From The Archives: Penn State At The Rose Bowl

Jan. 1, 1923. USC 14, Penn State 3

The ninth edition of the Rose Bowl Game was actually the first time the game was played at the Rose Bowl Stadium itself. It saw the first meeting in the “Granddaddy of them All” between historic powerhouses Penn State and USC.

Played in front of a crowd of 43,000 supporters, the game had to be delayed an hour because the Nittany Lions transportation vehicles got stuck in traffic. Lions head coach Hugo Bezdek claimed the team fell behind post-Tournament of Roses Parade traffic on its way to the stadium.

Once the game finally got underway, the Lions jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after “Light Horse” Harry Wilson set up a first quarter 20-yard field goal by quarterback/kicker Mike Palm.

It was all Trojans from there, though.

A steady ground game led by Roy “Bullet” Baker (107 yards), Gordon Campbell (76 yards) and Howard “Hobo” Kincaid (60 yards) paved the way for two rushing scores in the second and third quarter.

The stifling Trojans defense shut out the Lions offense after that opening field goal and preserved the 14-3 win.

Jan. 1, 1995. No. 2 Penn State 38, No. 12 Oregon 20

Ki-Jana Carter (32) runs away from the Oregon defense for a blistering 83-yard touchdown run to put Penn State ahead 7-0 in the 1995 Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions would go on to win 38-20. Photo: Penn State

Considered by many to be the best Penn State team ever, the 1994-95 Nittany Lions rolled into their showdown with Oregon with a head of steam at 11-0 and dreams of becoming national champs.

Filled with NFL talent like Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady, Joe Jurevicius and Jeff Hartings, the Lions showcased why their offense was the definition of a juggernaut.

Having averaged 47.8 points per game in the regular season, the Lions offense didn’t skip a beat in Pasadena.

Carter took the opening play of the Lions’ first series to the house for 83 yards and a touchdown, setting the tone for a high-scoring affair. That play will forever go down in Penn State lore, and the two teams eventually combined for 58 points and nearly a thousand yards of total offense.

The game was tied 14-14 late in the third quarter, but Carter broke things wide open when he ran for back-to-back scores to put his team ahead 28-14 entering the final quarter.

A field goal and another touchdown on the ground, this time by fullback Jon Witman, put the game out of reach for good, even though the Ducks scored a garbage time touchdown on a 3-yard run by Ricky Whittle.

Carter was named co-Most Valuable Player with Ducks quarterback Danny O’Neil, after the explosive running back finished with 156 yards on 21 carries to go along with his three touchdowns.

The dispatching of Oregon led many to believe Penn State had earned at least a share of the national championship, then awarded by the media and coaches.

Unfortunately for the Lions, the media and coaches didn’t see it that way.

Both sets of voters tabbed Nebraska, who had just beaten third-ranked Miami in the Orange Bowl, as outright national champions, giving longtime Cornhuskers head coach Tom Osborne his first national title. There would be no third national title for head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State.

“It’s really a shame that Penn State couldn’t play Nebraska this year,” quarterback Collins told reporters after the game. “The NCAA has to take a look at this. This season, more than anything, shows that the system needs to be changed.”

Although there was no title to go along with it, the 1994-95 season gave Paterno his fifth undefeated season at Penn State to go along with his other perfect seasons in 1968, 1969, and 1973.

Jan. 1, 2009. No. 5 USC 38, No. 8 Penn State 24

Senior wide receiver Jordan Norwood (24) snags a reception in the 2009 Rose Bowl. USC would win the game 38-24. Photo: Steve Manuel

One could make the argument that these two teams were the last two great teams each program had before this season.

Penn State was a clutch kick at Iowa away from running the table as Big Ten Champions, while USC entered the New Year’s Day showdown winners of nine-straight games after its Week Three upset loss to Oregon State.

Despite that loss, the Trojans felt they deserved a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, eventually won by Florida.

The first quarter was tightly contested. Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez found Damon Williams for a 27-yard touchdown to put the Pac-10 Champions ahead. But the Big Ten Champion Lions quickly answered with a 9-yard touchdown scramble from quarterback Daryll Clark.

The second quarter was a different story, as the Trojans dominated the 15-minute frame.

Sanchez tossed three touchdown passes, coupled with a David Buehler field goal to give the Trojans a commanding 31-7 lead at halftime. At that point it was crystal clear they would walk out with their third-straight Rose Bowl win.

