Penn State Nittany Lions

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The stately Nittany Lion statue.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are one of the winningest college football teams in history. There are rumors the university fields other sports, such as men's basketball, but this is largely an urban legend. The team competes in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State's Beaver Stadium is the second largest capacity stadium in the universe, only because the average seat size is ten inches larger than the four inches granted by Michigan Stadium got busted screwing over the handicapped.

Warning: this article is about football because no one cares about the other sports.


Since some time in the 1880s, Penn State began playing the sport of football. The first game was against Pitt, who would become Penn State's main rival for the next 113 years. The score is lost to history, but it is widely believed that coach and starting quarterback Joe Paterno scored the winning touchdown. In this era, Penn State would play numerous local schools, athletic clubs, and unruly gangs of local Indians (of the feather variety, as the British had not yet conquered the dot kind). Times were tough, with a 106-0 loss to Lehigh in 1889. While serving as UPenn and Lehigh's punching bag, the 1894 squadron managed to go 6-0-1 with a tie to Navy. It would be the first undefeated season, as well as the first one with no national title to show for it. Did they have national titles back then anyhow? I think Alabama thinks so.

The team rapidly fell apart, with a 3-6 1897 season setting the bar for low points. However, by 1901, the team was winning more games than it was losing. In 1909, the Nittany Lions, as they had now been known for five years, claimed a 5-0-2 record. This season does not get recorded as an undefeated season because two ties is practically a loss. Outings in 1911 and 1912 posted a total of 16 wins, no losses, and one tie. Some sources have awarded the first Penn State national titles to these teams.

By World War I, the Nittany Lions were a rising power in eastern football. In 1922, a journey was made to the Rose Bowl to face Southern California in the school's first bowl game. It was a 14-3 loss. The schedule in this time was typified by teams that are now IAA or really bad Big East teams. But by the late 1940s, teams that now form the backbone of the ACC and the better Big East began to appear, as well as scattered Big XII, Big Ten, and PAC-10 opponents. The ancient times ended for the Nittany Lions in 1959 with a 9-2 campaign that ended with a Liberty Bowl win, in the second ever bowl game appearance.

The Modern Era

Three bowls would follow that Liberty Bowl, marking the times to come. A drought followed and in 1966, Joe Paterno once again assumed the mantle of Penn State Head Coach. After a meager 5-5 start, the Nittany lions rocked off to an 8-2 season and capped it with a tie against the pre-Bobby Bowden Florida State Seminoles. But quickly things would change.

The 1968 squadron descended upon all they saw in their path, like blue and white warriors under the command of Tamerlane. Including crushing Pitt 65-9, back when beating Pitt like that meant something. An undefeated 10 game regular season (this was a long time ago) allowed a journey to what would become PSU's home away from home: the Orange Bowl. They met a rowdy Kansas Jayhawks (yeah it felt weird to type that) team that struggled vainly. With a 15-14 win, Penn State finished undefeated and let the fruits of no national title not drip down their chins.

Seeking to further garnish national accolades, the Nittany Lions once again decided to go undefeated and beat another Big XII team in the Orange Bowl, this time Missouri 10-3. Once again, there was no national title despite going 22-0 in their last 22 games and 29-0-1 in their last 30. Like the Boise State of their time, they were, because all the Eastern teams sucked. It was hard to get the team up for the next year, and a 7-3 record was scrapped together. The Gator Bowl or something like that offered an invite but Joe Paterno was tired of going to Florida and stayed home.

1971 began the 11 game regular season, and Penn State once again crushed their opponents, putting up 60+ points twice back when that sort of thing was harder. A late season loss to Tennessee ended any sort of unrecognized national title hopes, and Texas was then defeated in the Cotton Bowl to end an 11-1 season. The next season started off with another loss to the Volunteers and capped with a loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. But the fourth team of the 1970s had other ideas: on their way to another undefeated season, they won 11 games and were slated to play LSU in the Orange Bowl. PSU met LSU and achieved their first 12-0 season ever. John Cappelletti, a white running back, won the Heisman Trophy that year. He was PSU's only Heisman winner and the last white running back drafted in the first round by the NFL. He's also the guy that says "did he get it?" when the other guy is yelling "Phalen is down there" and "FLUTIE DID IT" in that game where that cereal guy threw that pass that won a game or something. But another undefeated was named national champions.

This was because President Nixon overstepped his Constitutional authority and proclaimed the Texas Longhorns to the 1973 national champions, a move that would start off his fall from grace and public office. Penn State celebrated Nixon's resignation by going 10-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl. The 1975 campaign ended with a loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a dark cloud foretelling of what was soon to follow. After an 11 win year in 1978, including the Fiesta Bowl back when it was one of those bowls like the Roady's Truck Stop Weedeater Tire Bowl presented by Taco Bell's new Chulpa Wrap that happens on December 11th an features the 4th best WAC team against some MAC team you thought was IAA. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Penn State then rode into the Sugar Bowl to face BEAR BRYANT and his legion of angry southerners once more. Commanding an 18 game winning streak, Penn State was informed that victory against the Alabama Red Elephants would finally grant them the long dreamt of national title.

