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.

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-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!

We Are!

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Penn State’s History In The Outback Bowl

2011 Outback Bowl (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Penn State’s matchup against No. 21 Arkansas will be the program’s fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, and the first since 2011.

Let’s take a quick look back at the previous four games in Tampa.

1996 vs. Auburn (Penn State won 43-14)

The 1995 season wasn’t quite as special as the magical 1994 campaign, but it still ended in triumph. The Nittany Lions blew out Auburn, 43-14, thanks to Bobby Engram’s MVP performance. Engram had 113 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns.

The first half was controlled by the defenses, with Auburn taking a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. After back-to-back Penn State field goal drives, a Wally Richardson touchdown strike to Mike Archie extend the Penn State to 16-7 going into halftime. From that point forward, it was a complete domination from the Nittany Lions.

Just five minutes into the second half, Richardson connected with Engram on a nine-yard touchdown pass. A drive later Richardson again passed for a touchdown, this time hooking up with Steven Pitts. Just like that it was 29-7.

The scoring wasn’t over, though. Curtis Enis plunged into the end zone from a yard out and then a minute later Engram snagged his second TD grab of the afternoon to make it 43-7. That was 40 unanswered points for the blue and white. A late Kevin McLeod rushing touchdown for the Tigers made the final score 43-14.

A complete effort for Penn State to earn its 17th bowl win.

1999 vs. Kentucky (Penn State won 26-14)

Just three years later, Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions were back in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

Heisman trophy finalist Tim Couch got the scoring started with a touchdown pass to Lance Mickelesen and put the Wildcats up 7-0 early. Penn State answered back with a field goal, only for Couch to connect on another touchdown pass to put Kentucky ahead 14-3.

A Kevin Thompson found Joe Nastasi for the Nittany Lions’ first touchdown of the day in the second quarter, before another Travis Forney field goal closed the gap to 14-13.

Two more Forney field goals gave Penn State a 19-14 lead. In the fourth quarter the Nittany Lions took full control as Chafie Fields scored on a 19-yard touchdown run with four minutes left to give Penn State a 26–14 lead. That would prove to be the final score.

2007 vs. Tennessee (Penn State won 20-10)

A defensive struggle for most of the afternoon, Penn State and Tennessee traded field goals on either side of the first period. The Nittany Lions scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard connection from Anthony Morelli to Andrew Quarless.

The Volunteers answered on the next possession with a LaMarcus Coker 42-yard touchdown run.

A scoreless third quarter saw the score locked in a 10-10 tie, only for a Tony Davis 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown to completely flip the game on its head for the Nittany Lions.

A stingy Penn State defense and another Kevin Kelly field goal secured the 20-10 win, the Nittany Lions’ third win in Outback Bowls.

2011 vs. Florida (Florida won 37-24)

The game started brightly enough for the Nittany Lions as Matt McGloin found Derek Moye for a 5-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.

The Gators bit back with 14 unanswered, including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Then, Penn State responded with 10 points unequalled of their own (a Michael Zordich TD plunge and then a Collin Wagner field goal). At halftime, the Nittany Lions held a narrow 17-14 lead.

The second half proved to be a different story, though. In what was Urban Meyer’s final game as head coach of the Gators, Florida rallied to outscore Penn State 23-7 in the second half. An Ahmad Black 80-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the win for the SEC outfit. It was Penn State’s first loss in the Outback Bowl.

So, there you have. A brief history of Penn State at the Outback Bowl. Let’s hope the Nittany Lions improve to 4-1 in the game in a few weeks.

From the Archives

Beaver Stadium, as seen during halftime of a game in 1968. If you look closely, you can see the Blue Band performing. Photo credit: Penn State.

Ever since this blog’s beginning nearly a decade ago, we’ve had a recurring feature called “From the Archives,” featuring previous game summaries authored by Ridge Riley ’32 and John Black ’62. You can read our entire collection of From the Archives stories on the blog.

The main reasons for the series were to highlight our rich archives and showcase lettermen from previous generations. We’re continuing the series, though in a different way. Instead of a weekly blog story, we’ll have regular posts on The Football Letter Twitter account, and you can see recent examples of John Cappelletti, Curt Warner, and John Urschel, just to name a few.

One of the reasons for the transition is that with the addition of Football Letter Live, we’re routinely featuring lettermen each week, and we’re now able to include standalone images and expand the photo collection we can pull from. Another example includes this aerial photo of Beaver Stadium from 1968. The image is from this Penn State Flickr gallery, and we’ll share other photos from the collection this season.

