think that this policy makes any sense? But I am sure someone in the President’s office thinks this will solve all campus drinking ills. Good luck with that.
The campus was fine; nothing great, nothing awful. The streets right off campus were hopping and packed with good things; shirt shops, bars, food, drug stores. It has all the necessities of a fine college town. We had drinks at The Rathskeller, which we were told was a not to miss spot (nothing special). Another must stop was ice cream at The Creamery. It was the consensus opinion that The Creamery is overrated. It was good, but it was not the rave reviews that we had seen.
Next it was onto Beaver Stadium. The stadium at a capacity of over 100,000 was as expected very large. It did look very aged from the outside, kind of like the inside of Space Mountain, with lots of beams and not very well designed features. I am hoping that it gets better on the inside. (It does in a big time way.) Unfortunately, the stadium was locked solid, so there was no getting in prior to the game. Also, it was good to find out Beaver Stadium was named after a person and not an incredibly drunk mix up over whether a nittany lion and a beaver were the same thing. . See Singerpedia for further details.
On the way back to the RV lot, Al commented that there were not a lot of boots on this campus. I think he thought we were in Texas. I did see a lot of Uggs, but I am not sure those are the kinds of boots Al was looking for.
RV Lot Night 1
We headed back to the RV lot for some dinner, partying, and the like. This is where we discovered an unknown talent of Pat’s that had gone undiscovered during our softball days…Pat is very good at making friends. Before we knew it, Pat had disappeared and had fully integrated himself into the neighbors tailgate. Nice job, Pat! Our suspicion is that alcoholics naturally gravitate to each other, but we have no proof. Al has done a lot of research on tailgate games, but our neighbors had one that he has missed…pass the bottle drinking set up where a bottle is hung from the middle of the tent by a rope and swung to people, so no one has to move while watching TV.
We spent some time setting up the tailgate, cooking up some dinner and meeting other people around us. One of our neighbors rented their RV from the same place as us. They do this trip annually and had 8 people in their RV. That sounds crowded! It was a relatively tame night and given the lack of sleep the night before, we went to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. Yes I know, we are old.
We woke up the next day and Pat quickly jumped in making breakfast burritos for all. Nice touch crisping them up on the stove after nuking them. Have I mentioned how well we eat on these trips?
It was at this point where we learned what the term military shower means. In an effort to conserve water, you turn the water off while soaping up and shampooing. This was so we did not run out of water in the RV tank. Of course, we later found out that our neighbors with 8 guys do not run out of water, so we could have been a little more liberal with the water, but it was better to err on the side of caution.
We then setup for a morning and afternoon of tailgating. This consisted of setting up the slingbox for a day of football. As an aside, if you do not have a slingbox, it is an awesome device. If you have the means, I highly recommend that you pick one up (name that movie). The slingbox worked great on Friday night, but Saturday was a different story. Apparently, there was not enough bandwidth to power the slingbox. What the hell Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon? We consider this a lesson learned and next time we need to go with the DirecTV setup.
At this point Al decided to go into town. He went alone as neither Pat nor I felt like a random walk with no purpose when we could just hang out tailgating. I am using tailgating as a euphemism. You can figure out for what, but on a maybe related note Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka and Cherry Coke is an awesome and potent combination. Upon Al’s return he declares that the walk from the RV lot to the main avenue with stores at Penn State takes 45 minutes on game day and that cell phone reception sucks. Al brought back a wiffle ball bat, which was the conclusion of a quest that began the day before at Wal-Mart. He informed that Wiffle ball bats are only known as dizzy bats by college kids, it’s a game “college kids play” he was told. Again, we are old.
Tailgating before the game was great. Penn State really knows how to tailgate. We got to tour our Alabama neighbors 40’ RV. You cannot get any more people into it than a 32’, but it looked very comfortable. That seems to be the ideal, because who wants people crashing in your 40’ RV. Come visit, but then get the hell out at bedtime. Ideal! One comment though, if you have DirecTV in the RV bays, why was that not on the whole time so we could watch too.
Other RV tailgating tips:
> Ice is a hot commodity in an RV lot.
> Mats, carpeting or some other ground cover would be good.
> Considering all the football tosses, why aren’t there organized football games in the RV lot
> Do not count on the fact that flooding or rain will keep parking attendants from using the huge hill as parking spaces. > We missed our opportunity for mud sliding by not using this hill the night before.
> Balance your RV when parking it with the supplied RV balancers, otherwise you will be walking, sleeping and shitting on an angle all weekend.
