From the Archives: Penn State V. Buffalo (2007)

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Penn State Athletics

Rodney Kinlaw finally got the opportunity he wanted. And more than 107,000 fans saw him capitalize on it.

For most of his career, Kinlaw needed to be patient. Whether it was injury or other players above him on the depth chart, Kinlaw needed to persevere. And he did.

He persevered after tearing his ACL in his freshman season. Continued to gut it out when he wasn’t receiving the carries he wanted, or felt he deserved.

Finally, Kinlaw’s patience paid off, and in a big-time way.

During his senior season of 2007, Kinlaw recorded six 100-yard rushing games, with the initial outburst coming against Buffalo in mid-September. Penn State recorded a 45-24 victory, overcoming a sluggish start at Beaver Stadium — the Nittany Lions trailed 3-0 after the first quarter.

Kinlaw scored a six-yard touchdown against Buffalo, “as he refused to be stopped and carried the Bulls’ safety into the end zone,” John Black ’62 wrote in The Football Letter. Kinlaw’s scamper occurred in the fourth quarter, capping off a 6-play, 61-yard drive, on a day when Penn State played in front of a sellout crowd of 107,506 fans.

“It was one of the most amazing feelings ever, and something I’ll probably never experience again — playing in front of 100,000 fans,” said Kinlaw, who switched to No. 20 in his senior year, a nod to his favorite player, Barry Sanders.

“What I miss the most is running through the tunnel, and hearing the lion roar, and smelling the grass while stretching before the game. Nothing will compare to that again.”

Kinlaw, who earned a B.A. from the College of the Liberal Arts, finished 2007 with 1,329 rushing yards, accounting for most of his career rushing yards (1,655) during that year. Penn State completed the season with a 9-4 record, tagging Texas A&M with a 24-17 loss in the Alamo Bowl. Kinlaw earned offensive MVP honors by gaining 143 yards on 21 carries; he finished his career strong, as the performance was his third straight 100-yard game.

That bowl effort, and the weeks and months leading up to it, represented the culmination of Kinlaw’s unwavering belief that he could live up to the moment.

He followed up his 100-yard game against Buffalo with similar efforts versus Iowa (168 yards, two touchdowns), Wisconsin (115 yards, touchdown), Temple (168 yards, touchdown), Michigan State (125 yards, two touchdowns), and Texas A&M.

Each game, Kinlaw had at least 20 attempts, including 27 or more on three occasions. That number might have been the most important of all.

“I really remember feeling that I had the confidence, I knew that I had that the whole time,” Kinlaw said. “Getting the carries brought it all back to how I felt when I first got there. I saw holes develop, and the game became easier. Each game that went by, I saw things clearer and clearer, and things got easier for me.”

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Penn State Athletics

Before his breakout senior season, Kinlaw needed to overcome that ACL injury, and then didn’t win the starting job until his senior season. He even thought about transferring.

One of the reasons why Kinlaw stayed at Penn State was because his experience as a student-athlete was about more than football. His parents, Rodney Sr. and Isreal, stressed the importance of education. And Penn State certainly provided that. Kinlaw learned valuable lessons while playing for the Nittany Lions that have served him well beyond his playing days.

Be on time. Don’t give up. Respect is paramount.

Nowadays, Kinlaw is a successful Southeast Regional Manager with PDS Tech in Georgia, providing aerospace engineering companies with contingent workers. His college days weren’t much different from what some players are experiencing now, at Penn State and elsewhere.

Players jostling for position on the depth chart, wondering if they should make a move or stay put, all during the most formative time of their lives.

Kinlaw’s confident he made the right decision to stay in Happy Valley. It served him well his senior season, and now as an accomplished businessman.

His message to current players? Think about the next 40 years, not just the next four.

“For the kids who are there now who aren’t getting the opportunity, just stick it out and get your education,” Kinlaw said. “Football won’t last forever. You want to have something you can fall back on. Keep sticking it out, keep pushing, and when you get your opportunity, take advantage of it.”

muddy struggle

1900 Buffalo

University at Buffalo University Libraries/1900 Buffalo football team

Pop Golden figured Penn State would’ve won on a dry field.

If that name doesn’t sound familiar to Nittany Lion football fans, it’s understandable. After all, William “Pop” Golden coached Penn State more than a century ago, and for only three seasons (1900–02).

However, if the 1900 contest against Buffalo is any indicator, he enjoyed an eventful tenure as head coach.

