Michigan Top 5- Wins Over PSU

Michigan Top 5 returns this week with a look at the top 5 wins over Penn State. The two face off this weekend in Happy Valley after a two year hiatus. Both will be in the same division next year so once again PSU will be a annual battle for Michigan.



Being from Pennsylvania I always took this as a rivalry. Growing up in Pittsburgh I knew plenty of kids who were PSU fans and many more that went on to go off to school there. Even now the rivalry will hit home as my youngest sister is a junior at PSU. (She is probably the smartest one seeing as she won’t have to pay student loans till she is 35.) Our whole family will get together this weekend up in State College and that has been the site for many of the great games between the two schools.

Despite the two being football powers they never met until PSU joined the B1G in 1993. Michigan won the first game but since then it has been a series of streaks. PSU would win 3 straight from 1994-96 and then Michigan would win 9 in a row over an eleven year span with a 2 year break from 2003-04. That long running streak produced some memorable wins for Michigan fans and some of my fondest memories that I still bring up to some of PSU friends.

They have been able to give it right back to me as of late as PSU beat Michigan three straight times from 2008-10. (Thanks Rich Rod) The two have not played the past two seasons and it will be the dawning of a new era as each team has newer coaches who will be making their coaching debut to this rivalry. Gone are Lloyd and Joe Pa and the new era will be Hoke vs O’Brien.

So before we kick off a new era to this game lets look back at some of Michigan’s best wins over PSU. (Full disclosure I wanted to include Michigan’s 2002 OT win at the Big House in here but there was no good video of it. T3 Media blocked it. Dumb)…

5) 1993: Michigan 21 PSU 13

Lowdown: This was the first game between the two schools who were now conference rivals. PSU came into the game 5-0 and was playing the third B1G game. Michigan on the other hand came in limping off a loss to Sparty the previous week and was 3-2 on the year. Michigan needed the win in order to stay in B1G title race. (Keith Jackson called the game because he had to. There could be no other way)

Highlights: The game is remembered most for Michigan’s goal line stand early in the 4th quarter. PSU had jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Derrick Alexander struck with a punt return to get Michigan on the board. Todd Collins would then hit Mercury Hayes on a corner route to put Michigan up 14-10. (Foreshadowing to 1999 and Tom Brady right here.) PSU would then get 1st and goal at the one and Michigan would stuff them four times that ended up being the deciding plays in the game. Michigan would then ride Ty Wheatley down the field to go up 21-10 and ended up winning 21-13

Other Notes: PSU would actually go on to play in Columbus the following week and lose there as well, thus fueling their hatred for both OSU and Michigan. The Nittany Lions would not lose another game after those two losses and finished 10-2. They would then go undefeated in their second year in 1994. Michigan would have a modest 8-4 season but did beat the Buckeyes that year so its all good.

4) 2006: Michigan 17 PSU 10

Lowdown: Michigan came into the game undefeated at 6-0 and ranked 4th in the country. After a rough 2005 campaign the Wolverines shocked ND in South Bend and had a stifling defense similar to that of the 1997 team. PSU was the opposite, they were in transition after a great 2005 year. They came into the game at 4-2 and were struggling behind new QB Anthony Morelli. (Also it was an emotional game for Chad Henne who grew up in Pennsylvania and liked PSU growing up but chose Michigan instead. Smart kid.)

Highlights: It was a rather boring game and is really just remembered by Michigan fans for its defense including this hit on Morelli. (This photo is what most people bring up.) PSU then inserted Clark who also got knocked out of the game. Michigan would add a Mike Hart TD to make it 17-3. (If you look he flashes the Z.) PSU would score late on a screen pass but it was too little too late as Michigan would extend its win streak in the series to eight games.

Other Notes: I was a junior in college and my buddies and I made the road trip out for the game. Things I remember from the trip were the awesome tailgates (which I look forward to taking part in again on Saturday) and Magglio Ordonez hit a HR that sent the Tigers to the World Series as we were in the stadium. A fun experience but not as fun a game as the first time I went to Happy Valley. Speaking of…

3) 1999: Michigan 31 PSU 27

Lowdown: PSU had spent the majority of the season ranked #2. They were led by Lavar Arrington and Courtney Brown and appeared to be making a run at another unbeaten season before the inexplicably lost to Minnesota the week before the Michigan game. Michigan had gotten to as high as #3 in the country before losing back to back weeks to Sparty and Illinois and came into the game 7-2. They were led by senior QB Tom Brady.

Highlights: Michigan got out to a 17-7 lead before PSU scored 20 straight points to go up 27-17 in the 4th quarter. Tom Brady led a comeback that included a TD run by him as well as a strike in the corner of the endzone to Marcus Knight to cap the comeback. (Sorry there is no part 2, it was deleted.) I was fortunate enough to be there that day and was in the opposite endzone from the Knight catch. What a day.

Other Notes: This was actually Jerry Sandusky’s last home game as DC before “retiring.” I remember people talking about it at the time and I didn’t think anything about it until after all the news broke two years ago. Weird to think about now.

2) 1997: Michigan 34 PSU 8

Lowdown: This was “Showdown Saturday” with a bunch of ranked teams playing one another and this game was the highlights. PSU was ranked #3 and Michigan was having a surprising year and ranked #4. The game was on ABC and of course Keith Jackson had the call. (Sorry for no game footage, Wolverine Historians video got deleted.)

Highlights: For us Michigan fans this game was the peak. From the first play to the final whistle Michigan dominated. They took an early 10-0 lead on an A Train run before this absurd hit happened. (There is even a segment about that hit.) From there Michigan opened it up with Griese TD passes to Woodson and then Truman to lead 24-0 at half. They would tack on ten more points to lead 34-0 at the end of the 3Q and PSU added a late score for a final of 34-8.

Other Notes: I was able to hear Lloyd speak after he retired in 2007 in John U Bacon’s class and someone asked him what was his favorite win as a head coach. After giving a very Lloyd esque answer about how they were all special he finally revealed that this win over PSU in ‘97 was his favorite. He knew he had a good team but it wasn’t until the went on the road and dismantled a good team like PSU that he realized that his team could win the whole thing, which the ultimately did. This win was so special that Michigan’s President at the time let students come into his home afterward and throw a kegger. I never got to do that. Come on Mary Sue.

1) 2005: Michigan 27 PSU 25

Lowdown: After a couple of down years in Happy Valley PSU was undefeated and had just beaten OSU at home the week before. PSU fans were hoping for an perfect season and came to Ann Arbor the following week. Michigan, on the other hand, was struggling at 3-3 and had just been upset the week prior at home by Minnesota. (Vose!)

Highlights: This game broke all Nittany Lions fans hearts as they were one second away from an unbeaten season. The game was actually quite tame until the 4th quarter which started with a crazy defensive TD by PSU. Michigan then tied it up at 18-18 before taking a 21-18 lead on a Rivas field goal. Michael Robinson then led an epic drive capped by his TD run to take a 25-21 lead. Breaston then got the ball to midfield on the kickoff return and Michigan drove it inside the PSU 15 yard line. From there Henne hit Manningham with one second left in one of Michigan’s greatest plays and one of PSU’s biggest nightmares.

Other Notes: This is the only game on the list that took place in Michigan Stadium which is weird.

I highly doubt we see a classic game this season due to the fact PSU is 3-2 and Michigan might be the worst undefeated team in the country. Still, it will be good to get back to Happy Valley and get this series revived after being dormant for the past few years. The one good part about the Michigan-PSU game is we can at least agree on our hate for OSU.

Enjoy the game. Go Blue.


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