Penn State vs. Syracuse: Nittany Lions look to continue winning tradition in Meadowlands

Penn State will play their first game in the state of New Jersey since the 2000 season opener in the Kickoff Classic, a dismal defeat at the hands of the USC Trojans. Their opponent, Syracuse, is making efforts to make this their home-away-from-home with a series of games lined up in what is being dubbed New York's College Classic. Of course, playing in the Meadowlands is nothing new for Penn State, with a record of 10-3 in games played in Giants Stadium. That includes one victory over Syracuse, Georgia Tech, USC and Temple as well as a handful over Rutgers.

Here is a rundown of all games played by Penn State in Meadowlands, with all games coming in old Giants Stadium.

 

No. 13 Penn State vs. Rutgers
September 2, 1977

Result: Penn State 45, Rutgers 7

 

Penn State vs. Syracuse
October 20, 1979

Result: Penn State 35, Syracuse 7

 

No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 1 Nebraska
August 29, 1983

Result: Nebraska 44, Penn State 6

The very first Kickoff Classic featured two of college football's top programs and may have ended up being one of the most anticipated match-ups in the history of the Kickoff Classic. Nebraska had a bit of a revenge factor to play with after a controversial loss in Beaver Stadium the previous season. Penn State had put together 11 wins the previous year to capture the national championship against Georgia, but this one was all Huskers, as they rolled up over 500 yards of offense in the worst loss of Joe Paterno's career since 1966.

 

Penn State vs. Rutgers
October 1, 1983

Result: Penn State 36, Rutgers 25

 

No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 2 Texas
September 29, 1984

Result: Texas 28, Penn State 3

Penn State was no match for a Texas offense that was not nearly as conservative as believed to be, this game recap from the New York Times suggests. Penn State gave up big plays and the defense was chasing the Longhorns all day while Penn State's passing game was erratic with Doug Strang going just 9-for-26. Joe Paterno took the blame for the lack of offensive production. Penn State limped to a 6-5 record while the Longhorns ascended to number one after this game — thanks in part to Syracuse upsetting No. 1 Nebraska — but would tie No. 3 Oklahoma two weeks later and end their season with a 7-4-1 record, losing their final three games to Baylor, Texas A&M and Iowa in the Freedom Bowl. 

No. 9 Penn State vs. Rutgers
September 28, 1985

Result: Penn State 17-10

 

Penn State vs. Rutgers
October 7, 1989

Result: Penn State 17, Rutgers 0

 

No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech
August 28, 1991

Result: Penn State 34, Georgia Tech 22

Penn State opened the 1991 season in Giants Stadium against a Georgia Tech team that had gone undefeated and won a share of the national championship the season before, but it was the Yellow Jackets that felt a need to play for some national respect at the 1991 Kickoff Classic. Penn State trounced Georgia Tech, 34-22, after building a commanding 34-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. Tony Sacca threw five touchdown passes to set a Penn State record to set the tone for what ended up an 11-2 record with a Fiesta Bowl victory against Tennessee. Georgia Tech finished at 8-5 and has yet to reach that same level of respect they were searching for.

 

No. 8 Penn State vs. Rutgers
October 3, 1992

Result: Penn State 38, Rutgers 24

 

No. 6 Penn State vs. Rutgers
September 23, 1995

Result: Penn State 59, Rutgers 34

 

No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 7 USC
August 25, 1996

Result: Penn State 24, USC 7

Penn State and USC set a Kickoff Classic record with 77,716 on hand for the season opener between a pair of top ten worthy teams. Penn State tailback Curtis Ennis had a huge performance by rushing for 241 yards and three touchdowns against a Trojans defense that had no answers. As one USC reporter said at the time, Ennis did everything but the Macarena but if "he would have done it without bumping into anyone from USC." Penn State would go on to a record of 11-2, capped with a Fiesta Bowl victory over the Texas Longhorns. The Trojans finished with a record of 6-6.

 

Penn State vs. Temple
September 21, 1996

Result: Penn State 41, Temple 0

Due to a schedule conflict in Veterans Stadium (Phillies vs. Mets) and for whatever reason not being able to play in Penn's Franklin Field as they did in 1994 (Penn played at Dartmouth that day), Temple moved a home game to Giants Stadium, where only a handful more than 28,000 fans showed up for what amounted to a run through for Penn State.

 

No. 22 Penn State vs. No. 15 USC
August 27, 2000

Result: USC 29, Penn State 5

In one of the final Kickoff Classic games — there were two more played after this — Penn State was no match for the USC Trojans before a Kickoff Classic record crowd of 78,902. Penn State managed just 142 yards of offense with Rashard Casey and Matt Senneca each seeing time under center. USC held Penn State to just six rushing yards, with the Nittany Lions having guys like Eric McCoo and Larry Johnson. USC's Troy Polamalu returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. Both teams would end the year with identical 5-7 records despite entering this game with top 25 rankings.

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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