Although Jared already talked about the comeback against Northwestern in 2005, I wanted to put a different spin on the 2005 season. To me, the games that sparked Penn State’s turnaround from a Big Ten doormat to the conference’s champion happened the year before, with back-to-back victories over Indiana and Michigan State.
The Penn State program was at the low or low’s heading into the 2004 Indiana game. It was 2-7 and 0-6 in the Big Ten, and unless something drastic happened, it was headed for a winless Big Ten record. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, something drastic did happen, as Penn State came up with a goal line stand to preserve a 22-18 victory over Indiana. They then followed up that victory by knocking off Sparty in a big way — 37-13, which ended Michigan State’s hopes of becoming bowl eligible.
I actually went to the Michigan State game and remember being on Cloud 9 on the ride home. I called my grandmother (also a big Penn State fan) when I got home and we both agreed that next year was the year — Penn State was getting back to a bowl game.
At the time, did we know what was about to transpire in the Penn State program? For the most part, no. But looking back, it was clear that those victories gave everyone within the program — from the coaches to the players — the confidence they needed for a turnaround the following season.