They came not really knowing what they would see, and that, for many of the estimated 60,000 who sat in Beaver Stadium for Saturday's Blue-White Game, was the exciting part.
Christian Kuntz' 11-yard scoring grab was one of the few second-half highlights for the offense in the defense's 77-65 win.
What they saw in the first spring game directed by a new coach since the 1960s was a little bit of really good football, more than a bit of sloppy football and a whole lot in between -- in other words, what some might call a typical spring scrimmage.
The afternoon was just one more sign, though, that nothing is typical in Happy Valley anymore.
"Obviously it wasn't perfect, and you can learn a lot from it," Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien said after his defense beat his offense 77-65 under a modified scoring system. "It's a good opportunity for our players and staff to get a feel for how a game will be run under our leadership."
With defensive coordinator Ted Roof running the defense from one half of the sideline, quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher in the huddle with the offense (the no-huddle attack O'Brien implemented in practice was nowhere to be seen Saturday) and O'Brien giving orders to both groups, the Nittany Lions showed the fans (and, later in the day, a Big Ten Network television audience) a very vanilla package.
"We were very basic in what we did defensively," Roof said. "We had the same two or three calls over and over. We were just wanting to evaluate the execution, the effort and how physical we were."
O'Brien told reporters after the game that they had seen "10 percent" of Penn State's new offense that afternoon. Players and assistant coaches grinned when they heard that, saying it might not have been that much.
"We ran like four or five pass plays out there today," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "They know what we have. They've seen it in the scrimmage. I think today was just more of a show, to go out and have some fun."
The fun was in the additional scoring. The offense picked up two points for each play of 15 yards or more and the defense got one point for forcing a three-and-out, four points for a sack, two for each tackle for loss and six points for each turnover.
"It made it kind of more interesting," wide receiver Shawney Kersey said. "Coach wanted to make the score real high to make the fans happy."
Penn State's fans, who saw an average of 26.3 total points during the last four games in Beaver Stadium in 2011, saw the offense charge out to a 28-12 lead after one quarter. It extended that lead to 33-12 before Roof's defense began to roar back.
"One of the main things I wanted to do there was reward the defense for good plays," O'Brien said.
Those plays came in bunches during the second quarter. Four quarterback sacks -- three by defensive end C.J. Olaniyan -- and interceptions by defensive backs Devin Pryor and Jesse Della Valle helped the defense take a 45-35 halftime advantage.
It was mostly a rough afternoon for the Penn State quarterbacks, who combined for five interceptions (three by Rob Bolden) and 343 yards, two touchdowns and just 23 completions on 48 attempts and were sacked eight times. McGloin (6-of-13, 105 yards) hooked up with wide receiver Christian Kuntz for an 11-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter and Paul Jones (6-of-15, 113 yards) hit tight end Matt Lehman for an 18-yard score early in the fourth.
O'Brien, who worked with Pro Bowler Tom Brady for the past four seasons, has tried to get his quarterbacks to understand that "the guards and centers set the depth of the pocket and the tackles set the width."
"I can picture each one of them climbing the pocket and stepping up and making the throw," O'Brien said. "I was happy with how they did that at times today."
Penn State's rebuilt offensive line, besides having some trouble with rushes off the edge, helped the running backs to 134 yards on 29 carries. Bill Belton had 50 yards on seven carries and a 7-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Converted fullback Zach Zwinak had 37 yards and a touchdown of his own on eight carries as starter Silas Redd got a relative day off (three carries, 12 yards).
Linebacker Glenn Carson led a defense playing without Michael Mauti with eight tackles, though the starters saw limited reps. It was all part of O'Brien's plan for the final workout of the spring -- entertain second, reveal as little as possible first.
"Week one, you'll all see what we have in store for you," cornerback Stephon Morris said.