Eight straight. Almost 11 years. Each Penn State loss to Michigan has a different story behind it – a new way the Wolverines have tortured Nittany Lion players and fans. We examine each of them here.
Nov. 8, 1997
Score: No. 4 Michigan 34, No. 3 Penn State 8
What happened: After dropping two games to Penn State the previous two seasons, Michigan won the game that counted. In a battle between two undefeated top-five teams at Beaver Stadium, Michigan dominated the host Nittany Lions, giving the Wolverines the No. 1 spot in the AP poll the next week, a spot they never relinquished en route to their First National Championship in five decades. Michigan rushed for 265 yards and held Penn State’s heralded offense to fewer than 200 total yards.
Penn State outrage level: Exploding – The Nittany Lions had everything it could dream of: an undefeated season, a home-field advantage and a direct path to a National Championship.
But all of that was washed away when the Wolverines entered Happy Valley and completely outplayed Penn State in all facets of the game.
Quote: “They completely dominated us all game. They flat out took it to us.”
– Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary
Nov. 7, 1998
Score: No. 22 Michigan 27, No. 9 Penn State 0
What happened: Michigan’s defense set the tone early, stuffing the Nittany Lions four straight times inside the two-yard line for a big goalline stand. It was the first time Penn State had been shutout in more than 10 years. With the defense running on all cylinders, quarterback Tom Brady and the Wolverine offense could cruise to victory on offense. He threw for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in Michigan’s first-ever home win against Penn State.
Penn State outrage level: Hot – Entering as the favorite once again, the Nittany Lions were baffled following the game. Their offense couldn’t score, and their hopes at a Big Ten title were washed away.
Quote: “I remember telling Marcus Ray and Sam (Sword) that ‘after we stop them (on the goalline stand), we’re going to go crazy.’ So when we stopped them there, we went crazy.”
– Michigan safety Tommy Hendricks
Nov. 13, 1999
Score: No. 16 Michigan 31, No. 6 Penn State 27
What happened: With 9:44 left in the game, the Wolverines trailed 27-17 at Beaver Stadium, but quarterback Tom Brady (256 yards, two touchdowns) would lead the Michigan offense down the field for two touchdowns in the final frame. Brady ran the first score in on a five-yard run with 3:26 remaining and hit receiver Marcus Knight on an 11-yard strike for the second with 1:46 left in the game. The Nittany Lions drove down to the Michigan 25 yard line when linebacker Ian Gold stripped Penn State quarterback Kevin Thompson to seal the Wolverine win.
Penn State outrage level: Hot – The Nittany Lions were ranked higher, playing at home and held a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Michigan stole the win and cost Penn State a chance at a Big Ten title.
Quote: “We were really tired. We tried a three-man rush. We tried sending four. We did a lot of things. We were just tired.”
– Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky
Nov. 11, 2000
Score: No. 20 Michigan 33, Penn State 11
What happened: The Wolverines handled a Nittany Lion squad still reeling from losing its first two games of the season to Southern Cal and Toledo. In the Big House, running back Anthony Thomas (35 carries, 171 yards) led the Michigan attack with quarterback Drew Henson (212 yards, two touchdowns) complementing the senior through the air. The Wolverine defense also forced four turnovers (four interceptions).
Penn State outrage level: Steaming – Michigan led 27-11 when running back Chris Perry scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run with one second left on the clock. Penn State coach Joe Paterno didn’t take offense, but others in the Nittany Lion camp did.
Quote: “I thought they were trying to rub it in a little bit. I told some of the underclassmen that if they get the chance next year to repay the favor. Those kind of things come back to haunt you sometimes.” – Penn State senior free safety James Boyd
Oct. 6, 2001
Score: No. 15 Michigan 20, Penn State 0
What happened: Led by quarterback John Navarre (246 yards, two touchdowns) and running back B.J. Askew (122 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving), the Wolverines maul the Nittany Lions in State College. The Michigan defense limits Penn State to just 26 yards rushing, records two picks and recovers a fumble.
Penn State Outrage Level: Warm – Not only did the loss drop Penn State to a dismal 0-4 to start the year, for the first time in Joe Paterno’s 36-year coaching career, the Nittany Lions are shut out at home.
Quote: “They aren’t only making those mistakes in the game. They are having a tough time in practice, which drives me a little nuts. I am a little bit baffled right now, but we are working on that.”
– Penn State coach Joe Paterno
Oct. 12, 2002
Score: No. 13 Michigan 27, No. 15 Penn State 24
What happened: On Penn State’s last drive in regulation, officials rule receiver Tony Johnson catches third-down pass out of bounds, negating Penn State’s chance at setting up a possible game-winning field goal. In the first overtime game in Michigan Stadium history, the Wolverines defense holds Penn State to a field goal before running back Chris Perry pounds in the game-winning touchdown.
Penn State Outrage Level: Hot – Subsequent television replays showed Johnson was actually in-bounds. Penn State later filed a complaint with the Big Ten.
Quote: “They have been better physically and better coached. I think Lloyd Carr at Michigan might be the most underrated coach in the country.”
– Penn State coach Joe Paterno
Oct. 15, 2005
Score: Michigan 27, No. 8 Penn State 25
What happened: The Nittany Lions came into the Big House with designs on an undefeated season.
The Wolverines were struggling with a 3-3 record, 1-2 in the Big Ten. And when quarterback Michael Robinson scored on a three-yard run with 53 seconds remaining to put Penn State up 25-21, it looked like Michigan would drop to 3-4. But after Steve Breaston returned the ensuing kickoff to the Michigan 47-yard line, Chad Henne led the Wolverines down to the Penn State 10-yard line. And on fourth down with just one second remaining, he found Mario Manningham on a slant pattern in the end zone to steal the victory from Penn State.
Outrage Level: Exploding – Not only did Michigan ruin Penn State’s perfect season, not only did they do it at literally the last second, but Lloyd Carr argued with the referees that two extra seconds had been taken off the clock during the final drive, and got those seconds put back on the clock. What Nittany Lion fans forget is that coach Joe Paterno did the exact same thing on his team’s go-ahead drive.
Quote: “That’s the best game I’ve ever seen or played in. It was an unreal feeling.”
– Michigan lineman Alan Branch
Oct. 14, 2006
Score: No. 4 Michigan 17, Penn State 10
What happened: Michigan entered Beaver Stadium with an 7-0 record, 4-0 in the Big Ten. Its defense holds the Nittany Lions, previously second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game, to minus-14 yards on the ground and knocks two Penn State quarterbacks out of the game. The then-second-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history is silenced, and Michigan finds itself third in the BCS Standings after the game.
Penn State Outrage Level: Steaming – After the Wolverines spoiled Penn State’s bid for an undefeated season the previous season, the Nittany Lions were undoubtedly looking to return the favor at home. Insult was added to injury when Penn State had to put in its third-string quarterback to try and orchestrate a late-game comeback.
Quote: “We keep coming. We keep hitting you. If you stand back there, we’ll keep hitting you. We’ll keep coming. We’re not going to let up.”
– Michigan lineman Terrance Taylor