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Penn State-Pitt ticket

Penn State

There’s plenty of nostalgia that’s conjured up anytime Penn State plays Pitt.

We’ll leave the merits of whether or not this remains a true rivalry game for another time, though we got a chuckle out of uncovering this image of a Penn State-Pitt ticket from the 1967 game at Beaver Stadium.

Five bucks got you a seat. Even adjusting for inflation, that was below the current market rate. We also wouldn’t mind seeing those end zone graphics return, though we’ll leave that decision to the experts who ensure Beaver Stadium’s field is the best in the nation.

If you’ve got any cool Penn State-Pitt swag, post your images to Twitter and tag The Football Letter, or share on Facebook and tag the Alumni Association.

muddy struggle

1900 Buffalo

University at Buffalo University Libraries/1900 Buffalo football team

Pop Golden figured Penn State would’ve won on a dry field.

If that name doesn’t sound familiar to Nittany Lion football fans, it’s understandable. After all, William “Pop” Golden coached Penn State more than a century ago, and for only three seasons (1900–02).

However, if the 1900 contest against Buffalo is any indicator, he enjoyed an eventful tenure as head coach.

The details of this game are thankfully preserved by the University at Buffalo’s University Archives. We say “thankfully” even though Penn State was tagged with a 10-0 defeat, because the circumstances surrounding the contest are part comical, part impressive, and entirely worth remembering, if only to recognize how far college football has come since its beginning 150 years ago.

So, about the playing conditions:

The game was played on Thanksgiving, with the Buffalo Athletic Field featuring “the worst bog imaginable,” according to the Buffalo Evening News. The outlet also described the season-ending win coming amid “a hard and muddy struggle” in its headline. The New York Times, meanwhile, declared that the gridiron was more fit for water polo than football.

The reason for the undesirable field was that when the Buffalo Railway Company’s scrapers cleared off the snow, they took the turf, too.

Visibility was so bad that players on both sides couldn’t tell who was who. Often, a player would pull who they thought was a teammate from the mud, only to discover they were staring at their opponent.

Pop Golden

William “Pop” Golden

Making matters worse for the Nittany Lions, they were placed in a cold room at halftime, resulting in the players coming out stiff in the second half, according to Golden.

He also said: “I think that Penn State would defeat Buffalo on a dry field.”

Golden hoped Penn State-Buffalo would turn into an annual series, though it was another 107 years before the two squads played again — a 45-24 victory for Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 2007.

You can read the full recap from the 1900 classic — including plenty of other fascinating details — at University at Buffalo’s University Libraries’ website

­For the Glory,

— John Patishnock ’05

From the Archives: Penn State V. Arizona (1999)

Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star/David Sanders

Chafie Fields’ energy changed on the way to the stadium.

Fields, one of Penn State’s most accomplished wide receivers, says he always tried to avoid all the pageantry that overtook campus and the community leading up to a big game for the Nittany Lions.

The 1999 season opener against Arizona certainly qualified for that category, and Fields took the same approach as the Nittany Lions prepared to host the Wildcats in a matchup of Top-5 teams at Beaver Stadium. In the first-ever (and only) battle between the squads, Penn State and Arizona each entered the game ranked either third or fourth in the two major polls at the time.

Personally, Fields began the season highly motivated, determined to prove he was an elite wideout with explosive playmaking ability. Still, even with ESPN’s College GameDay in town and the college football world centered on State College, Fields saw the contest against Arizona as “just another week for me.”

That was one of many lessons he learned from Joe Paterno: Don’t get caught up in the attention, or as Fields described, “stay out of the lights.”

Though when Saturday morning rolled around, the mood in the air shifted, and Fields noticed. He saw the outpouring of support, and he felt the energy. Sensed it. Saw it. Knew that Happy Valley was about to be rocking, perhaps had been rocking all week.

As the fleet of Blue Buses pulled away from the team hotel and motored toward Beaver Stadium, there was no longer denying that the upcoming contest against Arizona was significant.

“That’s when you realize the magnitude of things, because all the fans were already out there bright and early,” Fields recalled. “The streets were lined with people welcoming us to the stadium — I’m talking the whole way from Toftrees. The streets were lined with fans. That’s when I started to feel the energy, like ‘OK, we’re here.’”

Fields was ready.

Chafie Fields_AP

Associated Press

A senior standout for the ’99 squad, he scored two touchdowns within the game’s first six minutes in spectacular fashion. First, he caught a 37-yard scoring toss from Kevin Thompson on the game’s opening drive, “twisted away from one defender and outran the rest to the corner of the end zone,” as John Black ’62 wrote in The Football Letter.

The next time the Nittany Lions possessed the ball, Fields raced 70 yards on an inside reverse. As Black explained, Fields made a perfect cut over left tackle, and then ran down the middle of the field for the second score.

“And the rout was on,” Black summarized correctly.

At the time, the third-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history (97,168) watched Penn State dispatch its West Coast opponent 41-7 in a game that was as much of a blowout as the score indicated: The Nittany Lions led 31-0 at halftime and 41-0 after the third quarter.

It should be noted here: Any story about Fields and 1999 needs to include that a few weeks following the blowout over Arizona, he caught one of the most memorable touchdown passes in Penn State football history: Fields corralled a 79-yard score in the waning minutes to catapult the Nittany Lions past Miami for a road victory over the eighth-ranked Hurricanes (Penn State was ranked third). The highlight prompted a memorable call from legendary play-by-play announcer Fran Fisher, who as Fields crossed the goal line, belted with enthusiasm:

Penn State touchdown! No flags! No flags! No flags! 

