It is *peak* football offseason around these parts, which means it’s the perfect time to introduce a new series we’re debuting here at BSD: Happy Valley Rewind. Over the next couple months, I’ll be rewatching games in Penn State lore — some good, some bad, some notable, and some forgotten. Really, it’ll be a little bit of everything. You’ll see more below, but for each re-watch, I’ll have a number of categories that we’ll go over:
- Most Rewatchable Play
- Pivotal Moment
- What We Wish We Knew Then
- Biggest Gaffe
- Apex Mountain Performance
The plan right now (key word here, as I may change things up as we go along) is to do one of these every week or so, and I’ll be rotating through the Big Ten opponents. First up: not-our-rivals Ohio State, and we are going with the 2014 game because I am a sucker for pain.
MOST REWATCHABLE PLAY
For some of these games that we are going to rewatch, it might be a real debate as to which play is the most rewatchable. This one, though, is easy — it’s Anthony Zettel’s pick six.
In my mind, three people deserve credit for that play:
1. Bob Shoop, who was the defensive coordinator at the time before he left Penn State for Tennessee because he thought the Volunteers had a better chance at winning, only to see Tennessee finish 9-4 while Penn State won the Big Ten. Dork.
2. Anthony Zettel, being that there weren’t too many defensive tackles who could drop back in coverage like that and had the speed to take it all the way to the end zone.
3. Patrick Koerbler, as I yelled at Zettel to “EAT SOMEBODY” when he was walking into the stadium. I’m not trying to take credit, but I deserve credit for Zettel’s awesome play since I
likely definitely inspired him.
I have a belief as a sports fan: if you blame the refs for a loss, you are a giant loser baby. It’s a game played by humans and judged by humans so obviously there is going to be human error. We, as sports fans, tend to remember the losses “caused” by this more than wins, but for the most part, your team’s going to benefit from the refs just as much as they will be a detriment. It all evens out in the end, so screaming just about the bad makes you the aforementioned giant loser baby.
That being said, the refs had a rough night during this one. First, Von Bell’s drop being ruled an interception led to Ohio State scoring a touchdown on the immediate drive after.
Later, the Buckeyes hit a 49-yard field goal that was snapped a solid 2 seconds after the play clock hit double zeros.
Maybe Ohio State scores a touchdown even without the Bell INT? Maybe the kick is still good from 54 yards? But if you are a Penn State fan, those two calls were killers in the moment and certainly in retrospect.
Here’s the thing though: those two calls didn’t have to matter. Penn State got the ball back at its 9-yard line down 17-14 with 2:58 left and all three timeouts. Being that they weren’t the 1999 Rams it took them forever, but they got down to Ohio State’s 18-yard line with 24 seconds left and had 1st & 10. The three plays were:
- 1st & 10: Spike! THEY SPIKED THE BALL WHEN THE CLOCK WAS STOPPED BECAUSE THEY COULDN’T GET A PLAY CALL IN! JOHN DONOVAN, YOU SICKO!
- 2nd 10: Jesse James out route for 4 yards
- 3rd & 6: Hackenberg throws to a covered Chris Godwin in the end zone
Yes, it’s revisionist history because we know what happens in OT but only getting *one* throw beyond the first down marker is just crazy to me. Having trouble getting the call in on 1st down is one thing, but then to compound it by going with a conservative call on 2nd down? Loser energy in a moment where Penn State, even with its rag-tag offensive line, should have tried to go for the kill.
Daesean Hamilton (14 receptions for 126 yards) and Joey Bosa (2.5 sacks and 6 tackles) each had strong games, but neither had performances that were truly astounding. JT Barrett was still incredibly bad at this point, only throwing for 74 yards on 19 attempts. Christian Hackenberg put in a normal Hack-performance — 31-of-49 for 224 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and numerous flat-footed throws. So for the most part, it was a quiet day for massive performances...
Except for Mike Hull. He was doing everything for the Penn State defense, finishing the night with 19 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and 1 interception. He went onto win Big Ten Linebacker of the Year in 2014 and is looked back on pretty favorably by the Penn State fan base, but you do have to wonder how Hull’s legacy changes if the Nittany Lions had won that night and closed out the 2014 season in a more positive manner. Really, you can think back to Brandon Bell and what that 2016 season meant for his legacy, and I think similar things would be true for Hull had they not finished 7-6.
WHAT WE WISH WE KNEW THEN
This was obviously something we knew at the time, but with how everything played out after, it became especially true: beating a 13th ranked Ohio State squad would have been massively huge for James Franklin’s first season with the program. Had Penn State beaten the Buckeyes, it would have moved to 5-2 with a remaining schedule of Maryland, @Indiana, Temple, @Illinois, and Michigan State. With some newfound juice like we would see after the 2016 upset of Ohio State, maybe Penn State turns the tide and goes 4-1 during that stretch to finish the season 9-3 instead of 6-6? Granted, the 2014 Nittany Lions team was not that good (source: my eyeballs) and didn’t really deserve 9-3, but you’re likely talking about a completely different season had Penn State won that game.
Instead, it was Ohio State who got the juice. And here’s the real kicker and what we didn’t know then: the Buckeyes would ride the momentum of escaping the White Out with a victory all the way to the College Football Playoff and eventually a National Championship — the lone title Urban Meyer would win in Columbus. Talk about a sliding doors moment for both programs.