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Letter From the Editor: No Ordinary Autumn

by on August 31, 2017 1:45 PM

It’s the most bustling time of the year.

And for football nuts like me, it’s the most wonderful.

Local students are back in school and the streets of downtown State College are once again busy with Penn State students hurrying to and from classes. The many businesses that benefit from the thousands of visitors who pour into Happy Valley each Penn State football weekend are ready for a banner season.

This is no ordinary autumn. It marks the most anticipated PSU football season in a couple of decades. The Nittany Lions boast two electrifying stars — running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley — both considered Heisman Trophy contenders.

Coming off a surprising and exhilarating Big Ten championship, the Lions are ranked sixth nationally in the coaches poll. The last time Penn State was ranked so highly coming into a season was 1999, when the Lions started at No. 3.

The Nittany Lions didn’t win a conference championship that year. But as they embark on their 25th football season in the Big Ten, the Lions have four titles to their credit, winning in 1994, 2005, and 2008 before last year’s magical run.

Those seasons certainly offered many great moments. But they weren’t the only ones. This month we help the Lions mark their silver anniversary season by looking back at 25 of their top moments during that stretch — as well as a few games we’d just as soon forget.

As a Beaver Stadium regular since 1994, the most fun I’ve had at a game was on October 8, 2005. Playing under the lights on a rainy night, a resurgent Penn State squad upset Ohio State before a raucous crowd that literally shook the stadium.

That game’s on our list, as is a rather lackluster 10-7 win over Illinois on October 29, 2011. It was victory No. 409 for Joe Paterno, breaking Eddie Robinson’s Division I record.

None of us who were there that snowy day could have known it was the end of an era, the last game before everything changed for Penn State football — and for the community.

The Sandusky scandal broke a week later. We won’t trivialize that enormously painful case by including it in this feature, which focuses primarily on highlights and lowlights on the field. But some of the moments we touch on occurred in its wake, as a community worked to heal.

Our list of big Big Ten-era moments was compiled by David Pencek, Town&Gown’s former editorial director, who has been chronicling Penn State football for many years.

What’s the No. 1 moment? Click here see our choice. And let us know what you think!

 

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