Penn State’s annual White Out game develops a wide-ranging influence

By Derek Levarse - [email protected] | October 20th, 2017 9:00 am

Penn State Athletics

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Not satisfied with just Beaver Stadium dressing in all white on Saturday night, James Franklin set his sights on the entire town for the weekend.

The Penn State coach has been asking everyone in State College to take part in the Nittany Lions’ annual White Out on Friday and Saturday, leading into the game against Michigan. And it’s been branching out from there, even — apparently — into Luzerne County.

“If coach asks, I will let all Lake-Lehman have a dress down to wear all white!” district superintendent Jim McGovern wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

It took Franklin all of two minutes to respond.

“Yes I am requesting the entire school district, let’s gooooooooooo,” Franklin wrote.

A few hours later, it was official.

“Tomorrow is a ‘White Out’ dress day for the Lake-Lehman School District!” McGovern wrote.

Well, there you go.

The connection, of course, is that Jim is the father of Lions center Connor McGovern. And fittingly, it was a White Out that first started him on the path to Penn State when he attended the 2014 double-overtime game against eventual national champion Ohio State under the lights.

Then a junior at Lake-Lehman, Connor was just starting to get heavy recruiting attention from major programs. At the time, playing for the Lions wasn’t exactly at the top of his list.

Until that White Out.

“It’s very hard to describe,” Connor McGovern said. “My first game, first-ever Penn State game, was the Ohio State White Out a few years ago, and that blew me away. Before that, I was never a Penn State fan, never really thought about it much. And that changed my mind, and that’s kind of one of the reasons I fell in love with this place. The enthusiasm the fans have and how much people just care about football here.

”If you’re a college football fan, you have to experience at least one White Out in your life. They’re a lot of fun to play in, especially under the lights at night. It’s a lot of fun.”

Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was a late addition to the 2014 class, coming aboard shortly after Franklin was hired that January. That meant his first White Out came as a player, not a recruit.

So while he didn’t need to be sold on the school at that point, it still had a lasting effect on him.

”That was my first White Out,” Oruwariye said of that narrow loss to the Buckeyes, in which the Lions took the lead in the first overtime. “It was crazy. I just remember being on the sideline and just looking around and seeing the sea of white and just how loud the stadium was. That was the loudest I ever heard it. I was just in awe being a freshman coming in here. But it’s lived up to the hype each year after that.

”I just would say it’s the loudest thing you’ll hear. All you hear is just screaming, crazy fans. And the whole town is just lit up because everyone is wearing white. … You have to experience it most of the time to get a feel.”

Naturally, that makes this one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year for the Lions. Though the 2018 class is nearly full, the majority of the players verbally committed to sign with Penn State this winter have posted on social media that they will be up for the game.

Beyond that, recruiting services 247Sports, Rivals and Scout are all reporting that Penn State will be hosting multiple five-star recruits from the 2019 and 2020 classes. That includes Maryland defensive lineman Bryan Bresee, the No. 1 overall sophomore in the country, who wrote on Twitter that he will be in attendance.

“It’s exciting to be able to see the collection of talent that you can get into the building on a weekend like this,” Lions assistant coach Ricky Rahne said. “It’s even more exciting when you can look back two, three years later and think about how many great players in college football were at (a game like this).

“It’s an exciting time for everybody. … Very few, if any, can give recruits the same experience we can on a White Out.”

Talking to reporters in State College after Wednesday’s practice, Franklin admitted that such a huge weekend between the game and the recruiting efforts can be an “organizational nightmare” because of how many prospects will be in town.

”You don’t want to say no to anybody, but how do you make sure that all these kids that come have a good experience?” Franklin said. “Because here’s the other deal — if they come and then you don’t have the manpower to show them the attention, then it can backfire on you.”

Until they arrive, Franklin is using those recruiting chops on fans throughout the state.

Though he reiterated again this week that he’s not too fond of social media, Franklin said he understands its importance and the influence it can have. So that’s why he has traded messages this week with superintendents, teachers, businesses and fans from all over.

One of the most common issues he has heard is from fans who say they don’t have anything white to wear. Especially when it comes to pants.

Franklin’s reply: “You have bleach.”

This scene at Penn State’s 2014 White Out against Ohio State helped sway recruits like Lake-Lehman’s Connor McGovern to sign with the Nittany Lions.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/web1_whiteout20171019145333731.jpgThis scene at Penn State’s 2014 White Out against Ohio State helped sway recruits like Lake-Lehman’s Connor McGovern to sign with the Nittany Lions. Gene J. Puskar | AP photo

By Derek Levarse

[email protected]

UP NEXT

Michigan at Penn State

7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse

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