Penn State’s 1998 Homecoming weekend was nearly perfect: sunny, unseasonably warm, and victorious on the football field.
The opponent was Purdue, led by a sophomore QB named Drew Brees, who was on his way to Big Ten Offensive MVP honors and has done okay for himself since. Brees threw for 361 yards that October afternoon, but he needed 58 attempts to get it, was sacked six times, and found the end zone just once in a 31-13 loss. As John Black ’62 wrote in The Football Letter, it was a bad day all around for Boilermaker signal callers:
“The Nittany Lion defense played a game of ‘Meet at the Quarterback’ … to the delight of the 97,034 shaker-waving fans in Beaver Stadium. Well, maybe Bob Griese, a former All-American QB at Purdue, wasn’t too happy in the ABC booth—at least not until he got a piece of the birthday cake that Sue Paterno delivered to his compatriot Keith Jackson.”
Penn State leads the all-time series 12-3-1, and four of those wins came during Brees’ record-setting run in West Lafayette. The ’98 game was his luck against the Lions in a nutshell: Big numbers but never enough points, thanks largely to a defense that battered him throughout the game. In this one, it was linebackers Lavar Arrington ’00 (pictured) and Brandon Short ’99 and defensive ends Courtney Brown ’00 and Brad Scioli ’98 who spent much of the afternoon in the Purdue backfield, making life very uncomfortable indeed for the kid with the golden arm.
Offensively, Eric McCoo ’02 rumbled for 163 yards and also caught a touchdown pass for the Lions, who were on their way to a 9-3 finish.
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I was there