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Penn State Football: It Is A Piece Of Beaver Stadium History As Top 10 Nittany Lions Host Top 10 Buckeyes

by on September 24, 2018 3:30 PM

In the kind of prose so emblematic of the era, Penn State's Roger Kochman was described as a "blonde haired sophomore from Pittsburgh who runs like a deer and maneuvers like an eel."

It was the biggest play of the game in a 1959 meeting between No.7 Penn State and No.4 Syracuse at Beaver Field. A crowd of 34,000 watching as Kochman followed blocks and danced around defenders for a 100-yard kickoff return that would give the Nittany Lions a last gasp chance to pull off the upset before eventually losing 20-18.

At the time it was the highest profile game to be played in State College and only the second time Penn State had faced a top 10 team while ranked in the top 10 in the program's history. A lone 1947 Cotton Bowl tie to SMU was the first and only occurrence up until that point.

In 1960 when Beaver Stadium opened in its original form it would mark the beginning of a new era that would see Penn State rise even farther up the ranks of college football's elite. With it the stakes would only become higher and higher.

Decades later the allure of the big game still remains, the thought of top 10 teams taking the same field is the sort of thing everyone dreams of watching. It's what makes sports so great, those moments when it's Goliath against Goliath. No more guessing, no more hypothesizing, just 60 minutes to find an answer. At the end the winner will be a step closer to making title aspirations a reality, playoff hopes something tangible and real.

Those games are rare, though. It requires the stars aligning just right for two teams to meet so highly ranked in the regular season. 

For Penn State this weekend's contest against Ohio State is one of those moments, just the 14th time Beaver Stadium's history that the hosts and visitors have both been ranked in the top 10. Penn State is 8-5 in those games so far, but just 2-3 when the underdog heading into them.

Here are the previous 13.

1975: No. 9 vs. No. 10 West Virginia (39-0 win)

It took 15 years before Beaver Stadium finally had its first top 10 clash, a meeting with No. 10 ranked West Virginia headed by coach Bobby Bowden just a year before heading to his post at Florida State. The Nittany Lions dominated the game winning 39-0 for the 21st straight victory over the Mountaineers. 

1976: No. 7 vs. No. 2 Ohio State (12-7 loss)

Nothing screams an early season test like playing Ohio State in the second week of the year. Penn State was coming off a 15-12 win over Stanford the week prior but a 7-5 season awaited the Nittany Lions this year. Penn State would fall 12-7 to the Buckeyes while scoring just six points the next week in a 7-6 loss to Iowa. 

1977: No. 10 vs. No. 9 Houston (31-14 win)

The home opener in 1977 after beating Rutgers the week prior at Giants Stadium, this win was the first for Penn State as a top 10 team over a higher ranked top 10 team. Penn State would go on to finish the season ranked fifth in the nation and 11-1 on the year after a loss against Kentucky two weeks later.

1978: No. 2 vs. No. 5 Maryland (27-3 win)

Penn State was rolling at this point of the season and with a defense that had given up more than 20 points just twice all season, the Terps were in trouble in this one. Penn State would go on to finish 11-1 yet again, but a Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama would remaining the defining moment of the season. Even so, this win was as important as any to get to that point.

1980: No. 5 vs. No. 4 Pitt (14-9 loss)

The Nittany Lions had already lost once this season early on in the year to Nebraska, but with the Pitt rivalry as hot as it had ever been, losing in the final home game of the regular season was a tough one to swallow. Penn State would go on to beat Ohio State 31-19 in the Fiesta Bowl but Pitt would have the last laugh at least for a year.

1981: No. 5 vs. No. 6 Alabama (31-16 loss)

Bear Bryant was in his 24th season this year and Beaver Stadium packed in nearly 2,000 more people than official capacity to see the two powerhouse programs goes toe-to-toe. The trip was Alabama's only one out of the south that year and while the Tide won the SEC that season, a 9-2-1 record put a damper on an otherwise successful campaign that included this win.

1982: No. 8 vs. No. 2 Nebraska and No. 2 vs. No. 5 Pitt

The 1982 season is remembered for the drama of winning a national title and a back-and-forth Sugar Bowl against Georgia for the national title, but it doesn't happen without these games. A week four meeting against Nebraska culminated with a close 27-24 victory before losing at Alabama the very next week. A season-ending 19-10 victory over Pitt would send the Nittany Lions to that fateful Sugar Bowl and first-ever national title.

1985: No. 8 vs. No. 10 Alabama (19-17 win)

It was a newer looking Alabama team with Ray Perkins on the sideline in his third season at Alabama as Penn State won yet another close game against the Tide en route to an 11-1 season and a 25-10 loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. This was Penn State's second win over a ranked opponent that year, having beaten No. 7 Maryland on the road, 20-18, to open the season.

