The History of the White Out

Audio/Story posted October 21, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Sports Staff


George Stockburger takes you back in time through the best White Outs in Penn State history 


Of course, Penn State’s colors are the basic blue and white that fans have come to know and love. But since 2004, there is one Saturday out of the Penn State football season where fans ditch the blue and only show up in white. Just this week, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called the atmosphere “one of top 5 in all of college football”. Surprisingly though, the Nittany Lions are 5-7 in Whiteout games all-time. Will the pressure get to this year’s team like in 2009? Or will they rise to the challenge and knock off Ohio State a la 2005? Things are expected to get pretty interesting in Beaver Stadium on Saturday, so let’s take a look back at some of the best (and worst) Whiteout games. Here is the comprehensive ranking of all 12 games, from worst to best.

12. 2009- No. 5 Penn State upset by unranked Iowa 21-10

Long time Penn State fans might want to skip this part. The Nittany Lions came into the game 10 point favorites, expecting to finally get over the hump against the Hawkeyes. Penn State jumped out to an early 10-0 lead after a 79-yard touchdown pass from Daryll Clark to Chaz Powell, but they would not score again. Iowa took the lead for good after Adrian Clayborn returned a blocked punt to the house. Turnovers and miscues plagued Penn State the entire game as this loss took them out of the national championship picture. 

11. 2004- First Whiteout, Penn State loses to No. 9 Purdue 20-13

While some fans argue that the game was not a whiteout, Beaver Stadium decked itself out in white for the first time. It was the “Dark Ages” for Penn State football, as the team went 4-7. The game itself was a pretty close contest, tied at 10 after the first half. A Kyle Orton 40-yard touchdown pass put the Boilermakers in the lead for good in a game. The Penn State offense could not make the most the opportunities given to them, as Orton threw two interceptions, both setting up good field position. As most Penn State fans know however, things would change the following year. More on that later…

10. 2006- Both quarterbacks knocked out, Penn State loses 17-10 to No. 4 Michigan

While Penn State already had two losses on the season, they could still get themselves back into the BCS bowl conversation with an upset over Michigan. Unfortunately, the Michigan front seven pestered the Nittany Lion offense all game. Not only did the Wolverines have seven sacks on the day, they knocked starting quarterback Anthony Morelli out of the game in the third quarter as well as backup Daryll Clark. A late Tony Hunt 43-yard touchdown catch cut the Michigan lead to seven, but the Wolverines held on to give Penn State their third loss of the year.

9. 2015- Hackenberg struggles, Rudock leads No. 14 Michigan to 28-16 win

A Whiteout game kicking off at noon? To many, this game didn’t have the feel that the Whiteout should have, under the lights at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions were forced to play catch-up for most of the afternoon. They took a 10-7 lead late in the first half after a 25-yard Saeed Blacknall touchdown, but Michigan immediately responded as Amara Darboh caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock to take a 14-10 lead into halftime. Christian Hackenberg struggled mightily in the game, completing just under 42 percent of his passes as the Wolverines pulled away with a late De’Veon Smith touchdown.

8. 2011- No. 3 Crimson Tide roll in, come out with 27-11 dismantling of #23 Penn State

This game marks the last time a non-conference team was featured in the Whiteout game, and only the second time that has happened. With Joe Paterno coaching from the press box due to injuries, the team looked quite lost all afternoon. The Nittany Lions were dealing with quarterback issues as Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin looked horrendous, combining to go 12 of 39 for 144 yards, an interception and no touchdowns. Trent Richardson led the Tide to the win with 111 yards and two touchdowns in what would be Paterno’s final Whiteout game. Alabama would go on to win the national championship later that season, while Penn State’s went in a direction no one expected.

7. 2012- Braxton Miller leads No. 9 Buckeyes to 35-23 win with 3 TD’s

In Bill O’Brien’s first Whiteout game, things started pretty well. Mike Hull blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone by Mike Yancich for a touchdown, making for the lone bright spot in the game. With both schools out of postseason contention due to NCAA sanctions, it made for one of the more unusual Whiteout games as it held no impact on the Big Ten title race. Braxton Miller accounted for 277 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as Matt McGloin’s 327-yard, two touchdown day was not enough for the Nittany Lions. 

