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 jmp411@psu.edu 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.

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

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. RUTGERS (2014)

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.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. IOWA (2007)

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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FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. MARYLAND (2015)

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. 

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. INDIANA (2016)

Trailing 24-21 entering the 4th quarter, the 2016 Penn State Football team did what they always seemed to do that season: they mounted a comeback. 

Editor of The Football Letter John Black ’62  said it best after the game in The Letter.

“After a scare by a dangerous but erratic Indiana team Saturday, Penn State’s 2016 Cinderella season continued with the Nittany Lions’ sixth consecutive Big Ten Conference win,” Black wrote.

With a win and a Michigan loss at Iowa later that evening, the Nittany Lions would find themselves in an improbable three-way tie atop the Big Ten East standings with the Wolverines and Ohio State. 

Improbable because of how Penn State started its campaign at 2-2 with a heartbreaking defeat at Pitt in Week 2 followed by a thumping in ‘The Big House’ in two weeks later. 

The Nittany Lions had shown in their previous five games before their matchup with the Hoosiers, however, that they had come a long way since those early season struggles. 

To get the comeback started at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, then-offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead went into his bag of tricks with the Lions near the Hoosiers’ end zone. Quarterback Trace McSorley handed the ball off to Saquon Barkley only to have Barkley turn around and pitch it back to McSorley for a flea flicker.

Photo By Steve Manuel

McSorley connected with DaeSean Hamilton for a 54-yard strike and the potent offensive attack for Penn State was rolling once again. 

Another Indiana score on its next possession gave them back the lead.

A 7-play, 57-yard drive was capped off by two determined runs from Barkley and put Penn State ahead once more at 35-31 with just over four minutes to go. 

After a fourth-down stop by the Penn State defense resulted in a Tyler Davis field goal for the blue and white, the Hoosiers became desperate. 

Dropping back to pass on his own side of the field, IU quarterback Richard Lagow was smacked by a rushing Brandon Bell and the ball popped free.

There to scoop it up was defensive end Torrence Brown who barely stayed on his feet and drove into the end zone to put the Nittany Lions up 14 with less than a minute to go and effectively put the game on ice. 

The win marked the first time Penn State had won six-consecutive Big Ten games in the same season since 1994. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

James Franklin said afterward as Black reflected in the Football Letter, “We didn’t panic. Our defense kept us in the game, and we found a different way to win on the road. That’s an important trait for a young team still under development.”

Michigan would indeed fall in defeat at Iowa later that evening to put the Lions in a tie for first in their division.

As Black noted after the game, “Penn State will have more opportunities to make this season even more memorable than it already is.” 

Safe to say, a Big Ten Championship title later, the Nittany Lions came through on those opportunities.

From The Archives: Penn State V. Rutgers (2015)

PSU-Rutgers 2015 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Penn State’s inaugural Stripe Out was a huge hit with fans, who watched the Nittany Lions upend Rutgers 28-3. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Even if you’ve been covering Penn State for 40-plus years, as John Black has, you still have an opportunity to see something new.

That’s the beauty of college football, especially in Happy Valley.

Over the years, the pre-game theatrics at Beaver Stadium have intensified, much to the delight of fans. Recruits, also, have taken notice, with James Franklin bringing in highly ranked classes the last few years.

While the atmosphere for home games has always been one of the best in the country, the operations and marketing teams for football has elevated the environment at Penn State into something that is truly, to borrow a phrase, “unrivaled.”

All of this leads us back to Black, the dean of football reporters. As the 1962 Penn State graduated surveyed the scene at Beaver Stadium a few moments prior to kick-off against Rutgers in 2015, he saw something he never had before at Beaver Stadium.

That’s saying something.

Comebacks and blow-outs, amazing plays and unexplainable gaffs, spectacular shows from the Blue Band, weather delays, fans storming the field, and pretty much anything else imaginable.

But a stripe out? Nope. Never.

Meaning, on his way to writing more than 500 consecutive editions of The Football Letter, John Black scratched off another item on his seemingly empty Penn State bucket list in the first month of the 2015 season.

Black had seen a stripe out before, at Iowa in 2012, though this was the first such occurrence at Penn State — the annual game has grown to be one of the most visually striking images each football season.

Count Black among the many fans who’ve embraced the new tradition.

“It gave a very neat effect,” Black said this week, recalling the game at Iowa seven years ago. “I thought, ‘Gee, I hope Penn State does that soon,’ and they did.”

The Nittany Lion version debuted three years later, during a night kickoff against Rutgers in September. Penn State eased to a 28-3 victory with two touchdowns from Saquon Barkley, a score each from Akeel Lynch and DeAndre Thompkins; and a stout defensive showing.

Enjoying his customary view on the west side of the stadium, Black witnessed the stands fill up with coordinated fans intent on willing their Nittany Lions to victory.

