The series currently favors Ohio State 13-12, featuring a number of exciting matchups over the years. What better way to prove this fact than to take a look at some of the top moments in recent history between Penn State and Ohio State, specifically, the top ten games in the rivalry, featuring—what else—but 5 wins by the Nittany Lions and 5 by the Buckeyes, while including a famous name that played in the game during that season.
Don’t let the score deceive you, as the Nittany Lions were driving in the 4th quarter down 14-6 to an Ohio State team that was No. 1 in the country on this day.
An exciting battle throughout most of the way, the game fell heavily into Ohio State’s favor after Penn State QB Anthony Morelli threw not one, but two pick-sixes in the game’s final minutes.
Name You Would Know: Malcolm Jenkins—who had a pick-six in this game
A close game throughout, this was the first victory for the Buckeyes in the series, and Ohio State was led in this game by two 100-yard rushers, including a certain halfback who was a regular during the Heisman ceremony throughout his college career.
Name You Would Know: Archie Griffin (Two-time Heisman winner)—128 yards on this day
Last year’s match between Penn State and Ohio State was a dandy for sure, but a defensive struggle that lacked in exciting plays until the fourth quarter.
Trailing 6-3, the Nittany Lions forced a fumble by Terrelle Pryor, eventually leading to a frenzy, which put the ball in Penn State hands.
In the end, backup QB Pat Devlin pushed Penn State to a go-ahead score and a victory that left the Nittany Lions still dreaming of a National Championship.
Name You Would Know: Penn State DL Aaron Maybin (now with Buffalo Bills)
Big surprise, but this game was yet another defensive battle between the two teams.
Eventually, Ohio State came out on top, and went on to win the national title later that season, with its dramatic victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl (see below).
The game clinching play turned out to be a pick-six by Chris Gamble early in the second half.
Name You Would Know: RB Maurice Clarett—who left the game with shoulder injury
The Nittany Lions were huge underdogs heading into Columbus, and in the end, the difference in the game was a missed extra point by Ohio State after a too many men on the field penalty.
Name You Would Know: Rip Engle—Penn State’s head coach (yes it was THAT long ago)
Both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes would have sub-par years (for their standards) in 2001, but this game would be one of the best of the year in the Big Ten, as not only did Penn State cap off an 18-point comeback win, but also vaulted legendary head coach Joe Paterno past Bear Bryant for the overall lead in victories (with 324) among major college coaches.
The game was also a coming-out party for Penn State QB Zack Mills, who didn’t just throw well on this day, but ran for 138 yards on the ground.
Name You Would Know: RB Larry Johnson (slur-free at the time, now with the NFL’s Chiefs)
Over recent memory, this game was one of only a few offensive battles between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes won in comeback fashion with a late score on the ground, but the real story for Ohio State was QB Bobby Hoying (who threw for 354 yards) and WR Terry Glenn, who accounted for nearly half of those yards.
Name You Would Know: Eddie George—scored the game-winning TD on this day
Two big moments highlighted the tail end of this game—featuring a Nittany Lions team that was uncharacteristically bad (3-9 by year’s end) and an Ohio State team that was ranked and trying to avoid an upset.
Trailing in the 4th quarter, Buckeyes WR Michael Jenkins caught the go-ahead score (from QB Scott McMullen) with only 1:35 to go.
The Nittany Lions weren’t dead yet, moving into a position for a 60-yard field goal by David Kimball. Yes, 60—and believe it or not, the kick was just short, ending a wild game, and a narrow Buckeyes victory.
Name You Would Know: WR Santonio Holmes (last year’s Super Bowl MVP)
It took this game for many football experts to finally admit that Penn State was back, after a few sub-par seasons in previous years.
Playing under the lights in Beaver Stadium, the crowd was electric and a major 12th man.
The Nittany Lions clinched the win with under two minutes to go when defensive lineman Tamba Hali sacked Ohio State QB Troy Smith. Smith fumbled on the play, while also acrobatically flipping over (see below). The play resulted in a fumble recovery for the Nittany Lions, who later ran the clock out and went on to win.
Later that year, Penn State was BCS bowl bound and just missed a perfect season (by seconds) at Michigan.
Name You Would Know: LB Paul Posluszny (now with the Buffalo Bills)
Surrounded by mostly defensive struggles, the 1997 game at Happy Valley was one of the most exciting Penn State home games in recent memory, and easily the best game against Ohio State over the last decade plus.
The Nittany Lions, leading at half, fell behind 27-17 in the 3rd quarter after two Ohio State TD’s.
But the Penn State faithful would be sparked by an incredible touchdown run by Aaron Harris—one of many he had throughout his career.
In the 4th quarter, the Nittany Lions kept the Ohio State passing game out of the end zone, and RB Curtis Enis scored the go-ahead TD—leading to a four-point Penn State victory and a “We are Penn State” chant that echoed throughout State College for days after.
Name You Would Know: Curtis Enis – 211 rushing yards in the game
Video: Example “We are Penn State” (Penn State vs. Notre Dame in 2007)