Late in that fateful Sugar Bowl, a nightmarish series of red zone failures and inexplicable offensive playcalling that was decades ahead of its time cost Penn State the game in a 14-7 defeat. Alabama would claim its 28th national title. Penn State, it seemed, would have to wait for another day. In defeat the next season, Penn State decided to win the Liberty Bowl again. However, a new era was dawning. Tired of those shitty eastern teams cramping its style, the schedule began to feature big teams that people outside of Maryland had heard of. Nebraska, Ohio State, Miami (who was on the rise), Pitt (who was winning national titles when Alabama was too busy to win them), and other megaliths of time began to bolster the schedule. Penn State had its eye on a national title and would not be denied.

The 1980s

The 1980 season ended with another 10 wins and a defeat of Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The game is a curiosity now, as it is the only time Penn State had to play a future Big Ten partner in a bowl. Operation National Title began in 1981, with Nebraska, Miami, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Pitt appearing on the slate. Southern California was the bowl victim that season, and PSU headed into 1982 with a fearsome schedule and national media attention.

Parallel to these events, Penn State was trying to organize the eastern independents into a conference. But they didn't want to have anything to do with that. What really happened isn't really known and probably never will be. But the important thing is Paterno tried to form the Big East, sorta, but it didn't take. So secret negotiations began between Penn State and the Big Ten.

Despite losing an early game to Alabama and narrowly escaping Nebraska, Penn State once more returned to the Sugar Bowl's murky depths. On that fateful day in 1983, Penn State would again face an SEC opponent with both in the title hunt. But Penn State would prevail, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs on their very field their dreams were crushed not four years before. Shortly thereafter, Bear Bryant was summoned to Heaven to coach a team of angels, and the curse was lifted throughout the land.

The next few years, Penn State went dormant, biding its time until 1985. After posting an 11 win regular season, they returned to the Orange Bowl for another national title. But Brian Bosworth was a dirty fucker and probably did blow on the sidelines, and Oklahoma won. I mean it was Miami and the mid 80s, everyone was probably coked out of their minds so you can figure Bosworth had to be. Undeterred, Penn State pressed on. Penn State roared through the 1986 season undefeated. Events were about occur the likes of which had never been seen before.

The 1987 Fiesta Bowl

Now, gentle reader, you may be wondering "why does some bowl game get a whole section." I'll tell you why. Heading into the bowl games, for the first time, two of the independents were undefeated. A smart guy at NBC realized some bowl game could snap up the #1 and #2 teams and make them play. Never before had such a thing happened! The big four of the day (Rose, Cotton, Orange, and Sugar) all had tie-ins with conferences so the two indie teams could go anywhere. The lowly Fiesta Bowl had just managed to acquire Sunkist's sponsorship, marking the first time a bowl game got a corporate name. The Fiesta Bowl people got #2 Penn State to agree pretty quick. Paterno was 3-0 in Tempe and figured what's another win, like, 100% likely right? The Fiesta Bowl also agreed to move the game off January 1st to January 2nd and into prime time (another first! A post New Years Day bowl!) Armed with NBC and Sunkist's money, the Fiesta Bowl spread rumors that Jimmy Johnson was afraid of playing Paterno with his #1 ranked Hurricanes. Instead of heading to their home stadium to play the Orange Bowl, the Canes agreed to play in the Fiesta Bowl. And it was on.

Incredible levels of hype began to build up. The flashy and show Miami team was cast as the villian and the upright and humble Nittany Lions were the good guys. When the Canes arrived in Arizona, dressed in fatigues, they seemed to have decided to show up to the party in costume. Penn State, on the other hand, wore suits. Later, after words were exchanged at a banquet for both teams, Miami walked out. Jerome Brown announced, in his fatigues (seriously you couldn't have made this shit up) "Did the Japanese sit down and eat with Pearl Harbor before they bombed them? No. We're outta here." John Bruno, the mere punter for PSU, retorted "Excuse me, but didn't the Japanese lose the war?" And with that, a full on battle for the ages was joined. In a pre-game press conference, Brown said that PSU QB John Shaffer was "about to star in a nightmare."

Once the game actually happened, Penn State settled into a familiar pattern of being unable to do anything on offense. Miami, however, racked up huge numbers but just could not get into the endzone. However, slowly it became apparent that ninth year senior quarterback for Miami, a 32 year old Vinny Testaverde, was about to be the one starring in a nightmare. Despite moving the ball, the game was tied 7-7 at the half. Shane Conlan, who made the linebacker #31 glorious before Paul Posluszny would render QBs impotent, would get the first PSU interception of the night in the third quarter. It would not be the last. Early in the fourth, another inteception. For reasons unclear, Penn State began dropping as many as eight men into coverage, but Miami kept throwing the ball. Suddenly, Miami couldn't complete passes either. And kept trying to. And Penn State made three interceptions.

