My Favorite Games Ever Attended: No.3 Minnesota vs. Penn State 2016
Written by Cory Lestochi
For you to understand the importance of this game to me, you first must understand the context. Penn State went into the game 2-2 on the season and was reeling after a brutal beatdown in Ann Arbor where they lost 49-10. Calling the fanbase uneasy about the football program would be a massive understatement. During pregame introductions, a portion of the crowd booed head coach James Franklin. With the month of October bringing typical poor weather to State College, less than 100,000 fans attended the game. Their opponent, Minnesota, was 3-0 on the season and had all the momentum behind them.
By the end of the first half, Penn State was losing 3-13 and all signs were pointing to another suffocating defeat.
Midway through the third quarter, the loafing Nittany Lion offense finally caught a much-need break. A pass that was miraculously caught by Irvin Charles, Coach Moorhead said afterward that, “the ball caught him”, and taken to house for an 80 yard touchdown, gave life to the Penn State team.
The Nittany Lions scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 20-13 lead heading into the fourth. Minnesota responded quickly to tie the football game. Again, the Penn State offense sputtered for most of the final quarter, giving the Golden Gophers a chance to escape Happy Valley with a victory.
With 11:36 left, Minnesota was driving on Penn State’s 12 yard line, it felt as if a touchdown would put the game out of reach. The Penn State defense bailed out their struggling offense when Jordan Smith intercepted Mitch Leidner in the end zone. This play is often forgotten about due to Trace McSorley’s late-game heroics to get Tyler Davis in field goal range in order to send the game into overtime and Saquon Barkley’s emphatic walk-off scamper.
On an elementary level, the game itself didn’t mean much. Penn State was now 3-2 (1-1), with a tough schedule ahead of them,notably a pair of undefeated teams in Maryland and No.2 Ohio State.
But for those at the game, we all shared intense emotions. Without scraping back against Minnesota, the 2016 football season and the entire future of the Penn State football program could have looked completely different. After the early disappointments, the Minnesota victory led to one of the most memorable seasons in Penn State football history and those that witnessed it saw where it all began to fall into place.