A scoreless third quarter was followed by a strong finish for the Lions. They would claw back to a respectable scoreline, culminating in a 9-yard strike to Jordan Norwood to make it 38-24.

It was a disappointing day for Paterno’s team, and it said farewell to their outstanding senior receiving trio comprised of Norwood, Derrick Williams, and Deon Butler.

Meanwhile for the Trojans, Sanchez left for the NFL after the game, and then-head coach Pete Carroll followed suit a year later, ending one of the best runs in college football history.

Jan. 2, 2017. No. 9 USC 52, No. 5 Penn State 49

Saquon Barkley (26) outraced the entire USC defense on his way to a 79-yard touchdown run in the 2017 Rose Bowl. Photo: Steve Manuel

Widely regarded as one of the greatest bowl games of all time, Penn State and USC met for a third time at the Rose Bowl in 2017 and broke many of the historic game’s records.

Penn State, who claimed a Big Ten title and were a whisker of way from a College Football Playoff berth, were powered by a high-flying offense led by Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki. Much like the Nittany Lions, USC had rebounded from some early season struggles to rattle off eight-straight wins and earn a trip to Pasadena.

This had all the makings of a great game and it delivered.

USC started fast, claiming the games first 13 points. As the Nittany Lions had done for most of the 2016 season, Penn State shook off a slow start to take command of the game. Leading 27-21 at the half, Penn State went on a 28-7 run in the third quarter, which included Saquon Barkley’s electric 79-yard touchdown rush early in the period. A lone JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown catch for the Trojans kept them in striking distance.

The Nittany Lions took a 49-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

This quarter belonged to the Trojans, however. A touchdown run from Ronald Jones at the 8:15 mark, followed by a Sam Darnold strike to Deontay Burnett with 1:20 remaining improbably tied the game at 49-49.

A McSorley interception on Penn State’s ensuing drive gave USC excellent field position and the Trojans capitalized.

Matt Boermeester completed the comeback for the cardinal and gold with a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

While Penn State came out on the wrong end of the scoreline in Pasadena, the Nittany Lions could hold their heads high for an amazing season.

Penn State Preview: Michigan State

The Land Grant Trophy is on the line when Penn State hosts Michigan State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel

Our last game preview of the 2022 regular season is here. As always, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can watch the Nittany Lions this weekend.

Game details: No. 11 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) vs. Michigan State (5-6, 3-5). 4 p.m. kickoff. Broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High temperature of 47. Variable cloudiness and wind gusts as high as 32 mph, with a 25% chance of rain.

The Line: Penn State -18.

All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 18-17-1.  

Last Week: Penn State raced past Rutgers, 55-10. Michigan State dropped a home matchup with Indiana in double overtime, 39-31.

Last Meeting (2021): In very snowy conditions, Penn State fell 30-27 last season in East Lansing. Sean Clifford led a late rally for the Nittany Lions that fell short, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Jahan Dotson caught eight passes for 137 yards and two scores, while Parker Washington had four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.

The Lead: Expectations were sky high for Michigan State to begin the season. Coming off an 11-win season and Peach Bowl victory over Pitt, the Spartans were ranked No. 15 in the preseason AP Poll and were expected to challenge for the Big Ten East crown. Things have not gone according to plan for Mel Tucker’s squad, who sit at 5-6 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play. The Spartans will need a win over Penn State on Saturday to become bowl eligible, something they failed to do at home last week against an Indiana team that had previously been winless since September.

Michigan State’s ground game will present a decent challenge for a Nittany Lions defense that has played exceptionally this season. Jalen Berger rushed for 119 yards for Sparty a week ago, while Elijah Collins collected 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns, giving MSU a decent duo of running backs. So much of what quarterback Peyton Thorne does is predicated on the Spartans establishing their ground attack.

Speaking of running back duos, what else is there to say about Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen? They’re phenomenal and only going to get better. With Allen’s 117 rushing yards against Rutgers, Allen (748 rushing yards) and Singleton (863 rushing yards) became the first freshman duo in Big Ten history to both rush for 700+ yards in a season.

Since 2000, Allen and Singleton are one of four FBS true freshman duos over 700 yards in a season. They are Penn State’s seventh 700+ rushing yards duo.

Look for the Nittany Lions to lean heavily on the freshmen pair once again on Saturday.

