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The Game That Could Have Saved the Season

A look back at the tragic loss at Penn State.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

I was just searching the internet the other night and I came upon some highlights from the past football season; amongst them were clips from the Penn State game. Oh what a crushing defeat.

I have a funny story about this game. I watched until halftime and, though we weren't playing that bad, we were down 14-3.  My hopes weren't very high as I left for a football game of my own. I checked my phone after my game (3 passing touchdowns!) and a text came from my aunt saying, "Go Illini!"--Something must be happening! We get back and immediately fast forward to the first touchdown that made it 14-10.  The Illini went on to put together a long drive which culminated in Josh Ferguson leaping into the end zone for the score.  With five minutes to go we had our first lead of the day at 17-14.  Keep in mind that we had just lost to Michigan State 42-3 the previous week; now we were winning with five minutes to go on the road. But of course, Penn St. drove down and kicked and field goal to tie the game 17-17.  We were going to overtime.

Christian Hackenburg threw for a touchdown on one of the first few plays. Now we have to score.  Confidence was at a high as our offense had played well for most of the day (especially in the second half). Unfortunately, Scheelhaase threw a ball that got tipped and intercepted to end the game. I remember Nate just standing there looking at the scoreboard--I think that is how we were all feeling except we were just staring at the TV.

So what's my point? How could this game have saved the season? As I said earlier, we weren't exactly beaming with confidence.  We entered the game having lost three straight Big Ten games to find ourselves playing in a tough road environment. However, we played well.  It was heartbreaking to see the game slip away.

But imagine if we had won.

Confidence would've been at a season high (it would've snapped the dreaded Big Ten losing streak) and everyone would've been ecstatic. The team would've found a renewed sense of confidence and motivation going into the next week at Indiana.  It wouldn't be a stretch to say we could've won two Big Ten road games in a row.

Here's an even bigger point: that would've been our 4th win of the season. We would've only had to win two games to make a bowl. We obviously went on to beat Purdue, but maybe we could've had a little more motivation to beat Northwestern if we had entered with a record of 5-6.

The point is, the Penn St. game could've rallied the troops to win two more games in the final stretch of the year. They were so low on confidence and they needed that feeling of a Big Ten.  Here are the highlights if you want to refresh your memory. End it at 2:20 if you want happiness. Watch the whole thing if you want to experience the pain.

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