Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Did You Know (or Care): The pre- and post-Paterno era

c/o Kristin
Penn State was recently defeated by Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, 30-14. It was the Nittany Lions’ first bowl game without longtime head coach Joe Paterno in a nearly a half-century. Such an unprecedented run got me curious about Penn State’s last postseason appearance without the legendary “Joe Pa” at the helm. What I found damn-near brought a tear to my eye.

The 1962 Gator Bowl (played on December 29 in Jacksonville, Florida) pitted Penn State against the Florida Gators. Led by head coach Charles “Rip” Engle, the Nittany Lions – ranked #9 nationally and winners of nine out of 10 games – were openly disappointed to be playing a second tier bowl game against a team that had struggled to a mediocre 6-4 record.

Feeling slighted by these ruffians from way up north, the Gators responded by placing a Confederate Battle Flag decal on the side of their helmets. The Lions reportedly mocked the sentiment before kickoff, but they were whistlin’ Dixie afterward. The heavy underdog Gators defeated Penn State, 17-7.

Coach Engle steered the Lions for 16 seasons, leading PSU to a respectable 104-48-4 record during his tenure. His retirement in 1965 led to the promotion of a young assistant who ultimately earned two national championships (should’ve been three) and victories in 24 bowl games en route to setting the all-time wins record on the highest level of college football.

Paterno’s departure may have been tenuous at best. But his legend is incontestably permanent.

Sources: The Helmet Project & The Florida Times-Union

1 comment:

Dan said...

Deo Vindice