Herb Juliano

Herb's Archive features an article about the great games in the classic series between the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Irish.


Joe Paterno waits to lead the Lions out of the tunnel for the second half in '92. (Ed Andrews Collection)

Joe Paterno waits to lead the Lions out of the tunnel for the second half in '92. (Ed Andrews Collection)


Notre Dame, Nittany Lions end classic series in classic fashion.
by Jason Kelly

It was a classic ending to a classic series.

Notre Dame's 17-16 win over Penn State was another in a long line of fantastic finishes that have turned the annual Notre Dame - Penn State game into one of college football's greatest rivalries.

But Saturday's game marked the end to the series as Penn State prepares to join the Big Ten.

"It has been a great series and it's too bad it has to end." Penn State coach Joe Paterno said after Saturday's game. "It has been good for college football. It seems like every game, with the exception of last year (a 35-13 Penn State win) ended like this."

When the excitement of Reggie Brooks' game-winning catch subsides, the Notre Dame - Penn State series will fade into history.

But the memories of the frigid November battles that have decided championships and created heroes will never fade.

* 1982 - Notre Dame was 6-1-1 and fresh off an upset of top ranked Pittsburgh, and Penn State was once-beaten and ranked fourth. National championship implications loomed large as the teams battled under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium.

With the Irish leading 14-13 after three quarters, hopes were high. But they were soon dashed as Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge connected with Kurt Warner for a 48-yard touchdown pass, giving the Nittany Lions a lead they would never relinquish. The national championship awaited Penn State, and a 6-4-1 record loomed ahead for the Irish.

* 1986 - Lou Holtz's first season with Notre Dame. A season of near comebacks and close shaves against the nations best teams that earned the Irish nothing more than respect and six losses.

With third-ranked Penn State leading early in the fourth quarter, it looked like Notre Dame would once again fall to a ranked opponent. Like so many times in the 1986 season, the Irish did lose, but they threw quite a scare into Joe Paterno's troops in the process.

Steve Beuerlein directed a 64-yard scoring drive early in the final period to bring the Irish to within 24-19. And with 2:29 left, the Irish had the ball and a chance to win.

It was first and goal from the six in the final minute, but Penn State's defense would hold, as Beuerlein's fouth-down pass from the 18 to Mark Green left the Irish short of the goal line.

Another national title for Penn State, another tough loss for Notre Dame.

* 1987 - A resurgent Notre Dame team traveled to the snows of Pennsylvannia to state its claim as a national title contender. Sophomore Tony Rice was at the controls of the vesatile Irish offense that had beaten the likes of Michigan, USC and Alabama.

After a late touchdown, only a successful two-point conversion separated Notre Dame from victory. But Tony Rice was stopped short on an option play and Penn State escaped again, 21-20.

* 1992- Payback time.

The close games against Penn State usually don't go Notre Dame's way over the past decade, but Saturday all the frustration melted away with the snow at Notre Dame Stadium.

After Rick Mirer engineered a long scoring drive in the final minutes, the Irish once again needed to execute a two-point conversion to shake off their long-time nemesis.

A fierce pass rush forced Mirer out of the pocket, but he rolled right and released just before he got hit. The pass sailed toward the back of the end zone, and so did Brooks. And when the ball and Brooks met, Notre Dame had finally won a close one against the Nittany Lions.

The series couldn't have ended any other way.

"It was a typical Notre Dame - Penn State game," Irish coach Lou Holtz said. "We're going to miss playing this game, they're are a class team."

Others in the Notre Dame locker room echoed Holtz's sentiments. "I love playing Penn State, it's always so competitive,"Junior Jeff Burris said. "There is always added enthusiasm surrounding this game. I will miss it a lot."

So will college football.


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