The Big Ten Network cameras had followed Marcus Allen into the tunnel at Michigan Stadium last September. The Penn State safety and his teammates had just suffered a 49-10 loss to the Wolverines that dropped them to 2-2.
Walking next to Saquon Barkley, Allen made a pledge to the running back.
“We’ll never get embarrassed like that ever (again),” he said.
As the Nittany Lions prepare to host the Wolverines on Saturday night, they haven’t lost to a Big Ten team since getting steamrolled in Ann Arbor, tying a school record with 12 straight wins over conference foes.
But, it seems, memories of that trip to Michigan still linger.
Linebacker Manny Bowen opened the week by taking to Twitter to post a screenshot of a quote by Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight from after the last meeting.
“The linemen were getting so excited because I would call the same play and I think we were getting like 9 or 10 (yards) a pop,” Speight said. “When that happens, it’s demoralizing for a defense.
“I have never played defense, but I can imagine it would suck to go through that every single play and just have someone run you over.”
Bowen was one of the last men standing in that game, which featured all three of the Lions’ starting linebackers — Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda and Nyeem Wartman-White — missing the game with injuries.
By the time the game was over, Brandon Smith had been ejected on a targeting call and reserve Jan Johnson had suffered a serious knee injury. Bowen, Jake Cooper and Koa Farmer ended up taking the most snaps.
THREE AND OUT
A year later, Cabinda is healthy and Bowen and Farmer are full-time starters. But their coach doesn’t want them to dwell on the past.
”I know that’s like the storyline. Everybody wants to talk about the Michigan game last year,” James Franklin said. “I’m a live-in-the-present guy. … I really don’t think last season’s game has a whole lot to do with this Saturday’s game. I don’t think past historical records have a lot of factor into this game Saturday.
“What we’ve got to do is prepare like crazy for a team, a university, a program we have tremendous respect for. Do the things that we need to do to make sure our team is ready to go out and play on Saturday.”
Bowen won’t have a chance to see Speight this year, as Michigan’s starter is out with a serious back injury, one that could sideline him for the rest of the season.
Though Speight’s numbers hadn’t taken off in his second season as the starter, his backup has been struggling.
Senior John O’Korn had a solid second half replacing Speight at Purdue but has faltered in Michigan’s last two games against Michigan State and Indiana.
Last week against the Hoosiers, O’Korn went 3-for-9 passing for 5 yards in the second half as the game went to overtime. Running back Karan Higdon scored on the Wolverines’ lone play of the extra frame.
O’Korn actually grew up not far from State College in Huntingdon. And Franklin and his defensive coaches have actually faced him before. Prior to transferring to Michigan, O’Korn started at Houston, where he faced off against Franklin in his final game at Vanderbilt before taking the Penn State job.
The Commodores won the 2014 Compass Bowl 41-24 with O’Korn finishing 20-of-47 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Obviously he’s a veteran quarterback. He’s been around,” Franklin said. “He’s done a lot of different things. (Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh) does a great job of coaching those guys, (having) played the position. He’s a big, strong guy. He’s athletic. He is surrounded by a lot of talent.”
More familiar faces
A few key players on the Michigan sideline easily could have been suiting up for Penn State for this game.
Two in particular that stand out are cornerback Lavert Hill and kicker Quinn Nordin, both of whom had initially given verbal commitments to the Lions for the 2016 signing class.
A season-ending slide by Penn State in 2015 saw both players — Michigan natives — ultimately sign with the Wolverines along with another former Lions recruit, New Jersey defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour.
Nordin will likely draw the most attention Saturday from the crowd. He is off to an excellent start to aid an offense that has sputtered, already hitting 14 field goals on 17 tries with a long of 55.
“Obviously a name, Quinn Nordin, that we all know is kicking the ball really well for them,” Franklin said. “I’m happy for him and his family. Doing a great job. Has made I think 85 percent of his field goals, a couple over 50 yards. Is doing a great job there.”
Most will remember that he was at the center of a recruiting story that involved Harbaugh sleeping over at his house before signing day to try and secure his commitment.
Hill has also impressed in his first season as a starter, coming up with two interceptions and six passes defensed.