This is Part II of a series exploring the long time rivalry between Penn State and Syracuse which originally ran one year ago. Comments were left in due to popular demand. Power to the people and the whole bit.
Yesterday we explored the early years of the rivalry between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Syracuse Orange. Up until 1950 they were just two powerful eastern teams that played each other. It wasn't until the 1950's that the gloves came off and this casual series blossomed into a full blown rivalry.
The 1950's - The Hatred Grows
1950 - You could say the Penn State team of 1950 resembled the present day Michigan team. Rip Engle was appointed as the new head coach in the spring. He didn't join the team until the tail end of spring practice when he informed the assistant coaches and players they were going to learn the Wing-T offense and install it in time for the season.
After a win against Georgetown and a blowout loss at the hands of Army, the Lions struggled to generate any offense against Syracuse in week three. The Orange crowded the line of scrimmage taking away State's power running game and forcing them to move the ball by passing with their inexperienced quarterback. The plan worked to perfection as Penn State had three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns as the Nittany Lions lost 27-7 at Archbold Stadium. The eight game winning streak was snapped.
1951 - Penn State had struggled its way to a 3-3 record before Syracuse came to Beaver Field that year. Syracuse was also 3-3 as both teams were desperate for a win to avoid a losing season. Rip Engle started four freshmen on defense to shake things up, and the game was tied 7-7 late into the first half. But then Penn State put together their best half of the season and blew the game wide open winning 32-7.
1952 - Penn State was looking extremely impressive in 1952. Wins over West Virginia, Nebraska, and Penn had the Nittany Lions riding high despite a loss to #1 Michigan State. But Syracuse had high hopes of their own, and Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder had personally traveled to Philadelphia to scout the Nittany Lions' game against Penn the week before. Penn State was slightly favored in the game, but Syracuse dominated them by outgaining them 287 to 48 in rushing yards for the game. The final score wasn't much better as the Orange won easily 25-7. The loss cost Penn State a likely invitation to the Cotton Bowl.
1953 - The Nittany Lions were very upset about the loss to Syracuse in 1952, and when the Orange came to down for the home opener in mid October they were set on getting revenge. Syracuse took an early lead on a 78 yard scoring drive in the first quarter. Then late in the third quarter they picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. With just over a quarter to play and a 14 point deficit it looked like Penn State was going to suffer their second straight loss to the Orange.
But Penn State took the kickoff and responded with a 76 yard scoring drive. Then they recovered a Syracuse fumble and drove down to the Syracuse three yard line where they faced a fourth and goal. Penn State called a timeout and quarterback Tony Rados ran to the sideline to discuss the situation with Engle and a young assistant coach named Joe Paterno. On the ensuing play Rados faked two handoffs before pitching the ball to Lenny Moore who glided into the endzone to tie the score.
Penn State called a timeout with a minute left in the game forcing Syracuse to punt the ball. Jim Garrity smashed through the line and blocked the kick returning it 23 yards for a go ahead touchdown. State missed the PAT making the score 20-14. But Syracuse wasn't done yet. They returned a short kickoff, and then after completing a pass and a penalty called on Penn State they had the ball at the PSU 40 yard line. The quarterback heaved the ball into the endzone, but Lenny Moore intercepted it and darted up the sideline. He was pushed out of bounds into the Syracuse bench, and then all hell broke loose. Somebody jumped on Moore, and his Penn State teammates ran to his defense. Fists and bodies were flying all over the place among players and coaches. Fans were jumping out of the stands to join the melee. The fighting went on for several minutes before order was finally restored. Penn State took a knee, ran out the final ten seconds of the game and walked off the field with their revenge for the 1952 upset.
1954 - Both teams expected fireworks after the brawl the previous season, but the game was relatively uneventful and Penn State won 13-0.
1955 - Old timers will tell you the 1955 game against Syracuse was the greatest football game in Penn State history. It featured two future NFL hall of fame running backs going toe to toe in Syracuse's Jim Brown and Penn State's Lenny Moore.
Both men carried their offenses that day smashing through the line play after play. One guy would score and then the other would respond. And they often found themselves meeting head to head as both guys also played defense and had to tackle each other all day. But at the end of the day it was Moore and the Nittany Lions who came out on top 21-20. In a day and age where it was rare to see a guy get more than 10 or 15 carries their final statistics were jaw dropping. Brown carried the ball for 159 yards on 20 carries, caught two passes, scored three touchdowns, kicked two extra points (missing one), ran back three kickoffs for 95 yards and intercepted a pass. Moore carried the ball 22 times for 146 yards and a touchdown.
