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Penn State’s Top Sports Moments Of 2020

It’s certainly been a strange year for Penn State Athletics.

After every sport was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, no one was quite sure when we’d get to watch the Nittany Lions play again. After some postponements and scheduling fixes, however, Penn State Athletics burst back onto the scene in October.

Football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s hockey all returned to play this past semester. Despite understandably slow starts for some teams, there have still been a few awesome moments over the course of their seasons, and several highlights even before everything stopped in March.

With that in mind, we’re looking back at the top Penn State sports moments of this past year.

Penn State Hockey Storms Back On Senior Night

Guy Gadowsky’s squad fell behind 2-1 to Minnesota on Senior Night at Pegula Ice Arena this past February, but the Nittany Lions weren’t going down without a fight. Nikita Pavlychev quickly tied the game at two with a beautiful goal, and the arena was electrified.

Suddenly, the Nittany Lions were back in it. Kevin Wall kept the momentum rolling with a goal just 31 seconds later, and suddenly, Penn State had a 3-2 lead. The Nittany Lions held that score and finished Senior Night with a victory that was key for them in them capturing their first-ever Big Ten regular-season championship.

Penn State Wrestling Seniors Dominate In Rec Hall

Here’s another senior day highlight, as Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, and Shakur Rasheed all capped off their careers in Rec Hall with pins against American University.

In case you forgot how dominant this trio was at Penn State, they left Happy Valley with a combined record of 271-33. Along with that impressive mark, they have three national titles and seven All-American finishes between them.

Penn State Hoops Climbs To No. 9 In AP Top 25 Poll

After entering the poll and becoming ranked for the first time since 1996, Penn State men’s basketball stayed hot in 2020 by ripping off an eight-game win streak from January 18 to February 15. This included victories over the likes of Ohio State and Michigan, and suddenly, Pat Chambers’ squad earned its highest ranking ever in the AP Top 25 Poll.

Lamar Stevens and this group were a surefire NCAA Tournament team after proving themselves on that run. While the group never got a chance to compete in that tournament, the 2019-20 season is one that won’t soon be forgotten by Penn Staters.

Big Ten Reinstates Football Season

This wasn’t an on-field moment, but folks couldn’t be any happier when the Big Ten announced that it would finally hold a football season this fall. The conference initially announced that it had postponed all fall sports in August, but the football season was reinstated after weeks of rumors and reports.

It was clearly a tough nine-game season for the Nittany Lions that began with five straight losses, but most Penn Staters were just happy to see their team play once again.

Jahan Dotson’s One-Handed Snag

Jahan Dotson was the brightest star for the Nittany Lions this fall, and this won’t be the only time he’s mentioned on this list. Of all the great things he did this season, however, this catch clearly the best. The wide receiver kept Penn State alive against Ohio State in week two, and catches like this one over Buckeyes cornerback Shaun Wade were a big reason why.

Dotson finished his night against the Buckeyes with a staggering eight catches worth 144 yards and three touchdowns.

That play was the highlight of that night, but the junior wide receiver stepped up for the Nittany Lions throughout that game and the entire season.

Myles Dread Wins It At The Buzzer For Penn State Hoops

After going back and forth with VCU in its second game of the season, Penn State men’s basketball was in a deadlock with just seconds remaining. With the game tied at 69, Jamari Wheeler found Myles Dread open for a three-pointer to give the Nittany Lions the win.

The clutch bucket landed Dread on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays later that week. It helped the Nittany Lions climb to a 2-0 start and was Dread’s third career game-winning shot for Penn State.

Oddly enough, the no-doubt swish was the junior guard’s only bucket of the night. Before that shot, Dread was 0-for-4 from the field in just nine minutes of playing time, but he clearly remains to be a specialist for the Nittany Lions in the waning seconds.

Makenna Marisa Goes Clutch For The Lady Lions

Just a day after Myles Dread’s buzzer-beater, Makenna Marisa stepped up and did the same for Penn State women’s basketball. Down one in a close battle with Rhode Island, the Lady Lions got the ball to Marisa and she did the rest. The sophomore guard grabbed a rebound and nailed a layup to give Penn State a win as the seconds ran out.

The Lady Lions climbed to a 3-0 record with that win in early December and are currently 3-2 on the year.

Lamont Wade Takes Kick Return 102 Yards To The House

After begging to add value as a return man throughout his Penn State career, Lamont Wade finally got a chance as a kick returner in the final two games of the Nittany Lions’ season.

In what was potentially his final game at Penn State, the senior safety backed up his talk. Wade made a few cuts and took a kick return 102 yards to the house for an electric touchdown.

Wade’s score was part of Penn State’s offensive explosion against Illinois, as James Franklin’s squad beat the Fighting Illini 56-21 in its final game of the season.

Dotson Dominates In Penn State’s Final Two Games

After an electric 2020 campaign in which he led the Big Ten with 52 catches for 884 yards, Dotson exploded in the Nittany Lions’ final two games.

Against Michigan State, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania native made eight catches for a strong 108 yards. Dotson’s biggest play of the afternoon, however, came on special teams when he took a punt return 81 yards for a touchdown.

Against Illinois a week later, Dotson stayed hot with another solid punt return, but his big plays as a receiver were the story of the day. The star wideout started things off by going untouched on a 75-yard score on Penn State’s first (first!) play from scrimmage.

Dotson was quite simply unstoppable against the Fighting Illini in the first half. Just a few minutes later, he caught a screen pass and used his speed to take it 70 yards to pay dirt.

With those two massive plays, Dotson finished his night with six grabs for 189 yards. Over the course of those last two games, he totaled an absurd 297 yards on 14 catches.

While those final two games were the two of the biggest performances of the season, the wideout had five games over the course of this year with more than 100 receiving yards.

Penn State Football Closes Out Season With Four Consecutive Wins

After a first-ever 0-5 start to the season for Penn State football, not many folks were high on the Nittany Lions. As tough a year it was, James Franklin’s squad managed to battle back and win its last four games.

That run of wins was kicked off with Penn State’s first victory at the Big House since 2009 and finished with the Nittany Lions only 50-burger of the season. Along with that, Penn State reminded everyone that it still indeed knows how to beat Rutgers.

Penn State finished under .500, but that run of wins to close out the 2020 campaign was nothing but fun for the team and the fanbase.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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