Road trip to Penn State will get noisy

Paul Petrino has coached at Penn State before — he even had a first-quarter lead.

In 2001, as quarterbacks coach at Southern Mississippi, Petrino watched Golden Eagles running back Dawayne Woods score a 19-yard touchdown. Then, Penn State scored 38 straight points in their newly renovated stadium to defeat Southern Miss, 38-20.

“It’s a pretty neat building,” the current Illini offensive coordinator said. “It’s a pretty nice stadium. Any time you can go against people like that, it’s something special.”

Unfortunately for the Illini, who head to Penn State this weekend, not many in the program have had success in Happy Valley — the Illini are 0-6 all-time at Beaver Stadium, the second-largest stadium in the country with a capacity of 107,282.

Penn State is also home to what Kirk Herbstreit called the best student section in the nation on ESPN College GameDay.

Still, Illini head coach Ron Zook doesn’t believe that will bother the Illini, even with a redshirt freshman quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase.

“Last time we played there, we loved it,” Zook said. “It’s the second-largest stadium in the country. It’s loud, they’ll get off on that.”

Named after former Pennsylvania governor, Union army lieutenant and president of Penn State’s board of trustees, James A. Beaver, the stadium has been a spectacle in college football for years.

Built in 1909, when it was called Beaver Field, the stadium fit only 30,000 until 1959, when it was moved one mile across campus in about 700 pieces.

The stadium was expanded to a capacity of just over 60,000 before undergoing its most drastic renovation in 1978, when the stadium was cut into seven pieces and raised by hydraulics as 16,000 seats were placed over what used to be a track.

The stadium has since been renovated several times, with the most recent major addition coming in 2001, the year of Petrino’s last visit.

Still, Illini defensive end Clay Nurse, who played at Penn State two years ago, doesn’t think it’s an especially difficult place to play.

“I think it’s just always a good team,” the senior said. “We need to prepare better. We haven’t prepared as well as we could have in the past, and I think we need to do that this year.”

The Illini had better get used to playing in big stadiums — in four more weeks they’ll play in the biggest stadium in college football, Michigan Stadium.

Martez Wilson has already prepared his young teammates for what is ahead.

“Prepare like it’s another game,” he said. “You can’t pay attention to the crowd, you can’t let them get in your head … Just continue to stay composed, don’t let the noise get to you.”