Keep An Eye On: The Penn State front seven. With 15 tackles for loss against the Scarlet Knights, Penn State has recorded at least seven tackles for loss in each of the last six games (Michigan, 7; Minnesota, 7, Ohio State, 7; Indiana, 16; Maryland, 9; Rutgers, 15).

The run defense also limited Rutgers to 32 rushing yards on 35 attempts (0.9 per attempt) and has limited eight opponents to less than 100 rushing yards this season. If the defense can stifle the ground game for the Spartans, the Nittany Lions have a great shot at moving to 10-2.

Big Ten Schedule:

– Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET. BTN)

– No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (Noon ET. FOX)

– Rutgers at Maryland (Noon ET. BTN)

– Illinois at Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET. TBD)

– Minnesota at Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)

– Purdue at Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

Trivia Tidbit: Penn State head coach James Franklin earned his 100th career win last Saturday against Rutgers. He became the 27th active FBS coach with 100 career wins.

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Penn State Preview: Rutgers

Penn State remains on track for a 10-win season and will look to get win No. 9 on the year when it faces Rutgers on Saturday. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: 3:30 p.m. kickoff, at Rutgers, broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Venue: SHI Stadium (52,454.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 41. Sunny to partly cloudy, breezy and chilly; coldest air so far this season; feeling like January, so dress warmly if you’re going to be in attendance for the game.

The Line: Penn State -19.5.

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 30-2.

Last week: Penn State blanked Maryland, 30-0. Rutgers fell at Michigan State, 27-21.

Last meeting (2021): With a flu-bug taking its toll on the team, including starting quarterback Sean Clifford, backup Christian Veilleux led the Nittany Lions to a gritty 28-0 win over the Scarlet Knights in a late November clash. Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington and Malick Meiga caught touchdown passes and Keyvone Lee ran for a score for the Nittany Lions. Veilleux completed 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards.

The Lead: The 33rd meeting between Penn State and Rutgers sees both schools competing with plenty to play for. If Penn State can beat Rutgers and then Michigan State next week on Senior Day, a New Year’s Six berth is a strong possibility. Rutgers, meanwhile, can earn a bowl bid with a win over the Nittany Lions and then another over Maryland in the finale.

Penn State comes into this one with plenty of momentum, notching back to back resounding victories against Indiana and Maryland. The offense has been efficient in those wins and the defense has been suffocating. Penn State followed up 16 tackles for loss and six sacks against the Hoosiers with nine tackles for loss and seven sacks against Maryland, it marks the first time since 2007 that the Nittany Lions have recorded six or more sacks in back-to-back games.

Much like the previous two games on the schedule, this one heavily favors Penn State. The Nittany Lions are playing some of their best football of the season, using the combination of an explosive rushing attack and dominant defense. That typically paves the way for success in the cold days of November.

Greg Schiano has Rutgers on the right track, however, this one shouldn’t be close.

Keep An Eye On: Juice Scruggs. It’s not as easy to watch a center from afar as it is a quarterback or running back, but Penn State’s snapper deserves praise and attention. Penn State’s offensive line has been an improved unit this season, despite some injury troubles. Scruggs has played a huge part in that.

Check out this great feature from Sports Illustrated writer and Penn State alum Mark Wogenrich on Scruggs’ importance to the offense.

Big Ten Schedule:

– Illinois at No. 3 Michigan (Noon. ABC)

– Wisconsin at Nebraska (Noon. ESPN)

– Northwestern at Purdue (Noon. FS1)

– Indiana at Michigan State (Noon. BTN)

– No. 11 Penn State at Rutgers (3:30 p.m. BTN)

– No. 2 Ohio State at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ABC)

– Iowa at Minnesota (4 p.m. FOX)

Roar Tour: Penn Staters can also join in Piscataway this weekend for our Roar Tour event before the Nittany Lions face Rutgers. Get all the details for our Roar Tour regular season finale here. We hope to see you there.

Penn State In The Polls: Penn State jumped up to No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Nittany Lions received the same ranking in the AP Poll. The USA Today Coaches Poll placed Penn State at No. 12.

Trivia Tidbit: Fourteen Penn State players have at least one sack this season, which is tied for the most among Power Five teams.

