Counting Down the Most Memorable PSU-OSU Games: 2005
In order to be excited about what is to come in the future, it is important to understand and appreciate the past. This coming Saturday marks the most anticipated contest to date in a new era of Penn State Football as the Nittany Lions take on the undefeated No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes. But big games against Ohio State are nothing new.
This is the final installment of a five-part series that will take a look back at the most memorable Penn State-Ohio State games since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993. Hopefully this serves as both an informative and entertaining way to get you pumped up for Saturday’s matchup. Each day, we will provide a short recap of the selected game, and brief interviews with a few fans who were in attendance.
You knew all week it was coming. Today we take a look back at the memorable game that was played on October 8, 2005 at Beaver Stadium talking with Matt de Bear (@PSUMatt2005), Cari Greene (@notcarlotta), Russ Huff (@McbgLions), Nicole Wood (@nicrish), and Tate Esterly (@CTEsterly20).
Words may not give this game justice. If I were to make my best attempt at it, phrases like “program altering,” “revival,” “perfect storm,” and “we are back,” all come to mind. After only winning a combined seven games in the two previous seasons, Joe Paterno’s resurgent Nittany Lions came into this Saturday night showdown 5-0, finally ranked and looking to prove that it was no fluke. The Buckeyes had lost to Texas in the second week of the season but entered as the sixth ranked team in the country.
The buildup for this contest was established well before Saturday with a week-long student campout. Camping out for the best seats was nothing new, but it took on a life of its own that week as the name “Paternoville” was officially born. A Friday night pep rally and College GameDay was the cherry on top of the rest of the excitement as host Chris Fowler went on the air with the line “The Nittany Lions have awaken — 5-0 and finally ranked. The Lions are back, and the Valley is happy once again.”
Ten hours later, 109,839 fans packed Beaver Stadium for the biggest football game they would witness in years. Midway through the first quarter, kicker Josh Huston put the Buckeyes on the board first with a 30-yard field goal. The Nittany Lions struck back five minutes into the second quarter when receiver Derrick Williams took a pitch from quarterback Michel Robinson and went 14 yards for a touchdown. A minute later, the defense had Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith backed up near the end zone in front of the student section dressed in white and bouncing up and down to Zombie Nation. Smith was intercepted by safety Calvin Lowry who came just two yards short of returning it for a touchdown.
A few plays later, Robinson kept the ball on an option for a two yard touchdown run, and Beaver Stadium exploded. Five years of pent up frustration was finally released. Radio announcer Steve Jones would say in future interviews that he and partner Jack Ham felt the press box shake multiple times that night from the noise. The Buckeyes embarked on a methodical drive that ended with an 11-yard run by Smith for a touchdown with only a few seconds remaining in the first half.
The game went to halftime with the home team winning 14-10. During the break, analyst Kirk Herbstreit said words that became etched in Penn State lore. “That’s the best student section in the country. They’re crazy.”
Freshman kicker Kevin Kelly hit a 41-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half to extend the lead to seven. The rest of the contest would be a defensive struggle. Huston missed wide right late in the third quarter, and the game went to the final stanza. Linebacker Paul Posluszny was constantly in the backfield, making life miserable for Smith, but the defense would have to hold one more time.
The Buckeyes took over on their own 10-yard line with 3:42 remaining, trailing by 7. They moved the ball to the Nittany Lions 46-yard line with 1:28 left in the game. The Buckeyes set up in a shotgun formation, and defensive end Tamba Hali came around the corner relatively untouched. Smith made a slight side step to the left and never saw Hali coming right at him. The defensive end sacked Smith who fumbled on the play and ended up flipping due to the force of the hit. Defensive tackle Scott Paxson was there to fall on it, and the celebration was on in Happy Valley as the sixteenth ranked Nittany Lions came through.
Nicole Wood, a 2003 graduate, was in the stands last night. “I did Paternoville before it was called Paternoville when I was a student,” said Wood. She made the two hour drive back to State College with a friend who she graduated with that day — a day that ended with her on the field.
Seated in section WJ about 3o rows up, Wood noticed several students running onto the field to celebrate and saw her opportunity. “As several alumni started heading out, we began going towards the field. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was great,” said Wood.
Wood recalls several positive interactions with Ohio State fans that day but ultimately the final result sticks out. “Just the feel of that whole year. We were finally doing well again. It’s definitely one of the top three games I’ve ever been to,” said Wood.
Cari Greene is another 2003 graduate. The back end of the Dark Years combined with a busy work schedule had slightly diminished Greene’s enthusiasm for Penn State Football. She had no expectations for that season and was shocked to be undefeated after the first month, but that game would restore her excitement.
“I was wearing my #7 Justin King jersey, and my sister and I were huddled close to each other under a blanket when we weren’t bouncing to Zombie Nation. Greene does not remember a ton of specific plays, but the atmosphere still sticks in her mind. Words may not do it justice. “It felt quite simply like Penn State. We were all one that day — the students, the alumni, the fans, and the team. We were confident but not cocky. We knew we could play with them. They didn’t think we could, and that made the victory all the more sweeter. We had love again and restored pride,” said Greene.
“I haven’t missed a Penn State game since,” said Greene. Those few hours certainly made an impact.
Long time fan and season ticket holder Russ Huff was also in the stands that night with his brother and high-school son. “The enthusiasm of the crowd was fueled by the previous down years. My son never really saw them when they were really good,” explained Huff.
Huff specifically remembers Calvin Lowry’s interception that set up the second touchdown along with Troy Smith having to burn multiple timeouts when he could not hear due to crowd noise. “Our juices were really flowing for the night game. “Penn State-Nebraska from 1982 is my favorite game of all time, but this is probably second on the list. It was just a wild night,” said Huff.
Current student Tate Esterly also attended the game with his father. He had been to plenty of games before but nothing ever like what he witnessed on that magical October night. His seats were right by the north end zone when Derrick Williams scored the go-ahead touchdown early on.
“The students were going crazy. I never heard it as loud as when Hali came free and put Smith on his back. I went to the Rose Bowl in 2009 when they played USC, and maybe if they won that would have been my most memorable game, but this is definitely it,” said Esterly.
Matt de Bear had graduated the spring before this game. The former Blue Band trumpet player was living in Columbus, Ohio at the time and targeted this game to attend. “A lot of my close friends were still in school, and I knew over the summer that it was a night game,” explained de Bear.
Hanging out downtown Friday night, de Bear witnessed excitement on a whole new level. “All anyone was talking about was the game. You would see Ohio State fans downtown in bars, and that’s all they were talking about too,” said de Bear.
“The feeling was there that we could do this. Quiet confidence started turning into real confidence. We knew the talent level was there. It was just a question of how they would play that night,” said de Bear.
That only increased after Lowry’s interception and the subsequent Penn State touchdown, a series that he remembers fondly. “It was just a great defensive game with noise from beginning to end. Everyone was going nuts.”
Speaking last Sunday night, de Bear concluded things connecting past to present.
“I feel tonight exactly how I felt seven years ago.”