By now you’re probably familiar with the pick-six tradition Ohio State has established with Penn State in the past decade, but that really only tells part of the story.
In the past 15 games against the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes have 14 non-offensive touchdowns. That includes nine interceptions returned for touchdowns, three fumble recoveries for touchdowns, a punt return and a blocked punt return.
It all started in 1998 when linebacker Jerry Rudzinski pounced on a fumble in the Ohio Stadium end zone for the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes and continued that afternoon when Joe Cooper returned a blocked punt for a score.
A year later the tables were turned as Penn State hosted Ohio State as the nation’s No. 1 team, but safety Gary Berry provided a rare bright spot when he recovered a fumble in the end zone.
In 2000, defensive lineman Mike Collins returned a fumble for a touchdown as part of the most lopsided loss of Joe Paterno’s career, and Derek Ross kicked off the pick-six parade a season later in Happy Valley.
Ross’ score gave Ohio State a commanding lead, but Penn State staged a stunning rally to give Paterno his record-breaking 324th win (since vacated, if you believe in that kind of thing).
Quarterback Zack Mills was the catalyst for the Nittany Lions’ victory in 2001, but the Buckeyes got their revenge when he led the Blue and White into Ohio Stadium in 2002. The lefty tossed three interceptions during a 13-7 Ohio State victory, none more impactful or famous than Chris Gamble’s in the third quarter that put the Buckeyes on top and set off a raucous celebration in the Horseshoe.
After six games in a row with a defensive touchdown, Ohio State had none in a 21-20 victory at Beaver Stadium in 2003 (though Alan Zemaitis returned a Craig Krenzel interception for a TD for Penn State).
In 2004, Ohio State and Penn State staged The Game Offensive Football Forgot, but the Buckeyes prevailed 21-10 thanks in large part to a Tyler Everett interception return for a touchdown and Ted Ginn Jr.’s punt return for a score.
The next time the teams played at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State could have won without any scores by the defense, but Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith blew the game open with back-to-back pick-sixes in the fourth quarter for the nation’s top-ranked team.
Jenkins struck again in 2007 to put an exclamation point on a 37-17 victory for No. 1 Ohio State at Penn State, but that was followed by a two-year scoring drought for the Buckeye defense.
Enter Matt McGloin, who tossed a pair of pick-sixes in 2010, one to Devon Torrence – who said at the time he figured McGloin had not bothered to read the coverage OSU had switched to – and another to Travis Howard.
And that brings us to last season when McGloin tied Anthony Morelli’s unofficial record by throwing his third career pick-six in an Ohio State-Penn State game, another spiral into the chest of a Buckeye defender. This time it was linebacker Ryan Shazier, who took advantage of McGloin’s mistake to break a 7-7 tie early in the third quarter and stun the Nittany Lion faithful.
Ohio State is 10-5 against Penn State in the last 15 years, including 8-2 when scoring a non-offensive touchdown.
Ohio State non-offensive TDs vs. Penn State, past 15 games
1998 - -Jerry Rudzinski recoverd fumble in end zone
Joe Cooper returned blocked punt
1999 – Gary Berry recovered fumble in end zone
2000 – Mike Collins fumble return
2001 – Derek Ross interception return
2002 – Chris Gamble interception return
2003 – none
2004 – Tyler Everett interception return
Ted Ginn Jr punt return
2005 – none
2006 – Malcolm Jenkins interception return
Antonio Smith interception return
2007 – Malcolm Jenkins interception return
2008 – none
2009 – none
2010 – Devon Torrence interception return
Travis Howard interception return
2011 – none
2012 – Ryan Shazier interception return