#3 2016 Ohio State-Penn State
In sports, a “dark horse” is a term used to describe a team or individual that is not expected to win but has the potential to surprise everyone by achieving unexpected success. Dark horses are often teams or players who are not considered favorites, but they possess certain qualities or attributes that could make them competitive against stronger opponents.
There is no better description for the 2016 Penn State football team. After an uninspiring 2-2 start that saw the Nittany Lions lose to in-state rivals Pitt and be destroyed on the road at Michigan, many people were just hoping that Penn State would win enough games to become bowl eligible.
But the week following the Michigan loss, something special started to happen. In the game against Minnesota, Penn State was down by 10 at halftime. But a 17-point quarter put the Lions ahead by a touchdown going into the final stanza. Minnesota tied it early in the 4th and looked poised to win the game when they kicked a 37-yard field goal with 54 seconds left in the game.
With no timeouts and the drive starting on their own 25-yard line, Trace McSorley, using both his arms and legs, led the Lions down the 21, where placekicker Tyler Davis calmly hit a 40-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to force it into OT. From there, star running back Saquon Barkley scored his only TD when it mattered the most, and Penn State came from behind to win their first conference game.
The next week they hosted the rival-wannabes Maryland Terrapins and treated them like a little brother: toying with them before ultimately putting them away. Saquon broke the 200-yard rushing mark for the first time in his Penn State career and the Nittany Lions won going away, 38-14.
The next game was a no-brainer for the 2016 Whiteout, as the Ohio State Buckeyes, ranked #2 in the nation, paid a visit to Happy Valley. On a wet and blustery night, early on it looked as though the Buckeyes were going to spoil the night for the crowd of 107,280. Ohio State scored 12 unanswered points in the second quarter when Penn State got the ball with 1:09 remaining in the first half.
Just 2-12 before this drive began, McSorley connected on a 34-yard bomb to DaeSean Hamilton and a couple of strikes to Chris Godwin, the last one being a 20-yard TD pass to make it a 5-point Ohio State lead at the half.
The Buckeyes seemed to shake off the little momentum that Penn State had mustered and outscored the Lions 9-0 in the third quarter, making it a two-touchdown game going into the final stanza.
McSorley scored on a 2-yard plunge and Tyler Davis connected from 34 yards out with 9:33 to put Penn State within four points.
Following the Joey Julius kickoff after the field goal, Ohio State started a methodical drive down the field, chewing up over five minutes of the clock and taking it down to the Penn State 28-yard line for a field goal that would inflate the lead back to a touchdown.
To this day, if I’m depressed or really upset about something, I can watch this clip and for a fleeting moment, a smile is guaranteed to cross my face.