I’m still in shock. It happened. It really happened.
Our Nittany Lions pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history Saturday. It was a 60 minute nail biter from start to finish. The best part? Before it all happened, virtually nobody gave Penn State a chance to even stay within three scores of the Buckeyes, let alone actually win the game.
To be fair, Ohio State was the No. 2 ranked team in the country riding an undefeated season into Happy Valley. But like you’ve heard a million times before, the atmosphere for the White Out game is unparalleled. That’s not just a thing people say. Whether you were there to witness it live or watched it on TV, it’s hard to deny the electricity.
I’ve been bleeding blue and white since I was 10 years old. I’ve dreamt about this day from the moment I first witnessed the White Out on TV, 250 miles away.
Kickoff finally arrived. 107,000 fans all wearing white, night lights on — the time had finally come. Unranked Penn State – No. 2 Ohio State, and we were off.
The Lions had success moving the ball down the field off the bat, but it didn’t last long. On their first drive they managed to get the ball into Ohio State’s territory — a set up for a 39-yard field goal attempt for Tyler Davis. Blocked. At that moment a lot of us were thinking what we typically think, ‘here we go.’ And the doubt started to settle in. But the Nittany Lions held the Buckeyes scoreless through the first quarter.
Heading into Saturday night, I believed if Penn State could hang with the Buckeyes for the first quarter, the team would have a shot. My motto was “don’t give us a chance,” and that’s exactly what Ohio State did.
Entering the second quarter tied at zero you started to believe but didn’t want to jinx it. 43 seconds in, Ohio State connected on a 33 yard field goal. The second quarter seemed to drag along until there were about five minutes left in the first half. The rollercoaster of emotion began to take its toll; Barrett’s touchdown pass to make it 9-0 served as a low point, but the missed extra point served as a beacon of hope. Ohio State continued to battle, and the Lions couldn’t capitalize on opportunities. But the ride continued, and a gorgeous touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Chris Godwin in the corner of the endzone instilled life back into the crowd.
Hope was restored, the stadium was rocking, and the Lions were here to play. If you told me before the game Penn State would only be down by five points at halftime I wouldn’t have believed you.
Going into the third quarter with optimism that the team could actually pull this off had me shaking for most of the second half. The doubt once again started to creep back in when Ohio State running back Curtis Samuel took a handoff 74 yards to the house to put the Buckeyes up 19-7. Right then and there you could feel the heartbreak reverberate throughout the student section. I watched several people get up and walk out for reasons I couldn’t explain. Again and again the offense stalled and Penn State faced yet another fourth down. Tyler Yazujian sailed the snap over punter Blake Gillikin’s head into the end zone. In a miraculous effort by the true freshman punter, he hustled to recover the ball in the end zone to prevent Ohio State for picking it up for a touchdown. The score was now 21-7. Hope wasn’t lost, but the future certainly looked bleak. The realization that we expected the score to be much worse at this point set in, and you still couldn’t help but fantasize.
The fourth quarter was here and Penn State was hanging with the supposed superior team. For what was mostly a defensive battle the entire game, Penn State’s offense offered a spark of life. The Lions were knocking on the door looking to punch in another touchdown, but a misfire from McSorley to Gesicki almost eradicated that hope. Then, a beautiful moment of redemption. The quarterback raced around to the corner and dove past the pylon. He was in.
McSorely’s two yard scramble brought the Lions within seven. You could start to feel it. Ohio State’s following drive resulted in a three and out. On fourth down, true freshman linebacker Cam Brown blocked the punt. Like I said before, my motto was “don’t give us a chance,” and here we were. We had a chance.
On Penn State’s next offensive possession it was held for only 12 yards on six plays — set up for a successful field goal to make it 21-17 Ohio State. You could feel it. We were almost there.
The Buckeyes got the ball back and started to drive. JT Barrett was being JT Barrett and slowly grinding the clock away. They reached Penn State’s 28 yard line and that was where Penn State’s defense stiffened up. Barrett floated a pass down the middle of the field where the ball simply slipped straight through Penn State defensive back, John Reid’s hands.
There it was, that was our chance for a crucial turnover and we missed it. The stadium was in awe from what they just saw, but what happened next will not soon be forgotten. It will go down in Penn State history.
The Buckeyes lined up to attempt a 45 yard field goal and extend their lead to seven. Good snap. Good hold. Blocked.
Penn State safety Marcus Allen leaped above the line and blocked the kick. The oblong shaped football started bouncing away and popped right into the hands of Grant Haley. He was off to the races, stumbling all the way down the sideline for the score. Penn State was up 24-21. I now refer to that play as “the block” and if you ask me, it has a pretty nice ring to it.
The scene was chaotic. It was unlike anything I have seen before in my life. The stadium was up for grabs and I just broke down. I fell to a knee and started hysterically crying. Though I obviously wasn’t in the right state of mind at the time (read: not exactly sober), I just couldn’t control myself — there were tears of joy. The miracle was unfolding right in front of me. With less than four and a half minutes to play, my 107,000 friends and I believed.
Any chance of an Ohio State comeback was shut down. Penn State’s defensive dominated. It came down to one more play, fourth and twenty-three. Both teams lined up, the ball was snapped, Barrett dropped back and was sacked. Penn State did it. It pulled off the biggest upset in recent history.
You could physically feel the stadium shaking. Words can barely describe how invigorating the atmosphere was. The Lions regained possession, took a few knees, and it was finally over. The clock read triple zeros and suddenly the field was a sea of white. There was no possible way they were going to keep the Penn State faithful off of it.
It was that once-in-a-lifetime win you hold on to. Players hugged each other and fans all over the field. Fans thanked players for everything they’ve done for this university. So many wounds seemed to heal in just a matter of a few hours. Everything the team and community had been through in recent years couldn’t stop it. Penn State football was back.
The entire scene in Beaver Stadium that night exemplified what Penn State University is about. Hard work, toughness, positivity through ever circumstance. Success with honor. There are still chills running down my spine. Do you believe in miracles?