ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ) — Penn State has not beaten Ohio State in Columbus since 2011. Penn State has not beaten Ohio State in 8 of the last 9 games. Penn State last beat Ohio State in 2016. Focus on that.
The circumstances are fairly different, but the parallels between the 2016 team and 2021 team can’t be denied. In 2016 a shootout loss to Pitt, and blowout loss to Michigan drew a run-of-the-mill outline as the 4-2 Nittany Lions hosted the Buckeyes.
But Penn State got healthy. The defense had guys like Jason Cabinda come back and all of a sudden one play flipped the script.
“I was blocking it every time in practice, so it was like, Oh, yeah, it’s going to work,” former Penn State safety Marcus Allen recalls.
Allen made the play happen. But not on the first try.
It was a kick block play the team had worked on. Allen rushed the gap and leaped.
Early in the first half, with the Buckeyes going for a field goal Allen just missed as Ohio State struck first. Fast-forward three-and-a-half quarters and the Buckeyes led 21-17 with under 5 minutes to play as Tyler Durbin lined up a second field goal.
Allen gave his defensive line instructions, clear out the gap.
It worked just like it did all week in practice.
The ball was on the ground, bouncing two times and up in Grant Haley’s arms. He out ran the holder Cam Johnston, scoring the game winning touchdown. Allen recalls what almost fell came short as Johnston ran in lock-step with Haley.
“The crowd got real quiet when the holder almost caught him and when Grant crossed that line everyone started roaring and and I thought, whoa, this is crazy,” he said.
“From that point on, they’ve gone to three New Year’s Six Bowls, they have a Big Ten Championship. So that moment is one that is incredible,” said Steve Jones, the voice of Penn State football.
The win was apart of nine-straight for Penn State who’d go onto win the Big Ten Championship, though was passed over for Ohio State in the College Football playoff. Still, it was a turning moment that pays dividends today.
“They really had developed an ‘us vs. the world’ mentality,” he said. “And that night and that play there was this release of joy. Not ‘us vs. the world,’ but you know Penn State was back and on the right track. You just knew it the second it happened.”
At 5-2 Penn State would give anything to right the ship and keep a Big Ten East title alive. Though an upset at The Horseshoe won’t be a reminder the Penn State’s still alive, it would be Penn State’s return to the national conversation.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather, and community events that matter to you.