With the swiftness that comes with modern technology, word spread through Beaver Stadium faster than a puppy off its leash
Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel scored a touchdown on a 15-yard run in the second overtime to give the Buckeyes a 30-27 win over Michigan, and within seconds Penn State’s fans began to stand and cheer.
The Buckeyes did their part, and now it was Penn State’s turn.
For some of the Nittany Lions, they figured out right away why the place erupted — when there was a timeout on the field and no reason to cheer.
“I just assumed that’s what it was,” coach James Franklin said of the crowd reaction.
A few moments later quarterback Trace McSorely asked Franklin the reason for the ruckus, and the coach relayed his best guess.
Then, it was back to work for the Nittany Lions.
At the time they were trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, and all the help from the Buckeyes would do no good if Penn State lost.
The Nittany Lions did their part, beating Michigan State 45-12 to earn a bid to the Big Ten Championship Game, and it took plenty of focus on their part.
All week Franklin hammered on wanting his team to worry about the Spartans, do what they could control and not be concerned with the game in Columbus.
Not that they weren’t interested in the game.
“I don’t know that we were necessarily rooting for one team,” Franklin said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say we were doing that, but we sure did want another team to lose.”
At the team’s hotel Saturday morning, players gathered for meetings before leaving for the stadium. Walking through a hall, defensive linemen Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickles saw the game on a television and ducked in for a few moments to check out the situation, though it was still early and scoreless.
Then it was time to shut out the outside world.
“I didn’t go on Twitter, I didn’t go on Facebook, I didn’t check any of my texts,” Schwan said. “I basically turned my phone off.”
It was easier for some than for others.
“Most people were getting texts and stuff like that, so they were hearing stuff,” cornerback Amani Oruwariye said. “Ultimately, we still focused on what we had to do.”
They maintained their tunnel vision through warm-ups and the early part of the first quarter. But the opening minutes had a number of breaks and timeouts, and fans were checking their phones.
When the Buckeyes had that winning touchdown, it was hard to keep a secret, even if the final score was never announced on the stadium speakers.
“The crowd just started violently cheering,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “Really for no reason. I don’t even think the game was even going on. We’re just kind of looking around, you know, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I think we saw on the little (scoreboard) ticker, it said that Ohio State had won. It was cool.”
Most of the Nittany Lions then got confirmation at halftime. It’s hard to say if it contributed to how well they played after the break, but it didn’t hurt.
“You know what you’re playing for, for sure, at that point in time,” Cabinda said. “Guys just went out there and played.”
Most knew, but not everyone. Sickles kept on his blinders — and ear buds.
“I was locked in listening to some crazy music,” said Sickles, who didn’t find out until about eight minutes were left, when he told Schwan he’d be happy with a win regardless of what the Buckeyes did. That’s when Schwan broke the news.
“I was like, ‘Dude, don’t tell me that,’” Sickles said. “I was like, ‘Just let me ride out these last eight minutes and it’ll happen.’”
It was awkward that the Nittany Lions were cheering for Ohio State, yet the Buckeyes were not returning the favor, since they would get the trip to Indianapolis if the Spartans won.
The Lions are nonetheless grateful, ruining Ohio State’s plans a second time this season.
“I did Tweet, ‘Go Buckeyes’ and that’s the first time a Penn State player’s actually said that on social media,” Schwan said. “So, thank you Ohio State.”