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Penn State’s Recent Post-Bye Week Games By The Numbers

After one well-deserved week off, Penn State football is back in action in just a few days.

Since James Franklin took over the program in 2014, the team has had eight bye weeks. Yes, that math may not add up, but that’s because the Nittany Lions actually had two bye weeks in 2014 and 2019 due to their participation in “Week Zero.”

Penn State owns a 3-5 record in post-bye week games. Back in 2014, the Nittany Lions lost to Michigan 18-13 after Franklin’s first-ever bye week with the team. In Ann Arbor that day, 113,085 fans were in attendance to see Christian Hackenberg and Co. fall just a bit short against Brady Hoke’s Wolverines.

Just two weeks later, Penn State lost 31-24 in a double-overtime heartbreaker to Ohio State following its second bye week of the season. Despite the White Out loss, wideout DaeSean Hamilton put on a show with 14 catches for 126 yards. Those 14 receptions are still a single-game record for the program.

Ironically enough, Franklin’s first five post-bye week games with Penn State came against either Ohio State or Michigan. After losing the first three (2014 Michigan, 2014 Ohio State, 2015 Michigan), the Nittany Lions finally got their first post-bye week win under Franklin in 2016.

That game in 2016 came against No. 2 Ohio State, and it’s one you may remember. Late in the fourth quarter, Marcus Allen blocked Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard field goal, which Grant Haley returned 60 yards for a touchdown to put Penn State ahead 24-21 with 4:27 left in the game.

As history now tells us, the Nittany Lions took off after that game, going on to win the Big Ten Championship and rising all the way to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 Poll.

The following year, No. 2 Penn State won its post-bye week game over No. 19 Michigan 42-13. The two wins over Ohio State and Michigan marks the only time Penn State has won two consecutive post-bye week games under Franklin.

The Nittany Lions’ only other win came in 2019 when they absolutely obliterated the Maryland Terrapins 59-0 in College Park. If you remember, as Maryland fans started heading toward the exits, Nittany Nation took over the Terps’ student section, leading Nittanyville to win that week’s ESPN’s Live Más Student Section Contest. It was the first time a student section won the contest as a road team.

Sean Clifford threw for 398 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout win. The dominant win is by far the highest margin of victory the Nittany Lions have had in post-bye week games since 2014.

Penn State’s two other post-bye week games were narrow losses to Michigan State and Minnesota in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Unranked Michigan State upset the No. 8 Nittany Lions 21-17 in front of 106,685 fans at Beaver Stadium. In 2019, No. 17 Minnesota shocked No. 4 Penn State 31-26 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

To this point, all eight of Franklin’s post-bye week games in Happy Valley have come against Big Ten opponents. Of course, that number will be nine when the Nittany Lions play Illinois at noon on Saturday, October 23, at Beaver Stadium.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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