1956 - The 1956 game was one that would linger in the minds of Penn State fans for years. Syracuse came in at 4-1 and flirting with a top ten ranking and a possible bowl bid. Penn State was 5-1 and ranked #12 after an improbable 7-6 win over #5 ranked Ohio State in Columbus. This was one of those epic battles for east coast supremacy.
Penn State played a sloppy game lossing three fumbles and throwing three interceptions, but remarkably still hung on to a 9-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Syracuse scored a touchdown to take a fourth quarter lead. Then with 1:49 left in the game the Orange were forced to punt the ball.
Engle went to substitute in his star player Milt Plum, but Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder protested the move. According to the rules of the day, when you took a player out of the game they could not return until the next quarter, unless it was the last four mintues of the second or fourth quarters in which case a player could return if he had played earlier in that quarter. Engle and his coaches argued that Plum was eligible to return, but the officials agreed with Syracuse and marked off a 15 yard penalty against Penn State. Penn State would go on to lose the game by a 13-9 score.
Furious, Engle obtained a tape of the game and showed it to the Daily Collegian who reported that Plum was indeed eligible to return. Given Plum's history of late game theatrics, State fans were convinced they would have won the game if he had been on the field. But it was too late to do anything about it, and Syracuse would go on to finish #8 in the country and play in the Cotton Bowl.
1957 - Penn State had squandered a #19 preseason ranking into a 2-2 record before they played the Orange. Syracuse was looking good at 3-0-1 when the six-point underdog Nittany Lions came to town.
Penn State was clinging to a 13-12 lead just before the half when they thought they had a sure touchdown pass from Richie Lucas to Bucky Paolone. But the referees ruled Paolone was stopped an inch short of the goal line as the clock ran out. Paolone argued vehemently, but as was usually the case the refs sided with Syracuse leading Penn State fans to futher suspect hijinx.
The score held at 13-12 through most of the second half until Lucas, who Paterno had questioned if he was ready to start, pulled off a brilliant play. He faked a handoff so well it fooled everyone in the stadium including the CBS camera crew covering the game. Then he rolled right and threw a pass to the open man in endzone. The extra point made it 20-12 and Penn State held on for the upset loss on the road.
1958 - By 1958 the budding rivalry had turned into full blown hatred between the two schools. Schwartzwalder was furious over the 1957 upset as well as the fact he had dropped five of the last seven against Penn State and ten in a row on Beaver Field going back to 1934.
Syracuse won the game 14-6, but the 27,000 State fans on hand that day were convinced the referees were determined to not let them win that day. The lead referee, who was a graduate of the Syracuse law school, called penalty after penalty on Penn State all afternoon. Seemingly every significant gain by State was called back on illegal shift or Illegal procedure penalties. The Nittany Lions were penalized seven times for 55 yards while Syracause didn't get called for a single penalty until there was less than a minute to go in the game. An angry Rip Engle would call it "the worst refereeing I've seen in 28 years."
1959 - Both teams came into the November contest at Beaver Field unbeaten and ranked in the top ten in the country. Penn State was ranked #7 while the Orange were ranked #4. All eyes in the country were on this matchup as most people believed the winner would end up as the eventual National Champion.
Penn State missed a PAT and trailed 7-6 at the half. Syracuse scored two touchdowns in the third quarter but missed a PAT of their own to take a 20-6 lead. Roger Kochman responded for the Lions returning the the kickoff for a touchdown. Engle elected to go for two to get back the missed PAT from earlier, but the pass fell incomplete and the attempt failed. Later with 5 minutes to go Penn State blocked a punt and fell on it at the Syracuse 1-yard line. One play later they scored to pull within two points at 20-18. Once again Engle elected to go for two, and once again Penn State was denied. Syracuse would recover the onside kick and run out the remaining four minutes off the clock escaping State College with a two point victory.
"Two points," Rip Engle would say after the game. "They kicked the points and we didn't." Syracuse would go on to finish undefeated and claim their first and only National Championship in school history. Penn State lost one other game to Pitt, but then played Alabama in the Liberty Bowl where they won 7-0.
