Michigan Wolverines’ History With Penn State Nittany Lions

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

Aside from Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska, the Big Ten has incredibly old and established roots with its competing members. Penn State however does not fit in with any clique—they’re the middle child of the Big Ten. Michigan will square off with the Nittany Lions for the 18th time this Saturday night at the Big House for “Under The Lights III.” The Wolverines hold an overall advantage of 10-7 with the Nittany Lions in a series that kicked off in 1993.


The very first game played between Michigan and Penn State was also the 1,000th game played by the Nittany Lions, and the scene was spectacular: the largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history (96,719) poured in to watch their team take on Michigan. The Wolverines spoiled the party, however, and rode away from Happy Valley with a 21-13 victory.

After trailing in the second half by a score of 10-7, Michigan dominated the final two quarters. A Penn State penalty negated a missed field goal from the foot of Wolverines kicker Peter Elezovic and allowed Michigan to continue its drive, which was capped off with a touchdown. Michigan also played very well up front in this game. The offensive line played powerful football, and the defensive line held up Penn State on a goal line stand in the first half.

William Wallace covered the game for The New York Times and interviewed legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who praised Michigan’s front.

“They are awfully good on the goal line,” he said of Michigan. “They have a clever little scheme where they pinch and then loop out. If you run the sweep — we were debating that — and they loop out, you’re in trouble. So you have to guess against them. I guessed they would loop out, expecting something like a bootleg pass, and I thought we could run right at them. So we went with the two sneaks and we just didn’t make it go.”

I highly recommend you read Wallace’s entire story, which is archived here.


Penn State rebounded from that 1933 loss by ripping off three consecutive victories against the Wolverines.


’94: 31-24

In 1994, Penn State knew it had a special team after a convincing 5-0 start in which the Nittany Lions were winning by an average score of 51.6-17.2, and they were doing it behind the arm of quarterback Kerry Collins and the legs of running back Ki-Jana Carter. Penn State jumped out to a 16-0 lead on the road, but storming back came the Wolverines, who took a 17-16 lead in the third quarter. The score was eventually knotted up at 24-24, but Collins and Carter led the Nittany Lions on a game-winning drive in the dwindling minutes to give Penn State the lift over Michigan.

’95: 27-17

’96: 29-17


Though it isn’t quite the extensive series you expect to have in a storied conference like the Big Ten, Michigan managed to to win nine consecutive games against Penn State, beginning in the Wolverines’ national championship season of 1997 and ending in Lloyd Carr’s final season as head coach in 2007.


’97: 34-8

  • School-record crowd of 97,498 at Beaver Stadium
  • Was then the worst loss suffered by a Penn State team under Joe Paterno
  • Penn State gained 169 total yards, nearly 300 below its season average

’98: 27-0

  • “Our game plan was to come in and have a balanced attack,” said Michigan junior quarterback Tom Brady. “This week we were able to run the ball in critical situations. The offensive line did a great job today.”
  • Michigan’s first-ever home win against Penn State

’99: 31-27

  • Michigan QB Tom Brady: 256 yards, two touchdowns
  • Penn State held a 10-point lead with less than ten minutes to play

’00: 33-11

  • Michigan RB Anthony Thomas: 35 carries, 171 yards
  • Michigan QB Drew Henson: 212 yards, two touchdowns
  • Michigan’s defense forced four turnovers, all interceptions

’01: 20-0

  • Michigan QB John Navarre: 246 yards, two touchdowns
  • Michigan RB B.J. Askew: 122 rushing yards, 56 receiving yards
  • First time in Joe Paterno’s 36 seasons as coach at Penn State that his team was shut out at home

’02: 27-24 (OT)

  • Incompletion ruling disallowed Penn State a chance to kick a game-winning field goal
  • First overtime game in Michigan Stadium history

’05: 27-25

  • Michigan went into the game struggling at 3-3 (1-2)
  • Penn State QB Michael Robinson scored on three-yard run with 53 seconds remaining
  • Michigan QB Chad Henne found Mario Manningham in the end zone as time expired to win the game

Relive that moment:

’06: 17-10

  • Michigan was perfect on the season heading into the game: 7-0 (4-0)
  • Penn State rushed for minus-14 yards

’07: 14-9

  • Michigan RB Mike Hart: 44 carries, 153 yards
  • Lloyd Carr on giving the ball to Hart so often, even though Penn State continuously stacked the box: “I’m not dumb.”
  • Penn State’s ninth straight loss to Michigan


It’s been all Penn State since, as the Nittany Lions have taken four straight against the Wolverines, and it’ll take an upset in Ann Arbor this weekend for that to change.


’08: 46-17

’09: 35-10

’10: 41-31

’13: 43-40

  • Penn State WR Allen Robinson makes an incredible catch late to extend and eventually win the game.

This should rip your heart out:

Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of TheBigHouseReport.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Tyler Fenwick
Managing Editor at The Big House Report
I am an aspiring journalist studying at IUPUI. I am the third (and youngest) manager of The Big House Report, and it's my responsibility to make sure it runs more smoothly today than it did yesterday.