Penn State’s road to the Rose Bowl

Trace McSorley
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa on Nov. 5.
(Chris Knight / AP)

A game-by-game look at Penn State’s 2016 football season:

Penn State 33, Kent State 13

Sept. 3, at State College, Pa. 

Trace McSorley passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and Saquon Barkley ran for 105 yards as the Nittany Lions, leading only 16-13 at halftime, overcame a sluggish start. Amani Oruwariye returned an interception for a score in the third quarter for the Nittany Lions, who had seven sacks against a trio of Kent State quarterbacks.



Pittsburgh 42, Penn State 39

Sept. 10, at Pittsburgh

After spending the week downplaying this as a rivalry game, the Nittany Lions received a rude awakening. Pittsburgh’s Ryan Lewis picked off McSorley in the end zone with just over a minute to play to seal the victory. Barkley rushed for four touchdowns in a losing effort.



Penn State 34, Temple 27

Sept. 17: at State College, Pa.

McSorley completed 18 of 24 passes for 287 yards with one touchdown and rushed for another as Penn State’s offense scored on three of its first five drives. The Nittany Lions lost star running back Barkley for most of the first half because of a leg injury, but he returned in the second half and ran for a 55-yard touchdown as Penn State held off Temple when John Reid intercepted a pass with 37 seconds remaining in the game.


Michigan 49, Penn State 10

Sept. 24, at Ann Arbor, Mich. 

The Nittany Lions played without three starting linebackers, then lost two more defensive players to injury during the game. Michigan took advantage of that, finishing with 326 yards rushing, with five running backs scoring touchdowns. This turned out to be Penn State’s final loss of the regular season.



Penn State 29, Minnesota 26 (OT)

Oct. 1, at State College, Pa. 

The Nittany Lions rallied from a 13-3 deficit as McSorley finished with 408 yards of total offense, the third-highest total in school history. Marcus Allen finished with 22 tackles, two short of the school record. After Minnesota kicked a field goal in its first overtime possession, Barkley ran for a 25-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first play in OT, giving the Nittany Lions the win.


Penn State 38, Maryland 14

Oct. 8, at State College, Pa. 

Barkley ran for 202 yards, and McSorley ran for 81 yards and passed for two touchdowns in the rout. Penn State finished with 372 rushing yards and 524 total yards on offense. Maryland came into the game with a five-game win streak and averaging 300 rushing yards per game. The Nittany Lions held the Terrapins to 170 yards on the ground.



Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

Oct. 22, at State College, Pa. 

The Buckeyes came into the game ranked No. 2 in the nation but were upset when Grant Haley returned a blocked field-goal attempt 60 yards for a touchdown with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the game. It was Penn State’s first victory over a top-five team since 1999 and its first victory over a top-two team since 1990.


Penn State 62, Purdue 24

Oct. 29, at West Lafayette, Ind. 

Barkley ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns, and McSorley had three touchdown passes as the Nittany Lions improved to 6-2 and became bowl eligible and ended a seven-game road losing streak. The score was tied, 17-17, at halftime.


Penn State 41, Iowa 14

Nov. 5, at State College, Pa. 

The Nittany Lions scored on seven of their first 11 possessions and won their fifth straight Big Ten Conference game for the first time since 2011. Barkley had 211 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns, and McSorley passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns.


Penn State 45, Indiana 31

Nov. 12, at Bloomington, Ind. 

Barkley was held to 20 yards rushing through three quarters before breaking through with two go-ahead touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help Penn State win a tougher-than-expected game. Barkley finished with 60 yards in 33 carries. McSorley passed for 332 yards with two touchdowns with two interceptions.


Penn State 39, Rutgers 0

Nov. 19, at New Brunswick, N.J. 

The Nittany Lions easily won their seventh game in a row, their longest streak since 2011. Penn State’s defense held Rutgers to 87 yards on offense, and McSorley passed for 210 yards and a touchdown during a game played in rain and sleet.


Penn State 45, Michigan State 12

Nov. 26, at State College, Pa. 

With the Spartans’ defense focusing on running back Barkley, McSorley passed for 376 yards and four touchdowns in the runaway victory. Barkley was held to 14 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game because of a leg injury.


Penn State 38, Wisconsin 31

Dec. 3, at Indianapolis 

The Nittany Lions rallied from a 28-14 halftime deficit to win the Big Ten championship game. McSorley passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns and set the school’s season record for passing yards (3,360) and touchdown passes (25). Penn State was hoping the victory would put them into the college football playoff, but they were left out, settling for a Rose Bowl matchup with USC.