Last year, Penn State came to Champaign to upset the Illini and spoil their 33-game home winning streak. This year it was payback. Eric Benz, An Illinois junior biology major from Chicago, and a member of the Orange Krush posed as a Penn State alumnus to buy 100 tickets behind the basket in Happy Valley for the recent game. Benz and 100 members of Orange Krush student section, the oldest in college basketball, traveled by 12-hour bus ride and they kept up the ruse of PSU alumni throughout the pre-game.
Once the game started, however, the Nittany blue came off to uncover the proud Illini orange. Justin Weyman, the PennState ticket rep who made the errant sale put it this way:
"I was walking along the concourse and looked down through one of the portals, and I saw them strip off to their orange and start screaming. My stomach just dropped. I knew it was going to be something we would hear about."
The best part of the story is how Eric Benz, the Illinois junior, planned the scheme months in advance by chatting up Weyman last October with Penn State trivia in order to prevent suspicion:
"I'm just a sports nut, especially a college basketball junkie -- which isn't good for my major... And [Weyman] mentioned something about organizing the White Out they were having for the Michigan football game. And I knew about that because I watched the Ohio State-Penn State game two years ago on TV. I was just trying to be friendly." Weyman needed little prompting to sell a block of tickets to 100 fans...
The Illini won handily, buoyed by the presence of the cheering section:
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber recalled an immediate energy boost from his players when they saw the orange block emerge behind the backboard opposite the Penn State Blue Band. [Illinois player Brian] Randle had never seen the Krush so close to the floor.
Now if we can just get a berth to The Show.