Yes, I did just make a Cher reference in the title of this fanpost. But it's ok because it applies to Penn State football!
It's the off-season, so something came to my brain: If I could turn back time and find a way to change the result of four (and only four) Penn State football defeats, which would I choose?
Now, Penn State is not one of those program's mediocre enough historically that changing the result of a game here or there would have drastically altered the course of the team's destiny over many seasons. Nonetheless, there are some games which fill me with deep disdain upon reflection.
First: 1989 vs. Alabama (Alabama 17, PSU 16)
Do you know why you should hate Alabama? It's not just because of the cheating and the annoying amount of games they win or their claim to seventy-five national championships. It's also because of how many of their great moments involve painful Penn State losses. Seriously, it's uncanny. They don't seem to have any great dislike for us, and yet, as legendary BSD poster jesse. put it, if you go into an Alabama football museum it's impossible to not find a picture or a video highlight of Penn State losing to Alabama in an awful manner.
Look at the above picture! Alabama has paintings of them punching us in the stomach! What next, mosaics? Ugh, screw you, Alabama.
Anyway, as for the game itself, coming in, Alabama was undefeated and ranked #6th. Penn State had started the season by flopping against Virginia, but won five straight before this game. State was trailing by a point with a couple of minutes left when BLAIR FREAKING THOMAS took over and went to get Joe the game-winning field goal. The Lions had to drive from their own 30 against a (of course) stout Bama defense. And Blair did it almost by himself. Something like one or two of the plays on this long drive weren't Blair Thomas runs. With a 2nd down and 4 at the Bama 5, Thomas almost - ALMOST - made it in for a touchdown but his knee came down a bit short. Joe had to call the last timeout, meaning Ray Taurasi had to try the chip shot kick on 3rd down with 13 seconds left.
And then Alabama blocked the kick. Because they're mean. They finished the year by losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl and getting blown up by Miami in the Sugar Bowl with an outside shot at the national title on the line.
Basically, this game wouldn't have changed a whole lot for Penn State. And it certainly wasn't as big a deal as the goal line stand of 1979. But personally, I would rather have this game because 1979 made 1983 even sweeter. And, man, losing on a blocked field goal from the one-foot line is just BS. This game isn't that important, maybe, but it annoys me anyway. It's kind of like a horse fly.
Second: 2005 Michigan (Michigan 27, Penn State 25)
Don't even talk to me.
Third: 2011 Nebraska (Nebraska 17, Penn State 14)
First of all, losing on senior day is bad enough. Losing to Bo Pelini on senior day is simply a problem. It's a very serious problem.
Second of all, Penn State was better than Nebraska.
Third of all, this would have made the Wisconsin game irrelevant. We would have beaten Michigan State, most likely, and we would have gone to the Rose Bowl.
Fourth of all, Taylor Martinez is lame.
My ironclad reasoning hates Nebraska.
Fourth: 2009 Rose Bowl (USC 38, Penn State 24)
I wanted this game so bad. Like a lot of losses, there were so many little things that, if changed, would have made enough of a difference for a victory. If Royster wasn't hurt, if the officials hadn't called some ticky tack penalty on a big Green run, if the safeties didn't suck so hard, if Maybin hadn't been offsides on the forced fumble in the 1st, so forth.
Looking back, I'd rather have this game than Iowa that same season. Really. Everyone on this blog who knew me during the 2009 Iowa run knows why.
Notable exceptions (three among many others):
1999 Minnesota. Because I'm utterly convinced this team would have lost to Michigan the next week anyway. And also, there's a theory that this game was instrumental in spawning the Dark Years, but what spawned the Dark Years was bad recruiting and lazy coaching, no more, no less. I don't think even a national title would have dulled things too much.
1979 Sugar Bowl. If I had been alive then, I'd probably feel differently.
1977 Kentucky. A game that is seldom mentioned. Penn State was maybe even better in '77 than in '78, but an early loss to UK was their only blemish.