The Penn State football game Saturday came with a dose of irony.
It was just after 4 p.m. when Ohio State beat Michigan, and in an unusual scene, Penn State fans in Beaver Stadium erupted into cheers upon hearing the news.
Those were the same fans who generally say Ohio State is their biggest rival — or at least close to their rivalry with the University of Pittsburgh.
But at Saturday’s game against Michigan State, they were partially invested in an earlier afternoon game among the Wolverines and Buckeyes that put the No. 7 Nittany Lions one step closer to playing for the Big Ten title.
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Penn State clinched the Big Ten East title later Saturday when they beat the Spartans, 45-12, in the last home football game of the season, which was also deemed Senior Day and honored the senior football players before kickoff.
“Win or lose, this is our season — this is our time,” Penn State fan Dan Brown said. “It’s the best (season) we’ve had in a while, and we played through adversity and a bad reputation for a long time, and proved ourselves this season.”
The turnaround, he said, came with a win Oct. 22 against Ohio State that put the Nittany Lions in the college football rankings.
“It feels like some sort of contradiction that we hate Ohio (State), beat them, but needed them to win today,” Brown said. “I think, they’re the reason, for many reasons, we’re in the position we are, and I think any fan will tell you they’ll root for their rivals if it helps Penn State. ... No shame in that.”
Brown, his partner Jason Sawicki and sister Cara Keigan spent time before the game with a group of tailgaters in the Green lot near Beaver Stadium watching the first half of the Michigan-Ohio State game.
It was being played on a TV hooked up to the outside of Craig Howe and Jason Fedon’s RV that was also decked out in a Penn State-themed wrap.
But the Penn State football season as a whole is what some said brings optimism to the program.
“I think this is the year that really gives us hope for the future, and just reminds us that this is what makes us Penn State, and even more proud of our team and our school,” Keigan said.