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Penn State’s Most Dramatic Wins Of Recent Years

Most things are pretty straightforward for Penn State wrestling. That certainly wasn’t the case Saturday night as the Nittany Lions came roaring back from a 10-point deficit to edge Ohio State in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 “Dual of the Century.”

In the past couple of years, we’ve been blessed with quite a few dramatic victories across Penn State athletics. Here’s a look back at some of the best we’ve seen:

Penn State Whites Out Ohio State

It’s a game that will forever live in Happy Valley folk lore. Trailing by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter against No. 2 Ohio State, the Nittany Lions scored 17 unanswered down the stretch — capped off by a Marcus Allen field goal block and Grant Haley touchdown to seal the upset.

Just three weeks earlier, James Franklin was seemingly on the hot seat before his team pulled off a crazy overtime win against Minnesota. The win over the Buckeyes shot Penn State back into the national conversation, serving as the major turning point in its march to a conference title and the Rose Bowl.

Tony Carr’s Buzzer Beat Propels Hoops Past No. 13 Ohio State

We’re not sure what it is about the Buckeyes, but it doesn’t seem to matter what sport it is. Penn State manages to pull off its greatest wins against Ohio State.

Penn State men’s basketball had its ups and downs this season heading into Columbus for a showdown with one of the conference’s best. Critics pointed their fingers at head coach Pat Chambers as his squad underperformed from its expectations. Star sophomore guard Tony Carr was the face of the team’s struggles, going through a bit of a sophomore slump at the start of Big Ten play.

None of that mattered on the day. Carr dropped 28 points as Penn State jumped out to a double-digit lead late in the second half. Ohio State closed the gap in the waning minutes, tying it on a Keita Bates-Diop three-pointer with a five seconds to go. The Nittany Lions didn’t bother calling timeout with Carr taking it up the floor and unleashing from way downtown as the buzzer sounded to grab an impressive road win.

Rocky Rodriguez Scores Women’s Soccer’s First National Title

Penn State women’s soccer isn’t a very old program, founded in 1994, but has been successful in its short time at the NCAA level. With numerous conference titles, College Cup appearances, and alumnae breaking through at the professional level, all that was missing was the elusive national title.

The Big Ten Champions charged through the NCAA Tournament without conceding a goal to face Duke in the final. The match went deep into the second half scoreless and needed a hero from either side.

Captain Raquel Rodriguez led the way through the entire season. “Rocky,” the team’s World Cup goalscorer. Its Mac Hermann Trophy National Player of the Year. The eventual NWSL first-round draft pick. To break the deadlock, it just seemed like it had to be her. In those final minutes, she received a pass inside the box, turned, and broke the deadlock for good to give Penn State the 1-0 win.

Football Erases 21-Point Deficit To Win Big Ten Title

The program was written off, still reeling from its 2012 sanctions. It went into 2016 with not much in the way of outside expectations and had dropped an early season game to Pitt before getting blown off the field by Michigan. But there it was in Indianapolis — riding an eight-game winning streak playing for a Big Ten Championship.

Hopes were high, but once the game started, it didn’t feel like destiny anymore.

The offense had stalled, the defense had no answers for running back Corey Clement, turnovers killed, and Penn State’s nose dive drove Wisconsin to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter.

The Nittany Lions found life with a a 40-yard Saeed Blacknall touchdown to end the first half. They officially grabbed hold of momentum when Trace McSorley fired to Blacknall again for a 70-yard score. Wisconsin now looked depleted as Penn State went ahead in the fourth quarter on a Saquon Barkley wheel route. It would be Marcus Allen and Grant Haley finishing the job once again with a fourth-down stop against Clement on the Badgers’ final drive.

Penn State Hockey’s Big Ten Tournament Run

Penn State men’s hockey had spent just five seasons at the NCAA Division I level heading into the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. The team hadn’t landed a tournament berth in its history, but that would all change following a crazy three days in Detroit.

An opening round win against Michigan on setup a showdown with top-seeded Minnesota. The game went the distance — a 3-3 deadlock heading into overtime. It wouldn’t be settled until deep into the second overtime, when Erik Auto buried the winner on a power play to push Penn State into its first Big Ten title game.

The Nittany Lions would do it all over again the next night. Liam Folkes put Penn State ahead in the first period, but Wisconsin equalized in the third period. Wisconsin was knocking on the door the entire game, but despite a massive lead in shots, snagged just the one goal through three periods and the first overtime. Despite the onslaught on the opposite end of the ice, Folkes cashed in once again to clinch the title for the Nittany Lions.

Wrestling Goes Five-For-Five

The same weekend hockey was making magic in Detroit, wrestling was cruising yet again down in St. Louis.

For as dominant a program as Penn State wrestling has been, it was questioned in the lead-up to the 2017 NCAA Championships. The Nittany Lions didn’t have a wrestler at either of the lowest two weight classes, one of whom was injured second-ranked freshman phenom Nick Suriano, and had just lost in the Big Ten Championships to Ohio State.

The championships weren’t quite as close as some thought they would be. Penn State had won its sixth national title in seven years by Saturday afternoon. Five Nittany Lions reached Saturday night’s finals and somehow, all five walked away as individual national champions.

Zain Retherford defended his crown from 2016, while Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal avenged national title match losses from the previous year, and Mark Hall became Penn State’s first true freshman to ever win a national title. Four huge wins aside, we’d still be talking about this night even if it was only for Vincenzo Joseph, who brought the house down by pinning two-time defending national champion Isaiah Martinez for the upset of the tournament.

Penn State Volleyball Takes Out No. 1 Minnesota

The 2015 slate ended brutally for Penn State volleyball — a Sweet 16 exit to lower-seeded Hawaii following the Nittany Lions back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014. 2016 was shaping up to be worse after the team started 2-3. The team hadn’t faced the heart of the conference quite yet, but it managed to string together a 10-match winning streak before top-ranked Minnesota came to visit Rec Hall.

Penn State had the chance to put itself back in the national spotlight with a win and it was going to take a back-and-forth battle with the nation’s best team to secure that. After rallying to claim the fourth set, the Nittany Lions pushed their momentum in the decider and claimed their biggest win in more than a year.

Trace McSorley’s Walk-Off Touchdown Staves Off Upset

Penn State didn’t look like it was in trouble until it was staring down another loss in Kinnick Stadium. The Nittany Lions trailed at the half 7-5, but Iowa’s offense was stagnant and Joe Moorhead’s group wasn’t finishing the job in Hawkeye territory. The second half finally looked like momentum had swung in Penn State’s favor, but big plays from Iowa’s running back Akrum Wadley gave Trace McSorley just 1:42 to lead his team down the field trailing by four.

The Nittany Lions had big dreams in 2017, and McSorley wasn’t letting that end in September. He had a huge fourth-down conversion early in the drive, used his legs to cross move the team into Iowa territory, then worked the Nittany Lions into a first-and-goal situation with just seconds left.

His first three attempts don’t end up with the desired result, and the Nittany Lions have one last shot with four seconds remaining from seven yards out.

I’m sure you can figure out where this is going.


Have any other dramatic Penn State finishes from the last few years? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Steve Connelly

Steve Connelly is a junior majoring in PR and an editor for Onward State. He is a proud native of the state of New Jersey, and yes, he is literal trash. He is a soccer fan, nap enthusiast, and chicken tender connoisseur. He tried to be a photographer once, but the only good thing that came out of it is a name for his future sports bar, The Blurry Zamboni. You can follow him on Twitter @slc2o (feel free to slide), email him at [email protected], or come say hi to him in his office, the Irving's basement.

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