Fields finished the game against Miami with 177 receiving yards, seventh-best all-time in program history for a single contest. For his career, Fields totaled 88 catches for 1,437 yards, prolific enough to place Fields in the Top 20 all time at Penn State.

Rankings aside with respect to this week’s opponent, a similar situation to the 1999 opener awaits the Nittany Lions on Saturday, with Penn State hosting a first-time opponent that hails from the west.

Penn State and Idaho are set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Beaver Stadium, site of what should be a picturesque backdrop for Labor Day weekend in Happy Valley.

Fields earned a B.S in 1999 from the College of Health and Human Development, and he’s now an accomplished sports agent who’s represented many Penn State lettermen. Anytime he can work with a Penn Stater, “it’s a lot more personal,” he says, and he plans to cheer on the Nittany Lions this season.

That’ll always be true for Fields, a self-described “Penn State loyalist” who hopes to see the Nittany Lions win out and compete in the College Football Playoff. Either way, he’s standing by and ready if he’s ever called upon to serve the team.

“Anything that I can do to support the program, I’ll do,” Fields said. “I’ll be one of the biggest fans. I’ll be rooting for Penn State all year, I’m always going to.”

___

For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

College Football Heaven

Penn State v. Michigan(Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

This weekend, tens of thousands of alumni and fans will return to State College, rekindling a lifelong love affair with Penn State. If you’re among the many who are embarking upon the annual fall pilgrimage to Happy Valley, chances are you’ll notice some changes upon arrival.

Construction is ongoing at Willard Building for the state-of-the-art Donald P. Bellisario Media Center, and you can check out picturesque views of Sparks and West Halls from the newly renovated Collaboration Commons in Pattee Library. These remodeled areas have the aim to enhance the student experience, an admirable goal that’s always at the forefront of University administrators’ minds.

The Diner is gone — quite literally — as development has already begun on its replacement, a fast-casual restaurant chain. And if you’re looking to order some wings at The Darkhorse Tavern, well, you’ll have a surprise waiting for you.

These are just a few examples.

However, there’s one thing you can always count on when you come into town for the season opener.

As you stroll across campus or head downtown, the crisp fall-like weather smacks your senses and leaves no doubt: Penn State football has returned to Happy Valley.

That’s the beauty of September (or in this case, August) in Central Pennsylvania.

Penn State v. PITT (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

The town takes on a life of its own and the familiar energy swirls around State College, as the season’s first kickoff awaits on the horizon.

Football, of course, is the reason for alumni and fans descending upon University Park this weekend, as the chase for another 10-win campaign and Big Ten championship begins for James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

The on-field success is one reason for so much excitement surrounding the upcoming season. Additionally, what makes Penn State football special for so many goes way beyond what happens on the gridiron.

Tailgating. The Blue Band. Stopping by the Nittany Lion Shrine for a photo with family and friends. Each home game weekend is a throwback to your college days, an opportunity to transport yourself back to a time when Dear Old State molded you when you stood at childhood’s gate.

We understand that passion, because we feel the same way.

With The Football Letter blog, we strive to deliver stories and photos that showcase the high level of devotion that Penn State graduates have for their alma mater. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog (enter your email address in the box in the lower right-hand corner) and follow us on Twitter, as we’ll highlight the many reasons that distinguish Penn State as one of the premier college football programs in the country.

Or, in Bill O’Brien’s words, why Penn State is “college football heaven.”

Penn State v. Ohio State (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Throughout the season, we’ll feature lettermen, speak with players and coaches, and dig into our extensive archives. We’ll also talk with Steve Manuel ’84, ’92g, longtime distinguished photographer for The Football Letter, as he looks back on some of his most memorable photos.

There’s a lot to savor, and we’re looking forward to sharing another season with our readers.

So, if you’re in town this weekend, we invite you to take your time and soak up all the sights, sounds, and smells that elevate State College into the quintessential college town in America.

There really is no place in the world like Happy Valley in the fall.

For the Glory,

— John Patishnock ’05

 

For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

First Time’s a Charm

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“Last night was my first Penn State game…”

The email hit The Penn Stater magazine inbox the day after the Big Ten title game, sent by a self-described “life-long PSU fan” and former Marine named Eric Norwood:

Last night was my first Penn State game. I took my dad — also a lifelong fan, also his first game… I feel so proud to be somewhat a part of this student body. Living and dying on each play with thousands of Penn State students, fans, and alums was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. I still have goosebumps and can’t stop singing Hey Baby 😂. Thanks everyone for a fantastic season and night!

Continue reading

Memory Lane on Route 22

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The return of Penn State’s series with Pitt is bringing back all sorts of memories for those of us old enough to remember when it was one of the fiercest rivalries in college football. Our Alumni Association colleague Ilene White ’74 dropped by this week with some visual reminders of just how much it mattered.

It was 45 years ago, November 1971, when White and a dozens of other undergrads piled into “70 or 80 cars,” according to Mark Tygel ’71, then-president of Continue reading

The Rose Brothers Lead the Line

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It’s Alumni Reunion Weekend here in Happy Valley, an annual chance for those of us at the Alumni Association to meet and hear stories from some of our most dedicated alums. Among this year’s returnees is Don Rose ’70, who’s in town from Lancaster with his wife, Sandra ’66.

We talked a bit of football with Don, who then pulled out this photo recently sent to him by his little brother, Steve ’74, ’82g, who would eventually follow Don to State College. That’s the sibling duo back in the fall of 1967, in their stances in front of the south end zone of Beaver Stadium. Don couldn’t remember who took the picture, or how exactly they got on the field, but the scoreboard gives a hint at the date: Sometime in mid-November, not long after the Nittany Lions upset third-ranked North Carolina State.

The stadium looks a bit different now, but for the record, Don’s still got a full head of hair.

For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.