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Throwback Thursday: The Last Time Penn State Beat Ohio State

Second-ranked Ohio State will step off of the bus this Saturday in Happy Valley with an unblemished 6-0 record and four straight victories over the hometown Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes from Columbus, led by junior stars J.T. Barrett at quarterback, and Raekwon McMillan at middle linebacker, are one week removed from an impressive win in another neighboring Big Ten hostile environment, as they knocked off the previously No. 8 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in overtime by a score of 30-23 in front of a raucous home crowd at Camp Randall Stadium.

With Penn State still trying to push its program back towards the top of the Big Ten, games like this one are essential towards proving the legitimacy of the team. Do I think that step is taking place this season? No, but I do think that anything can happen in a White Out game, as the Nittany Lions have always played close games during this historic, annual event. An upset win like this could spearhead a massive change for the Penn State football program, which got us thinking: When was the last time we even knocked off the Buckeyes?

The last win by Penn State in this rivalry came during the darkest of times for both programs. The 8-2 Nittany Lions, less than two weeks removed from the initial Sandusky scandal fallout, traveled to Columbus on November 19, 2011. Emotions were high, the tension existed so strongly that you could almost reach out and grab it, and the whispers and rumors swirling around the team and the school were becoming unbearably overwhelming.

The Buckeyes were winding down one of their worst seasons in recent memory, entering a contest with a 6-4 record for the first time since 2001, and had dealt with the drama surrounding “Tattoo-Gate” throughout the entire season. Five players, including starting quarterback and Heisman favorite Terrelle Pryor, had been suspended for exchanging many different Ohio State football gear and memorabilia to a local tattoo artist in exchange for free tattoos and other impermissible benefits. Premier head coach Jim Tressel, at the time the most successful coach in school history, was fired in response to the events. Interim coach Luke Fickell and new starting quarterback Braxton Miller had done all they could, yet the Buckeyes were still sputtering down the stretch.

Despite all of the off the field hoopla surrounding these teams, the game itself was relatively underwhelming. Stephfon Green had a solid game for the Nittany Lions, racking up 101 total yards and two scores, including a 39-yard touchdown run on Penn State’s opening drive. However, neither team threw for 100 yards or scored in the second half, and the entertaining 20-14 first half quickly turned into a boring, defensive struggle that saw the Nittany Lions prevail. Penn State forced two third quarter fumbles to help keep the Buckeyes out of their own end zone, and the win saw the Tom Bradley-led Nittany Lions grab their first win under a coach other than Paterno since December 4, 1965 when they beat Maryland 19-7. The win also put Penn State just a matchup with Wisconsin away from making their first ever B1G Championship Game.

With each program having completely changed over the last five seasons, it is hard to imagine what life was like during this game. Nowadays, Penn State still looks to find their new identity under their second head coach in five seasons, while Ohio State has flourished under renowned head coach Urban Meyer, going undefeated in 2012 and winning a national championship in 2014. So, what exactly was it like back when Penn State knocked off the Buckeyes you might ask? Here’s a quick flashback to life as we knew it in November 2011.

In The News

Occupy Wall Street leads the news headlines throughout the entire month of November, with small flare-ups between protestors and police occurring in Oakland, CA., New York City, and at the University of California-Berkley.

Former Penn State defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, is arrested on charges of 40 counts of sexual abuse over a 15-year period. Senior vice president for finance and business, Gary Schultz, and the athletic director, Tim Curley, are charged with perjury and failure to report what they knew to the authorities. Schultz resigns from the university and Curley is placed on administrative leave.  Head football coach Joe Paterno is fired by the school’s Board of Trustees because he failed to notify the police in 2002 after he was informed of a suspected assault by Sandusky.

More women come out accusing Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment. By the end of November, the number of women who officially report these alleged acts by Cain rises to five.

In Music

Rihanna and Calvin Harris’s mega-hit We Found Love was the top song on the Billboard charts for this week in 2011, two weeks after dethroning Someone Like You by Adele. The Adele ballad was third in this week’s rankings, jumped by LMFAO’s Sexy And I Know It at the #2 spot.

At The Movies

The latest installment in the blockbuster Twilight series, Breaking Dawn Part 1 grossed a whopping $138 million during its first weekend in theaters. Coming in at a very distant second was Happy Feet Two, while Immortals rounded out the top three for the weekend of November 18-20, 2011.


CBS benefited from the success of a couple of new shows, 2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest, to join their already strong cast of The Big Bang TheoryHow I Met Your MotherTwo and a Half MenSurvivor, and Criminal Minds. Fox debuted New Girl to go along with American Idol, X Factor, Family Guy, and Glee. Outside of their Sunday night football coverage, NBC struggled with only two shows in the top 30: The Voice and The Office.   ABC’s top shows were Modern FamilyGrey’s AnatomyOnce Upon a Time, and Desperate Housewives. CW’s The Vampire Diaries and AMC’s The Walking Dead were also very popular.

Consumer Culture

Gaming consoles continued to dominate the most popular children’s gifts in 2011, and were joined by tablets such as the iPad 2 and the new Amazon Kindle Fire. The most popular cell phones were Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy S II. Gas prices hovered around $3.30 during the week, while the top selling vehicles were the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and the Toyota Camry.

Any other Fall 2011 memories come to mind? Have more ideas for Onward Flashbacks? Share with us in the comments.

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About the Author

Mitch Stewart

Mitch is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism from Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to being an editor for Onward State, Mitch loves to watch sports, talk about sports on PSU CommRadio, and tries his hardest to avoid the agony that being a Mets fan brings. To contact Mitch, feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected], and if you really don't value your social media accounts, follow him and his garbage opinions on Twitter @mitchystew.


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