Looking Back: The Forgotten Drive vs. Ohio State in 2016

By John Morgan on September 28, 2018 at 11:42 am
Oct 22, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) reacts following his touchdown catch against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season was a roller coaster for Penn State fans, but it's the year that the program regained its footing. Sitting at 2-2, Penn State trailed Minnesota at the half and after coming off a blowout loss to Michigan, and things were looking bleak. In the second half of that game, Trace McSorley connected with Irv Charles for an 80-yard touchdown to give Penn State life. Late in that game, Penn State fans caught a glimpse of the McSorley magic as he led an improbable game tying drive. Penn State sealed the win in overtime, and many look back on that game as the turning point of the season and perhaps the whole program. These are valid points because without that win, Penn State never wins the Big Ten that season.

But let's not forget that things didn't exactly start out with a bang against the Buckeyes that year. I watched that 2016 game again and after a promising opening drive that fizzled with a blocked field goal, the Lions didn't do much until final drive of the first half, which gave Penn State a glimmer of hope in an otherwise forgettable first stanza.

Ohio State came into Beaver Stadium in 2016 as a 21-point favorite, and even though it was the White Out game, no one really gave them a shot. The offense started to play better the week prior, but a seven point win against Temple didn't qualify as the confidence boost needed to knock off the No. 2 team in the country.

From the beginning, Ohio State seemed to have control, but only held a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. With 4:53 left in the half, Ohio State scored a touchdown, but missed the extra point to go up 9-0. Penn State quickly went three and out and Ohio State had the ball with a chance to remove any doubt at an upset with over three minutes to play. Ohio State drove, but settled for a field goal to take a 12-0 lead with 1:14 to go in the half.

Going into that drive, Penn State had 22 yards passing and to even feign at getting points seemed unlikely. After two plays for two yards and a clock running, Kirk Herbstreit thought Urban Meyer may call a timeout to add to the lead. A timeout was called and much to the surprise of Meyer, it was Penn State who called it.

Urban Shocked

Facing a 3rd-and-8 with 47 seconds to go from their own 27, Trace McSorley found Chris Godwin for a 19-yard gain. It would be only one of two 3rd down conversions for Penn State all game, and to that point in the game, it was the first reception by a wide receiver. After a sack on the next play, Penn State used their final timeout with 29 seconds remaining in the half. A field goal seemed like a win at this point, but on the next play, McSorley found DaeSean Hamilton for 34 yards while under pressure and the ball was at the Ohio State 20 with just 21 ticks to go. An incomplete pass to Saquon Barkley on a wheel route left 15 seconds on the clock while in field goal range. The next play, McSorley found Chris Godwin in the end zone with only 9 seconds left in the half and after the extra point, Penn State headed to the locker room only down 12-7.

What happened after that is well documented, and though Ohio State scored early in the second half, the Nittany Lions had a fighter's chance. The key to the entire drive was instead of going into the half 12-0, James Franklin called a timeout and gave his team a chance to score against the odds. The team responded and it set a tone for the rest of the season that they still carry with them heading into Saturday's matchup. Without the Minnesota game, the Ohio State game becomes moot, but the confidence the coaching staff had in the offense and like many things that season, it went a long way. It's a drive that gave Beaver Stadium life, and even though the blocked field goal will overshadow it in our memories, here's to hoping it won't be forgotten.

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