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Theo Johnson (No. 84) and Penn State can equal last season’s win total (7) with a victory over Indiana on Saturday. The Nittany Lions tangle with the Hoosiers at 3:30 p.m. ET in Bloomington. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: at Indiana, kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET, broadcast on ABC.

Records: No. 15 Penn State (6-2, 3-2), Indiana (3-5, 1-4).

Venue: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 68, with rain showers in the morning. Mostly cloudy with the rain tapering off; windy in the morning, turning warm in the afternoon.

The line: Penn State -15.

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 23-2. The Nittany Lions have emerged victorious in seven of the last eight matchups.

Last Week: Penn State dropped a tough one to No. 2 Ohio State, 44-31, after leading midway through the fourth quarter. Indiana is coming off a bye but lost the week prior to Rutgers, 17-24. The Hoosiers have lost five-straight games. Their last win came against Western Kentucky on Sept. 17.

Last Meeting (2021): Penn State blanked Indiana in Beaver Stadium, 24-0. The Penn State defense held Indiana to 264 total yards, while Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr. each had a pick. Sean Clifford threw three touchdown passes, including two to Jahan Doston and one to Brenton Strange.

PENN STATE 24 – Indiana 0. 2021 Stripe Out. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel

The Lead: The Nittany Lions can’t afford to dwell on their defeat to the Buckeyes last Saturday with a trip to Bloomington now on tap. Penn State can already match last season’s win total (7) with a triumph over the Hoosiers and maintain a decent position to earn a New Year’s Six Bowl Berth.

Indiana is one of the Big Ten’s basement dwellers thus far and lost to Rutgers the last time it played. With that result in mind and coming off a bye, expect head coach Tom Allen’s to come out a little feisty in front of the home crowd at Memorial Stadium and keep it competitive with Penn State early.

With all due respect though, this game shouldn’t be close entering the fourth quarter. Penn State proved last week it has what it takes to hang with the best of the best in the Big Ten, outplaying Ohio State for most of the afternoon. Now, it’s about matching that level of play every time the Nittany Lions take the field.

Scouting Indiana: Indiana has struggled on both sides of the ball in conference play, ranking last in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 11th in scoring offense.

Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak hasn’t quite hit his stride for the Hoosiers, completing 208-of-379 passes (55%) for 2,099 yards and 12 touchdowns to 9 interceptions.

Indiana also ranks dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense with just 80.4 yards per game. Shaun Shivers leads Hoosier ball-carriers with 405 yards on the season.

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. Washington has been playing some stellar football over the past few weeks and set career highs in catches (11) and receiving yards (179) against Ohio State. His 179 yards are the ninth-highest in a single game in Penn State history. Washington joined Jahan Dotson as the only Nittany Lion receivers to have multiple 100-yard receiving games against Ohio State.

Roar Tour: We’re looking forward to another fun Roar Tour event in Bloomington this weekend before Penn State takes on Indiana. Penn Staters can also join us on Nov. 19 in Piscataway before the Nittany Lions face Rutgers. Get all the details for our Roar Tour regular season finale at Rutgers here. We hope to see you there.

Penn State In The Polls: Penn State checks in at No. 15 in this season’s first College Football Playoff Rankings, one of four Big Ten teams to feature in the rankings — Ohio State (No. 2), Michigan (No. 5) and Illinois (No. 16) are the other three. The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 16 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

Trivia tidbit, Part 1: Penn State has registered 60 pass breakups this season, 15 more than any other FBS team.

Trivia tidbit, Part 2: Penn State and Indiana first played in 1993, the Nittany Lions’ first season in the Big Ten.

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Game Recap: Penn State 33, Central Michigan 14

The Blue Band performs before Penn State’s home opener against Ohio / Steve Manuel – The Football Letter

It wasn’t always pretty, but Penn State moved to 4-0 on the season on Saturday with a 33-14 win over Central Michigan (1-3).

Let’s take a quick look back at the win for the Nittany Lions.

Offensive Star of The Game: Kaytron Allen

Penn State has quite the dynamic duo of freshmen running backs. Nicholas Singleton had garnered most of the headlines through three games, but Kaytron Allen has earned his fair share of praise as well. On Saturday, it was Allen who starred for Penn State. He rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries (8.5 average) and provided a needed spark in the second half for the blue and white offense. He and Singleton are going to be terrorizing defenses for the foreseeable future.