It was time to head to Beaver Stadium for the game. Important point should Pat ever come another game, don’t ever leave Pat unattended. He tends to disappear, walk past you, and wander off. Much like my kids.
ESPN Game Day
Ok, I am going to rant now. What the hell was ESPN doing at the Notre Dame @ Michigan game instead of this one? I understand that it was the first night game at the Big House, but seriously, who cares. This was made worse when Notre Dame lost in Week 1 to South Florida. Bad call, ESPN.
Beaver Stadium is much nicer on the inside than the outside. We were seated in my preferred end zone spot. The stadium ramps are graded a little bit better than Texas but it still seemed to take forever to get to the upper deck. Given the number of people, it was not too claustrophobic and did not seem overwhelmingly crowded. We got to our seats, which were in the 3rd row of the upper upper deck. I can honestly say that I have never been so high not in an airplane in my life. I could only imagine being in one of the last rows of the upper upper deck. It was not a horrible view of the field but it was really high. A better selection would have been the next tier down, but those were club seats and the budget did not allow for it.
A few points prior to kickoff:
> When coordinating a flyover, it should be coordinated to the end of the National Anthem.
> Very appropriate 9/11 tribute.
> Al observes that we should buy end zone seats every game as he likes not having to move his head side to side.
> PSU security does throw out students prior to kick off, it does happen.
The crowd reached a fever pitch right before kickoff. Apparently 108,000 people can make quite a bit of noise. In all seriousness, this was by far the loudest stadium we have been to so far (I am removing Florida from this statement due to my natural bias). This was a great atmosphere.
The great atmosphere actually held up for three possessions. Penn State took the opening kickoff and looked good possessing the ball for 16 plays and seven and a half minutes. But PSU only managed a field goal. Alabama looked confused on defense, lining up wrong and blowing coverages. Not good that PSU was only able to get a field goal because Coach Saban will correct these problems. PSU then held Alabama to 3 plays and out. PSU did nothing with their next possession and had to punt to Alabama. Alabama took the ball down the field for a touchdown. In a first quarter where it seemed like PSU dominated, or at least hung with Alabama, PSU trailed 7-3. It felt like PSU should have been up 10 or 14 points. You simply cannot let a great defensive team like Alabama off the hook when they did not appear to have their act together at the start. PSU needed to jump on Alabama, but they did not capitalize. In fact PSU would only get one first down in the 2nd quarter. It was clear to me that this game was going to get ugly.
In the second quarter Alabama took over. Alabama ran 25 plays to PSU’s 14, and outscored PSU 10-0 to take a 17-3 lead at halftime. There was simply no way PSU could recover. In the third, Alabama got a field goal to take a 20-3 lead. There was a point in the 3rd quarter where Alabama nearly intercepted five straight PSU passes. Midway through the 4th quarter, Trent Richardson took it in on a 13 yard run for a 27-3 lead. Penn State would get a meaningless end of game TD and 2 point conversion to make the final score 27-11, but 27-3 is a more accurate feel of how the game went. After the 1st quarter it was all Alabama. It felt that Alabama came out sluggish and made some alignment and coverage mistakes, but once they got it together, this was no contest. Penn State had two scoring drives that accounted for 125 yards. PSU managed only 130 yards the entire rest of the game as their anemic offense combined with the stout Alabama defense made this no contest.
Both Al and I managed to pick this game correct. Kudos to Al for avoiding his usual trap of picking PSU given that it was a White Out. Anytime there is a “color” out game, the home team loses, period. It is a fact. Look it up on Singerpedia.
Post Game Festivities & More Tailgating
After the game, it was back to the RV lot to try to catch the Florida Gator game. Alas, it was not to be due to awful cell network reception. Since we had no cell reception to power the slingbox, Al thought it would be a good idea to run a slide show of the talent on the TV. It was decided that since we did not want to see the inside of a prison cell, we would not do that. Turns out we almost ended up in a prison cell anyway. We did get to watch the late game, which was UCF beating….I forget. It was that exciting. Al cooked up some steaks, salad and potatoes for dinner.
We were tossing around the wiffle ball and taking some swings but the lighting just was not bright enough in the RV lot to see anybody hitting the ball. So, as the festivities were winding down for the night, we got a group together to make good use of the wiffle ball bat and ball that Al got earlier. We headed to an open area across the cattle wire by a school building (yes, that’s right, cattle wire). We had lots of room and even had a building as a backstop. We did not even get one pitch in before PSU police stopped by. One was willing to let us play; we just had to move over away from the building. However, the b**** with a chip on her shoulder and clearly on a power trip refused and said we had best be back in the RV lot the next time she came around. Don’t know what was stuck up her a** but there would be no wiffle ball game. Not sure who had the idea, but next thing I know Al, Pat, and I are headed to Beaver Stadium to try to get on the field to play wiffle ball.
