BSD - Whenever we come across an event where we struggle to put it into historical perspective, the guy to turn to is renowned Penn State football historian Lou Prato. In the wake of Saturday, a lot of people have called the loss to Illinois "the worst homecoming ever". To offer some perspective, Prato shares his thoughts with us in this guest post on the worst homecoming losses of the Joe Paterno era. Enjoy. (Or go kick chair, or punch a wall. We all deal with this kind of stuff in our own special way.)
History was made last Saturday when Penn State’s embarrassing 33-13 loss to Illinois joined the list of the worst All-Time Homecoming games of the Joe Paterno era. One of Paterno’s greatest players, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, who has been the game day analyst for Penn State’s radio network since 2000, summed it up best at the end of the Saturday’s broadcast. It went something like this: "In all the years I have been watching Penn State play, I have never seen a worst performance on offense and defense."
One can almost be sure anyone inside Beaver Stadium or watching the game on ESPN would agree with Ham.
How does this humiliation rank with other Homecoming games since 1996? Readers can do their own ranking, but here is one person’s list in chronological order:
Oct. 17, 1970 – Syracuse 24, Penn State 7 – Mediocre Syracuse, a 7-point underdog with a 1-3 record, embarrasses the stumbling Lions by turning an interception and punt return into first half touchdowns and then keeps the home team from scoring three times from inside the 10-yard line in the second half. Penn State also fails to take advantage of five fumble recoveries and lose for the third time in its first five games. The next week, sophomore John Hufnagel is promoted to starting quarterback and the Lions don’t lose again the rest of the year.
Oct. 17, 1992 – Boston College 34, Penn State 32 – No. 20 but unbeaten Boston College shocks once-beaten, No. 9 Penn State in the seventh game of the season with three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the first half to take a commanding 28-10 lead that increases to 35-10 midway in the third quarter. But the Lions put on an exciting, desperate rally in the fourth quarter that falls short when BC intercepts a pass at its own 17-yard line with 1:29 to clinch its first win at Penn State after nine defeats dating to 1949.
Nov. 6, 1999 – Minnesota 24, Penn State 23 – A 34-point underdog Minnesota team destroys the national championship dreams of unbeaten No. 2 Penn State as time was running out in the fourth quarter with a "Hail Mary" pass on a fourth-and-16 at the Penn State 40-yard line and a 34-yard field goal. The devastating loss sent the Lions spiraling into a tailspin as they lost two of their next three games to finish the season at 10-3 and set the tone for the first two successive losing seasons in the Paterno era in 2000 and 2001.
Oct. 23, 2004 – Iowa 6, Penn State 4 – What has often been described by the media and the 108,062 who saw it with such adjectives as the most boring and dullest game they ever witnessed was also a textbook case of offensive ineptness. Iowa used a pair of first half field goals to beat Penn State, which missed two fields while giving up five turnovers and bumbling through numerous ill-timed penalties. Near the end, the Hawkeyes even took a safety in a challenge to the Penn State offense to beat them and it couldn’t.