Defensive Star of The Game: Kalen King

Teams aren’t going to challenge Joey Porter Jr. with much regularity this season, so it’s important for the the other cornerbacks in the Penn State lineup to hold their own. Sophomore Kalen King shined for the Nittany Lions, recording four tackles, four pass breakups and forced a fumble inside the red zone that effectively iced the game for home side.

Moment of Magic: Muffed punt leads to TD

With Central Michigan hanging tough down 21-14 to start the second half, Penn State needed something to create some breathing space. After a holding call nullified the Nittany Lions’ opening possession of the third quarter, punter Barney Amor did what he does best and dropped a dart inside the Chippewas’ 10-yard line. The Central Michigan return man muffed the kick and linebacker Curtis Jacobs was able to pounce on the loose ball. Two plays later, Sean Clifford floated a touchdown pass to Brenton Strange in the corner of the end zone and Penn State found itself back up by double-digits.

Something To Work On: Field Goals

The Nittany Lions attempted two field goals and missed both, one from Jake Pinegar (38 yards) and one from Sander Sahaydak (56 yards). Pinegar also saw a PAT blocked as a Central Michigan rush got through in the middle to bat the ball down.

Looking Ahead: Northwestern on deck

Penn State closed out its non-conference schedule with the win over the Chippewas. The Nittany Lions return to Big Ten action next Saturday (Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET) against Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats.


CB Johnny Dixon (3) lays a hit on an Auburn WR while CB Daequan Hardy (25) wraps him up in Penn State’s 41-12 win over the Tigers. Steve Manuel / The Football Letter

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: No. 14/15 Penn State (3-0) vs Central Michigan (2-1). Noon ET kickoff. Broadcast on BTN

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): Patchy fog in the morning; otherwise, some sunshine giving way to clouds; a great afternoon for football. High of 65 degrees.

The line: Penn State -27.5

All-time series: Penn State leads 1-0

Against The MAC: The Nittany Lions hold a 10-2 all-time record against current members of the MAC.

Last week: Penn State went into Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium and dominated its SEC opponent. The 41-12 victory over the Tigers was the second-largest margin of victory for a Big Ten team in a road game against an SEC opponent, behind only Purdue’s 35-3 win over Missouri in 2017. Central Michigan got in the win column for the first time this season with a 41-0 shutout effort over Bucknell.

Last meeting (2005): It’s kind of a surprise these two programs have only met just once before given the frequency of Penn State playing MAC opposition since joining the Big Ten. The lone matchup was a blowout win for the Nittany Lions in 2005, a season full of memories for Penn State fans. Michael Robinson finished 14 for 23 for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were to Deon Butler on strikes of 54 and 24 yards in the second quarter. The eventual 40-3 decision in favor of the Nittany Lions was the third win en route to an eventual 11-1 finish, Big Ten title and Orange Bowl win over Florida State.

The lead: Momentum is churning for Penn State as it returns home after a big win at Auburn. The Nittany Lions will look to keep things on track and avoid the upset against the Chippewas.

Count on: The Penn State secondary to shine. It’s no secret the back end of the defense was viewed as the strength of that side of the ball. Through three wins, we’ve seen nothing to dispel that notion. Auburn couldn’t generate much through the air until the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter. While Central Michigan enters this game 19th in the FBS in passing offense (311.0), expect the Nittany Lions secondary to continue to play well.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s tight ends. Brenton Strange has put together a really good start to this season, leading the team in receiving yards (169). He’s also been a critical element in the run game, aiding the offensive line in opening up some holes for Nicholas Singleton and the rest of the rushing attack. Theo Washington has yet to see game action because of injury, but did dress last week against the Tigers for the first time this season. This might be a good week to get him some reps under his belt as Penn State wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule.

Number To Know: Nicholas Singleton’s 334 rushing yards are Penn State’s most in the first three games in a season since Larry Johnson’s 362 in 2002.

1982: Penn State is set to honor the 1982 National Championship team at halftime of Saturday’s game.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– Chattanooga at Illinois (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Maryland at No. 4/4 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. FOX)
– Minnesota at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Indiana at Cincinnati (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2)
– Iowa at Rutgers (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Miami (OH) at Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Florida Atlantic at Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

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From The Archives Penn State V. Ohio (1969)

All-time great linebacker Jack Ham (33) was a standout player for the 1969 Penn State Football team / Photo Credit: The Daily Collegian

The 1969 Penn State Football season will go down as one of the best in Penn State history, regardless of the controversy that surrounded its culmination.

