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A Brief History Of College GameDay At Penn State

Well, folks. ESPN’s College GameDay is on its way here for the third-straight year this weekend for Penn State’s White Out against Michigan.

The first seven times the GameDay crew visited Penn State include thrilling victories, but also a pair of crushing defeats for the Nittany Lions.

Here’s a breakdown of College GameDay’s first seven appearances at Penn State:

November 8, 1997: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Penn State

An already wet and miserable day quickly became much worse for Penn State fans following Michigan’s beat down of Joe Paterno’s previously undefeated Nittany Lion squad. The Wolverines outplayed Penn State in all three phases of the game en route to a convincing 34-8 victory on the day.

The game marked the worst loss by a Paterno-led team in 32 years and the biggest margin of defeat suffered at home by Penn State since 1931. It helped vault Michigan to the No. 1 spot in the final polls of the season.

Hopefully the matchup next Saturday has a happier ending for Nittany Lion fans.

August 28, 1999: No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 3 Penn State

A rare high profile out-of-conference game brought the GameDay crew back to State College in 1999 for the Pigskin Classic. This time, however, Penn State would fair much better against a top-five opponent.

From the opening kickoff, the Nittany Lions dominated Arizona, soundly defeating the Wildcats 41-7. Penn State’s offense racked up 504 total yards, while the defense held Arizona to only 356 yards and did not relinquish the shutout until there were only 47 seconds left in the game.

A marquee matchup-turned-blowout was probably best summed up after the game by Paterno when he said, “I don’t think this ball game proves anything.”

Here are a few highlights from the contest (We cut to Lee Corso’s headgear selection for you):

October 8, 2005: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 16 Penn State

Following a miserable 2004 season that saw Penn State go 4-7 without earning bowl eligibility, fans were beginning to wonder whether or not it was time for the great Joe Paterno to retire. Instead, the 2005 Nittany Lions came out of the gates swinging, winning their first six games to set up a top-25 matchup with the Buckeyes.

In a game that proved Paterno was still a coach capable of leading a team back to the top of the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions bottled up Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, holding the dual threat passer to only 154 total yards. On offense, quarterback Michael Robinson and receiver Derrick Williams led the way to a dramatic 17-10 victory for Penn State. This game also produced one of the most iconic Penn State moments of the past few decades: “The Fumble.”

The win helped propel the Nittany Lions to a share of the Big Ten title, and an appearance in the Orange Bowl that season.

October 27, 2007: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 25 Penn State

Once again Gameday came back for a match up between the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes. This time, however, Ohio State got the better of Penn State, comfortably winning 37-17.

Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli was largely ineffective, only throwing for 111 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. On defense, the Nittany Lions were gashed for 200 yards on the ground and surrendered a further 253 through the air on a night when they were completely outmatched against the Buckeyes.

The loss dropped Penn State out of the top 25 rankings for the remainder of the season.

September 26, 2009: Iowa vs. No. 4 Penn State

A heartbreaking loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium the previous season cost Penn State a shot at a national title. A year later, with revenge on their mind and on their own turf, the Nittany Lions…laid another dud against the Hawkeyes.

Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark played the worst game of his career, only completing 12 of his 32 pass attempts for only 198 yards, a single touchdown, and a back-breaking three interceptions. The defense held its own against the Iowa offense, but ultimately the Nittany Lions’ four turnovers proved too much to overcome in a 21-10 defeat at the hands of the Hawkeyes.

The loss derailed Penn State’s early season National Championship hopes. At least this year, the Nittany Lions were able to escape a game against Iowa unscathed.

October 21, 2017: No. 19 Michigan vs. No. 2 Penn State

College GameDay’s return to Penn State after an eight-year absence resulted in one of the greatest victories for the Nittany Lions in recent memory.

Saquon Barkley set the tone for the game in front of a White Out crowd by ripping a 69-yard touchdown on the opening play of the game. The Nittany Lions never looked back and went on to win 42-13.

Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 282 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the win. He also added three rushing touchdowns to no one’s surprise.

September 29, 2018: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Penn State

In its second-straight trip in Happy Valley, College GameDay came to town for Ohio State’s White Out showdown against the Nittany Lions.

While Penn State led 13-0 at one point in the game, the Buckeyes stormed back for a heartbreaking comeback win against the Nittany Lions. Urban Meyer’s squad took a 27-26 lead with 2:03 left to play in the game and won by that very score.

Penn State had its bye week following the brutal loss, and added insult to injury by dropping another game when Michigan State came to town. James Franklin’s team lost 21-17 to the Spartans thanks to another fourth-quarter comeback.

October 19, 2019: No. 16 Michigan vs. No. 7 Penn State

The Wolverines returned to Happy Valley in 2019 take on the Nittany Lions under White Out conditions.

College GameDay made its way over as well, this time setting up shop on the HUB Lawn thanks to ongoing construction on Old Main’s bell tower. An iconic Mo Bamba-induced opening-play timeout helped lead Penn State to an electrifying 28-21 over the Wolverines.

October 31, 2020: No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 18 Penn State

This was a wierd one. After the pandemic-effected 2020 season finally got underway, Ohio State traveled to Happy Valley for the Nittany Lions’ home opener. Penn State, fresh off a loss in Bloomington, wasn’t able to handle the Buckeyes without the help of a White Out crowd, losing 38-25.

Without fans in attendance, College GameDay set up shop inside Beaver Stadium for this one. In an all-around bummer of a year, GameDay just didn’t feel like itself this time around.

September 18, 2021: No. 22 Auburn vs. No. 10 Penn State

This Saturday, the boys will be back and town. And by the boys, we mean College GameDay’s iconic crew is back for the fifth straight year. Penn State’s first SEC matchup since 2011 is set to be a fun one.


Note: This post was recently updated to include College GameDay’s four most recent trips to Penn State, which had not happened at the time of publication.

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About the Author

Matthew Fox

Matt is a Senior from Lansdale Pennsylvania majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He loves sports, and is still patiently waiting for the Philadelphia Flyers to win a Stanley Cup. If you would ever like to reach out to Matt you can email him at [email protected]

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