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Letter from the Editor: Recognizing Greatness

by on August 30, 2019 10:37 AM

As Penn State kicked off its 1995 football season, one fashion statement at Beaver Stadium struck a chord with me.

It was a shirt featuring helmets of the Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, one facemask facing the other. Underneath were these words: ANY TIME! ANY PLACE!!

The shirt embodied the frustration many Penn State fans felt following the 1994 season, when the Nittany Lions went 12-0 but could only watch as pollsters declared the Cornhuskers (13-0) the national champs. This was in the era before the College Football Playoff, and the teams – then playing in different conferences – never met that season.

Fans were confident that had that ’94 Penn State squad – an offensive machine that featured the likes of Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, and Bobby Engram – been given the opportunity, it would have taken care of Nebraska the same way it did everyone else that season. But instead, Penn State had to settle for a No. 2 ranking despite a perfect season.

It was a snub the Nittany Lions’ program and its fans were used to. Ten previous Penn State squads dating all the way to 1894 finished unbeaten but were not generally recognized as national champions. Of the 12 Penn State teams that have gone unbeaten (we won’t count the 2-0 juggernaut from 1887), only the 1986 squad wore the crown as clear national champs.

To celebrate those 11 others, and to rekindle discussion and debate, the Penn State All-Sports Museum is featuring an exhibit called Unbeaten & Uncrowned: 11 Teams 100 Years. This month in Town&Gown, David Pencek takes a look back at some of those great Penn State teams for which perfection was seen as somehow not enough.

By the way, the Lions and ’Huskers finally met in 2002 at Beaver Stadium. Players from the 1994 squads had long since moved on, of course. But at least some in the raucous crowd of 110,753 may have celebrated Penn State’s 40-7 win under the lights with a little extra gusto.

 

 

Mark Brackenbury

Editorial Director

[email protected]

 

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