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The Penn State White Out originated at the very end of the Dark Years (2004) when PSU marketer Guido D’Elia proposed having just the students wear all one color, because “everyone has a white shirt.” They took 2 weeks and planned the event for the last likely warm-weather home game of the year, October 9, 2004 against Purdue. The Lions lost, but the atmosphere was a rousing success. They did it again the following year against Ohio State, with the results this time an epic 17-10 win, catapulting the 2005 team to a conference title. The first full-stadium white out was 2007 against Notre Dame (Jimmy Clausen game), and the Nittany Lions smashed the “Fighting”? Irish 31-10 and their touted freshman QB amidst deafening noise.

The latest installment of the White Out, these days typically reserved for Ohio State or Michigan, takes place Saturday night. I’m sure the 107,000 white-clad maniacs are looking forward to catching up with Buckeye Coach Urban Meyer about how he’s spent early September. Below is PSU Zone’s Power Ranking of the top 10 white out games of all time.

White Out Game Rank

2009: Iowa 21 Penn State 10

Coming off of a second conference title in four years, undefeated Penn State entered the Iowa game ranked #5, with visions of a repeat conference title. The Lions jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, before a fourth-quarter blocked punt returned for a TD shell-shocked Penn State. They never recovered, and Iowa silence the white out crowd.

White Out Game Rank

2006:  Michigan 17 Penn State 10

This was the “Hart” of the Chad Henne years (apologies). Lamaar Woodley and the Michigan defense knocked out Penn State starting QB Anthony Morelli and backup Darryl Clark. 3rd string QB Paul “trivia answer” Cianciolo brought Penn State within 7, but that was as close as they’d get. A great defensive game went to Michigan on white out night.

Penn State QB Paul Cianciolo

The only picture of Paul Cianciolo to ever be posted on PSU Zone.

White Out Game Rank

2014:  Ohio State 31 Penn State 24 (2OT)

This game is probably close enough to current day for most fans to remember. The Buckeyes, Big Ten Old Boys, were given two ludicrous calls, and Penn State erased a 17-0 OSU halftime lead to force overtime. As is usually the case, the more talented Buckeyes prevailed in double OT, en route to a national title they clearly didn’t deserve. PSU won this game, and I do not acknowledge the 2014 mythical national title. I’ll leave my rationale right here:

White Out Game Rank

2010:  Penn State 41 Michigan 31

Few remember Matt McGloin pre-2012 (and Bill O’Brien). He was constantly in a battle with high-star recruits Rob Bolden (among others like Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome at various points). Former walk-on McGloin was the longest shot of that group to become the starter, but perseverance and “McMoxie” led to his first start against the Wolverines in 2010. Playing Rich Rodriguez’s team was a little different than Lloyd Carr’s, in that RichRod’s version declined to play defense. McGloin leaned on Evan “Rolls” Royster and Derek Moye in a 250-yard performance. Penn State led 28-10 at the half, and Michigan never caught up.

Penn State QB Matt McGloin

Quarterback Matt McGloin got his first career start against the Wolverines in the 2010 White Out game

White Out Game Rank

2008:  Penn State 38  Illinois 24

Derrick Williams was instrumental in the first Return to Glory Penn State achieve this millennium. Though he never reached the Reggie Bush-like comparisons made when he arrived, he returned 5 kicks for touchdowns over his career. One punt return-TD propelled the Lions past 2007 conference title winner Illinois to its own championship in 2008.

Penn State WR Derrick Williams

Highly-touted wideout Derrick Williams showed flashes of brilliance in his PSU tenure – several came in the 2008 White Out clash with the Fighting Illini

White Out Game Rank

2017:  Penn State 42Michigan 13

Last season’s game was just fun (save most of the second quarter), as James Franklin’s crew flattened the Fighting Harbaughs in the highest-attended game in Beaver Stadium history. 2 first quarter TD runs by Saquon Barkley set the pace, and the Nittany Lions streaked past Michigan, shutting them out in the second half to win by four touchdowns.

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

Phenom and all-around super freak Saquon Barkley had two touchdowns in the first 5 minutes of Penn State’s 2017 White Out drubbing of Michigan

White Out Game Rank

2007:  Penn State 31Notre Dame 10

The first full-stadium white out was (at the time) the second-highest attended game in stadium history. Played in the second week of the season, the game itself wasn’t a great display of offensive football, but the Lions’ defense harassed Clausen to the delight of the 100,000+ [all white-clad] fans in attendance. Derrick Williams ran a punt back to swing the momentum back to Penn State, and Clausen had no answer but to just look sad and confused.

Penn State LE Jerome Hayes

Jerome Hayes and the entire Nittany Lion defense harassed Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen in the 2007 White Out


White Out Game Rank

2005:  Penn State 17  Ohio State 10

Restore the order, Tamba Hali

This was the first epic Penn State-Ohio State games that would decide the conference. Two heavyweights with elite defenses slugged it out under the lights. Derrick Williams ran in a 13-yard touchdown with Troy Smith and the Buckeyes leading 3-0, and the Nittany Lions never looked back. The defense surrendered only 7 more first-half points, shutting out OSU in the second half. Tamba Hali had a brutal sack/fumble on Ohio State’s final possession, leading to a Scott Paxson recovery to seal the win.

Penn State defense stifled Ohio State in the 2005 White Out

Penn State defense stifled Ohio State in the 2005 White Out


White Out Game Rank

2013:  Penn State 43  Michigan 40 (4OT)

A catch so good Allen Robinson had to get it tattooed on himself. The game was a back and forth affair, with Penn State taking an 11-point lead at halftime only for Michigan to rally to go up by 10 with under 10.5 minutes to go in the game. Sam Ficken cut the lead to 7, then Christian Hackenberg and Robinson authored the historic play, a 33-yard pseudo-prayer that Robinson snatched above his defender. Hackenberg sneaked across to tie the game, setting up a crazy overtime marathon. Bill Belton scored from two yards out to overcome an Allen Robinson fumble earlier in OT, sending the Nittany Lions to victory with the walkoff win.

Penn State WR Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson came up with a clutch sideline catch to set up the winning score in a four overtime affair with Michigan


Robinson memorialized the catch with some ink

White Out Game Rank

2016:  Penn State 24  Ohio State 21

We’re Back!

The most important game in recent Penn State history, and maybe all-time after 48-14, Gregg Garrity in the Sugar Bowl and Pete Giftopoulos in the desert. To finally overcome a 14-point deficit against the #2-ranked Buckeyes, Grant Haley returned a Marcus Allen-blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown, providing the deciding points in securing James Franklin’s first signature win as boss of the Nittany Lions. In front of an insane white out crowd, that moment singularly represented Penn State’s rapid return to the upper echelon of college football, standing defiantly in the face of doubters to declare not only that they are still here, but also that they never left.

Penn State CB Grant Haley

Grant Haley’s fourth quarter blocked field goal will be remembered by the Penn State faithful as one of the most important plays in Nittany Lion history

Here’s hoping Saturday night adds another chapter to one of the greatest traditions in college football.

About the Author:

Adam Kimmel

Adam Kimmel is the founder and Principal at ASK Consulting Solutions, a technical writing firm specializing in engineering content writing. A 2003 graduate and avid fan of Penn State, Adam has followed Penn State football for over 25 years, attending nearly 50 games and researching historical players and teams. He is also a Manager of R&D, and can be found on LinkedIn


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