“Sitting in their blue-or-white clad sections, the fans themselves were part of the first-ever Beaver Stadium Stripe Out Show, as the last sunset glow faded behind the press box,” Black described in The Football Letter.

PSU-Rutgers 2015 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Akeel Lynch broke away for 75-yard touchdown run before halftime. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Additional details he authored in that issue mentioned Blue Band Director Greg Drane leading the band’s pre-game routine for the first time (the previous week’s game against Buffalo featured heavy rain and the band didn’t have the opportunity to thrill fans before kickoff) and the drum major flips, along with performances from the majorettes and Lionettes.

The types of particulars that alumni and fans have read from Black since 1976. Perhaps overlooked by some, though always top-of-mind for the author of The Football Letter, who knows his audience.

“I don’t know that you would read that sort of thing in the standard commercial publications, but to me, it’s part of the whole experience and a significance part of it,” Black said. “That’s what I’m trying to convey, a special sense of the identity of Penn State alumni and their participation in the whole game day experience; have a part in it, have their presence mean something. So, to me, it’s an important thing.”

From The Archives: Penn State V. Ohio State (2008)

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Lydell Sargeant (10) rushed to recover the fumble caused by Mark Rubin in the fourth quarter of the 2008 game at Ohio State. NaVorro Bowman recovered the ball, igniting the Nittany Lions to a 13-6 victory over the ninth-ranked Buckeyes. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Some memories, you never forget. Just ask Lydell Sargeant.

The Penn State letterman and former defensive back for the Nittany Lions provided one of the defining moments for the Nittany Lions during their 2008 Rose Bowl season, when they won the Big Ten championship for the third time.

In the waning moments of the team’s slugfest against Ohio State, he “outleaped Brian Hartline for an interception in the end zone on Ohio State’s final play,” as John Black ’62 wrote in The Football Letter.

Asked about what continues to stand out to him about that game and if he still recalls specific details, he laughed, just slightly, in a way that suggest he’ll remember them forever.

“Oh, my goodness. I still remember plays from 14 years ago,” Sargeant said, referencing his freshman season at Penn State.

He then summarized the last drive, beginning with, “I can tell you every last thing that happened.”

Sargeant remembered Bowman tipping a pass as the Buckeyes were driving with less than a minute left: “NaVorro made a really good play up the middle. I think if he didn’t tip the pass, it would have drastically changed that drive.”

Then, Sargeant’s versatility shined through. Typically a cornerback, Sargeant would switch to safety when Penn State played nickel in the secondary. As he saw Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s pass sail toward the end zone, he saw he had an opportunity to catch the ball instead of knocking it down. The former was more attractive, since Sargeant didn’t want to let the receiver get in front of him.

The approach worked, as Sargeant hauled in Pryor’s lofty pass right at the goal-line to secure Penn State’s 13-6 victory.

“One thing Coach Paterno always said was, ‘Do you want your name in the paper? When it’s time to make big plays, make them,’” said Sargeant, who also broke up a pass earlier in the fourth quarter, thwarting a potential 30-yard gain for the Buckeyes to midfield.

Sargeant added: “To me, The Horseshoe is the next best thing to Beaver Stadium, with regard to their fan passion and how loud they get.”

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Anthony Scirrotto celebrated with fans after the third-ranked Nittany Lions seized the moment and claimed their first win at The Horseshoe since beginning Big Ten play. Photo credit: The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Ohio Stadium was certainly loud for the Nittany Lions’ visit in the 2008 season, when Penn State (No. 3) and Ohio State (No. 9) met in a battle of Top-10 teams.

It was the first victory for Penn State in The Horseshoe since beginning Big Ten play, and the Nittany Lions shut down Pryor, explosive Buckeye running back Beanie Wells, and their offensive teammates. Ohio State scored 30-plus points in six other games that season, and 40-plus on four occasions.

“We had a rock star defense,” Sargeant said, pointing out teammates and future NFL stars such as NaVorro Bowman, Jared Odrick, Aaron Maybin, and others.

Sargeant was perhaps always destined to attend Penn State, though he had something of a circuitous route to Happy Valley. He grew up in Pittsburgh, and then moved to California in 10th grade, a result of his father serving in the military.

He returned to Pittsburgh the next few summers for a month or so, working out with childhood friend (and future teammate) Justin King, along with current Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith, who was coaching Gateway High School at the time.

There’s a lot of connectivity with that trio. Smith is King’s stepfather, with Sargeant and King serving as ball boys for Smith going back to his days at Duquesne University in the late 1990s. Sargeant originally committed to Stanford (Oregon was his other top choice, along with Penn State), before transferring.

As Sargeant tells it, he and King looked at each other and said, “Hey, do you want to play together?”

