STATE COLLEGE — ESPN security had warned Lee Corso not to do it.
The former coach and famed “College GameDay” co-host turned 82 just a few weeks before the start of the 2017 season. But there he was Saturday morning on the lawn at Old Main, surfing the crowd right behind the Nittany Lion mascot to start the broadcast.
Corso did in fact arrive safely at the set, where he said he replied to his naysayers by saying, “Show business!” before being lifted up to be passed around by students, some of whom started showing up to the set before sunrise to get a spot near the front of the crowd to get on camera.
It was the first time since the 2009 Iowa game that the traveling show had come to Happy Valley, with the locale moving to the center of campus instead of across the street from Beaver Stadium, where it had been in the past.
The three-hour show featured a segment on the origins of the school’s “We are” chant, born from the Lions’ 1947 team standing up to racial discrimination in southern cities against the team’s African American players, Wally Triplett and Dennie Hoggard.
Comedian and Penn State alum Keegan-Michael Key narrated the piece, then showed up in another taped segment later in the show. Key initially apologized to James Franklin for doing his impression of the Penn State coach a few weeks earlier on GameDay — one that was so good that Franklin said he received dozens of angry messages from people who thought it was actually him cracking jokes on the set.
“I apologize sincerely and wanted to say that I’ve learned my lesson, and it will not happen again,” Key said.
Naturally, the bit continued with Key walking off camera to return wearing glasses to do the impression again as Franklin watched live from the GameDay set.
“In regards to the Michigan game… Hold up. I haven’t tweeted about the White Out in 10 seconds,” Key said, pulling out his phone. “…Hashtag 110,000 strong. OK.”
The show capped it off by bringing former Penn State great Ki-Jana Carter on set as the weekly guest picker for games. The former No. 1 overall draft pick chose the Lions to win along with co-host David Pollack. Former Michigan Heisman winner Desmond Howard went with the Wolverines and Kirk Herbstreit did not make a pick because he was on the call for the game.
For Corso’s traditional headgear pick, he first pulled out a Michigan helmet before tossing it over to Howard and donning the Nittany Lion head.
The Lions returned from their bye week relatively healthy.
Senior tackle Andrew Nelson remained out of the lineup and redshirt freshman Will Fries again got the start at right tackle. Franklin had said earlier in the week that Chasz Wright, who has also been banged up, would rotate in, but he did not see the field in the first half.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Zembiec who has been out with an injury and hasn’t been on the travel roster was on the field with his right arm in a sling prior to the game.
As expected, the first time Quinn Nordin took the field for Michigan, he was not treated well by the Beaver Stadium crowd.
Nordin, one of the top-rated kickers in the 2016 signing class, had initially been committed to Penn State. But following the Lions’ November slide to end the 2015 season, the Michigan native ultimately signed with the Wolverines.
Infamously, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spent the night at Nordin’s house during a recruiting visit to try and get him to flip — a fact that Penn State fans mentioned on more than a few signs at the GameDay broadcast.
When the Wolverines scored a touchdown to open the second quarter, Nordin trotted out for the extra point, getting loudly booed when his name was announced.
Nordin, who has been excellent on field goals and extra points all season, pushed it right.
Resting up and watching Penn State and Michigan duke it out Saturday night was Ohio State. The No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0) were on bye, giving them plenty of time to prepare for the Lions’ trip to The Horseshoe for next week’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Despite a disappointing performance in the second half of a lopsided loss to Oklahoma back in Week 2, the Buckeyes have been playing as well as anyone in the country since then.
Senior quarterback J.T Barrett has rebuilt his Heisman hopes as well, entering the game with a 66.5 completion percentage to go with 1,827 passing yards, 370 rushing and 26 total touchdowns to just one interception.