As would be expected, the stadium was locked up so there was no getting onto the field. However, we did find a field in which to take a few swings each. Walking around the stadium in the middle of the night, we met a couple that had actually gotten trapped inside the stadium as they stayed too long after the game ended. One wonders what else they were doing. We met some more people taking pictures by the Joe Paterno statue. Note to stadium security, it is way too easy to climb onto the Joe Pa statue and do rude things. FYI, it was not us, it was the other people.
After a long day, it was back to the RV for some sleep.
The Trip Home
We woke up the next day, packed up the RV, and headed home. It was strange that the only food we had left was a frozen pizza. TomTom took us on a tour of winding roads once we got off the highway to 84 RV Rentals. The ride back to my house from 84 RV Rentals was very smooth. No traffic, no events.
> Penn State is a great football environment with great tailgating
> Stadium is not much to look at from the outside, but much better on the inside. Also, it is loud. Really loud!
> Portapotties are disgusting.
> Our pre-trip planning was excellent. During trip planning and note taking, not so good.
> On this trip we went back to no note taking. Bad idea. Al missed his iphone’s note taking abilities and my new phone was not as good at note taking as my previous one. I fully admit that this write up is taking a step backwards, so Al and I must find a solution so that we can take notes again. Lesson learned, hopefully!
> Pat had such a good time, I would expect to see him as a guest “Quester” again. Either that or he just likes to drink….a lot.
> This trip cost Al an extra $550 in shoes from Zappos to make his wife happy. She is now a big fan of these trips. Thanks > Al, Beth now wants a raise. All my family got was dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. But I think Al exaggerates. Al has noted that he is in fact not exaggerating and he is still paying this trip off and pre-paying the next trip.
Top Quotes from the Trip
Al….”I like to blow things up.” This should generally not be uttered in a 32’ vehicle crossing a heavily patrolled bridge while fully loaded with propane and gasoline.
Pat…”This is closest we’ve been all trip.” Pat uttered this gem as we were driving towards our destination.
Potential Sponsors from this Write Up
> 84 RV Rentals
> The Cheesecake Factory
> NBC Altoona
> WiffleBall bat company
> Pinnacle Vodka
> Coca Cola Corp
> The Daily Collegian – PSU
The RV experiment was a good one. The consensus was that it was a great trip and a great way to experience a college football game. The trick for us is to now figure out how to make this work at locations we need to fly to. Penn State was easy as we were able to load up a car worth of supplies. How can we get supplies, when we have to fly? Buying disposable items at each location is inefficient and a waste of money, but shipping supplies back and forth to each location will be very expensive. This will be something we need to research.
Little did we realize it at the time, but we saw the national champions play in this game. The Alabama Crimson Tide would lose to LSU during the regular season (in overtime) but go on to win the rematch in the BCS Championship 21-0 in a thoroughly dominating performance. What we witnessed during this game against Penn State was a defense definitely worthy of a national championship but an offense that was severely lacking. AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense significantly improved during the year and were absolutely deserving of being crowned national champions. It’s a good thing that Penn State did not play that team or this game would have been 59-11.
Where do I begin on the Penn State postscript? Let us start with the good. PSU had a really good year. PSU lost 30-14 to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. But they tied for first place with Wisconsin in the Big10 Leaders (what kind of name for a division is that?) division. They were in the divisional race until the very end. Wisconsin won the tiebreaker as they beat PSU head to head on November 26. If that game went the other way, PSU would have played in the inaugural Big10 championship game. Instead it was Wisconsin beating Michigan State for a Rose Bowl berth. Nothing PSU showed on this day in September gave any indication that PSU would have this kind of success. After this loss to Alabama, PSU won 7 straight games and if not for a loss to Nebraska on November 12, would have wrapped up their division prior to their game against Wisconsin. I think this is more of an indictment of the Big10 this year than the quality of football being played by PSU.
Now we move onto the bad news. During this season, the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. As a result, Joe Paterno was fired as head coach of Penn State. I am not going to detail the scandal here, but it is a scandal that transcends football. I will only say that it is a good thing we got to Penn State when we did, because it is going to be a long time before Happy Valley is the same, if it ever can be.
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