Night games at Ohio Stadium bring with them a certain excitement and energy. There’s something about being under the lights that makes anything seem possible (including upsets, which keeps you on your toes).
With Saturday’s upcoming matchup against No. 20 Penn State, we here at Land-Grant Holy Land thought it would be fun to look back at the history of night games between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions.
Prior to 2014, night games at Ohio Stadium were rare, as the lights were not permanent fixtures until that year’s renovations.
And while Ohio State and Penn State have faced off in 10 night games since PSU joined the Big Ten — with the Buckeyes winning seven of those contests — only three of those games have been at Ohio Stadium. Still, those three games mean that historically, Penn State has seen the most after-dark action at the Shoe.
Their first night matchup at the Shoe — in 2008 — will haunt me to my dying day. Tied at three apiece at half, OSU took the lead with a field goal in the third quarter; it was a defense-heavy game.
But momentum shifted when Terrelle Pryor fumbled late in the game and Penn State recovered. In came the Nittany Lions’ backup quarterback Pat Devlin, as starter Daryll Clark remained on the sideline with team doctors. Devlin led the team to a touchdown, giving the Nittany Lions the lead. They forced the Buckeyes to punt, and after running down the clock, they tacked on a field goal with 1:07 left to play.
Ohio State had one final shot, taking over at their own 20. Pryor connected with Ray Small on two plays to get the Buckeyes to the Penn State 43 with 30 seconds left, but a long pass to the end zone was intercepted by PSU cornerback Lydell Sargeant with 27 ticks to play and that ended the game, 13-6.
Thankfully — for the Buckeyes and my mental health — the two teams’ other matchups went in the Buckeyes’ favor, something OSU will try to repeat this weekend.
Their 2013 game, which ended with a 63-14 OSU victory, was Penn State’s worst loss since 1899. Ohio State needed to trounce them to boost their BCS standing, and trounce them they did. Quarterback Braxton Miller threw three touchdowns, with two additional rushing scores, and Carlos Hyde ran for 147 yards and two TDs of his own. Kenny Guiton — the iconic Buckeye backup quarterback — rushed for two touchdowns of his own. It was a bloodbath on all fronts; but a truly entertaining blood bath.
These two teams’ most recent Columbus night matchup was in 2015, a 38-10 Buckeye win thanks to a standout performance from J.T. Barrett, who took over for Cardale Jones midway through the game. Ezekiel Elliott logged his 12th straight 100-yard rushing game, and though OSU was the No. 1-ranked team at the time, it was a moment of dominance from a team that hadn’t quite seemed to reach its full potential until that matchup.
When the No. 5 Buckeyes face off against the No. 20 Nittany Lions once again this Saturday, it should swing in Ohio State’s favor once again. The Buckeyes can’t afford another loss if they want to have a shot at the College Football Playoffs. But, this is a good Penn State team trying to avoid back-to-back-to-back losses. If PSU comes out hungry and angry — as I assume they will — it could very well mean that the Buckeyes are in a dog fight.
In some regards, that’s the magic — and chaos — of night games. It’s rarely ever a gimme, but anything feels possible under those lights.