From 0-5 to 5-0, Penn State Football Has Done a Complete 180

Story posted October 4, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Jack McCune

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 was finally the day for the return of Penn State football after the Big Ten Conference delayed its season due to COVID-19.

The Nittany Lions’ schedule was announced about a month prior, and a trip to Memorial Field to play Indiana was first on the list.

Penn State was the No. 8 team in the nation and 22-1 all-time against the Hoosiers before the game, and many fans and experts brushed over the Week 1 matchup for the next game against Ohio State.

That all changed when Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. extended his right arm with the football towards the pylon in overtime for what would become the controversial call heard around the world.

The successful two-point conversion gave the Hoosiers the 36-35 upset win, and the hype for the date with the Buckeyes was all but lost.

The Nittany Lions entered a tailspin after the shocking defeat.

Both Ohio State and Maryland entered a nearly empty Beaver Stadium and beat Penn State by double digits, and Iowa did the same after the blue and white lost at Nebraska the week prior.

Reality was setting in for head coach James Franklin — Penn State was 0-5 for the first time ever. The two-time champion with the eighth-most wins in the history of college football was nearly at rock bottom.

Four straight wins to end the 2020 campaign would ease some of the pain, but the 4-5 record would mark the first losing season since 2004, and after playing in a New Year’s Six game the year prior, the program opted out of its bowl eligibility.

Fast forward to Week 5 of the 2021 season — the Nittany Lions were coming off three straight non-conference victories at home after beating a ranked Wisconsin on the road. Fans were back for the fourth-straight game at Beaver Stadium.

On Saturday, less than a year after the Indiana loss, Penix and company were in Happy Valley for the Stripe Out game under the lights, and No. 4 Penn State took the 24-0 win. The Nittany Lions were 5-0.

In the span of one offseason, the conversation turned from if Sean Clifford was the answer to whether the quarterback is a Heisman candidate. Franklin’s speculation around leaving for USC lingers, but this time, no one wants to see him go. Hopes for a win have turned into hopes for a birth in the College Football Playoff.

The season isn’t even halfway over, though, and the blue and white’s toughest test yet is coming up next week in a road matchup with No. 3 Iowa.

Penn State hasn’t lost in Kinnick Stadium since 2010, and last year’s loss broke a five-game win streak against the Hawkeyes.

However, with the 5-0 start to the 2021 season, and a revenge win under their belt, Franklin, Clifford and the rest of the team can completely forget about last year.


Jack McCune is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email