Win gives hope for Penn State fans

Penn State fans traded in their jerseys for Halloween costumes on Saturday for the Penn State football game against Illinois — a game fans said was a must-win to boost the program’s reputation after the previous week’s loss to Ohio State.

“We should be known as a powerhouse in football, not a joke,” said Dennison Cooper, a season ticket holder from Harrisburg. “We got to turn that around and I think it starts with the fans’ support no matter what. We’ve been with this team through thick and thin, and I think that says a lot about Penn State fandom.”

With a 63-14 loss at Ohio State, fans were glad the team redeemed itself with a 24-17 overtime win against Illinois.

“I know it’s just Illinois, but we need a win, bad,” said fan Bradley Culligan. “It’s redemption time.”

“It’s a step in the right direction,” added Penn State sophomore Alex Sullivan. “I think they just have to take it a game at a time from here on out and just bring home a win no matter how they need to get it done.”

For the 95,131 in attendance at Saturday’s game, there was much to be seen.

John Brigowsky dressed as Harry Potter. His girlfriend, Teagan Hillman, was a bumblebee.

“It’s the one week of the year that it’s OK for a grown man to dress up,” Brigowsky said. “Why not still celebrate the Halloween spirit all weekend and at the game?”

In the student section, Peter Walker and his roommate Phil Corban were dressed as Michigan football players with fake blood covering their bodies and missing front teeth.

Jamey McConnell, and friends Jordan Capriano and Collin Jones were dressed as Alvin and the Chipmunks.

“We came to the game not expecting much, but to have fun,” McConnell said.

Others were dressed in traditional Nittany Lion gear, while some wore yellow shirts in support of Thon’s “Gold Out” to support pediatric cancer, said Jeff Nelson, assistant athletic director of communications.

During halftime, a check was presented to the Uplifting Athletes Organization. The Penn State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes raised about $140,000 to support kidney cancer research.

Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 by a group of former Penn State football players and made of current college football players who recognize individuals diagnosed with rare diseases.

The university’s athletic teams were also recognized for their success last school year. Penn State had a school record 11 conference championships, including eight Big Ten titles and a national championship victory in wrestling.

And for some fans, the Penn State victory Saturday was the only break they caught after a day of bad luck.

If it didn’t rain on the drive in from Cape May, N.J., Friday night, Penn State fan Tyler Bonis’ conversion van would still be painted blue and white.

Bonis said he and friend Parker Buscemi painted a Nittany Lion on one side of the van and “we are” on the other side.

What was left were streaks of blue and white paint on the doors.

By 8 a.m. Saturday, Bonis said he also ripped his Penn State jersey so badly that it was not wearable.

“I accidentally shut my sleeve in the door and the rest is history,” Bonis said. “Sometimes like Penn State, you just can’t win.”

But win or lose, Penn State fans still walk around with Nittany Lion pride.

And that’s what Bonis and his friends live by.

“There’s a reason we say ‘we are’,” Bonis said. “It’s because we are proud, we are supportive and we stand by a school that has given so much more than what its been known for more recently.”