The Nittany Lions finished 11-0, marking the second-consecutive unbeaten and untied season for Joe Paterno’s program.

Penn State was led by captains Tom Jackson, Mike Reid and Steve Smear, alongside standout linebacker Jack Ham and a trio of excellent rushing threats in Charlie Pittman, Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell.

One of those 11 wins came against the Ohio Bobcats, with the Nittany Lions pummeling their MAC opponent, 42-3 in front of a sold-out crowd of 49,069 at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 25.

There were also wins over Navy, Colorado, Kansas State, West Virginia, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Pitt and NC State.

Somehow, that undefeated mark and a 10-3 Orange Bowl win over No. 6 Missouri were not enough for Penn State to even be considered for a national championship in the eyes of then U.S. President Richard Nixon.

The president had remarked ahead of the Dec. 6 matchup between Texas and Arkansas — for which he would be in attendance — that he would award the winner of the game with a special plaque and the designation of national champions. The Longhorns would win the contest, 15-14, thus earning that designation from Nixon.

In line with the president’s proclamation, college football’s voting pool at the time named Texas the unanimous national champs less than a month later after the Longhorns defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

While Penn State was named co-national champions by the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments (FACT) and the Sagarin Ratings, it’s hard to feel like the Nittany Lions were unjustly wiggled out of the consensus national title race.

Paterno later famously at Penn State’s 1973 commencement ceremony that “I’ve wondered how President Nixon could know so little about Watergate in 1973 and so much about college football in 1969.”

You can watch more on this unique event in college football history through the 2014 ESPN Documentary: “Nixon’s National Champs,” which took a closer look at Nixon’s decision to award Texas the national champion honor. The documentary can be found on WatchESPN.

Penn State Preview: Purdue

Penn State begins its 2022 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Purdue. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Welcome to this week’s game preview for the 2022 season opener against Purdue.

Game Details: Penn State vs. Purdue. Thursday, Sept. 1. 8 p.m. ET. FOX

Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Evening temperatures around 64 degrees with clear skies.

The Line: Penn State -3.5 (via Action Network)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 15-3-3.

Last Meeting: Penn State won during the 2019 season, 35-7.

Last Week: This is the season opener for both teams.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– New Mexico State at Minnesota (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State (Friday, 7 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Illinois at Indiana (Friday, 8 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. ABC)
– South Dakota State at Iowa (Saturday, Noon ET. FS1)
– Buffalo at Maryland (Saturday, Noon ET. BTN)
– Rutgers at Boston College (Saturday, Noon ET. ACC Network)
– North Dakota at Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Illinois State at No. 18 Wisconsin (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: It’s hard to believe another season of Penn State Football is here. The Nittany Lions get their 2022 campaign started under the lights for a midweek matchup at Purdue. This will be the 12th time in the last 13 seasons Penn State begins Big Ten play on the road. This Boilermakers squad coming off a nine-win season that saw them beat Tennessee in their own backyard in a bowl game will represent another significant season-opening test for James Franklin and his team.

Penn State Wins If: The offensive line protects Sean Clifford and opens up running lanes for Penn State’s halfbacks. This will be a significant theme for the season as a whole. Last season, this unit struggled mightily keeping its quarterback upright and creating holes for running backs. Purdue loses First Team-All Big Ten and Third-Team All American selection George Karlaftis, but do bring back three other starters from last year’s defensive line. The Nittany Lions offensive line must give Clifford time to find Penn State’s plethora of playmakers. If they can, the blue and white can walk out of West Lafayette with a big Week 1 win.

Purdue Wins If: An experienced defense harasses Sean Clifford consistently. As a whole, Purdue’s defense returns nine starters from last year. We saw Penn State’s offense struggle last year in the second half of the season as Clifford got hit way more than any quarterback should. The Nittany Lions cannot afford for their sixth-year quarterback to be under a lot of pressure and the offense to get bogged down.

Key Penn State Returnees:
– Sean Clifford, Sr., QB
– Parker Washington, So., WR
– Juice Scruggs, Sr., C
– PJ Mustipher, Sr., DT
– Curtis Jacobs, So., OLB
– Joey Porter Jr., Jr., CB
– Ji’Ayir Brown, Sr., S

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. With Jahan Dotson off to the NFL after a historic 2021 season, Parker Washington enters the spotlight at WR No. 1. He finished second on the team behind Dotson in catches each of the past two seasons and will now look to take over as Sean Clifford’s top target.

