The Other Satisfying Wins of 2011: Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 19: Stephfon Green #21 of the Penn State Nittany Lions splits the defense of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third quarter on November 19, 2011 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Penn State defeated Ohio State 20-14. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

We'll end the weekend on a positive note, wrapping up our satisfying wins/disappointing losses series. Like the previous posts, our staff now looks at each game, only this time they're the other most satisfying wins of 2011 beside Iowa. -MVP

Penn State 34, Northwestern 24

Of the 15 matchups Penn State has had with the Wildcats, 12 have been victories. However, this game was much more significant than the usual beating the Lions have put on Northwestern because, with this win, Coach Paterno tied Eddie Robinson for most wins in Division I history, with 408.

The game itself was certainly entertaining, with something for everyone who is a fan of football. The first half resembled an Xbox game, with both teams scoring at will. After halftime, the Nittany Lion defense took over, setting up the only second half score (a 19 yard touchdown run from Silas Redd) with a 61-yard interception return from Gerald Hodges. For the game, Redd had 164 yards rushing, while Matt McGloin was 17-26, with 192 yards passing and two scores.

But, more than any stats, the Northwestern win is great because of the horror that ensued after it. This win was one of the last times our school, our team and our coach would be in the spotlight for something other than the evil allegedly perpetrated by a former employee. This win was great because, in the midst of the apocalypse, the win provides a brilliant memory of a beautiful autumn day, when one great man matched the accomplishments of another great man. -KP

Penn State 10, Illinois 7

It wasn't pretty, but I like to think that's how Joe would've wanted it.

On a cold, wet, snowy day in State College, neither team could gain any traction. The much-maligned Penn State offense had its worst output of the season: Matt McGloin went 9-28, and the run game averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. But the Penn State defense was there to pick up the slack. It was Devon Still's day to shine--with 10 tackles, 4 for a loss, as the Penn State D forced 4 Illinois turnovers. But the defense couldn't score points. The offense could never capitalize. It all would've gone for naught if it weren't for that final drive.

And that final drive wouldn't be one going down in Penn State lore if it weren't for Derek Moye, stepping back onto the field after two games and three and a half quarters with a bad foot. The Lions O that couldn't move the ball all game, not even when handed scoring opportunities, embarked on a 10-play, 80-yard, 1-minute-57-second miracle. McGloin to Brown, McGloin to Moye, and on and on and then, on 4th and 6, a prayer, a pass interference that could easily have gone either way. But even the referees had a script to follow. And when Silas Redd plowed it in a minute later, and Penn State had its first lead of the day, it was one that everyone in Beaver Stadium knew would hold up. When the defense threatened to wilt, it was the students that came to the rescue. We might never know what influence the crowd's spontaneous mosh had on that final kick, but deep down, I'll always think that's what did it.

Thinking back to JoePa's milestone wins, so many of them followed this sort of formula. To pass Bear Bryant back in 2001, and earn Joe his 324th win, the Lions rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to Ohio State. A decade later, it was the largest comeback in Penn State history to beat Northwestern to earn #400. And then, in Joe's final win--and the most meaningful, because it brought him past Eddie Robinson's Division I record--it took that final drive, that field goal off the uprights, all following a script seemingly borrowed from an episode of Friday Night Lights.

None of us could possibly have known what the next week, the next month, hell--the next year would have in store, but on that Saturday, for one last time, we got to celebrate. That win brought Penn State to 8-1, 5-0 in conference, and then, that was all that mattered. -DE

Penn State 20, Ohio State 14

The only win among Penn State's four post-apocalyptic games was a 20-14 victory in Columbus, Ohio. One week earlier, PSU had lost a numbing, surreal game at home against Nebraska, and Ohio State lost a 26-23 overtime decision to Purdue. Penn State's win at the Horseshoe hardly seemed real, just as nothing has seemed real since early November. The game was far from an offensive masterpiece, as if anyone predicted otherwise. Really, it seemed held together by duct tape and Bondo, and featured the following:

(1) In a fit of desperation, Interim Head Coach Tom Bradley ordering his offensive coaches to install wildcat plays for Bill Belton and Curtis Drake.
(2) A demoralizing goal line stand by Ohio State at their 1 yard line
(3) Sean Stanley inexplicably covering an Ohio State receiver 30+ yards downfield...and beautifully deflecting the pass away
(4) Neither team passing for more than 90 yards

PSU fought off Braxton Miller's late game magic when Miller picked up nine yards on 4th and 10. Minutes later, Penn State would secure its final win of the 2011 season. More than anything, it was a chance for all of us to feel good about Penn State football for a few hours, before trudging back into the shameful morass and fallout of the Sandusky affair. -CG

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