Historic Weekend for Football and Men’s Hockey

posted October 26, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

When the weekend began in Happy Valley, many students were excited about the big whiteout game with the then-undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes coming into town, while the men’s hockey team traveled to South Bend to take on future Big Ten foe Notre Dame.

Before the start of the weekend, the men’s hockey team had been successful as they had already scored 14 goals this season, but all of those games were at home. Facing the third best team in the nation on the road is quite a way to start the road schedule.

The Nittany Lions responded by earning a tie against Notre Dame on Friday, before pulling off the biggest win in program history the next day. Andrew Sturtz scored the game-winning goal to give Penn State the win.

The victory and tie over the weekend helped land Penn State in the top 20 of the USHO.com rankings at 19, the first time they’ve been ranked all season. Football had a very similar experience which took the nation by surprise.

Coming into the weekend, everybody knew that Ohio State was one of the best five teams in the country and well on its way to competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Penn State on the other hand, was a team trying to be in the conversation as a top-three team in the Big Ten East.

The whiteout game did not sway the minds of the oddsmakers as the second-ranked Buckeyes entered the game as a 19.5-point favorite. Everyone expected Ohio State to win, so when Grant Haley scored the game-winning touchdown on a blocked field goal it shocked the nation.

The 24-21 upset victory was Penn State’s first victory over a top-five team since 1999. The win also provided head coach James Franklin with a much-needed signature victory, his first with the program.

The victory also provided the school with its first ranking in the AP Poll since December 5, 2011, entering the week at number 24. The ranking might seem low, but being ranked shows the program is moving in the right direction, and the team can only go up from where it is now.

2016 is the first year that Penn State is operating without the sanctions and the great start that they have gotten off to spells good things for the future. The Nittany Lions have a chance to obtain double digit-wins on the season, which is something they have not done since 2009.

The hockey program started playing in the NCAA five years ago and knocking off a team like Notre Dame on the road provides a bright future for a squad that regularly plays 10 freshman. If the Lions keep playing this well, the NCAA tournament might be in their future.

Happy Valley is rocking with excitement after the events of the weekend and both teams will look to continue that trend as the men’s hockey team have an upcoming 10-game home stand and the football team is favored in every game for the rest of the season.

 

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu