The Top 10 Penn State Games I've Attended
What can I say? I've been indoctrinated since before age 1. My dad started dragging me to Penn State games when I was six months old.
I don't blame him, it was 1989 and Penn State was coming off perhaps their best 10 years of football.
Since then, the Nittany Lions have had a few excellent years to be sure but they have not dominated eastern football like they had previously.
I still love them unconditionally though, can't help it really. I became a true fan in the late 90's, so some of my first years rooting for this team were rough to say the least. That's why it feels so good to win now.
So on the eve of the biggest game of this season, I take a trip down memory lane, recounting the favorite games I've been too, hoping to add today's game to that list soon.
10. Penn State 25, Michigan 27(2005)
This was the first time I had my heart ripped out in person as a sports fan (and I promise this will be the only loss on the list.) And yes, I cried in Ann Arbor.
First and only time I did that over sports. But looking back, it was just a great game... or at least second half.
After a 3-0 first half, the fireworks went off for both teams. Michael Robinson endeared himself to all Penn State fans but not before Alan Zemaitis ripped the ball from Chad Henne for a long score.
Robinson led PSU on a classic drive that would've lived forever in Penn State lore if Michigan hadn't countered.
I'm sure you know how it ended. Long kickoff return by Breaston, Avant's out of bounds catch, the extra two seconds, heartbreak.
9. Arizona 7, Penn State 41 (1999)
I didn't know too much about Penn State in 1999, I was only 10, but I knew I loved Chafie Fields and Lavar Arrington. Both dominated in this Pigskin Classic Kickoff vs. Arizona.
Not many people remember that Arizona was ranked fourth preseason, and this was expected to be a close game.
The season ultimately ended in disappointment but this game put visions of a national championship in my tiny head and somehow those visions have never left.
Chafie went on to beat Miami with a bomb from Kevin Thompson and Lavar kept dominating everyone and had an average NFL career.
8. Ohio State 21, Penn State 20 (2003)
Okay, so I lied. There's another loss on the list. This was a bad Penn State team and Ohio State was highly favored, being ranked second preseason and ending up fourth at the end of the year.
Zack Mills had a good game, 253 yards, and the Nits had a 10 point lead at the half thanks to a 78 yard INT return by Alan Zemaitis.
Ohio State came back to take the lead and it all came down to a 60-yard David Kimball field goal that fell just short.
If there was ever a moral victory, this was it. Didn't get to see the miracle that day, but I was happy with the team's effort against a superior opponent.
7. Notre Dame 10, Penn State 31 (2007)
By this point in my life I had heard too many stories about PSU-ND classics, I needed to experience it. Combine that with the Irish domination a year before in South Bend and I was itching for this whiteout game.
It wasn't pretty at first with Anthony Morelli throwing a pick 6 to Darren Walls on a pass that was just bad.
Derrick Williams provided the much needed spark though on a 78 yard punt return, almost dropping the ball then zigging and zagging his way down the field.
This was Jimmy Clausen's first year under center and he just wasn't ready for it. The crowd was in his head, the defense had him on the run, and the Irish offense did nothing.
A satisfying win in the only PSU-ND game I've witnessed.
6. Michigan State 18, Penn State 49 (2008)
It was cold, but we had a Big Ten Championship to win. And win it we did.
Daryll Clark had the best game of his career by far (341 yards, 5 total TD's), Deon Butler had 3 TD's, and the defense held Spartan running back Javon Ringer to 42 yards.
It was senior day and the 800th win in school history, a memorable night for many reasons.
5. Michigan State 7, Penn State 61 (2002)
I usually wouldn't put a huge blowout like this in here, but this one was special.
Larry Johnson (I know he's a knucklehead now, but let's remember the good times) needed 264 yards to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark on the year.
He got that and 4 touchdowns. By half time. His last and record breaking run of the night was a 38-yard sweep. Beaver Stadium looked like the Super Bowl, the number of camera flashes on that run was astounding.
Say what you want about LJ, but he could truly run through you or around you his senior season, incredible vision and power, shoulda won the Heisman.
4. Minnesota 14, Penn State 44 (2005)
2005 was a magical year for Penn State and its fans. They were coming off their worst stretch of football ever, having four losing years in the past five.
The 2005 edition was 4-0 but the jury was out as to how good they actually were after 3 non-con games and a dramatic struggle at Northwestern.
Minnesota was also 4-0 and boasted the best rushing attack in the country with Laurence Maroney.
It was the Nittany Lions however who ran all over the Golden Gophers, racking up 364 yards on the ground behind Tony Hunt, Michael Robinson, and Derrick Williams.
I guess this game makes the list because it announced we were back on the college football landscape and to this day it just feels good to think about.
3. Nebraska 7.Penn State 40 (2002)
I was living in Altoona PA when this game took place. As fate would have it, that's where Nebraska stayed the Friday night before the game. Somehow we ended up following their buses on Saturday all the way to State College. It was a weird experience and one of those kinda cool stories that just stick with you.
As far as the game goes, it still holds the record for the largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history. No one knew quite how good Penn State was but they were excited to renew this rivalry and find out. It was one of those games where the teams seem evenly matched but everything goes right for your team. Maybe the best game Zack Mills ever played, who woulda thought that at the time???
2. Ohio State 27, Penn State 29 (2001)
I almost didn't go to this game. My dad was very frustrated with Penn State at the time and had decided to go hunting instead.
In my infinite 12 year old wisdom I implored him to go, telling him that Joe would break the record.
My dad said "There's no way we'll win this one, but I guess we'll go just in case." Go easy on him, he's a true fan and was just fed up with some bad losses.
I'm sure you know this was Joe Paterno's record breaking 324th win, passing Bear Bryant. And although Joe's been back and forth with Bobby Bowden since this game it was still a sight to behold.
Not to mention a great game for the underdogs. PSU was down 27-9 but came roaring back with a 69 yard Zack Mills option run and Eric McCoo receiving touchdown, followed by a blocked field goal to seal the W.
Great drama, great win, great coach.
1. Ohio State 10, Penn State 17 (2005)
The No. 4 game on this list directly preceded this primetime top 15 matchup. Penn State had answered some critics but this was the big test.
Personally I was tired of hearing about how much better OSU's linebackers were than Paul Posluszney, Dan Conner, and Tim Shaw.
And this game settled that. On the same field, mano a mano, the Penn State defense was just better than Ohio State.
Derrick Williams took a pitch and outran AJ Hawk for the first TD then Calvin Lowry picked off Troy Smith and returned it to the 2 where Michael Robinson took an option keeper in for the score. Add a Kevin Kelly field goal and that was all that was needed.
The atmosphere at this game was crazy. Stood the whole time, screamed the whole time, and changed the game. It felt so good, we were back.
Here's to today joining this list of top games. Should be another defensive battle and a great game.