Staff Picks: Plays We’re Thankful For

It’s Thanksgiving break, which means Penn Staters from all over are home to stuff their faces. While we enjoy the time with our families and their respective secret recipes, we have to take a moment to appreciate those who can’t indulge themselves because of their diets — Penn State student-athletes. In honor of those who are eating carefully portioned meals in preparation for their future games, we picked plays from those same student-athletes that we’re so thankful for.

Patrick Koerbler: Pete Giftopoulos Seals The National Championship

The play I’m most thankful for is Penn State linebacker Pete Giftopoulos’ game-clinching interception of Miami’s Vinny Testaverde in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.

No. 2 Penn State came out and forced No. 1 Miami to make mistake after mistake, and eventually the Nittany Lions found themselves up 14-10 late in the fourth quarter. With just 18 seconds remaining, Miami was on the 13-yard line and faced a fourth-and-goal. Testaverde — the Heisman Trophy winner that season — dropped back and rocketed a pass toward the end zone where it was intercepted by Pete Giftopoulos, securing Penn State’s second National Championship in five years.

Although I wasn’t alive when this play happened, the image of Giftopoulos falling to the ground and the ensuing celebration is something that’s still sketched in my mind. Until Penn State’s next National Championship, I’ll be thankful for moments that this program was built upon.

Here’s a 14-minute highlight reel of the game. Skip to 11:48 for the pick.

Matt Coleman: Casey Bailey Starts The Climb For Penn State Hockey

The play I’m most thankful for comes from the Penn State men’s hockey team during the 2012-13 season, the first season it was a Division I program. In its first-ever game as a Division I program, freshman Casey Bailey scored a goal less than five minutes into the second period which rocketed the Nittany Lions into an upward climb into Division I prominence. Although they may still be climbing to become a top team in the NCAA, that goal gave the Nittany Lions the initial faith that they could actually compete against Division I teams.

Doug Leeson: Scott Conway Blows Pegula’s Roof Off

‘Twas the second night of THON and while I was on press row covering…something (the hours were starting to blend together), Twitter blew up with the hockey beat reporters talking about the team’s freshman phenom scoring a highlight-reel goal. All I saw for a while were 140-character descriptions that I knew weren’t doing it justice. Eventually I found a video and wrote about what is certainly the nicest goal in Pegula Ice Arena history. (Also, I’m calling now that Andrew Sturtz will dethrone Conway’s title with a sick goal of his own this season. And when he does, you better believe I’m linking back to this.)

Ethan Kasales: Tamba Hali And “The Fumble”

My favorite play growing up was undoubtedly Tamba Hali’s iconic, game-sealing sack that put Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith on his head in 2005. I fondly remember the Beaver Stadium bleachers practically shaking with excitement as the crowd spilled onto the field. Like Drake and Future’s mixtape, “What a Time to Be Alive” indeed.

Kaitlyn Dividock: Kyle Baublitz Blocks Michigan’s Kick, Forces Double Overtime

When I was posed with choosing the one Penn State play I’m most thankful for, my mind almost incessantly replayed the 2013 Homecoming game, where the Nittany Lions stole a victory from the (then 5-0) Michigan Wolverines in quadruple-overtime fashion. I want it to be known that I’m still blown away by all the brilliant plays that happened during that game (because there were seriously so many), but the one that truly sticks out to me is Penn State’s Kyle Baublitz’s unbelievable blocked field goal that, if made, would’ve given Michigan the win. Just writing those words raised billions of goose bumps all over my body. I was a sophomore at the time, my face was all painted up for the White Out, and I was relentlessly screaming from the first overtime to the fourth, proving how disgusting of a fanatic I am. But no moment, and no feeling, in my career as a member of the Penn State student section topped what I felt whenever that kick ricocheted to the ground. It was the greatest take down of a rivaled and top-25 ranked team in my four years standing in Beaver Stadium. Remembering this triumph also allowed me to cope with Saturday’s embarrassing loss to the Wolverines during senior day, so I’m super thankful for that too.

Sara Civian: Connor Darcey Holds The Line

With his heels on the line, Connor Darcey notoriously produced highlight-reel saves almost every game. My favorite occurred in Penn State’s 10-8 loss to then No. 5 Denver, the game he proved just as capable as former Penn State goaltender Austin Kaut. All 14 of Darcey’s saves on the game were versatile, as Denver was firing off quick shots from every angle. I remember watching some of these saves thinking “how is this happening?” One stuck out as particularly mind-boggling, an early indication that he would be a huge factor in Penn State’s season.
You should watch this entire video to get the full picture. That being said, skip to 3:40 to view the Penn State play I’m most thankful for and a reminder of how lucky we were to have Darcey in net.

Ben Rappaport: DJ Newbill Sinks The Buckeyes

The play I’m thankful for may be the best Penn State men’s basketball moment ever. I love basketball. I love Penn State. So naturally I love this play. Here’s some backstory: Penn State was 11-10 and getting absolutely slaughtered in B1G competition. Led by junior DJ Newbill, the Nittany Lions came into Columbus with little hopes to win. Head Coach Pat Chambers made sure they kept scrapping though. They managed to force the No. 24 ranked Buckeyes into a thrilling overtime matchup. The contest went back and forth until there were only eight seconds remaining. Penn State was down 70-69 and on its final possession DJ Newbill became a legend. Right away, he took took the ball up and no one in the arena didn’t think he was going to be the one to take Penn State’s final shot. Right away, defensive destroyer and the most annoying player in college basketball, Aaron Craft, came up to defend Newbill. He harassed him like a fly that wouldn’t go away. Newbill remained calm, faked to his right, hit a deadly crossover back to his left, and drained a jumper right in Craft’s mug, cold-blooded. There were 1.9 seconds left and Penn State walked away with the victory.

I rewatched that final progression of events maybe 30 times that night. For once in my life, Penn State basketball was relevant and everything was beautiful.

David Abruzzese: Allen Robinson Becomes A Legend

Allen Robinson’s game-saving catch vs. Michigan wasn’t simply a catch. It was a moment that transcended sports, and a feat that will forever be etched into the memories of fans in attendance and watching throughout the country. I was fortunate enough to sit in the student section for that play, and vividly remember tackling five of my friends sitting next to me after Robinson came down with the pass. I’m thankful Robinson helped put the Nittany Lions in a position to win, but the play bares much more significance.
I’m thankful for Allen Robinson’s catch over cornerback Channing Stribling because it proved anything is possible. In retrospect, the drive then-freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg led down the field was something out of a movie. Nine times out of 10, the Lions don’t score a touchdown. The play encapsulated everything that’s special about sports, because for just one moment, the impossible became possible. I’ll never forget watching Robinson go up in slow motion, just hoping and praying that for that moment, that everything could go right. I consider myself lucky to have seen that play in the student section, and it’s a memory I’ll hold on to forever.

Thank you, Allen Robinson.

What moments in Penn State sports are you most thankful for? Let us know in the comments.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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