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Published: Monday, 11/2/2009

Penn State fans show visitors no mercy

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS -The Ohio State Buckeyes, fresh off a 45-0 win over New Mexico State that saw them feast and flourish in every aspect of the game inside the cushy and friendly surroundings of Ohio Stadium, later this week will parade into the colorful and notoriously politically incorrect orchestrated chaos of Penn State's Beaver Stadium.

The place is infamous for its environmental impact on visiting teams.

A trip to play in Beaver Stadium is an adventure into a swirling 100,000-person mosh pit. It is college football's Woodstock, minus most of the nudity, the drugs, and Joe Cocker.

"The atmosphere is unreal, and the fans are crazy," Ohio State senior linebacker Austin Spitler said, grinning and showing no signs of trepidation over Saturday's game that will have a lot to do with the Buckeyes' postseason plans, and their role in potentially claiming a fifth straight Big Ten championship.

Ohio State and Penn State are both a game behind Big Ten leader Iowa as the season moves into its final month. The loser on Saturday will need a lot of help to have any shot at sharing in the conference hardware.

"It's critical - the most important game we've played, because of what it means in the Big Ten," junior linebacker Brian Rolle said about the meeting with the Nittany Lions.

"Lots of pressure on both teams, a wild crowd and a wild environment - you come to Ohio State to play in games just like this one. November is the time championships are won, so we're excited about the opportunity."

The Buckeyes won in Beaver Stadium two years ago, with then top-ranked Ohio State knocking off the No. 25 Nittany Lions 37-17. Last year Penn State was ranked No. 3 nationally when it came here and bounced the No. 10 Buckeyes 13-6.

The Troy Smith led Buckeyes were ranked No. 6 in the country when they lost 17-10 at Penn State in 2005. Top-ranked OSU prevailed 28-6 in Ohio Stadium in 2006.

Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a Pennsylvania native who left his home state to play for the Buckeyes, expects a raucous reception.

"The crowd will be against us, and definitely against me as an individual," Pryor said. "This is why we play - you have to look forward to that."

Ohio State junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, the Central Cathiolic graduate who had two touchdown receptions in last Saturday's win over New Mexico State, said a trip to Beaver Stadium leaves a lasting imprint on a visiting player.

"We know it's always a great atmosphere, and I think it's one of the toughest places to play," Sanzenbacher said. "Their fans love them, and dislike everybody else. They're going to be loud, and it's going to be a crazy environment. It's a tough place to play, but if you can feed on the emotion from the crowd, it can help you out."

Rolle went a step further in his description of the Beaver Stadium experience:

"I would say that's the toughest place to play in college football," Rolle said. "But our guys can handle it. You can either be intimidated by a huge, energized crowd like we always see at Penn State, or you can let it motivate and energize you. The competitor in you loves to go into battle in an environment like that."

The excursion to Penn State's University Park campus is the first of three games in the season-ending stretch for the Buckeyes that includes a home game with unbeaten Iowa, and a trip to Ann Arbor to face rival Michigan on the final weekend.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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