With just under 12 minutes to play, Miami scored a field goal to go up 10-7. Not long after, Conlan intercepted another pass, his second and the fourth of the night, and set up the go-ahead TD for PSU. Now with a 14-10 lead, Penn State would rely on their defense to save the day once more. A fumble was forced late in the game, but the Nittany Lion offense could not move the ball again. With 3:18 left to play, Miami got the ball once more. A minute later, another interception was nearly thrown but had been dropped by the defender. With a fourth and long situation on their own 26, Miami made a long pass and was suddenly driving down field. Only 45 seconds remained, and Miami was second and goal on the Penn State five.

The defense stood tall, sacking Testaverde. An incompletion on third down. With 18 seconds left, the Miami huddle wanted to run. But Testaverde called for a pass. He dropped back and in what can only be described as a fit of confusion, threw into at least triple and probably quadruple coverage. A Canadian linebacker by the name of Giftopoulos pulled down interception #5. Penn State had triumped on the biggest stage ever.

The game carried 25.1%, or 70 viewers. No college football game before or since has ever been rated higher. ESPN dubbed it the night college football went to hell. The game was never the same again.

The Rest of the 80s


The Big Ten

Penn State joined the struggling Big Ten in 1993, ending a century of independence. The reasoning behind this was that Penn State was tired of dominating its traditional Eastern rivals. In the Big Ten, it was believed that losing anywhere from three to nine games a season would be more exciting than an endless string of 10 and 11 win seasons. The suspense now in every game would bring about a renaissance in Penn State football. In 1994, Nebraska coach Tom Osbourne would bribe pollsters and rob Penn State of its third title. Quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Ki-Jana Carter would go on to have terrible NFL careers.

Penn State returned to national prominence in 1999, beginning the season ranked as high as #2. Lavar Arrington, noted linebacker who had not yet propelled a motorcycle into a fixed obstacle, commanded a defense that laid waste to all that were arrayed before them. However, due to a scheduling error, the team only believed there were nine games in the 1999 season. This mistake proved costly, as the raining intramural flag football champion had to take the field against Minnesota, Michigan, and Michigan State. A 9-3 record was good enough to make Alamo Bowl, and beat up on some Big 12 team, when the real team showed up again. Embarrassed by this turn of events, there was no IA team fielded by Penn State in 2000 and 2001. Due to popular demand, Larry Johnson and Zack Mills broke into the old team locker room, stole jerseys, and played some games against the Big Ten. The unsanctioned Penn State team would post a 9-4 record on the year, with complete bullshit losses to Iowa and Michigan. So bullshit that that's why you get to hear "the previous play is under review" now.

In 2004, Penn State played arguably its greatest game. The Iowa Hawkeyes, however, narrowly outsmarted a Joe Paterno's epic defense and posted a 6-4 win in front of a sell-out crowd of baffled fans.

The 2005 Nittany Lions went undefeated, however, Michigan Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr successfully lobbied for the game to last one second longer than regulation. Michigan claims to have won in this extra second, but everyone knows Michigan is a pack of liars, cheaters, and alcoholics. The team would then go on to defeat an undeserving Florida State in an Orange Bowl that lasted three days. Fifteen players were killed.

Current Events

Anthony Morelli, the greatest quarterback to play Pennsylvania High School football since Dan Marino, is now hated by the entire Penn State fan base. Derrick Williams, the lord our savior, decided to win only 40 games instead of blessing Penn State's fan base with a national championship. However, he did cure cancer, AIDs, and Penn State's football program in his spare time.

Recently, the entire student body came out in support of pedophilia. This was a stark contrast to the school's previous stance of pretending that pedophiles did not exist.

Noted Players

The rosters of Penn State football squads have held some of the greatest men ever to go on and have terrible NFL careers.

Other Sports

Occasionally other sports are fielded by Penn State, but only when they post a winning record. Rumors of a men's basketball team frequently appear. However, the squadron of five men that take to the court certainly are not playing any sort of basketball that this author has seen before. The Womens Basketball Teams frequently dominates the Big 10 only to lose in the sweet 16 to The University of Connecticut on an almost perennial basis. Head Coach Renee Portland, according to several players that she kicked off the team, really hates Lesbians. The Men's and Women's Volleyball teams are highly competitive, and the NCAA championship is occasionally held at the Bryce Jodan Center in State College.

Known Fans

There are several known Penn State fans, ranging from the mild and freshly showered Sash! to the somewhat unbalanced Komet. Other fans include CarnageAsada, Toona, JungleMan, SquirrelyPSU, and a few other people whose names are forgotten to the sands of time.

Adopt a Major

As part of an offshoot of Adopt A Mid-Major, SAS posters who were already fans of mid-major programs got to upgrade to cheer for a team whose games they don't have to watch on ESPNU Tuesday at 10 PM. Hagetaka chose Penn State for some nebulous family connection, and vague sense of gratitude for Penn State letting his Golden Eagles suck the hind-tit of a 40-6 payout game.



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