Upset Valley: Unranked Penn State Knocks off No. 2 Ohio State in Annual White Out Game
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No amount of words jotted down into graphs of part action and analysis can possibly do justice to what occurred in Happy Valley Saturday night, but amidst all the commotion and celebration that carried from the storming of Beaver Stadium’s field to the ravaging of the streets of downtown State College, it all can be summed up into one overused but extremely appropriate word: unbelievable.
Penn State (5-2, 3-1 B1G) found a way to come back from down two scores in the fourth quarter by scoring 17 unanswered points in order to topple No. 2 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1 B1G) for a 24-21 victory.
Two years ago, the Buckeyes were barely able to escape the white out atmosphere in a controversial double-overtime win that pushed Urban Meyer and his squad to the limit. The champion coach knew heading into the matchup this would be anything but the easy 19.5-point victory dubbed by betting lines.
"I wish they'd save the white out for other games," Meyer said earlier in the week at his weekly press-conference.
Sure enough, over 107 thousand fans packed the stadium to cascade a sea of white, along with a few red freckles, over the field of play to give Penn State the truest home field in all of sports.
At the team’s grand entrance, the fans erupted in a deafening thunder as the Blue and White took the field to pyrotechnics shooting into the sky like lightning. Then, of course, came the rain, and like most thunderstorms, chaos ensued.
A blocked field goal to end Tyler Davis’ career perfection, two consecutive possessions ending in muffed punts (one turnover), a botched extra point by Ohio State, followed with an overhead snap on a Lions’ punt that resulted in a safety; all before a blocked punt by Penn State’s Cam Brown set up a field goal to make it a four-point ballgame in the final 10 minutes.
Just one or two of these mechanisms of mayhem strung together can produce some of the wildest games. But this game had them all, and it saved the craziest one for last.
Tyler Durbin lined up for a career-high 45-yard field goal attempt with just under five minutes to go as he aimed to increase his team’s lead to seven. After the snap, he planted his left foot into the ground beneath the 36-yard line’s left hash and drove the ball towards the uprights it would never reach.
The pigskin ricocheted off the extended arms of Marcus Allen and rolled in front of cornerback Grant Haley, who scooped it up and bolted to the corner of the field before slipping through the clutches of the one man to beat and stumbling 10 whole yards before flopping into the end zone.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know it happened. I just heard the thud and from there, chaos.” Head coach James Franklin said. “Grant Haley stumbles 40 yards for a touchdown. It’s just awesome. The whole thing is a blur right now.”
In all, it takes roughly 12 seconds for Haley to cover 60 yards and put six points on the board. Astonishingly, it takes the same amount of time for an entire game, season and program to be completely turned around, heading in the other direction.
“It put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win and we did it tonight.”
After a third quarter that featured -7 yards of total offense for the Lions and a 14-point deficit, the win was about as improbable as odds of Penn State smoothly bouncing back from its sanctions. The win probability was in favor of Ohio State throughout the game’s entirety until the heroics of Haley, where it plummeted from 86.2 percent in favor of the Buckeyes down to a 67.4 percent win probability for the Nittany Lions.
Somehow, Penn State emerged from the pandemonium that was Beaver Stadium on Saturday and walked away victorious, knocking off its first top-two opponent since 1990 and first time doing so while unranked since 1964 (also against the Buckeyes).
Now it appears the Lions have an opportunity to get back into the national rankings for the first time in five years on their path to restore the program’s former glory. While the first win over a ranked opponent under James Franklin’s tenure is a good start, the team knows it still has a ways to go. But for now, everyone will focus on celebrating the accomplishment of something that was truly unbelievable.
“I just want to enjoy tonight,” Franklin said. “I want to enjoy it until tomorrow afternoon, because after that we’ve got to move on to the next game. I just want to enjoy this win.”
Ryan Berti is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To email him, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.