Sept. 1, 2012; Jake Fagnano (27) and Mike Hull (43) tackle the Ohio ball carrier. Penn State fell to the Ohio Bobcats, 24-14. (Photo by Mike Pettigano)
Pretty sure the negative side of the loss to Ohio has been vocalized enough. It sucks. You know what? It doesn't suck as bad as you think. Penn State, in fact, has had a number of losses far worse, more painful, and more embarrassing than the one we just witnessed this past Saturday.
And I'm here today to show them to you, in the hopes that it might make your day just a tiny bit better. At the very least, maybe it will make you not feel quite so bad. Either way, let's take a look back through the modern (read: Paterno) era of Penn State football, and five losses that made the Ohio loss look tame. We might even touch on some other non-PSU losses that should bring you back from the ledge.
Onward!Sept. 10, 1983 - Cincinnati 14, Penn State 3
The defending national champs were shown up at home by a Cincinnati team that had won all of 14 games combined the previous three seasons. Penn State was starting the likes of DJ Dozier,
Bobcats (ironic, huh?) Bearcats started some junior college transfer at quarterback, and gave up more points in every other game they played in 1983. Penn State went on to beat No. 3 Alabama four weeks later, proving that the talent was plentiful, finishing 8-4-1. Cincinnati wasn't so fortunate, stumbling to a 4-6-1 record, with losses to Louisville, Memphis, and Miami of Ohio.
Sept. 25, 1988 - Rutgers 21, Penn State 16
Blair Thomas tore his ACL before the 1987 Citrus Bowl, so it's not like this Penn State team was caught off guard missing its best player as Rutgers waltzed into town. The Scarlet Knights weren't quite the doormat they had been a few years earlier, but winning six games each of the previous two seasons before this one wasn't exactly winning national titles, either. Penn State was coming off a nice 8-4 season, only two years removed from the 1986 national championship. Rutgers would hold a 21-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter, while the Nittany Lions "rallied" for a touchdown to close the gap. But a final drive ended painfully, with Penn State reaching the 3 yard line before a Tony Sacca pass to Michael Timpson fell incomplete on fourth down. Rutgers finished 5-6, with losses to Army and Temple. Penn State finished with the same record, but a much tougher schedule.
Sept. 3, 2000 - Toledo 24, Penn State 6
This is the one that's been burning in everyone's mind for 12 years now, even more so with renewed vigor the past 48 hours. Things weren't looking so hot for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions were trounced by USC in the Kickoff Classic a week prior in the Meadowlands, but still returned a number of good players from the 1999 squad that reached No. 2 in the polls. Toledo was an established winner under head coach Gary Pinkel, and was gearing up for another big campaign to kick off the new millennium. The Rockets stormed out of the gate, running up a 24-0 lead through three quarters. Penn State was held to 166 total yards, 61 of them coming on a late touchdown pass from Rashard Casey to. The Nittany Lions got their teeth kicked in, to put it mildly. The Rockets finished 10-1, but no bowl bid. Penn State limped to 5-7, ushering in a new era, "The Dark Years."
Sept. 21, 1974 - Navy 7, Penn State 6
Here's one for all you old farts of the Penn State fanbase. Navy was led by second-year head coach and former Penn State assistant George Welsh. The Midshipmen hadn't posted a winning record since 1967, with some really bad seasons in between. The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 8, just off the magical 1973 season that featured an undefeated record and Heisman trophy for John Cappelletti. Then the rains came, and with them, the fumbles. Penn State would finish the day with five of them, allowing Navy to hold on to the slimmest of margins all day. The Nittany Lions would rush for 267 yards and out-first-down Navy 20-6. But between the fumbles and Chris Bahr's four missed field goals--one as time ran out--doomed Penn State. Navy finished the season at 4-7. Penn State recovered to go 10-2.
Sept. 30, 1995 - Wisconsin 17, Penn State 9
I was really this close to picking either 2004 or 2008 Iowa, but then remembered this game. No. 6 Penn State returned guys like Bobby Engram, Freddie Scott, Jeff Hartings, Marco Rivera, Mike Archie, and quarterback Wally Richardson was hardly a new face in the huddle. The defense was actually better than the one fielded a year prior when the Nittany Lions went undefeated. Wisconsin wasn't Wisconsin just yet, mostly because Ron Dayne hadn't arrived yet. Penn State fans watched in horror as Nittany Lions set offensive records, but lost for the first time in 20 games. Richardson set the completions record (28), while Scott broke the record for receptions (13), and Engram set his own personal best for catches. All for naught, as Wisconsin kept Penn State out of the end zone until it was too late. Wisconsin couldn't build on the win, stumbling to a 4-5-2 record. Penn State lost to Ohio State the following week on a controversial Eddie George non-fumble (h/t WFY), and later to the best-ever Northwestern team, to finish 9-3.
We're not alone...
Just for good measure, and this is far from an exhaustive list, think about what it was like for these teams...
1998 - Temple 28, Virginia Tech 24
1999 - Cincinnati 17, Wisconsin 12
2007 - Stanford 24, USC 23
2007 - Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32
2010 - James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16
...oh yeah, and...
1981 - Penn State 48, Pitt 14
Chin-up, Penn Staters. Not only have there been worse losses for the Nittany Lions, and far worse for other teams supposedly more "elite" than Penn State.
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