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Looking Back At The Times John O’Neill Screwed Over Penn State Football

Penn State fans, rejoice.

John O’Neill, a longtime Big Ten referee, is reportedly calling it quits to become an NFL referee position coach, according to Football Zebras.

O’Neill is retiring after 20 years of officiating in the Big Ten conference, and it feels like he’s been screwing over Penn State for half of those years. If you’re not familiar with his Penn State-angled malice, here’s a tweet that summarizes things pretty well.

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s a more in-depth look at all the times O’Neill has hurt Penn State.

2012 vs. Nebraska (32-23, L)

O’Neill’s antics began back in 2012 in a sloppy battle with Nebraska.

Penn State tight end Matt Lehman dove for the end zone and fumbled the ball, resulting in Nebraska picking up the turnover. The TV broadcast showed the ball clearly crossing the plane before Lehman fumbled, which should have resulted in a touchdown. Officials reviewed the call, but the call on the field stood, a game-defining missed call from O’Neill and his crew.

If the call was overturned, the Nittany Lions would’ve taken a lead late in the fourth quarter, likely setting them up to win the ballgame.

2014 vs. Ohio State (31-24, L)

There are multiple instances in this game where O’Neill gifted the opposition, and he didn’t hesitate to do so, either. On the first drive of the game, O’Neill and his crew ruled that Ohio State’s Vonn Bell caught an interception that had hit the ground, which got the Nittany Lions off to a sour start.

He and his crew claimed that “technical difficulties” were the reason it wasn’t reviewed properly, thus not overturned. Not too long after, the Buckeyes drilled a field-goal attempt but didn’t get it off until after the play clock expired, which looked fine to the eyes of O’Neill.

2019 @ Iowa (17-21, W)

Even though Penn State ended up winning the game, this call might be the most criminal of them all.

The Nittany Lions were in a tight duel with Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, making every single play matter. Tight end Pat Freiermuth dove in an attempt to score a touchdown, but the play was reviewed to see if his knee touched the ground before the ball crossed the goal line. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, the replay shows the ball clearly being over the goal line before his knee hit the ground, and the call was overturned after review. Penn State left the drive with only a field goal to show for it.

In no universe is this not a touchdown, especially after it was called a score on the field. Penn State isn’t alone in its critique of O’Neill, either. In 2019, a petition was started to fire O’Neill and his crew, which has since eclipsed 18,000 signatures.


With all due respect to you, Mr. O’Neill, but we think we speak for all of Happy Valley when we say goodbye and good riddance.

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About the Author

Zach Donaldson

Zach is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer for Onward State and serves as an editor for Penn State’s CommRadio. He hails from Downingtown, Pa., or in other words "just outside of Philly." When he's not watching or ranting about Philly sports, you can probably find him at the gym. If you like sports tweets, follow him on Twitter @zachdonaldson_ and all inquiries can go to [email protected]

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