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Penn State - To Understand '94, Go Back to '82

Brian at the Michigan blog mgoblog found my 1997 Nebraska-Michigan split national title post and wonders why I'd bring up 1997 all over again. Well, I just turned 45 years old - an old man in the demographics of the blogosphere - and that's what happens as you get older. You start reminiscing about the good old days. Or it could be, as my lovely wife points out, that I have to bring up the past every chance I get. With every bad call made during football season, I can point out similar calls made throughout the past forty years, sometimes for hours. She loves it. I know she does.

As if that weren't enough, Mike over at the Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries latches onto Brian's post, specifically this part:

What I would like to see from Nebraska fans is an admission that Penn State deserved a share of the '94 title, which they did.

and he starts going on about how Penn State got screwed in 1994. He gives all sorts of really good reasons as to why the '94 version of Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions were deserving. In order to understand why Nebraskans aren't willing to grant half of OUR national title to Penn State you have to go back further (hold on to your shorts) all the way to 1982, which is probably before most of you young whippersnappers were born.

The Nebraska - Penn State '82 game - I remember it like it was, oh about twenty-some years ago. I was in my second year at Nebraska. Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, and Irving Fryar had yet to become legends. Penn State had Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner. We'd snuck a keg into a room in Schramm and were having a helluva good time watching the game until (UNTIL) the end when Penn State got a call on a pass to the two yard line that was clearly out of bounds. Todd Blackledge to Mike McCloskey. It was quite possibly one of the worst calls in football history - even McCloskey admitted he was out of bounds years later. With four seconds left,  Blackledge hit Kirk Bowman for a controversial touchdown - the ball may have been trapped - to win the game 27-24.

Nebraska went on to finish the rest of the season without another blemish. The Huskers beat Oklahoma 28-24 (a game in which I nearly got killed, but that's another story) and then got past LSU 21-20 in the Orange Bowl. Penn State fell behind Nebraska in the polls later in the season when they lost 42-21 at Alabama, then moved ahead of Nebraska when they beat Notre Dame. At the end of the season, Nebraska finished number three while Penn State finished number one in both polls to capture their first national title.

The 1994 Husker team? In '94, the same type of movement in the polls happened for both teams. Nebraska dropped in the polls when Tommie Frazier developed blood clots, and Brook Berringer replaced him. Then Berringer suffered a partially collapsed lung and the season was carried by sophomore walk-on Matt "The Turminator" Turman. Penn State dropped in the polls when they won 35-29 against Indiana during the same week Nebraska quashed number two-ranked Colorado. The Huskers finished the season beating Miami 24-17 at home in the Orange Bowl in a night game to seal a national title. (Side Note - to appreciate the BCS you really have to be aware of what was happening BEFORE there was a BCS.)

The 1982 out of bounds pass cost Nebraska a national title, so when 1994 rolled around Nebraskans figured that Penn State owed us one. That's why you won't ever hear a Husker fan admit that the 1994 national title should have been split with half given to Penn State.

Penn State in 1994 - darned good team. A great team. They got screwed in the polls, but like I said, they owed us one.