My Favorite Game Ever Attended: #12 Wisconsin vs #7 Penn State, November 5, 2005
My favorite game that I ever attended has to be the 2005 matchup between Penn State and Wisconsin on November 5. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for this game from my uncle, who had to stay home as his family prepared for their second child. However, I took one thing he always told me with me as I went to the game that day, “when Brent Musberger is in the booth, you know it’s a big game”. And it was. Both teams came into the game at 8-1 and 5-1 in the Big Ten, essentially making this the deciding game in the chase for the Big Ten Title. It was also Senior Day, as fans were able to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2005 Penn State Football Team that turned around the program from its dark times earlier in the decade, having a losing season in 4 out of 5 seasons in the 2000s up to that point. Players such as Tamba Hali, Alan Zemaitis, and Michael Robinson all ran out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel for the final time and looked to finish their careers on a high note against the Badgers.
On a beautiful day with temperatures in the 60s in November, Penn State took the ball and started their day off on the right foot. The Lions drove right down the field with Senior QB Michael Robinson finding freshman WR Deon Butler in the back of the end zone for a sliding 43-yard touchdown catch right in front of the student section. While the Penn State offense was up and running, the Penn State defense was even more locked in, swarming around Badger QB John Stocco in the backfield.
At the start of the second quarter, Penn State increased their lead to 14-0 after driving down the field and allowing RB Tony Hunt to finish the drive with a nine-yard rush up the middle to find the end zone. On the ensuing Badger drive, Stocco led Wisconsin down the field, eventually setting up shop inside the Penn State ten-yard line. However, on 2nd & Goal, Stocco rolled out to his right and threw across his body, throwing right into the hands of Zemaitis as he jumped up and caught the ball and landed in the end zone for a touchback.
Penn State continued to build momentum as they drove down the field with WR Terrell Golden and RB Tony Hunt having big catches on the drive. As soon as Penn State got close to the goal line, Robinson handed the ball to FB BranDon Snow, who found the end zone from three yards out, extending the Nittany Lion lead to 21-0. The Penn State defense continued to dominate in the first half as they shut out the Badgers, a team that averaged almost 40 points per game coming into the game.
As the second half started, both teams began to struggle offensively, as neither team scored in the third quarter. But, at the start of the fourth quarter, Badger RB Brian Calhoun set a Wisconsin record, scoring his 22nd touchdown of the season and cut the deficit down to 14 points. Penn State and Wisconsin then traded punts. When the Lions got the ball back, Robinson decided to seize all momentum of the game by finding Deon Butler for the second time that day for a 47-yard touchdown to bring their lead back up to 28-7.
Stocco and the Badgers answered right back by finding the end zone on a 18 yard touchdown pass to Brandon White, that was set up by a 65 yard pass on the first play of the drive. Following a failed onside kick, Tony Hunt iced the game by finding the end zone for his second appearance of the day and giving the Lions a 35-14 victory to bring them to 9-1.
What made this game special to me was this 2005 team. This special group mixed young players with experienced players who wanted to leave their impact on Penn State. Coming into this matchup against Wisconsin, I had no doubt in my mind that Penn State would win. This team had proven all year that they would come out, play hard, and win. Their victory against the Badgers was no different as they dominated from the opening kickoff.
Another factor that made this game so special to me was the impact of the seniors. Michael Robinson played an incredible game as he led the Nittany Lion offense up and down the field. He found Butler in the end zone twice for multiple 40-yard scores. He also rushed for 125 yards on 16 carries, showing how dynamic he was at the QB position. Robinson had runs where he spun to avoid a defender and somehow picked up speed coming out of the spin. He also had runs where he carried defenders for five yards just to reach the first down marker. Both types of plays showed the skill and the heart the Robinson displayed all season, which resulted in a fifth place Heisman Trophy finish.
The story on the defensive side of the ball was DE Tamba Hali. The senior put together one of the best defensive performances you will ever see from a college football defender as he collected four sacks on the day. His performance left the broadcasting crew of Brent Musberger and Gary Danielson in awe of just how well he was playing. He faced double and triple teams and still found his way to the QB. He made plays on the complete opposite side of the line to stop Badger RB Brian Calhoun. A special performance helped Hali become a first round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Overall, the defense tallied nine sacks as a group, with Hali leading the way with four. The Nittany Lion defense also limited Badger RB Brian Calhoun to just 38 yards rushing on 20 carries. Calhoun entered the game leading the nation in touchdowns and averaged over 135 yards rushing per game, but he was no match for this Penn State defense.
With a special group of players and some special performances, the 2005 Penn State-Wisconsin game is my favorite game I have ever attended. I personally loved watching this team play each week and I think many other fans would agree with me when I say that. Some of my favorite players were on this team including Robinson, Hali, Zemaitis, and Paul Posluszny. I also think this team shaped the future of Penn State football to what it is today, a perennial winner that competes for Big Ten titles on a consistent basis. Without the success of this team in 2005, it is unclear of how the Penn State program would have performed the rest of the decade or whether Joe Paterno would have become the all-time wins leader. It is a game that I often find myself watching repeatedly because of the memories it brings back to me. So you can revisit this game like I often do, here is a video from LBU Videos on YouTube.
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed retelling my stories for you. Be sure to stay tuned to For The Glory as we conclude this series over the next few days. We are!!