Biggest Plays In Penn State-Ohio State History
This Saturday’s matchup between No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State is carrying more clout than any other game this season. In fact, it could go down as one of the biggest regular season games in school history, with serious playoff implications at stake in Columbus.
This isn’t the first time a rivalry game with the Buckeyes is featured as one of college football’s marquee matchup of the season. The mid-1990’s and mid-2000’s had a handful of top-10 and top-15 matchups between the two storied programs. College GameDay has picked the game for the eighth time in the show’s history as its location for this weekend, despite setting up at Old Main just this past week.
With so many fantastic players, moments, and memories created from the history of this rivalry, we decided to take a look back at some of the most monumental all-time plays between Penn State and Ohio State.
1995: Bobby Hoying’s Final Drive Heroics
The year after Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter left the perfect 1994 Nittany Lions for the NFL, Penn State had started the year ranked high in the polls. However, the week before their meeting with the Buckeyes, the No. 6 Nittany Lions lost at home to unranked Wisconsin.
Moving down to 12th in the AP Poll, Penn State hoped to get back on the right foot and move into the top 10, as it led 25-21 with three minutes to go. Bobby Hoying took over the Buckeye offense at his own 42-yard line, trying to give the Nittany Lions their second consecutive home loss.
After a clutch third-down conversion, Hoying found two-sport star Rickey Dudley for a huge 32-yard gain. The 6-foot-7 tight end walked onto the football team after being recruited to the school initially for basketball. Dudley managed to use his big frame to pull down the ball even with triple coverage.
While that was the more memorable play, YouTube was only able to find us a short video of the ensuing touchdown instead of the catch. Columbus legend Eddie George powered into the end zone with a six-yard rush to give Ohio State the emphatic come-from-behind win.
2005: Tamba Hali’s Forced Fumble
Potentially one of the most-played highlight videos in Penn State folklore, Tamba Hali’s soul-jarring sack of Troy Smith was program-defining.
With the Buckeyes trailing 17-10 with just minutes remaining, Smith led Ohio State into Nittany Lion territory, surely driving to tie the game. On this second-down play, Hali broke past the offensive line, delivered a blow to Smith, and knocked the ball free to seal the win for Penn State.
This season featured an Orange Bowl victory, and a Rose Bowl appearance followed just a few years later. After an abysmal 4-7 year in 2004, the momentum this win generated for the program can’t be overstated.
2014: Blown Calls and a Joey Bosa Walk-Off Sack
There were names on jerseys, less scholarships, and even fewer expectations for the 2014 Nittany Lions in this game. For the Happy Valley faithful, this game is more memorable for the plays that weren’t called, as well as the most Hackenberg-y way to lose a game ever.
The Buckeyes tallied a field goal with an expired play clock, in addition to an interception that obviously hit the ground. Even more gut-wrenching, the officials reviewed the trapped ball, and STILL didn’t overturn the play.
However, a furious comeback started by an improbable Anthony Zettel pick-six was capped off by a Sam Ficken field goal that sent this game into overtime. The Nittany Lions ended up running out of magic in the second overtime, and All-American Joey Bosa took full advantage. The play below speaks for itself, and is the main reason fans couldn’t help but scream at Penn State’s offensive line and quarterback throughout much of 2014-15.
2016: “It’s Blocked. Lions Scoop It Up. Grant Haley…Will Score”
This one is still pretty fresh in the minds of most who are reading this, but if you live under a rock, here’s what you missed. Trailing 21-7 in the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions used quick momentum-changing plays from their special teams to change the tide of the game.
After an opening drive touchdown from Trace McSorley and Co., a punt block by freshman linebacker Cam Brown led to points on the board to cut it to a one-possession game.
However, arguably the most miraculous play in Beaver Stadium history took place in a seemingly harmless moment. Ohio State tried to extend its lead from four to seven and add some insurance. The Nittany Lions hadn’t blocked a kick for a score in Happy Valley since 2012, but Marcus Allen had other ideas. The junior safety swatted down the Tyler Durbin attempt, and Grant Haley ran the ball right down “memory lane” of every Penn State football fan until the end of time. Be sure to sit down and locate the closest tissue box before watching this stunning block.