The details of this game are thankfully preserved by the University at Buffalo’s University Archives. We say “thankfully” even though Penn State was tagged with a 10-0 defeat, because the circumstances surrounding the contest are part comical, part impressive, and entirely worth remembering, if only to recognize how far college football has come since its beginning 150 years ago.

So, about the playing conditions:

The game was played on Thanksgiving, with the Buffalo Athletic Field featuring “the worst bog imaginable,” according to the Buffalo Evening News. The outlet also described the season-ending win coming amid “a hard and muddy struggle” in its headline. The New York Times, meanwhile, declared that the gridiron was more fit for water polo than football.

The reason for the undesirable field was that when the Buffalo Railway Company’s scrapers cleared off the snow, they took the turf, too.

Visibility was so bad that players on both sides couldn’t tell who was who. Often, a player would pull who they thought was a teammate from the mud, only to discover they were staring at their opponent.

Pop Golden

William “Pop” Golden

Making matters worse for the Nittany Lions, they were placed in a cold room at halftime, resulting in the players coming out stiff in the second half, according to Golden.

He also said: “I think that Penn State would defeat Buffalo on a dry field.”

Golden hoped Penn State-Buffalo would turn into an annual series, though it was another 107 years before the two squads played again — a 45-24 victory for Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 2007.

You can read the full recap from the 1900 classic — including plenty of other fascinating details — at University at Buffalo’s University Libraries’ website

­For the Glory,

— John Patishnock ’05

Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

UNIVERSITY PARK — In a brand new series with the The Football Letter blog, we will take a quick look back at the previous Penn State football game before turning the page with a look ahead to the Nittany Lions’ next opponent. 

In this week’s edition, we recap the dominant 79-7 win over Idaho in the season opener and then offer fans a short glimpse of what they can expect from Week 2 opponent Buffalo.  

Looking Back

Star Of The Game: RB Devyn Ford  

KJ Hamler could have easily been the choice here, accumulating 115 yards on just four catches, two of which went for touchdowns. Penn State fans should be really excited about the connection between Hamler and his new quarterback, Sean Clifford. My pick for the star of the Idaho game, though, is freshman tailback Devyn Ford. Ford wowed the Beaver Stadium crowd with an 81-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter, when he split a crease on the right side of Penn State’s offensive line turned up field and raced his way to the end zone in a flash. He finished the day with 107 yards on six carries. Not bad for a true freshman making his first in-game appearance at the college level. 

Moment of Magic: Walk-on Nick Eury powers his way into the end zone 

Fans that turned off the game in its dwindling minutes or left Beaver Stadium early to beat the post-game traffic missed the highlight of the day — at least in this writer’s opinion. Even with Penn State ahead 71-7 with just over two minutes to go, walk-on Nick Eury provided a moment of magic. The Shavertown, Pennsylvania, native took a handoff in the red zone from quarterback Michael Shuster and bulldozed his way through one defender before dragging another two defenders two yards and stretched across the goal line for a touchdown. He was not going to be denied. For a player that works so hard week in and week out, knowing he’s probably not going to see much action as the season progresses, I’m sure it meant a lot for him. It was an example of what makes college football so great. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Looking Ahead

Buffalo’s 2018 At A Glance

The 2018 campaign proved to be one of the best in team history for the Bulls. Head coach Lance Leipold helped guide Buffalo to a 10-4 finish, breaking the previous program record for wins in a single season (8). The Bulls won the MAC East Division crown but fell to West Division champs Northern Illinois in the conference title game in Detroit 30-29. Buffalo then earned a trip to Mobile, Alabama for the Dollar General Bowl, but fell short there as well, losing 42-32 to Troy. 

Running With The Bulls

Like Penn State, Buffalo started its season with a win over an FCS foe, topping Robert Morris 38-10. The Bulls ran their way over the Colonials, gaining 285 yards on the ground. Of the Bulls’ 57 offensive snaps in the game, 47 of them were run plays. 

Names To Remember  

Buffalo running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks picked up where they left off a season ago, which saw the former named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year. Patterson finished Saturday’s win with 90 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts. Marks had 13 rushes for 75 yards. While the Bulls used five different backs against the Colonials, Patterson and Marks will surely get the bulk of the carries against Penn State. It will be interesting to see how the duo and the Bulls’ offensive line hold up against that vaunted Nittany Lions front seven.