CHAMPAIGN – Dad played there once. Long before Penn State was in the Big Ten. Nate Creer's Iowa Hawkeyes lost the 1984 game 20-17.
Now, it's the son's turn to take his shot at Happy Valley. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase plays his first game in Beaver Stadium on Saturday. There will be more. In a quirk of the schedule, Illinois returns to Penn State in 2011. And likely will go back again in 2013, Scheelhaase's senior season.
Scheelhaase has been to a stadium as big as the one in State College. But he was on the sideline when Illinois played at Ohio State in 2009. On Saturday, he'll run the team, not signaling plays from the sideline.
"Not being on the field, you don't really get a chance to experience the full atmosphere," Scheelhaase said. "It's definitely something you look forward to. All of our guys talk about this stadium in particular just from the game they had two years ago and how crazy it was there.
"With it being their homecoming, it should be another crazy atmosphere again."
The difference between Scheelhaase's experience and his dad's will be the crowd noise. Creer played defensive back, meaning the fans were quiet as their team called signals. When Scheelhaase is on the field, the fans will try to disrupt him as much as possible.
"He's excited about being a fan in the stadium, the same way I'm excited about playing there," Scheelhaase said.
The quarterback will get a sneak peek at the place Friday when the team does its walkthrough. The early trip will help his preparation, Scheelhaase said.
"I like that idea just to get a feel for it," Scheelhaase said. "Obviously, it's totally different when there are fans in the stands."
Fayson phase. Scheelhaase isn't surprised senior Jarred Fayson is coming off the best game of his career. Fayson doubled his season totals with eight catches against Ohio State.
"It's definitely something we knew could happen throughout the season," Scheelhaase said. "They did a good job of putting a guy under and over the top of A.J. (Jenkins).
"Sometimes, it will be A.J. Sometimes, it will be Jarred. Sometimes, with having Eddie (McGee) back, Eddie or Darius (Millines). Different guys can step up at different times depending on what kind of coverages the defenses are in."
Play time. The last time he was at State College, Jenkins spent most of his time on the sideline. Then a freshman, Jenkins didn't have a catch in the 2008 game.
Now, the team's No. 2 receiver, Jenkins figures to get plenty of action Saturday.
"That's the loudest stadium I've ever been to," Jenkins said.
"We feed off the crowd energy. We like being the underdogs. It's kind of a good feeling going to a place like that."
Filling in. With Steve Hull questionable with an ankle injury, the Illinois coaches are looking for help at safety.
Patrick Nixon-Youman and Ashante Williams are spending practice time at the position.
"(Nixon-Youman) deserves to get on the field," Illinois coach Ron Zook said.
Checking in. Zook sent some of the calls he questioned from the Ohio State game to the Big Ten office for review.
"They're not going to change anything," Zook said. "We sent some plays in. I haven't got the response on them yet."
Good start. Zook said he likes what he has seen of Penn State freshman quarterback Rob Bolden.
"Very, very impressive," Zook said. "He is a young guy who gets better and better. You watch him and he's very poised.
"I don't know that his first thing is to run, but he can run. He's an athletic guy. I think he's throwing the ball pretty well."
Bolden gets plenty of help in the backfield from Evan Royster, who is fourth on the school's career rushing list.
"No question, he's the best running back we've seen to this point," Zook said. "They've got a stable full of them."