Oct. 1, 2016 feels like a lifetime ago.
Penn State was 2-2, coming off humiliating loss at the hands of Michigan.
On that day, the Nittany Lions took the field against Minnesota, and after a disappointing first half, many wondered when the next head coaching search would begin.
But only a few short hours later, they were off and running, and they have never looked back.
Penn State made a late comeback, tying the game in the final seconds and beating the Gophers 29-26 in overtime.
After the game, James Franklin said that “this was a game that we can really grow from.” Saquon Barkley said, “Hopefully we can just build off of that.”
It’s safe to say they did.
Since that day, Penn State is 37-7, once again among the elites of college football. But Franklin will never forget that halftime, when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse.
"I remember it very clearly, how the stadium was, and how the stadium was with me and how the stadium was with the team,” Franklin said. “I remember that very clearly. I probably always will.”
Students made their voices heard, chanting “Fire Franklin” and “We want Les [Miles]” — fans are probably happy they didn’t get their wish about that last one.
The third quarter quieted some of that down. But there was still work to do in the fourth.
The Gophers took the lead with 59 seconds to go, and the Nittany Lions had to go down the field to get a field goal to tie it.
Penn State had a 3rd and 10 with 43 seconds to go as Trace McSorley, while falling away, found a diving Chris Godwin for the 1st down.
But it still needed more.
The Nittany Lions faced another 3rd down, this time near midfield with 20 seconds to go. Somehow, McSorley found all kinds of running room before running out of bounds near the 20-yard-line.
Tyler Davis nailed the field goal, and the game headed to overtime.
The extra frame is common knowledge at this point — Minnesota gets a field goal on the first possession, and then Barkley pulls off an incredible touchdown run on the first play for Penn State.
It was easy to tell just from the celebration that this game meant even more than the record.
“You go back and watch the celebration that just happened out there,” tight end Mike Gesicki said following the win. “That will speak volumes for what this means to everyone in this program.”
Franklin knew at the time that this was a special one.
“I think it was definitely something our players needed. Everyone needed it, there is no doubt about it…” Franklin said after the game. “I remember when I first became a head coach we had a game against UConn that we won early on and it kind of built a lot of confidence in everybody. It kind of went from there and we needed that here. Tonight is one of those nights.”
This Saturday, Penn State faces Minnesota for the first time since that day.
The stakes are a little higher this time around, as both teams are 8-0. The Nittany Lions have a lot on the line, and they hope this game could put them in a spot to do some big things this season.
But Franklin knows that this team may not be where it is now without that game three years ago.
“I think if you look at from that game and from that year, moving forward, if you look at the coaches that have been doing it since then,” Franklin said. “There's very few that have won more games than we have as a program since that point.”
This Penn State team is very confident, and that is illustrated on the field every week.
But that wasn’t always the case before that night in 2016.
“We always talk about how good we can be,” McSorley said after the game. “And it was time to stop talking, and start doing it.”