I've been compiling some prose for the website - so I thought I'd post it here as well. Right now I'm working on the "football" section of the site - with recaps from memorable games and seasons.
PSU’s first National Championship followed the 1982 season. The Lions had played for the National Championship in January 1979, but fell short against Alabama and the Bear. In 1981 PSU had spent time ranked #1 but finished the season with 2 losses (Miami, and yes, Alabama).
In 1982 PSU had big hopes but once again lost to Bama; I remember, I was at a friend’s birthday party; when we returned from the roller skating rink, her dad had the game on TV - I couldn’t believe that PSU had lost, and I knew that my Dad would be devastated. I got to go to one game that season - the slaughtering of NC State - it was a good afternoon. With 1 loss, the Lions climbed back up in the rankings and finished the regular season ranked #2. They met the #1 Georgia Bulldogs, coached by Vince Dooley and featuring Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker, in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs were the odds on favorite to win the National Title.
Led by Todd Blackledge, Curt Warner, Kenny Jackson, Harry Hamilton, Mark Robinson, Scott Radisec, Greg Garrity and many others, the Lions played with tons of heart and determination and won the game 27 - 23. Garrity scored the "stay ahead" touchdown with a now immortal layout leap into the endzone. Penn State had won the ball game; Penn State was the National Champion.
I remember being overwhelmed by it all. I was old enough to remember the disappointment of the last Sugar Bowl - and the kids just put together such a fantastic game. Dad had turned on the radio (no delay back in those days) to hear the end of the game, announced by Fran Fisher. There’s nothing like hearing a completely biased announcer call the last seconds of a championship win (no matter what sport) -
Soon after the game, we went outside - it was cold and clear and you could hear cheering and horns honking all around. After all those years of winning and yet waiting, Penn State had won the Championship, ironically, with a non-undefeated team!
They had a parade in State College a week or so later. It was snowing like crazy but Dad and I went downtown, all bundled up to cheer the victors.