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Throwback Thursday: The Last Time Penn State Won A Conference Title On The Gridiron

Remember when fans were rejoicing an improbable overtime win over Minnesota that kept the Lions above .500? Or the ecstatic rush of seeing a ranking in back next to Penn State’s name after breaking in at No. 24 following the Ohio State game?

Our focus for Penn State football has shifted in many ways since, as the No. 7 Nittany Lions are now just 60 minutes away from an improbable conference championship and a potential trip to either Pasadena, Atlanta, or Glendale looming. While I would never want to jinx the team by going back to what life was like last time Penn State won the Big Ten, 2008 was a glorious time. Cross your fingers as you read this, please.

The 2008 Penn State football team was the third team in school history to win the Big Ten Championship after the school joined prior to the 1993 season. The team, led by Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe Paterno, capped an 11-1 regular season with a trip to the Rose Bowl against Mark Sanchez’s USC Trojans. With a loaded offense steered by quarterback Daryll Clark, players such as Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood put up numbers that enabled Penn State to have one of its best statistical seasons in recent memory. Clark, Williams, kicker Kevin Kelly, and three offensive linemen made the All-Big Ten First-Team offense, while Royster and another linemen made the second team. Defensive lineman Jared Odrick and Aaron Maybin joined star linebacker NaVorro Bowman and safety Anthony Scirrotto on the conference first-team defensive unit.

The team blew out Wisconsin at Camp Randall and also rocked Michigan, in addition to a gritty road win in Columbus following College GameDay’s fourth straight year covering the Penn State-Ohio State game. They rounded out the regular season with a 31-point drubbing of Michigan State in the snow, clinching the conference championship while also avenging a 2007 loss to the Spartans. The only blemishes on the year were a last-second heartbreaking upset to Iowa (we feel you, current-day Michigan fans) and, of course, the 14-point defeat at the hands of USC in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

This 2016 team has a lot of striking similarities to that team. A coach of the year at the helm, an offense led by a gutsy QB who can make clutch plays when his number is called, a superstar running back destined to re-write the program record books, a capable and reliable receiving corps, and a steadily improving offensive line. The defense has a few studs in the trenches and in the secondary, and relies on two great leaders at linebacker to keep the opposing offense out of sync. Throw in a consistent kicker and timely special teams plays and you have the perfect recipe for a Big Ten title.

It’s an exciting time for Penn State, and though we’re looking forward to this Saturday’s game, we figured what better time to throwback to the last time Penn State topped the Big Ten?

In the News

The United States and most of the world was still coming to terms with the economic meltdown that finally came to a head in America in early November 2008. Barack Obama prepared to transition into the White House after being elected the 44th President.

As for other sports, The Detroit Lions were well on their way to completing the first winless season in NFL history, wrapping up a 0-16 campaign the same weekend that Penn State and USC competed in the Rose Bowl.

In Music

Rihanna joins T.I on his smash-hit “Live Your Life,” which was entering its sixth and final week atop the Billboard Top 100, while T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” was fourth on the charts. In between his two singles were two Beyoncé songs: “Single Ladies” at number two and “If I Were A Boy”. “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry and “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West rounded out the top six this week eight years ago.

At The Movies

Four Christmases topped the mega-hit Twilight in its second week in theaters. Disney’s Bolt came in behind both of them, while Australia and Quantum of Solace rounded out the top five.


Fox had great success on Monday nights with 24, House, and Prison Break in addition to Bones, American Idol, and their comedic cartoons (Family Guy, Simpsons, American Dad, etc.). NBC featured the Law & Order series, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Heroes, and 30 Rock. CBS ran sitcoms The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother along with the CSI series, The Mentalist, NCIS, Numb3rs, Survivor, and Criminal Minds. ABC’s medical shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, did very well along with Desperate Housewives, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and Dancing With The Stars. The CW rounded up the main television networks with America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Smallville, and 90210.

Consumer Culture

Facebook went mainstream as social media finally played a major role in the political election. The world started the trend from Blackberry towards Apple as the iPhone 3G became wildly popular. Gas hovered around $1.65 nationally, while the top-selling car models included the Ford F-Series, the Toyota Camry, and the Chevrolet Silverado.

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About the Author

Mitch Stewart

Mitch is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism from Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to his role with Onward State, Mitch talks about all the #sprots on Penn State's CommRadio. To contact Mitch, feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected], and if you really don't value your social media accounts, follow him as he yells on Twitter about Penn State basketball @mitchystew.

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