From The Archives: Penn State V. Michigan (2008)

Penn State v. Michigan (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Evan Royster finished with a game-high 174 rushing yards. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

The week leading up to the showdown against the Wolverines was typically jovial at University Park.

Fans camped outside Beaver Stadium starting on Monday, and hundreds of alumni helped dedicate the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Friday. In between, all the usual wonderment enveloped Happy Valley during Homecoming of the 2008 season.

Then, the game started, and the good vibes changed.

Punctuating this point, John Black stated in the lead to that game’s edition of The Football Letter: “All the omens were ominous.”

Michigan had bested Penn State nine consecutive times in the previous decade. And on the first play of the game, A.Q. Shipley’s snap sailed over the head of quarterback Daryll Clark, resulting in a 16-yard loss after Clark fell on the ball.

The Wolverines then corralled a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Penn State scored 39 unanswered for a resounding 46-17 victory that halted all the built-up frustration. Clark ran for two scores and tossed a short touchdown to Jordan Norwood — “a 3-yard laser,” as Black described.

Penn State v. Michigan (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Daryll Clark accounted for three touchdowns while leading Penn State to the comeback victory on Homecoming. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Evan Royster gashed Michigan for 174 rushing yards on only 18 carries. Penn State’s all-time leading rusher started the scoring for the Nittany Lions with a 44-yard touchdown run toward the end of the first quarter.

The Wolverines stumbled through one of their worst seasons, finishing 2008 with a 3-9 overall mark and 2-6 in the Big Ten.

Penn State’s season, meanwhile, continued on an upward trajectory. Well, at least, for the most part. The Nittany Lions suffered one of the program’s most painful losses in the last quarter-century two weeks later, a 24-23 setback at Iowa on a last-second field goal. Daniel Murray booted in a 31-yard field goal with one second left for the Hawkeyes, derailing Penn State’s national championship aspirations.

Penn State rebounded, defeating Indiana and Michigan by a combined score of 83-25 to finish the regular season 11-1. The Nittany Lions earned a Rose Bowl berth, dropping a 38-24 decision to USC in Pasadena.

Back to the comeback against the Wolverines.

That week’s edition of The Football Letter featured a front-cover photo of a Beaver Stadium, flyover by two Navy F-18 Hornet jets, a good example of how this member-benefit publication showcases the entire day—and surrounding pageantry—of fall Saturdays.

When those game days happen in Happy Valley, there’s even more of an opportunity to connect alumni and friends to the program through Steve Manuel’s photos and John’s firsthand account.

You can view the game’s photo gallery on our Flickr page, and also browse galleries over the years by visiting our “albums” tab.

From the Alumni Blue Band’s performance to Black describing how “a colorful autumn sunset glow settled over Bald Eagle Ridge,” fans got the complete picture of not just how Penn State beat Michigan, but also what it was like to be in University Park on game day.”

Taken from The Football Letter’s intro that bookended the lead recalling the ominous omens:

“From the nation’s largest Homecoming Parade, to the soccer and volleyball victories to the White Out student section in Beaver Stadium dancing and singing to music of Celebration, it was a wonderful 89th Homecoming.”

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Two Navy F-18 Hornet jets flew over Beaver Stadium prior to kickoff against Michigan. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Sneaking into Legend

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Twenty years after one of the craziest days in Beaver Stadium history, we catch up with the unlikely hero of the “Snow Bowl.”

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The snow was the story. A mid-November nor’easter brought nearly a foot and a half of snow to central Pennsylvania just days before Penn State’s 1995 game against Michigan. If you were there, you’ll never forget it: So much snow that most of the stadium parking was closed, so much snow that hundreds of volunteers, and eventually inmates at local penitentiaries, were called on to try to clear the Beaver Stadium bleachers. So much snow, in fact, that by the time the Nittany Lions and Wolverines took the field on Nov. 18, 1995, the best that could be done was to pack much of that snow under the bleachers.

At kickoff, it was an open-air igloo for 80,000 shivering fans.

The fans who toughed it out that day witnessed one of the most memorable afternoons in Beaver Stadium history. Continue reading

Legends of ’94: The Oral History

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Unbeaten, Unstoppable, Uncrowned
An Oral History of the 1994 Penn State Football Team

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Twenty years ago this fall, in just their second season of conference play, the Nittany Lions put together one of the greatest seasons in Big Ten history. They did so with one of the most dynamic offenses ever seen, a star-laden group full of play-makers and future pros. They did it with style, running off a string of blowouts and, on those rare occasions it was necessary, pulling off memorable late-game heroics. They did it with a gritty, overlooked defense and a veteran coaching staff that adapted perfectly to the talent on hand.

To mark the 20th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s last undefeated team, we’re proud to present the definitive oral history of the 1994 Penn State football team. Based on interviews with nearly 30 former Lions—players, coaches, and staff—it’s their story, in their words… Continue reading

The Legends of ’94: Part 3

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Unbeaten, Unstoppable, Uncrowned
An Oral History of the 1994 Penn State Football Team

Part 3 opens with Penn State’s first ever trip to the Big House, an epic occasion in which the game lives up to the hype; an injury-plagued and overlooked defense shows a knack for answering the call; a Homecoming romp over some cupcake from Columbus; and a historic collection of skill players combine for what might be the most unstoppable offense in college football history.

Continue reading