Penn State fans brace for first road game in O'Brien era

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Outside the Doubletree Hotel in Charlottesville, a dozen Penn State fans mulled around and chatted in the hot September sun.

This is where the Nittany Lions will reside before their game against Virginia tomorrow and they were waiting to greet them. Even 300 miles away from State College, it looked a lot like Happy Valley. 

The fans wore t-shirts that read, "We Are Pissed Off," and "Billieve," just like they did at Beaver Stadium last week when Penn State lost to Ohio, 24-14. These fans will be joined by hundreds more tomorrow at Scott Stadium to see the first Penn State road game in the Bill O'Brien era.

And they are bracing for the best -- or the worst.

"We're in completely new territory," said Rob Jowder, a 1982 alumn. "We don't know what to expect."

Jowder, a Ridley Township native, sat inside the hotel with his wife, Teresa. She held a navy blue sign that read, "Proud to Support Penn State Football." It's the same sign that appears in dozens of storefronts in downtown State College. 

"It's going to be different this year, for sure," Jowder said. "We're here to support the team through thick and thin. But for the Virginia fans, and for any college football fans, I think we have this mystique about us. Everyone's curious about Penn State."

Jowder travels to all away football games. He booked this hotel, "as soon as reservations were available." That was last season, when the schedule was released.

A lot has changed in a year. Even more has changed since 2001 -- the last time Penn State visited Virginia.

"Everyone was so nice to us, so hospitable," said Teresa. "They really showed Southern hospitality."

So far, the Jowders said the reception has been similar. At dinner last night the restaurant staff was incredibly friendly. 

"That's just Virginia, their fans are very classy," Rob Jowder said. "I think it's a good transition game for the team. It's the perfect first road game in this era before they have to face the Big Ten schedule."

-Emily Kaplan