Penn State Football: Power Ranking the 5 Most Memorable Plays in PSU History
Penn State football has a rich tradition that stretches through past years and generations.
Fathers, sons, grandfathers and all different families that flock to Beaver Stadium can agree on at least one thing: Penn State.
Over the years the football program has seen many memorable moments, plays and milestones.
Even with the dark cloud still hovering near Happy Valley as the dust settles from the Sandusky scandal that stunned the nation, those memorable plays and moments on the field still remain.
So as the college football world sits in limbo between spring practices and summer minicamps, let’s take a look into the past.
Here is a list of the most memorable plays in Penn State football history, ranked by impact and significance.
5. Goal-Line Stand for First Upset Win
The Joe Paterno era of building Penn State into a college football powerhouse began with a nail-biter on November 11, 1967.
Paterno’s Nittany Lions were taking on the No. 3 ranked Wolfpack of North Carolina State.
For a little context, Penn State was leading the Wolfpack 13-8 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
With 44 seconds left on the clock on 4th-and-goal with the ball on Penn State’s 1-yard line, NC State was stuffed.
Mike McBath, Dennis Onkotz and Jim Kates combined for the tackle that gave Paterno his first-ever win against a top-ranked opponent.
Paterno was later quoted as calling the tackle, "one of the greatest plays in Penn State history."
4. Kelly's Kick to Win Orange Bowl
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Penn State’s 2006 Orange Bowl victory over Florida State was far from normal.
The game in itself was full of miscues and missed opportunities, including a fumble on the 4-yard line and three missed field goals in two overtimes.
This epic battle between Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden lasted for nearly five hours, and it ended all on the shoulders of then freshman kicker Kevin Kelly.
Kelly had missed field goals to put Penn State up at the end of regulation and in the first overtime.
After Florida State’s kicker Gary Cismesia missed wide right in the second over time, Penn State drove down the field and placed its faith once again in the freshman kicker.
This time Kelly nailed the kick from 29 yards out, giving the Nittany Lions their first Orange Bowl victory since 1974.
This kick won’t be long forgotten by many Penn State fans.
3. McGloin Touchdown Leads to Joe Pa’s 400th Win
In 2010 Matt McGloin was still fighting to earn his spot on the roster in Happy Valley.
McGloin was sharing time with freshman Rob Bolden and the former walk-on was still adjusting to the speed of college football.
But McGloin’s arm pushed Penn State and Joe Paterno into the record books in 2010, when Paterno won his 400th game (prior to the Sandusky scandal).
McGloin turned a 21-0 deficit around and finally tied the game in the third quarter.
As fans can remember, McGloin’s 36-yard completion to Derek Moye on the sideline to tie the game at 21 shifted the momentum to completely favor the Nittany Lions.
After that throw everything turned around for the Lions as they went on to give Paterno his 400th career victory.
This throw and game will be forever in the minds of Penn State fans when they remember Paterno’s final years.
2. Alabama Stuffs Penn State in Championship
Heading into the 1979 Sugar Bowl, Penn State had been perfect riding on a tough defense and hard running by Matt Suhey and Booker Moore.
The Alabama Crimson Tide was a formidable opponent, and the game was a defensive struggle.
By the fourth quarter Alabama was up 14-7 on the Nittany Lions.
With under eight minutes left to play, Penn State recovered a fumble deep in Alabama territory.
Penn State jumped on the momentum, and Suhey drove the ball up to make it 1st-and-goal.
After being stuffed at the 1-yard line on 3rd-and-goal, Penn State and Joe Paterno had a decision to make that would decide the fate of their entire perfect season.
Would their fate be in the hands of quarterback Chuck Fusina or would they again run it?
Most Penn State fans remember the unforgettable decision and play that ensued on fourth down.
Fusina handed the ball off up the middle to Mike Gunman who was stopped abruptly in the hole by Barry Krauss (Krauss was knocked unconscious from the collision).
This play kept the Lions from winning their first national championship.
1. Blackledge to McCloskey
In one of the most memorable games ever in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions upset the No. 3-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 25, 1982.
The Penn State team led by quarterback Todd Blackledge and running back Curt Warner came into the game undefeated.
The Lions found themselves with the ball down in the fourth quarter with 1:14 left on the clock and no timeouts.
What followed will always be a part of the history of Beaver Stadium and the Penn State tradition.
Blackledge was able to lead the team down the field into the red zone.
With nine seconds left, Blackledge completed a 15-yard pass to Mike McCloskey on the sideline, which then led to a touchdown.
Controversy about this play exploded with people saying that McCloskey was out of bounds, but it was never overturned.
McCloskey later admitted that he was in fact out of bounds, but not until years after the Nittany Lions’ national championship victory that season.