STATE COLLEGE, PA (AP) — The white out in the stands became the white out on the field as Penn State fans mobbed their Nittany Lions. Well after the biggest victory of the post-Joe Paterno era was over, the cries of “We Are! Penn State!” echoed underneath 56-year-old Beaver Stadium and bounced off its big rusty metal beams.
It felt like the good ol’ days for Penn State football and Happy Valley was downright ecstatic Saturday night after the Nittany Lions upset No. 2 Ohio State 24-21.
“Obviously these types of wins are important,” coach James Franklin said. “To be honest with you, I don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about the big picture right now, I just want to soak this all in. I just want to enjoy tonight.”
Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter and the Nittany Lions sacked J.T. Barrett twice on Ohio State’s final possession to seal a milestone victory for Penn State:
— First against Ohio State since 2011.
— First over a ranked team under Franklin.
— First against a top-five team since 1999 against Arizona.
— First against a top-two team since 1990 against No. 1 Notre Dame.
— First in Beaver Stadium against a team ranked so high since 1982 against No. 2 Nebraska.
Penn State (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) took its first lead against the Buckeyes when Marcus Allen leaped high to block Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard field goal attempt and Haley made the scoop and sprint to the end zone.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid,” Haley said. “Just running to the end zone and falling, it was a huge sigh of relief, like, everything, all the hard work this team’s put in coming into play against the No. 2 team in the country.”
The crowd of 107,280 at Beaver Stadium, almost all dressed in white, went nuts after Penn State took the lead, and then thousands poured out onto the field when the clock hit 0:00.
The Buckeyes (6-1, 4-1 Big Ten) had their 20-game road winning streak snapped and the Big Ten East race that looked like an inevitable march toward an Ohio State-Michigan showdown on Nov. 26 in Columbus, Ohio, took a bit of a detour. Two seasons ago the Buckeyes bounced back from an early loss and won the national championship. Last season one loss turned out to be enough to eliminate Ohio State from the College Football Playoff.
“Feel the same as Michigan State last year,” Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard said.
The Buckeyes are in much better position to recover.
Penn State is now in the mix, but the Wolverines and Buckeyes still have the advantage in the division. If they all finish 8-1 in the conference and the Buckeyes beat Michigan, Penn State — which has already lost to the Wolverines — would be eliminated from three-way tiebreaker because of a worse overall record.
The Nittany Lions will worry about that later.
“This isn’t a fluke win,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “This is who we are. This is who we believe we can be and will continue to be.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes became the highest ranked team to lose to an unranked team this season. Problems with the passing game left them unable to put Penn State away. Barrett was 28 for 43 for 245 yards and he was sacked six times as the Buckeyes, especially right tackle Isaiah Prince, struggled to protect their quarterback.
“I think we put our O-line in bad spots early on in drives, so we’re in second and long and then we had to pass and that harmed us,” Barrett said.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions got Cabinda and fellow linebacker Brandon Bell back from injury, and the defense played it best game of the season. Bell (19 tackles) and Cabinda (12 tackles) were all over the field and defensive end Garrett Sickels had 2.5 sacks.
Ohio State: How far will the Buckeyes fall? At least behind most of the unbeaten teams and maybe behind Louisville. Figure somewhere around No. 7 or 8.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have not been ranked since 2011, but that could change on Sunday.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes return home after two straight road games to face Northwestern, which is on a three-game winning streak.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions visit Purdue. Penn State has won seven straight meetings.
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