1960 - The 1960 game once again featured suspicious officiating. Penn State was playing #4 Syracuse on the road. The game was tied 7-7 in the third quarter when Syracuse intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. On their next drive the Orange drove 68 yards for another touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
Penn State was stuffed on the one foot line, but forced Syracuse to punt out of their own endzone. Galen Hall (yes, that Galen Hall), drove the Lions down the field and connected on a three yard touchdown pass to Dick Pae and then ran a bootleg for the two point conversion. Trailing by six, State managed to stop the Orange at midfield and get the ball back at their 11 yard line with two and a half minutes to go in the game and no time-outs. By throwing deep and working the sidelines Penn State was able to get down to the Syracuse 12 yard line with a minute to go. Hall completed a pass on the sideline at the three yard line. The official ruled it a catch, but the referee came running across the field and overruled it out of bounds. On second down with 30 seconds to go Hall ran on an option play and was stopped in bounds at the four yard line for a first down. In doing so he lost his shoe. With the clock running he asked for time to fix his shoe, but the ref told him to "play ball."Hall jumped under center and on third down he threw an incomplete pass to stop the clock. Once again he asked for time to fix his shoe, and once again the ref denied him. So with one shoe Hall attempted a fourth down pass into the endzone that was batted away and Penn State lost the game.
It may be weak to say Hall's shoe was the difference in the game, but for Penn State fans it was more proof the officials were against them and in favor of Syracuse.
1961 - The game in 1961 featured, you guessed it, more controversy with the officials. Just prior to the half Rip Engle felt the officials had ignored a pass interference call in the endzone that took away a Penn State score. Engle was so furious he chased after the referees when the first half ended and chased them all the way to the lockerroom. After giving them a piece of his mind he got confused and walked into the Syracuse lockerroom instead of his own.
But the sting wasn't so bad this year as Penn State managed to pull out a 14-0 victory and go on to play Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
1962 - Penn State jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Syracuse came fighting back. With just a few seconds left in the game the Orange had an opportunity for a 34 yard field goal to win the game. But Penn State blocked the kick and held on for the 20-19 victory.
Penn State would go on to drop the contests in 1963, 1964 and 1965 due to several turnovers and mistakes.
The Paterno Era
1966- As we all know, the Paterno era got off to a rocky 5-5 start. In order to rally the students behind the team and her husband, Sue Paterno, along with a group of wives of the assistant coaches, slipped through the cover of night to drape the Nittany Lion shrine in orange paint. It worked, as State fans were in a rage come kickoff time. But it wasn't enough to overcome the Orange that day. The sad thing was that Paterno had outsmarted Schwartzwalder and still lost.
Penn State was clinging to a 10-6 third quarter lead when Syracuse lined up in punt formation. Paterno yelled out to safety Tim Montgomery, "They're going to pass, Timmy!"
Montgomery shouted back, "Yeah I know coach!" But Montgomery slipped on the play and the Orange passed for a first down. Eight plays later Larry Csonka scored and Syracuse won the game 10-12.
After that, pwned.
The 70's and 80's were the glory days of Penn State football, while Syracuse was flirting with the Big East and focusing more on basketball. But the endless losing festered inside the hearts of Orange fans, and Penn State fans who attended that 48-21 drubbing at the Carrier Dome in 1987 will tell you they were thankful to get out of Syracuse with their lives.
The End of the Rivalry
Sadly the rivalry came to an end in 1990. Paterno tried to keep the eastern rivalries alive by trying to organize his famous "Eastern Conference" to include the Orange, West Virginia, Pitt, Rutgers, Temple, Maryland, and others.
Coach Robinson just said he got the feeling from Syracuse people that they were upset about the ending of the rivalry, and if it was up to them, they'd like to play Penn State every year. Can you take us back to how it ended and your feeling on the loss of certain East coast rivalries?
Oh, boy. I tell the story over a hundred times. I wanted us to have an Eastern conference. Syracuse and a couple other people were all wrapped up in basketball, Big East basketball. I thought I had almost pulled it off.
Then Pitt backed out and the Big East, Dave Gavitt, and John Toner who was up at Connecticut at the time. And contrary to what anybody tells you in the Big East, they tried to get us to go into it just for basketball. And I said no, we want an all sports conference, and I couldn't swing it. They wouldn't go along with me. So we had to make up our mind. I felt at that time, we're talking 20 years ago, maybe, I felt at that time since the Southeastern Conference had started to work away from the CFA and started working toward their own television contract, that we were going to be left out in the cold unless we had some kind of an arrangement with some schools.
So we took a shot at the Big Ten, the Big Ten took us, and that was the end of it. We only had X number of games that we could play outside of the conference. We had to have seven home games, got to be home at home.
I'm repeating my problem with Pitt. We'd play Pitt if we could get them to come up here a couple of times. For one, we'd do the same thing with Syracuse. But we need seven home games, and it's tough to do if you've got to play home and home with everybody.
But what Paterno doesn't tell you is that his plan involved splitting revenue from all sports except football, which the other schools were not willing to go for as that would have cemented Penn State's place as the big fish in the little pond. So Joe turned west to the Big Ten and Syracuse stayed in the Big East. And the rest is history.