10 Memorable Homecoming Games
Homecoming is a time for the community to welcome back alumni and to celebrate the history and traditions of Penn State with events throughout the week showcasing the different community organizations, student groups and programs throughout State College. But come Saturday afternoon, Homecoming is all about football. This year, Penn State welcomes the Maryland Terrapins to Beaver Stadium on Saturday, October 8 for the 97th Homecoming game in Nittany Lion history.
Since the first homecoming game in 1920, the Nittany Lions own a 69-22-5 Homecoming record and an even more impressive 18-5 record since joining the Big Ten conference in 1993. Against the Terps, the Nittany Lions have been dominant with 36 wins in 39 games – but the teams have split the two contests since the Terps joined the Big Ten with the Nittany Lions winning a 31-30 nail biter in Baltimore last October.
There is no denying that each Homecoming game is special – players, fans, alums and students always remember Homecoming games and performances. So while we count down to kickoff to Penn State's 97th homecoming game against the Terrapins, here's a look at the 10 most memorable Homecoming games in Penn State history:
Penn State 14 Dartmouth 7
October 9, 1920
The first official Homecoming game was one for the record books. With a capacity crowd of 12,000 (yes, 12,000 was huge in the ’20s but probably wouldn't fill the student section now), and the game tied at 7, Penn State's W. Glenn Killinger intercepted a pass near midfield and took it all the way back to the two yard line to set up Joe Lightner's game-winning touchdown. The Nittany Lions finished 1920 with an undefeated season (7-0-2).
Penn State 21 Navy 3
October 20, 1923
With a Beaver Field attendance record of 20,000, the Nittany Lions improved to 4-0 on the season with a dominating win over unbeaten Navy. It was the Midshipmen's only loss of the 1923 season and they only surrendered 62 points – but three touchdowns belonged to Penn State's All-American Harry "Light Horse" Wilson. Wilson, in one of the greatest Nittany Lions performances of all-time ran for 123 yards and scored on a 55-yard interception return, a 95-yard kickoff return and a 72-yard run off a fake reverse.
Penn State 6 Lafayette 3
October 26, 1929
Almost unbelievable to read, but according to Penn State lore – the Nittany Lions trailed Lafayette 3-0 with 15 seconds left in the game. On third down, Lafayette decides to punt rather than risk a turnover and with tacklers bearing down on Penn State's Cooper French, he pitches the ball to his roommate Frank Diedrich who takes it all the way for the game-winning touchdown. Too bad that televised football was still ten years away.
Penn State 40 Syracuse 0
October 18, 1947
Not many 40-0 games are really memorable – but the Nittany Lions' Homecoming blowout of the Syracuse Orangemen was historically dominant. Penn State's defense held the Orangemen to minus-47 yards on 49 plays. Even more awe-inspiring, Syracuse was able to manage 60 yards passing, but were smothered to the tune of minus-107 yards rushing for an NCAA record performance that is absolutely untouchable. The 1947 Nittany Lions – who allowed only 3.8 points per game on the season – finished 9-0-1 and ranked #4 in the country.
Penn State 42 Syracuse 3
October 18, 1986
The 1986 national champions ran all over the Orangemen defense – with 10 different ball carriers totaling 434 yards in a Homecoming rout. In a preview of things to come, then-sophomore Blair Thomas ran for an incredible 132 yards on only three carries – including the longest run in school history at the time when he burst through the line for 92 yards in the third quarter but was caught at the 1 yard line.
Penn State 63 Ohio State 14
October 30, 1994
There have been bigger individual performances in homecoming history, but no team performance has ever been as impressive as the #1 Nittany Lions embarrassment of the #21 Buckeyes in front of a record crowd at Beaver Stadium. Penn State scored on five of its first six possessions to take a 35-0 halftime lead and added four second-half touchdowns to give the Buckeyes their worst loss in 48 years. Ki-Jana Carter ran for 137 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries, quarterback Kerry Collins was a nearly-perfect 19-23 for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and Bobby Engram caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Penn State 49 Northwestern 0
October 19, 2002
Senior running back Larry Johnson ran over, around and through the Wildcats defense for a team-record 257 rushing yards on only 23 carries in one of the greatest individual performances in homecoming history. The rushing record didn't last long – as Larry Johnson broke it two more times in his historic 2002 season that ended with 2,087 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.
Penn State 46 Michigan 17
October 18, 2008
As the #3 ranked team in the country, the Nittany Lions were in a close one for the first time all season – and trailing 17-14 at half-time. The turning point in the game came with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter, with the score tied at 17, when Penn State's Jared Odrick sacked Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan in the end zone for a safety. The huge play sparked the Lions, who went on to outscore the Wolverines 32-0 in the second half to finally snap a nine-game losing streak to Michigan. Running back Evan Royster ran for a career-high 174 yards and Deon Butler caught eight passes for 105 yards.
Penn State 39 Northwestern 28
October 6, 2012
(see photo above)
Trailing 28-17 with under 10 minutes left in the game against previously undefeated Northwestern, the Nittany Lions scored 22 straight 4th quarter points to steal a dramatic homecoming victory. The Nittany Lions took the lead for good at the end of a 15-play, 85 yard drive when quarterback Matt McGloin scrambled in from five yards out on 3rd down with under three minutes left. McGloin finished with a school-record 35 completions on 51 attempts for 282 yards and two scores.
Penn State 43 Michigan 40 (4 OT)
October 12, 2013
The 2013 Penn State-Michigan marathon is undoubtedly one of the most memorable and exciting Penn State games of all time. The Nittany Lions quickly saw a 21-10 halftime lead turn into a 34-24 fourth quarter deficit. After kicking a field goal to get within a score, the Nittany Lions got the ball back with 45 seconds left in regulation and they needed to go 80 yards to tie. And with under 30 seconds left from the 36 yard line, Allen Robinson made one of the best catches in Penn State history down the left sideline to set up a Christian Hackenberg touchdown on a quarterback sneak from inside the one-yard line. After the #18 Wolverines took a 40-37 lead in the 4th overtime, running back Bill Belton converted a 4th and 1 and scored from two yards out three plays later to send Happy Valley into a Homecoming celebration for the ages.