I’m a member of several Penn State-themed Facebook groups (OK, probably all of them), and I regularly see compelling images from Penn State football’s past. There may be occasions when I’ll ask to run that photo on the blog and our social accounts, and we’ll always do everything we can to give appropriate photo credit. We’re not looking to monetize anything, just focus on the rich tradition of Penn State football.

Have a compelling photo from your personal archives, or a family photo you’d like to share? Send it to with the subject line “From the Archives” and we may feature it in the future.

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From The Archives: Penn State V. Michigan State (1996)

Wally Richardson led Penn State to an impressive 20-5 record as starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions during the 1995 and 1996 seasons. (Photo by Penn State Athletics)

Wally Richardson bookended his two-year starting career in the regular season in quite possibly the most memorable way for a quarterback: He led a game-winning drive. Add in two impressive bowl wins, and the 1995-96 stretch for Richardson was both incredibly accomplished and efficient. And also underrated.

The second part of that pair came in late November against Michigan State in 1996, during a time when the Nittany Lions and Spartans usually met one another in the regular season finale. Mirroring his effort against Texas Tech in the 1995 season opener, Richardson engineered a late-minute drive that set up Penn State kicker Brett Conway to deliver the game-winning field goal.

Each time, Conway delivered.

As John Black wrote in The Football Letter following the 1996 win over the Spartans:

“Concluding his last game in 1996 the same way he did his first in 1995, the lanky quarterback from South Carolina moved his team smartly down the field, eating up the final four minutes of the clock and positioning Conway for his kicking heroics.”

Richardson finished the game by matching his personal best of 281 yards on 21-of-31 passing, also throwing for one touchdown.

Richardson served as team captain for the season finale, Black noted, saying that the quarterback showed signs of satisfaction in the media room after the game. “We’ve all had tough times this year, so I’m glad we were able to bounce back. … We all had to dig deep to get things straightened out with the team,” Richardson said, with Black adding that the signal-caller was alluding to the team’s loss to Iowa earlier in the season.

After the setback to the Hawkeyes, the Nittany Lions won their last four regular season games against Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State by a combined score of 143-81.

The 32-29 victory over Michigan State catapulted the Nittany Lions once again to the Fiesta Bowl, where they dismantled a talented Texas squad 38-15. Two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams led a talented backfield for the Longhorns, who led 12-7 at halftime before the Nittany Lions ran away by outscoring their opponents 31-3 in the second half.

Penn State’s 1996 team finished 11-2 and ranked No. 7 in the final polls, with wins also over USC in the Kickoff Classic and at Wisconsin. Additionally, the Fiesta Bowl victory paired with Penn State’s win in the 1996 Outback Bowl to give the Nittany Lions four straight bowl wins.

If Richardson’s name sounds familiar beyond the gridiron, there’s a reason for that. As many fans know, Richardson is the director of the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club, which has more than 1,000 dues-paying members and a database of more than 1,500 former Penn State football players and student managers. In his role, he also serves as the primary liaison between Penn State Football and the State College Quarterback Club.

From Sumter, S.C., Richardson led Penn State to a 20-5 record as the starting quarterback in 1995-96 and graduated holding several Penn State records, one of which did not fall until 2012, when Matt McGloin completed 35 passes vs. Northwestern to break Richardson’s mark (33 vs. Wisconsin, 1995). His 193 completions in 1995 still rank No. 6 in school history and his 335 attempts that season are fifth-highest.

Fans can hear from Richardson during this week’s episode of The Football Letter Live, airing Thursday night at 8. You can register online or tune in on Facebook, with fellow lettermen Lydell Sargeant (2005-08) also joining the program to talk about his time with the Nittany Lions.

Both Richardson and Sargeant have built impressive careers as athletic administrative leaders, with Richardson in his role with the letterman’s club and Sargeant currently serving as the associate athletic director for development and revenue generation at Morgan State. Sargeant’s previous stops include UCLA and Marquette.

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For 58 minutes in Penn State’s 2014 clash with Big Ten newcomer Rutgers, the Nittany Lions’ offense sputtered.

Heading into the final drive of the game for Penn State, the offense had managed to score just six points, despite the defense gifting them five interceptions on the night.

When it mattered most, though, the offense stepped up.

Photo By Steve Manuel

“The fired ­up partisan crowd, whose roar got louder with each passing minute of anticipated victory, reached a crescendo when the visitors were pinned down on their own 20­-yard line with just three minutes left in the game and Rutgers holding tenaciously onto a 10–6 lead,” wrote editor of the Football Letter, John Black.”

That’s when things started to click for the Nittany Lions.