6. 2014- Penn State comes back, forces double-overtime but comes up short 31-24

As incredible as this game was, this game is sixth because it was a loss. No one gave Penn State a chance and early on, the pundits appeared to be right. Down 17-0, Anthony Zettel returned a J.T. Barrett interception 40 yards to the house to start the comeback and Sam Ficken kicked a game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime. Both teams scored touchdowns on their first possessions, and Ohio State scored again on their second, but Joey Bosa sacked Christian Hackenberg to end the game. This game is much-maligned by Penn Staters because of a replay equipment malfunction not being able to review a key interception by Ohio State that hit the turf and a field goal being kicked multiple seconds after the play clock had expired. The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship. 

5. 2007-A Whiteout with many firsts, No. 14 Penn State beats down Notre Dame 31-10

Now we get to the Whiteout wins. This was the first time a non-conference opponent was the Whiteout game, the first time the Whiteout turned into a blowout, and the first time for a Whiteout that Beaver Stadium held over 110,000 people. Jimmy Clausen made his first start for the Irish in this game and was obliterated, getting sacked six times. Offensively, Austin Scott led the way for Penn State with 116 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Nittany Lions got the revenge they sought from a year earlier, when they were throttled 41-17 in South Bend.

4. 2010- McGloin walks on, Royster sets record in win over Michigan

People weren’t sure whether they could believe in Joe Paterno when he decided to start walk-on QB Matt McGloin in the Whiteout game. But behind 250 yards passing from McGloin, 150 rushing yards and two TDs from Evan Royster, Penn State knocked off Michigan 41-31. During the game, Royster broke the career rushing yards record held by Curt Warner (3,398 yards). The Nittany Lions led by as much as 21 but had to hold off a second-half comeback from Denard Robinson who accounted for four touchdowns, getting Michigan within seven.

3. 2008- #12 Penn State holds off the Juice, beats #22 Illinois 38-24

This game saw the Nittany Lions advance to 5-0 on the season, knocking off a team that had represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl and Penn State had lost to narrowly to a year earlier. Juice Williams accounted for 247 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, but it was Derrick Williams who stole the show. The senior had the best game of his career that night, with a rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdown for Penn State to knock off the Illini.

2. 2013-Unranked Penn State knocks off No. 19 Michigan 43-40 in 4OT

“And Robinson comes down with it!!!! At the one yard line!”. That was the reaction from Joe Tessitore of ESPN to what is one of the greatest catches in the history of the program. There is definitely an argument that this game is the best Whiteout game, especially amongst current seniors who were there. Penn State found themselves ahead 21-10 at halftime, but a scoop and score by Frank Clark gave Michigan all the momentum. They opened up a 34-24 lead in the 4th quarter but a Sam Ficken field goal brought the Nittany Lions within seven. In the final minute of play, the aforementioned Robinson catch led to a Hackenberg quarterback sneak to tie the game. A combined FIVE field goals were missed by Ficken and Brendan Gibbons of Michigan which made the game feel endless. Finally, in the fourth overtime, it was Bill Belton who snuck around the corner for a 2-yard touchdown that put the longest game in program history to rest.

1. 2005- #16 Penn State brings the roar back to Beaver Stadium, beats No. 6 Ohio State 17-10

It could go either way between this and the 2013 game, but the reputation of the Whiteout started from this game. Penn State football was just escaping “the Dark Ages (1999-2004)” and ESPN’s “College Gameday” proclaimed “the roar was back in Happy Valley”. Coming off an optimistic ending to the 2004 season with a goal-line stand against Indiana and a win over Michigan State, this was Penn State’s first major game since ‘99. Michael Robinson and Derrick Williams accounted for a touchdown each, but the defense was the story of this game. Paul Posluszny had 14 tackles and a sack and Tamba Hali forced the sack and fumble that sealed the upset for Penn State. Long-time fans say that Beaver Stadium has never been louder, with 109,839 on hand for what many call the first “real” Whiteout game.

So where will Saturday’s game rank? It could go anywhere. Penn State has not beaten Ohio State at home since the 2005 game. But if there’s one thing to remember about the Whiteout, it is not to count any outcome out of the question.


Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, send him an email at