Take a Nittany Lions trip back in time
While we wait for clarity on when the 2020 Big Ten season will begin — and if it will actually take place before 2021 — the Mirror will provide a quick-hitting, year-by-year glimpse of the Nittany Lions’ football history.
For the next 72 days, “Season Snapshot” will be published beginning with the 1947 season, Penn State’s first great team.
Buck Frank and Neil Rudel are collaborating on the project.
We elected not to go all the way back to the first season, 1897, when the Lions, wearing their pink and black uniforms, went 2-0, shutting out Bucknell twice.
We do want to mention the 1923 Rose Bowl. Despite being just 6-3-1, Penn State was selected to play USC, the Trojans’ first appearance in Pasadena.
The Nittany Lions traveled cross-country by train and, according to reports, the team attended the Rose Bowl parade, returned to their hotel, then reportedly left for the stadium at 11 a.m. for the 2:15 p.m. kickoff.
As most who have attempted to travel in Los Angeles know, traffic — even then — can produce tieups, and the Lions were caught in one.
The players, per news reports, were transported by cabs, walked the last mile to the stadium, and the game was delayed.
USC coach “Gloomy Gus” Henderson thought the Lions’ late arrival was intentional and accused PSU coach Hugo Bezdek of not wanting to play in the heat. The two confronted each other at midfield.
According to reports, “Bezdek resented the charge and is said to have offered to slug the first Trojan (Henderson) on the spot provided Henderson remove his glasses.”
Tournament of Roses President John Mitchell intervened to calm the situation. USC won the game, 14-7.
Enjoy our trip back in Penn State history.
— Buck Frank and Neil Rudel
PSU season snapshot: 1947
A daily series featuring each Penn State football season from 1947-2019:
Coach: Bob Higgins
Final record: 9-0-1
Final ranking: AP No. 4
Regular-season wins: Washington State, Bucknell, Fordham, Syracuse, West Virginia, Colgate, Temple, Navy, Pitt
Bowl game: Tied SMU, 13-13, in the Cotton Bowl
Team stat leaders: Fran Rogel rushed for 499 yards; Elwood Petchel passed for 353 yards; Jeff Durkota caught 6 passes for 110 yards; Bill Luther intercepted 5 passes
All-American: OG Steve Suhey
Neil Rudel’s take: Penn State’s first great team broke the Cotton Bowl color barrier with Wally Triplett, who became the first drafted Black player to play in an NFL game, and Dennie Hoggard. Ed Czekaj, later PSU’s athletic director, missed an extra point on a controversial call against SMU that would have given the Lions a 14-13 lead in the third quarter after they were down 13-0. Altoona defensive tackle Negley Norton was among the standouts on the Lions’ record-setting defense.