Now that we have entered Penn State week, it’s time to get ready to bite our fingers off on Saturday afternoon. While Michigan is the most hated rival for Ohio State, the Nittany Lions are the team that pushes the Buckeyes to the limit on a yearly basis. Since 2016, each of the seven contests between the two teams has been decided by 13 points or less. Between 2016 and 2018, the three games between Penn State and Ohio State were decided by a total of five points.
This year figures to be no different. Ohio State is dealing with a number of key injuries heading into Saturday’s game. Penn State has yet to play anyone close to the caliber of the Buckeyes so far this year. Not only do both teams have first-year starters at quarterback, but the setting in Columbus on Saturday will undoubtedly be the most hostile that Penn State’s Drew Allar has had to deal with after taking the reins from Sean Clifford, who exhausted his eligibility following last season.
Since this year’s contest is shaping up to be another nail-biter, today we figured we’d revisit the most frustrating Ohio State-Penn State we have seen. What makes this series so wild is even though the Buckeyes have had the upper hand in most of the games since 2000, it certainly doesn’t feel like they have dominated the series. Some of the most frustrating games against the Nittany Lions end up being contests that Ohio State has won!
Today’s question: What is the most frustrating Ohio State-Penn State game you’ve seen?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: 2005’s 17-10 loss to Penn State
Heading into the season, expectations were certainly higher for Ohio State than for Penn State. The Buckeyes started the season ranked sixth in the country, and rose to fourth before their showdown with Texas in the second week of the season. Obviously, we all know what happened when Vince Young and the Longhorns came to Columbus, but even with the loss, there was no doubt Ohio State was one of the most talented teams in the country.
On the other side, Penn State was coming off two straight losing seasons, and they started the season unranked. The Nittany Lions went from unranked to 16th in the AP poll after winning 44-14 at Minnesota the week prior to the showdown with the Buckeyes. The battle between Ohio State and Penn State generated so much heat, that “College GameDay” ended up heading to State College for the clash.
Ohio State actually scored the first points of the game when Josh Huston hit a 30-yard field goal after the teams traded punts on their first drives. The teams would each punt again before the game turned in favor of the Nittany Lions. Derrick Williams would cap off a nine-play drive early in the second quarter with a 13-yard run to give Penn State the lead.
The Buckeyes would give the football back to the Nittany Lions a couple of plays later when Calvin Lowry intercepted a Troy Smith pass, returning the turnover to the two-yard line, and three plays later Michael Robinson would plunge into the end zone from a yard out to extend Penn State’s lead to 14-3. Ohio State would put together a 14-play drive before the half, scoring on a 10-yard run by Troy Smith to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Aside from a field goal by Penn State on the first drive of the second half, there was no other scoring the rest of the game. The win for the Nittany Lions was secured when Troy Smith fumbled with less than two minutes in the game when he was sacked by Tamba Hali. The Ohio State quarterback completed just 13 of 25 passes for 139 yards in the game. Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. combined to catch seven passes for just 81 yards.
What made this game so frustrating is talent-wise, the Buckeyes were definitely the better team. Ohio State went on to win their final seven games of the year, capping off the season with a comeback win over Michigan, and a 34-20 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn State lost to Michigan the next week 27-25, but that would be their only loss of the year, as they would defeat Florida State 26-23 in three overtimes in the Orange Bowl.
I just remember watching the game on campus and not being able to believe Ohio State wasn’t able to do more offensively in the game. Penn State had players on defense that would go on to play in the NFL, I just wasn’t able to accept that the win over Ohio State was one that would bring decrepit Joe Paterno back from near extinction. Had it not been for the loss in 2005, the Buckeyes would have been riding a six-game winning streak against the Nittany Lions before Penn State would beat Ohio State in 2008.
Now Ohio State enters Saturday’s game against Penn State on a six-game winning streak in the series, which is the longest by either side. Hopefully, they can make it seven straight wins against the Nittany Lions, and put a little distance on Penn State, allowing us to breathe easy during the game.
Matt’s answer: 1994’s 63-14 loss to Penn State
There are many games that haunt me as a lifelong Ohio State fan who came of age during the John Cooper era. From the 1998 Michigan State game during my senior year of high school to the more recent 2019 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson. But no game will ever be as painful as the 1994 matchup between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.
I’ve written about this game before, as it is the thing that really fueled my early-onset Penn State sports hatred. Not only did the Nits obliterate the then-No. 21 Buckeyes 63-14, but they did so largely on the legs of Ki-Jana Carter, who grew up within a relative stone’s throw of Ohio Stadium in Westerville. The Penn State running back went for 137 yards on 19 carries and exited the game in the third quarter.
This was PSU’s first season in the Big Ten and it got off to a rather inauspicious start. The Nits went 12-0 on the season and claimed a bunch of random, unofficial national championship honors while the Buckeyes finished the season 9-4 and 6-2 in the Big Ten, finishing second behind Penn State. Ironically, OSU did pull off a win over Michigan that season, beating the No. 15 Wolverines 22-6 in the Horseshoe that season. It was one of only two wins that Cooper had over his team’s rivals in his 13 seasons leading the Buckeyes.
The 1994 Ohio State-Penn State game was embarrassing, aggravating, and frustrating and one that cemented the fact that I can’t stand anything Nittany Lion-related. So, when the Nits come to Columbus this weekend, I will be hoping that Pennsylvania native Marvin Harrison Jr. will pull a Ki-Jana Carter and obliterate their Big Ten and national championship chances before quietly exiting in the third quarter.