Last Season’s Win Over Ohio State Still Significant Moment For Nittany Lions

October 27, 2017 GMT

The Big Ten Network’s highlight video from last year’s game between Penn State and Ohio State has drawn more than 780,000 views on YouTube. Perhaps surprisingly, most of those clicks did not emanate from Grant Haley’s cell phone.

He is, after all, one of the stars of that show. The man in the right place at the right time after teammate Marcus Allen blocked a 45-yard Buckeyes field goal attempt. The speedy cornerback who saw the football bounding toward him, with nothing between him and the end zone except 60 yards of empty Beaver Stadium turf.

The player who became a Penn State immortal in a matter of seconds, beating surprisingly fast Buckeyes holder Cameron Johnston to the end zone for the game-winning score and the biggest upset the Nittany Lions had ever pulled in front of their home crowd.

“I don’t really watch it that much any more,” Haley shrugged earlier this week when asked about that play. “It has been a year, so I’m kind of moving on and getting excited for this upcoming game this week.”

Well, the upcoming game is Saturday, in Columbus, against a Buckeyes team that didn’t wind up suffering much after that shocker in Happy Valley. They didn’t win the Big Ten championship — Penn State went on to claim that — but they went to the College Football Playoff nonetheless, a testament to their sterling reputation as well as the fact that they didn’t lose another regular season game after falling to the Nittany Lions.

But for Penn State, while the thrill of the memory of that Ohio State upset no longer commands the same type of attention, it still represents a significant moment. In their careers. And for a football program that badly needed that kind of jolt to move forward.

“That was a really good win for us,” Allen said. “It started it all. It started us on the roll we’re on now.”

How they got it still stands as one of the most surprising moments in college football in recent memory.

Nearly three-touchdown underdogs — the biggest underdogs Penn State ever found itself as Beaver Stadium — Penn State fell behind, 12-0, early and by as much as 21-7 after three quarters.

But they showed in that game what would become a trademark for this group: The ability to chip away. The knack of getting a quick score. And, the ability to be a threat in all three phases of the game.

Quarterback Trace McSorley led two clutch drives: A seven-play, 70-yard jaunt in exactly a minute to get the Nittany Lions on the board just before halftime with a 20-yard scoring strike to receiver Chris Godwin; and, a five-play, 90-yard drive in 1:20 to get the Lions within a touchdown in the fourth.

But, the play that changed everything came on that blocked field goal.

Allen, leaping at the line to get a hand on the Tyler Durbin attempt. Haley, picking it up and running free, as if the result was predetermined. Beaver Stadium, believing again.

Before that game, Penn State hadn’t played a game as a ranked team since the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012, against Houston. Since, they’ve been ranked in 14 consecutive polls or College Football Playoff rankings, 11 in the top 10 and six of the last seven in the top 5.

“After each week, we just kept believing in each other more and more,” Haley said. “Coaches always talk about how the leadership and the teamwork starts in the locker room. So I think it just translated from the field to the locker room and so back and so forth and it’s just really given us that confidence and leadership and maturity that we have today.”

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