Freshman To Watch: Nick Singleton. The true freshman running back was consensus five-star recruit out of Governor Mifflin High School in Pennsylvania, choosing Penn State over other offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Tennessee. He’s been earning praise since arriving to campus in January as an early enrollee. At 6’0, 219 pounds, he’s already got the necessary physique to be an impact player in the Big Ten. With some changes in the running back room for the Nittany Lions, he can provide an immediate spark for the offense.

Trivia Tidbit: Penn State has started off seasons on the right foot more often than not in recent memory. The Nittany Lions have won 17 of their last 20 season-opening contests and five of the last six. The Lions are 111-22-2 all-time in season openers.

Membership Note: There are Nittany Lions all over the world, and the Alumni Association can help you connect with them through interest groups and geographically-based chapters. Whether you live in Philadelphia or Miami, Boston or San Diego, or somewhere in between, there’s likely an Alumni Association chapter or affiliate group nearby. Joining a chapter is a great way to connect with new people that you’ve already got something in common with—your love for Penn State!

Football Letter Live: Football Letter Live returned for its third season this past Thursday, with hosts Paul Clifford and John Patishnock joined by Penn State Vice President For Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft and Penn State Football letterman Shelly Hammonds. Football Letter Live shows how all Penn Staters can cheer on the Nitttany Lions, at home and on the road, with alumni and fans having the opportunity to attend chapter watch parties, register for Roar Tour events on the road (our pregame pep rally), and much more.

Catch the full episode here:

The Mindset Doesn’t Change

Jake Pinegar enters his fifth season in Happy Valley. Photo by Steven Manuel/The Football Letter

Jake Pinegar has played a lot of football for Penn State. Thirty-seven games to be exact.

Last season, he had to take a little bit of a back seat for the first time in his career.

After attempting double-digit field goals his first three seasons with the Nittany Lions, including 24 as a true freshman in 2018, Pinegar was a backup to the do-it-all Jordan Stout in 2021.

Stout, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of this past spring’s NFL Draft, assumed the lead role in all three phases of the kicking game in 2021 (field goals, kick-offs and extra points). He was was the Big Ten’s Punter of The Year.

That slid Pinegar down the pecking order, and he attempted just two field goals all season. Both came in the Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas, where he made one attempt and missed the other.

While his playing time dipped, Pinegar’s mindset, however, didn’t change.

“To me, nothing changed much,” Pinegar said at Penn State’s media day. “I’m always working to be the best version of myself. When (Jordan) kind of took that larger role last year, I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I kept working and kept striving to do as much as I could. This offseason, I think I’ve taken a a big leap and made some big strides.” 

Complacency has never set in for the Ankeny, Iowa, native.

“I’ve worked a lot on coming through the ball more, trusting my target line and swing” Pinegar said. “I’ve worked a lot on kick-offs as well. Just want to improve my range on everything so far.” 

It’s also important not to forget that despite last year’s diminished role, Pinegar has had a productive career for Penn State up to this point.

The redshirt senior ranks fourth on the program’s all-time career extra points list (138), sixth in field goal percentage (74.0), 10th in field goal attempts (51), 11th in makes (37) and is eighth on the all-time scoring list (244 points).

He’s also just the 14th Nittany Lion to ever reach at-least 200 career points and broke. the Penn State freshman scoring record in 2018 with 101 points, passing Kevin Kelly’s previous mark of 99.

That experience will come in handy as Pinegar competes in camp with redshirt freshman Sander Sahaydak for the lead field goal role.

While new Special Teams Coordinator Stacy Collins said there isn’t a specific timeline in place right now to name a starter, both Pinegar and Sahaydak have impressed so far in camp.

“It’s been a great competition,” Collins said at Saturday’s media day. “They’ve both struck the ball extremely well the last four days. We need to trend and continue to do that. That competition has been a tight one and excited to see how both those guys prepared themselves through spring. They trended extremely well through the spring and finishing through the spring game.”

Whether he wins the starting job or not, Pinegar is looked at as one of the leaders in the team.

That comes with having been around the program for five years now and the level of professionalism he’s demonstrated every day, regardless of where he’s listed on the depth chart.