1992: No. 7 vs. No. 2 Miami (17-14 loss)

It was Penn State's first loss of the year after a 5-0 start that ended at 7-5. Across the field Miami would go 11-1, losing in the Sugar Bowl to Alabama. Canes' quarterback Gino Torretta went on to win nearly every individual award by the year's end including the Heisman Trophy. Penn state would turn the corner next season going 22-2 over the next two years.

1997: No. 2 vs. No. 7 Ohio State and No. 2 vs. No. 4 Michigan 

If the 1990s are remembered for anything in Penn State football history, it might be the quality football coupled with a decade of "almost" when it comes to national titles. Penn State would finish the season 9-3, but starting the season ranked No. 1 overall and a 31-27 victory over Ohio State certainly had national title hopes center frame. Michigan beat the Nittany Lions 34-8 at Beaver Stadium in the second week of November to crush those hopes. A loss to Michigan State to close out the regular season and then a 21-6 defeat to Florida in the Citrus Bowl marked a bumpy end to a hopeful year.

1999: No. 3 vs. No. 4 Arizona (41-7 win)

The last time Penn State has hosted a top 10 team while ranked a top 10 team was one to remember. This game was as over as quickly as it began with Penn State winning 41-7 on the way to a 10-3 record that was once again full of national title hopes until a freak ending to the Minnesota game in early November sent those hopes spiraling.


In total Penn State has played 44 games as a top 10 team against another top 10 team, posting a 22-21-1 record in those contests.

1947: No. 4 vs. No. 3 SMU 13-13 tie (Citrus Bowl)

1959: No. 7 vs. No. 4 Syracuse 20-18 loss 

--Beaver Stadium opens--

1968: No. 3 vs. No.6 Kansas 15-14 win (Orange Bowl)

1969: No. 2 vs. No. 6 Missouri 10-3 win (Orange Bowl)

1972: No. 6 @ No.7 Tennessee 28-21 loss

         No. 5 vs. No.2 Oklahoma 14-0 loss (Sugar Bowl)

1975: No. 7 @ No. 3 Ohio State 17-9 loss

         No. 9 vs. No. 19 WVU 39-0 win

         No. 8 vs. No. 4 Alabama 13-6 loss (Sugar Bowl)

1976: No. 7 vs. No.2 Ohio State 12-7 loss

1977: No. 10 vs. No. 9 Houston 31-14 win

         No. 9 @ No.10 Pitt 15-13 win

1978: No.5 @ No.6 Ohio State 19-0 win

         No. 2 vs. No. 5 Maryland 27-3 win

         No. 1 vs. No. 2 Alabama 14-7 loss (Sugar Bowl)

1980: No. 5 vs. No. 4 Pitt 14-9 loss

1981: No. 5 vs. No.6  Alabama 31-16 loss

         No.7 vs. No.8 USC 26-10 win (Fiesta Bowl)

1982: No. 8 vs. No. 2 Nebraska 27-24 win

         No. 3 @ No.4 Alabama 42-21 loss

         No. 2 vs. No.5 Pitt 19-10 win

         No. 2 vs. No. 1 Georgia 27-23 win (Sugar Bowl)

1983: No.4 v No.1 Nebraska 44-6 loss (Giants Stadium)

1984: No.4 v @No.2 Texas 28-3 loss

1985: No.8 v No.10 Alabama 19-17 win

         No.1 v @No.3 Oklahoma 25-10 loss (Orange Bowl)

1986: No.6 v @No.2 Alabama 23-3 win

         No.2 v @No.1 Miami 14-10 win (Fiesta Bowl)

1991: No.7 vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech 34-33 win (Giants Stadium)

         No. 9  @ No. 2 Miami 26-20 loss

         No. 6 vs. No. 10 Tennessee 42-17 win (Fiesta Bowl)

1992: No. 7 vs. No. 2 Miami 17-14 loss

1994: No. 3 @ No.5 Michigan 31-24 win

1996: No. 4  @ No.3 Ohio State 38-7 loss

1997: No. 2 vs. No.7 Ohio State 31-27 win

         No. 2 vs. No.4 Michigan 34-8 loss

1998: No. 7 @ No.1 Ohio State 28-9 loss

1999: No. 3 vs. No. 4 Arizona 41-7 win

         No. 3 @ No.8 Miami 27-23 win

2008: No. 3 @ No. 10 Ohio State 13-6 win

         No. 6 vs. No. 5 USC 38-24 loss (Rose Bowl)

2016: No. 8 vs. No. 6 Wisconsin 38-31 win (Big Ten Championship Game)

         No. 5 vs. No. 9 USC 52-49 loss (Rose Bowl)

2017: No. 2 @ No. 6 Ohio State  39-38 loss

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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