Scenes from a Saturday

The state of Pennsylvania loves its state university. And it's the state university that brings Pennsylvanians together.

In Big 12 states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa, loyalties are divided between two schools.

But Pennsylvania, with a population four times those states, is all about the Nittany Lions – making Penn State one of college football's most wondrous settings.

"The environment around the university is like no other," said Nittany Lions guard John Urschel, who, already with a master's degree in mathematics, taught calculus to Penn State undergrads while playing football.

Elsewhere, students might not even bother attending games such as Penn State's visit from Purdue. In Happy Valley, they camped outside in freezing temperatures the night before in Nittanyville to get the best seats.

It wasn't just football that had the campus buzzing the night before: Hockey, women's soccer and women's basketball games were all taking place around Beaver Stadium. The parking lots overflowed. So did the sidewalks.

Those in town who didn't go to those games were in downtown State College just off campus filling up its iconic bistros like the Allen Street Grille and the Corner Room.

Or they were in line at the Berkey Creamery, waiting to get ice cream at the largest university run creamery in the nation.

"It's a Penn State tradition to come and get your ice cream," said Nancy, a Penn State sophomore who works at the Creamery, which once served President Bill Clinton, the only person on record allowed to mix flavors there.

The grandest spectacle of them all, and the reason why so many descend upon Penn State these fall weekends, is the tailgates before football games.

On game days, State College famously becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania. And hours before the Nittany Lions took on Purdue, fans from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia flocked to the lots surrounding Beaver Stadium.

But not just fans. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Cousins, uncles and aunts. The Penn State tailgate is almost like a weekly family reunion.

"It's like when the Pied Piper plays the music, and all the mice rush to it," said Luigi Puglia, who hosted one tailgate this year that went 142-people deep, reeling in family and friends scattered across Pennsylvania and beyond. "All the kids show up. All the parents of the kids show up.

"It's a way to reconnect."

The Penn State community has been through a lot the last three years. And those wounds still cut deep. But that has hardly stopped the campus from being a tie that binds.

"Even after everything that happened," said Ken Constanble, Puglia's neighbor in suburban Philadelphia and a regular at his tailgates. "All this is just like it was."

Hours after Penn State beat Purdue 45-21, the lights around the stadium remained bright. The tailgates carried on. The family reunions did, too.

Lose the game, but never the tailgate

By: Kevin Gemmell

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Ray Schooler and Chris Fulmer had been traveling to South Carolina football games for years before their paths crossed for the first time in West Virginia in 1989. Sitting in the Gamecocks cheering section, Fulmer was yelling a bit of nastiness at the officials, earning him a high five from nearby Schooler.

That's how "The Ultimate Tailgaters," a group of more than 50 South Carolina fans, was born.

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