Photo By Steve Manuel

On the first play of PennState’s final drive, 19­-year-­old quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who as Black described, “had been chased, harassed, hurried and sacked throughout the night,” found Geno Lewis on a gorgeous throw down the sideline that ripped off 53 yards of the 80-yard mountain Penn State had to climb to the end zone.

Lewis, who led the Big Ten receiving yards entering that night, outmuscled two Scarlet Knights defenders to snag the pass, bounced off their attempted tackles and raced down the sideline to Rutgers’ 27-yard-line.

Hackenberg looked as though he threw the game-winner two plays later on a dart to tight end Jesse James, but a holding call nullified the would-be touchdown.

The Nittany Lions now faced a third-and-long from the Rutgers 29. Lewis came up big once more, putting a double move on his defender to get open up the right hand side of the field. Hackenberg found him again, dropping the pass right into Lewis’ chest for a 23-yard gain.

Photo By Steve Manuel

Two plays later, on second-and-goal from the five-yard line, terrific blocking from the offensive line opened up a huge hole up the middle and New Jersey native Bill Belton took care of the rest.

Belton dashed through the middle largely untouched before a desperate Rutgers defender tackled him in the end zone. It was a futile attempt as Belton had already reached pay-dirt and the Nittany Lions had the lead.

Photo By Steve Manuel

“All the air was sucked out of the home team’s big balloon,” wrote Black, as the home crowd fell hushed.

Rutgers got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but the comeback would be denied on another interception from quarterback Gary Nova, this time by safety Ryan Keiser.

Although ugly at times, Penn State had found a way to win in Piscataway, and welcomed Rutgers to the Big Ten by handing them a defeat.


When Penn State hosted Iowa in Week 6 of the 2007 season, it was looking to stop two separate losing streaks.

The Nittany Lions were coming off of two-straight losses to open up their Big Ten campaign to Michigan and Illinois, respectively.

Penn State had also not beaten the Hawkeyes in the past five tries, including an ugly 6-4 home loss in the previous meeting between the two teams in 2004. 

Rodney Kinlaw, a fifth-year senior on that 07 team, said the Nittany Lions’ mindset heading into their matchup with the Hawkeyes was to “take care of the little things.”

“It’s all about executing,” Kinlaw said. “Play to the best of your ability and give it all on the field. Don’t stop playing until the clock reads double zeros at the end of the fourth quarter.”

As far why it seemed Iowa had Penn State’s number in recent meetings, Kinlaw said the common denominator was always the Hawkeyes’ toughness along the defensive and offensive lines.

Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

“They’re always good in the trenches,” Kinlaw said. “That’s where the game is pretty much going to be won. If the line can’t block, you’re running back and quarterback aren’t going to be productive. Iowa always seemed to have big, tough guys up front.”

Penn State controlled the line of scrimmage, took care of the little things and snapped their duo of losing streaks, dominating Iowa 27-7.

“With the vociferous support of 108,951 fans — the largest crowd to watch a football game that Saturday — the struggling Lions were resuscitated with a 27-7 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten opener in Happy Valley,” editor John Black noted in The Football Letter

For Kinlaw, his performance against the Hawkeyes was reminiscent of his college career as a whole.

He missed his freshman season in 2004 with a knee injury and was forced to redshirt. He battled his way back, but sat behind Tony Hunt on the depth chart.

By the time his senior season arrived, he was splitting carries with the likes of Evan Royster, Austin Scott and Stefon Green.

His confidence never wavered, though.

“It took a while, but I always knew I was going to get back on the field,” Kinlaw said.

Kinlaw overcame a fumble early in the game, which drew the ire of Paterno, to finish with a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was a great feeling to have that kind of day at home in an important game for us, especially after tearing my ACL and working so hard to get back into the lineup,” Kinlaw said. “It was a blessing to get that chance to show what I could do.”

The Nittany Lions went on two win their next two contests and five of their final seven overall, including the 24-17 success over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. 

Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

The early-season struggles Kinlaw and his teammates faced during that 2007 season sort of mirror the kind of struggles the current Nittany Lions squad face today, sitting at 0-4 in the Big Ten.

Kinlaw said the best advice he can give to the 2020 team is to stick together and lean on one another as teammates.

“If you see your teammate giving 100 percent, it’s probably going to push you to give 100 percent. So, you want to be the guy who sets that example. Lean on that fight together. Be that person where your teammates know that they can count on.”

From The Archives: Penn State V. Nebraska (2002)

Penn State knocked off No. 7 Nebraska 40-7 in 2002, collecting a signature win at Beaver Stadium.

There were some special guests in the house on Sept. 14, 2002, at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions made sure their predecessors didn’t leave disappointed.