“This is my fifth year, so I’ve been around this program for a long time,” Pinegar said. “There are a couple of us with the special teams unit as well that have been here a while. We’ve seen this program be successful and what it takes to reach that level, so we try to do our best to teach those younger guys what it means and what it takes to win.” 


Penn State-Michigan State 2019 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Some Penn State players go into spring camp with little to no outside attention. Then, one day inside Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White Game they capture the attention of those watching in attendance and those watching at home.

For one day, they are the most talked about name on the roster.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most unexpected spring game stars of recent Blue-White games.

Dan Chisena (2019)
A fifth-year senior at the time, Dan Chisena caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from then-freshman quarterback Will Levis in the third quarter of the 2019 game. Upon reaching the end zone, James Franklin announced to the crowd that Chisena had been awarded a scholarship in what was a really cool, and no doubt emotional moment for Dan and his family. Chisena was a walk-on for the football team in 2015 before joining the Penn State track & field team from 2016-18, where he was a scholarship and Big Ten title-winning sprinter. He returned to the football team as a walk-on in 2018. Chisena has worked his way into a special teams role at the NFL level, playing an important role with that unit for the Minnesota Vikings.

Colin Castagna (2016)
Colin Castaga’s last name always reminds of the legendary “Seinfeld” character George Costanza. Castagna recorded six tackles (three tackles-for-loss) and a sack in the 2016 Blue-White Game. He appeared in 20 games between 2016 and 2017, and elected to forgo his final season of eligibility at Penn State and try his hand at the NFL early. He had an impressive showing at Penn State’s pro day in March of 2018 with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 10-3 broad jump, a 32.5-inch vertical and a 4.28-second pro shuttle. While an NFL career didn’t come to fruition, Colin has still had professional success, now working as Surgical Sales Rep at Smith & Nephew. The company supports surgeons in their Orthopedic Sports Medicine needs, ensuring products as well as guidance and advice on techniques.

Colin Castagna vs. Purdue 2016 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Cole Chiappialle (2014)
As far as spring contest standouts go, Cole Chiappialle is the gold standard. The 5-foot-8 fourth-string running back shined in the 2014 Blue-White Game with nine carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 17 yards. His play captured the attention of everyone on the day and James Franklin even picked Chiappialle to lead the team’s post-game huddle in the locker room after the game. A true underdog success story, mainly a special teams contributor during his two seasons in Happy Valley, Chiappialle finished his time at Penn State with 22 carries for 68 yards. He transferred to Shippensburg University after his sophomore campaign. Cole now works in investment management and financial planning at LPL Financial.

Michael O’Connor / DJ Crook (2014)
While Christian Hackenberg was the unquestioned lead dog in the quarterback room entering the 2014 season, his backups Michael O’Connor and DJ Crook got all of the work in this game. O’Connor was 11-of-16 for 81 yards, while Crook was 10-of-17 for 68 yards. Unfortunately for the latter, by hook or by crook, he was also intercepted twice. Both players transferred out of the program after the season concluded. O’Connor ended up at the University of British Columbia, while Crook moved on to Albany.

Jordan Hill vs. Temple 2012 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Jordan Hill (2012)
Not a prototypical unsung hero because he went on to have a starring role at Penn State and a productive NFL career, Jordan Hill was the star of the show for the 2012 Blue-White Game. That stems from having an interception in the game and anytime a defensive lineman gets an interception, it is newsworthy. Hill’s INT here was no different. My only regret is I can’t find the highlight of the play to share with the masses. So instead, here’s former teammate Austin Johnson accomplishing the defensive lineman INT feat a few years later in a game against San Diego State.

Evan Lewis (2011)
A wide receiver by trade, Lewis had to handle the placekicking duties in the 2011 Blue-White Game. On a day that saw heavy rain turn Beaver Stadium into a lagoon, Lewis connected on his only field goal attempt of the game to open the scoring in the second quarter. Because the rain had gotten so bad, and with 19 Nittany Lion players held out of the game already with injuries, Penn State ended the game at halftime. The blue team came away with the 10-0 win. Evan is now the Co-Founder at Accelerate ACL and Founder/CEO at Premier Neuro Therapy.

Have a favorite unsung hero or surprise star from past Blue-White games that you have always remembered? Let me know who it was in the comments!

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