Penn State Football’s Top 10 Moments of the Decade

Penn State Football’s Top 10 Moments of the Decade

by December 15, 2019 0 comments

The 2010s are drawing to a close and thus another decade of Penn State Football is in the books. The program underwent many changes over the last 10 years but still saw great success in the latter half of the decade and is in a great position moving forward.

Here are the top 10 moments of the decade for Penn State Football.

Honorable Mention: Joe Paterno’s 400th Win (2010)

A lot of controversies plagued Joe Paterno’s reputation in the 2010s, but he solidified himself among the winningest coaches in the history of the sport. A dominant win over Northwestern in 2010 gave Joe Paterno the 400th win of his career. He ended his career with 409 wins and two national championships.

Honorable Mention: Saquon Barkley’s Rose Bowl Run vs. USC (2017)

The 2017 Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC was one of the greatest sports events of the decade and had plenty of highlight reel type plays to marvel at. It was a losing effort for the Nittany Lions, but the best play of the game came from running back Saquon Barkley, who ripped a 79-yard touchdown to open the second half. This play was replayed on Sports Center and several highlight reels for months.

10. Saquon Barkley’s Overtime Touchdown vs. Minnesota (2016)

The Rose Bowl run might be the flashiest play of Saquon Barkley’s career, but his incredible run in overtime to beat Minnesota in 2016 was his most important. Down three points in the second frame of overtime, Barkley juked several defenders on his way to a walkoff 25-yard touchdown to give Penn State a much-needed win. This victory jump-started Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten Championship campaign after the team’s concerning 3-2 start.

9. Amani Oruwariye’s Walkoff Interception vs. Appalachian State (2018)

Penn State went into the 2018 season with playoff aspirations but nearly found themselves dead in the water in the season’s opening game. Unranked FBS opponent Appalachian State led the Nittany Lions, 38-31, in front of a stunned Beaver Stadium crowd and Penn State’s season looked lost from the word go. The team quickly rallied with a clutch K.J. Hamler touchdown reception to force overtime where Penn State quickly scored another touchdown. During the second frame of overtime, cornerback Amani Oruwariye made an incredible play to rip a jump ball away from a receiver in the end zone and end the game with an interception.

8. Penn State Hires James Franklin (2014)

Bill O’Brien did a very good job coaching Penn State during an era where the program was crippled by NCAA-imposed sanctions, but following the 2013 season, he left to coach the NFL’s Houston Texans. To replace him, Penn State hired Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, a move that would return the program to glory. In six years as Penn State’s head coach, Franklin has a record of 55-23 (with a winning record every season), a Big Ten championship, and has put Penn State in the playoff conversation in each of the last four seasons.

7. Game Day Returns to Happy Valley, Penn State Smashes Michigan (2017)

In October 2017, College GameDay finally returned to State College after a nine-year drought. Penn State hosted a ranked Michigan for their 2017 whiteout game and thus got to experience College GameDay on campus the morning before the prime time matchup. The team was clearly energized by being selected for the weekly honor because they proceeded to obliterate Michigan 42-13 in front of a fired-up crowd.

6. Sam Ficken’s Game-Winning PAT vs. Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl (2014)

Sam Ficken’s Penn State career got off to an abysmal start. He missed seven of his first 11 career field goals and missed extra points regularly during 2012 season. He rebounded with strong 2013 and 2014 seasons and he got to play hero in his final game at Penn State. The Nittany Lions topped the Boston College Eagles in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl thanks to Ficken’s overtime-forcing field goal and game-winning extra point in overtime.

5. Allen Robinson’s Insane Catch Sets Up 4OT Win Over Michigan (2013)

Penn State pulled off a big upset over No. 18 Michigan in 2013, but it took everything they had. Down by seven in the game’s final minute, wide receiver Allen Robinson made a spectacular grab down the sideline between multiple defenders to set up Penn State with a first and goal. After tying the game, Penn State and Michigan engaged in a four-overtime marathon that featured missed field goals, weird plays, and more. It all concluded with a walkoff touchdown for the Nittany Lions in front of a sold-out Beaver Stadium crowd.

4. Senior Day vs. Wisconsin (2012)

Penn State football was crippled by sanctions following the 2011 season and many of the programs’ top players and recruits immediately began to jump ship. Dark times seemed to be on the horizon for the program, but the Nittany Lions, led by head coach Bill O’Brien, pulled together a miraculous 2012 season. The team went 8-4 despite the strict penalties handed out by the NCAA and it all culminated with a thrilling 24-21 win over Wisconsin on Senior Day.

3. Juwan Johnson’s Walkoff Touchdown vs. Iowa (2017)

Penn State’s playoff hopes in 2017 were in jeopardy as they trailed Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on a cool October night. The offense had struggled to put up points despite the numerous amount of yards they were able to put up. With the game (and their season) on the line, however, quarterback Trace McSorley executed a clutch last gasp drive to give Penn State a much-needed win in the most epic way possible. On fourth down inside the 10-yard line with mere seconds left, McSorley connected with wide receiver Juwan Johnson to give the Nittany Lions a walkoff win.

2. Nittany Lions Erase 21 Point Deficit to Claim Big Ten Title over Wisconsin (2016)

The 2016 Big Ten Championship was Penn State’s greatest achievement this decade. They had been heralded all season as a “second-half team” and they proved it once again against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. The Nittany Lions erased a 21-point deficit and claimed victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. Trace McSorley was named the game’s MVP thanks to several clutch deep ball passes (including the go-ahead touchdown to Saquon Barkley on a wheel route) but Penn State’s defense made the game-winning play with a clutch stop on fourth and inches in their own territory.

1. The Blocked Field Goal vs. Ohio State (2016)

Claiming the Big Ten title was the greatest achievement for Penn State in the 2010s, but their single greatest moment came earlier in that same season. The Nittany Lions’ climb back to greatness has been a slow burn, but a blocked field goal to beat Ohio State at Beaver Stadium is what asserted them back onto the map. Down by four in the game’s final minutes, safety Marcus Allen blocked Tyler Durbin’s field goal, allowing Grant Haley to return it 60 yards for a touchdown. Penn State’s defense proceeded to harass Ohio State quarterback, J.T. Barrett, and close out the biggest win for the program in years. Marcus Allen’s blocked field goal is responsible for igniting Penn State’s return to glory.

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