Senior cheerleader talks about appearing on ESPN's College Gameday, meeting LeBron James and the atmosphere of a night game in Ohio Stadium
Columbus was at a standstill like it is most Saturdays for Ohio State home football games. However, this particular Saturday, sport-crazed fans and media across the nation focused even more attention on this football capital.
Over the last couple weeks, the hype entering the Penn State game was building strong and stronger considering what would be at stake for both teams. After both dominated the prior weekend, this Big Ten rivalry couldn't come soon enough and luckily we had a big part in the day's events.
Close to 12 hours before kick-off, my teammates and I were on our way to ESPN's College Game Day! Herds of scarlet and gray fans joined us, with their extremely creative signs and posters. The crowds were decked out in their OSU apparel and ready to prove to Corso and the gang that Ohio State was up for this Penn State challenge.
The ever-popular sports show had not been to Columbus since the 2006 Michigan game and this would be my first time being a part of it. We were all very eager to see the hosts who talk about our team each week, but what caught our eyes more when walking out of the French Fieldhouse was the number of fans that showed up bright and early, with the brisk temperature and an evening kick-off.
The ESPN crew placed my squad directly behind the raised stage and right in front of the fans. Before the show started we led some cheers to wake the crowd up (since some had been there since 3 a.m.) and Brutus entertained with greeting fans and taking pictures. Soon after former Buckeye Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Chris Fowler took the stage and the show began.
The atmosphere of College Gameday couldn't have been a better start to this much anticipated Homecoming game. Throughout the entire show my team and I were cheering in the background with the help of the crowd who of course was booing, cheering and chanting to show their pride for the Buckeyes. Even LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers joined the crew in the picks of the day and was I-Oing the crowd. But to top it off, Corso (who rarely picks Ohio State) put on the Brutus head! Everyone went crazy!
Once the show concluded we had a 3-hour break before we began normal pre-game traditions, but before leaving we all got to quickly meet LeBron and take a picture with him! Afterwards, my friends Tara, Sarah and I got lunch at our favorite pizza spot. Then, in order to make through the long night ahead, Tara and I went back to her house to nap.
At 3:30 my teammates and I had to meet back at the French Fieldhouse to prepare for the game. We stretched out and warmed-up all of our skills, getting the last minute details of pre-game. An hour later we separated into three groups to attend different alumni tailgates and functions. My group went to The Blackwell Hotel to entertain the crowd. You could tell that anxiety was in the air. Fans seemed restless, and ready for the game to begin.
An hour and a half before the game, we always meet in front of St. John Arena, on the Grassy Knoll, to show-off our skill set and take pictures before marching over to Ohio Stadium. Though it was getting dark, it was a pretty fall night, with the stadium lights glowing in the background. Fans began swarming around us, joining in with our cheers. Everything seemed to be off to a good start; we executed all of our skills and got to spend sometime with our family and friends.
The sound of the drums gave us a queue it was time to head over. A path is cleared from the Grassy Knoll to the entrance of The Ohio Stadium, and fans were crowded around cheering. So many people were on the route you could barely hear the band! The excitement of this pre-game tradition energizes all of us for the game. When we get to the entrance one of our guys yells, "It's game day!" Then we head down the short ramp waving and yelling to all of the fans in the concession area. Right before we head into the Shoe we have a team breakjumping up on down just peeking into the stadium. It looked amazing! Running down onto the field scarlet filled the stadium and everyone seemed to be waving their towels when we entered with the classic, "Let's go Bucks!"
With about 15 minutes to go, the band entered the stadium and the fans went wild. The excitement seemed to just keep building and after the announcement of homecoming court; it was time to begin the game. The football team was lined up; ready to rush the field, and the band's formation was separating. Coach Tressel pointed his finger and we starting running; holding hands with the flags and the football team following behind. The crowd was on their feet and all set for this Big Ten showdown.
It was a battle from the outset as both teams fought hard to earn every yard on offense. The stadium was the loudest it had been in many seasons, and both teams were trying to prove something. After the first quarter and well into the second the score was still tied at 0-0. With a little over a minute remaining Penn State scored a field goal, and with just 7 seconds left, Ohio State tied the score. At the half, everyone seemed very satisfied. Though, both teams were obviously still in it, Ohio State seemed to have the upper hand with the Shoe behind them.
Halftime is when we get a little break from standing and the game in general. The halftime show performed by the band this week incorporated fireworks and played classic patriotic songs. Overall, the atmosphere seemed to be in our favor.
During the third quarter our team separates into two groups, half going up to C- deck to lead cheers and the other stay down on the field. This week I got to go up to C-deck. Even though it's quite a hike, it's so worth it to see the entire field from up here, and the fans couldn't be more thrilled. With only a few minutes into the quarter we scored another field goal, putting us up 6-3.
At the start of the fourth quarter, we always perform the classic, "Hang on Sloopy" with the band and the crowd goes crazy. The quarter began with the same tune as the others had begun with very little ball movement but our fate seemed to change. Unfortunately it was not in our favor and there was no time for recovery. The Buckeyes lost 13-6 to very good Penn State squad that could very well end up playing for a national title in January.