FBL Podcast: Pitt Week


Regardless of whether you call it a “rivalry” — those of us who are old enough certainly do — there’s a buzz in the air as Pitt makes its long-awaited return to Happy Valley. This week’s podcast is all about that in-state battle.

This week’s guest letterman is Bill Contz ’83, a starting lineman on the 1982 national championship team and author of the new book When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams. Bill’s book is loaded with great anecdotes from his playing days, insightful contributions from his former teammate Todd Blackledge ’83, and a very cool analytics argument that makes the case for the ’82 squad as one of the very best in the history of the game.

One of the most memorable games in that ’82 season was a top-five battle between the Lions and Panthers. Bill will be in town this weekend for a couple of book signings (check the podcast for details) and to reconnect with a few dozen of his teammates, who are back for a reunion celebrating the ’82 title team. Can’t wait to see that legendary squad together again in Beaver Stadium.

We also look back on the season-opening win over Akron, engage in some good-natured trash talk, and dig into tailgating plans with our go-to Saturday chef, Dave Young ’97. Fittingly, Dave has a Western PA-theme planned for this weekend, and he found some inspiration in an old classic: The Alumni Association’s Cookin’ With the Lion cookbook, first published in 1988.


Very excited about the chipped ham sandwich, and—sticking with the Pittsburgh theme—Dave’s working up a pierogi salad. And, yes, there’s even a cookie table in the works. Feel free to stop by our tailgate on Saturday—just make sure you bring cookies, and empty Tupperware, of course.

We Are…

Memory Lane on Route 22


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

One Step Away


For the 1985 Nittany Lions, an unbeaten regular season was tarnished by an Orange Bowl loss, and overshadowed by a perfect season in 1986. Thirty years on, we look back at one of the great—but largely forgotten—teams in Penn State history.

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As Massimo Manca remembers it, the pivotal moment in Penn State’s 1985 season came rather early.

On opening day, to be exact.

“I think the turning point was that very first game against Maryland,” Manca ’87 says now. “Nobody had us picked to win that game. That’s when we realized: We could beat anybody.”

The Nittany Lions’ long-awaited return to Maryland this week brings to mind Continue reading

John Black and “The Blood Bowl”

JB Blood Bowl

As he starts his 40th season in charge of The Football Letter, we look back at the time John Black starred on the field in Penn State’s biggest rivalry.

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It was a legendary performance made all the more impressive given the injury that almost kept him out of action.

According to the pregame write-up in the Nov. 25, 1958 issue of The Daily Collegian, quarterback “Joltin’ Johnny” Black suffered—and we warn you, this is difficult reading—an “acute hangnail on the third finger of his throwing hand.” Continue reading