Ty Howle, then a high school player from North Carolina, took his official recruiting visit to Penn State in September 2008, the weekend of a Beaver Stadium whiteout, for a game against Illinois.
It was, he said, electric.
And, he said, it played a big role in his decision to commit to the Nittany Lions.
It was awesome to see as a high schooler, he said, (and think,) 'This is where I'm going to spend my next five years.'
A first-time starter at center this fall, he is now in his final season, now part of a team seeking direction, as he was back then. It is also a team that could presumably use the sort of push he received from the crowd during that 38-24 victory over the Fighting Illini.
There will again be a whiteout this Saturday, for a game against 5-0 Michigan. This time the Lions, 3-2 and coming off a stinging 44-24 loss to Indiana in their Big Ten opener, are seeking to steady themselves for the bulk of the conference schedule, which continues at the end of the month with a road game against another unbeaten team, Ohio State, and features five games in November.
Howle envisions the same kind of atmosphere as in '08, the same sort of energy.
It's very important, he said. It means a lot, because it's going to be such an electric atmosphere out there, with it already being sold out, 108,000 screaming fans, the whiteout. Also, it's a great opportunity we have to play a great Michigan team on ESPN, and be able to go out and showcase our team's ability and play. I know myself and all the other seniors, and everyone on the team is looking forward to that opportunity.
They clearly wish to put the Indiana loss behind them -- Bill O'Brien made that abundantly clear during his weekly news conference Tuesday -- and muster a better performance than they did against the Hoosiers.
That is especially true of the offensive line. Facing one of the nation's worst rush defenses, the Lions managed to run for just 70 yards on 38 carries (1.8 per carry). That is skewed a bit by the 31-yard loss that resulted from Howle's errant snap on a field-goal attempt -- something he vowed to never do again -- but only slightly. IU had been allowing roughly 248 yards a game on the ground.
This week, Howle said, the line is focused on doing the same things we've doing for the past five weeks, only better.
We're trying to win the day, he said, and trying to get better, each and every day, and keep building on what we've got.
He mentioned in particular trying to improve communication, but really it's an overall system reboot, in hopes of going out and performing at our best to date on Saturday, as he said.
When asked how things have gone in his first year as a starter, he again mentioned the importance of communication, as well as trying to win the day. Also, he added, being prepared for every single game and putting one behind us -- win or loss, putting it behind us and preparing for the next opponent. It's something new I've had to do.
Now they all have to start anew. And it seems clear they will need some help.