The incoming recruiting class helped elevate Penn State out of one of the few down periods in Joe Paterno’s coaching career, with Sargeant saying that guys like Derrick Williams and Sean Lee, who played AAU basketball with Sargeant, also played important roles in the process.

After graduating, Sargeant signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent, though retired from the NFL a few years later because of an injury. Then, he returned to Penn State for an internship that was facilitated by longtime offensive coordinator Fran Ganter, who transitioned into an administrative role after coaching.

Ganter mentored Sargeant, as the former defensive back learned what he was most passionate about in athletic administration. Sargeant earned his master’s in sports management studies from California University of Pennsylvania, then worked at Utah Valley University and Marquette University in development roles.

Currently, Sargeant serves as an assistant athletic director at UCLA, one of the most accomplished and impressive athletic departments in the country. UCLA is second overall in all-time national titles, with 118.

Even though he’s on the other side of the country, Sargeant returns to Happy Valley twice a year, for the Blue-White game and Homecoming. Additionally, he sits on the board of the Football Letterman’s Club and still is tight with King and Smith. He talks every day with King, who earlier this year accepted the position of manager of football operations for the startup XFL after previously working with Penn State football as a recruiting coordinator.

And Smith is as connected as ever to the program as cornerbacks coach after playing as a wideout for Joe Paterno in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Sargeant speaks passionately about his days at Penn State, and asked some questions of his own out of curiosity for how things are going back at his alma mater. Like Smith and King, he has an affinity for Penn State that’ll likely last a lifetime.

He cares, and he has a recognition for the importance that Penn State has played in his life, both during his playing days and now as he helps to oversee one of the most prestigious athletic departments in the country.

“I say all the time: nothing about what Coach Paterno taught was about football,” Sargeant said. “It’s fascinating, because he’s the most winningest coach in college football, and everything he emphasized were things outside of the game.

“As you get older, you start to realize he’s basically giving you the code to society. That shapes you, and you start to understand how successful Penn State guys are and how they’re able to navigate the professional world. There’s less of a deer-in-the-headlights look when you no longer have football. Coach Paterno was a huge factor in preparing us for life beyond football.”

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From The Archives: Penn State V. Indiana (2010)

Penn State v Indiana  (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Derek Moye’s end-around run featured prominently on the cover of The Football Letter that recounted Penn State’s victory over Indiana in 2010 at FedEx Field. Photo credit: Steve Manuel.

Indiana got paid. Penn State got the win.

The Hoosiers collected a $3 million paycheck to move their 2010 home game against the Nittany Lions to FedEx Field, only a 200-mile drive from State College.

As John Black ’62 noted in The Football Letter, “Penn State was happy to oblige because the Lions hadn’t played in front of their huge fan base in the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia area since trouncing Maryland, 70-7, at Byrd Stadium in 1993.”

The Nittany Lions earned a similar result against the Hoosiers, though with a much closer result. The 41-24 final score capped a back-and-forth game that was tied late in the third quarter, until Penn State’s Andrew Dailey blocked a punt “that Jamie Van Fleet scooped and scampered 21 yards to score the turning-point touchdown,” Black wrote.

The game also represented something of a reprieve for fans, whose closest drive at that time was Ohio State, about 320 miles away. Michigan and Michigan State were within somewhat reasonable driving distance, though beyond that, fans needed to book a flight to see the Nittany Lions on the road.

This was years before Maryland and Rutgers joined the conference, so it’s not a surprise that Penn State fans comprised about three-quarters of the stadium, as Black estimated.

Penn State v Indiana  (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Matt McGloin celebrated with fans after Penn State earned a 41-24 victory over Indiana. McGloin posted his first career 300-yard game and threw two touchdowns to lead the offense. Photo credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Other contributions for Penn State included Matt McGloin posting his first career 300-yard passing game during his redshirt sophomore campaign, completing 22-of-31 passes for 315 yards and two scores. Northern Virginia native Evan Royster—the program’s all-time leading rusher—totaled 48 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Silas Reed also added a rushing touchdown.

Brett Brackett and Derek Moye caught touchdowns from McGloin, with the lead photo of The Football Letter highlighting Moye picking up 27 rushing yards on an end-around.

Penn State struggled throughout 2010, finishing the regular season at 7-5, yet still garnering a New Year’s Day bowl. The Nittany Lions lost to Florida 37-24 in the Outback Bowl, in a game fans might recall as the last contest Urban Meyer coached for the Gators.

Going back to FedEx field, it was the second time the teams played each other in an NFL stadium, including the old RCA Dome in 2000, as Black noted.

We’re still partial to Beaver Stadium, which will host the teams’ next matchup, and Saturday’s contest should be a good one.

Even with last week’s loss, Penn State remains in the Top 10 of the College Football Playoff standings, and Indiana is ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1994.

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