Penn State entered the 2002 season in a somewhat perilous position. The Nittany Lions had just endured consecutive losing seasons, previously unthinkable for a program that had gone nearly a half-century without a single such occurrence. That record, perhaps more than any other, highlights the dominance that the Nittany Lions exerted throughout much of the 20th century.

Back to 2002.

Nebraska was ranked seventh. Penn State was searching for a signature win in the new century. A rare night home game (to that point) and a national TV audience provided the Nittany Lions with an opportunity to announce their re-emergence onto the scene, and that’s exactly what happened.

As editor John Black noted in The Football Letter:

“Spurred by the presence of nearly 50 members of the 1982 team that defeated the Cornhuskers, 27-24, the last time they came to State College, the 2002 Lions silenced the criticism that has surrounded them since Nov. 6, 1999, by playing a nearly flawless game to dominate the perennial gridiron power from the Great Plains.”

The 1982 team, of course, captured the program’s first national title, with the win in ’82 still standing as one of the more memorable wins for Penn State in its history. A last-second touchdown throw from Todd Blackledge to Kirk Bowman sealed the victory.  

Twenty years later, Penn State didn’t need a last-minute scoring drive to upend Nebraska. The Nittany Lion led in overall yards and time of possession, outscoring the Cornhuskers 27-0 in the second half.

“The Penn State swagger is definitely back,” pre-season All-American Jimmy Kennedy said, as noted in The Football Letter. “It was electrifying out there tonight. I hope it’s like that every week.”

Kennedy starred at defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions, who played only their seventh night game in Beaver Stadium history.

Larry Johnson tallied his first career 100-yard rushing game and scored two touchdowns, launching his 2,000-yard season that ended with him finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Johnson finished with 2,087 yards, despite not playing in the second half of many games as Penn State was blowing out its opponents.

Zack Mills was a sophomore that season, quarterbacking the offense with 19 completions in 31 attempts. He passed for 259 yards and rushed for another 32.

Perhaps the most vivid memory of that night is the pick-6 that Rich Gardner returned about midway through the third quarter with the game still hanging in the balance. Gardner’s score extended the lead to 26-7, and the Nittany Lions won the contest 40-7, an incredible margin over a Top-10 team in primetime.

Gardner recently joined The Football Letter Live, and fans can view the archived episode online. Gardner begins talking about the Nebraska game shortly after the 35-minute mark.


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Prior to the 2014 defeat to Maryland — its first season in the Big Ten — Penn State was unbeaten in its last 29 games against the Terrapins.

The lone minor blemish in that streak was a 13-13 tie in Baltimore, which was the Nittany Lions’ last tie in program history. 

On Oct. 24, 2015, Penn State and Maryland met once more in Baltimore at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, with the Terrapins now looking to start a streak of their own. 

The game, as editor of The Football Letter John Black wrote, was a “barnburner” from start to finish. 

“Together the two teams thrilled a crowd of 68,948 with big offensive plays, tough defensive stops, critical takeaways and giveaways in a game that went back and forth with exciting action for 60 minutes, before Penn State claimed a one point victory,” Black wrote afterward.

The contest featured five lead changes, six touchdown plays of 10 or more yards, 13 plays of 20 or more yards from scrimmage (with a long of 48), and eight combined turnovers.

After a slow offensive start from both teams, Penn State opened up the scoring through freshman running back Saquon Barkley’s 6-yard touchdown run halfway through the first quarter. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

Maryland tied things up at 7-7 on its ensuing possession as the teams battled back and forth the rest of the opening half, which saw the Nittany Lions enter the halfway point on top 17-13. 

The Terrapins regained the lead, 20–17, by moving 68 yards on nine plays (all on the ground) in 4:10 on their first possession of the second half.

On Penn State’s next possession, the Lions grabbed the lead back at 24– 20 with a seven­-play, 79-­yard march in under four minutes. The drive was capped off by Christian Hackenberg’s 20-yard strike to DaeSean Hamilton. 

The two sides traded two more touchdowns, with the Penn State score coming via a gorgeous catch from Geno Lewis as he lept for the ball over his defender near the corner of the end zone. 

From there it was a defensive struggle with a cascade of turnovers and just a sole Maryland field goal to cut the deficit to 31-30. 

After a Penn State punt, the Terrapins had one last chance with the ball at their own 25 and 1:21 left on the clock.

Photo By Steve Manuel

But on the very first play of the drive, Terps quarterback Perry Hills’ pass went off his receiver’s hands and into the arms of Malik Golden.

The pick was sealed and so was the win for the Nittany Lions to give them their sixth victory, moving them to bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season. 

Hackenberg completed 13-of-29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, thus setting Penn State’s all­-time record for pass completions at 608 and passing yardage at 7,453.