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Through The Years Of Penn State’s Non-Saturday Regular Season Games

Welcome to College Football Saturday Friday, folks.

Despite the unusual pleasure of playing games on a weekday, Penn State’s history is littered with significant outings not played on a Saturday.

The Nittany Lions haven’t taken the field for a non-Saturday regular season game since 2000, and you’d have to go back 36 years to find their last in-season matchup on a Friday.

Penn State has played more than 80 non-Saturday regular season games in its 132 official seasons of college football. With a 14-9-1 record on Fridays, the Nittany Lions will make more history with their first Big Ten game on the day this weekend against Illinois.

Here’s a look through the years of Penn State’s odd-day regular season games:

First Non-Saturday Games

When Penn State first took the field in the 1800s, the idea of playing games outside of college football’s current Saturday domain wasn’t unheard of. In the first four official seasons recognized by Penn State football (1887 through 1890), the Nittany Lions played eight of their 13 games on non-Saturdays.

The first Penn State weekday game was a tie against Dickinson on Halloween in 1888, while the first Friday game was a win over Swarthmore on September 27, 1889. Both games were played right on Old Main lawn, the original home of the team.

Pitt Thanksgiving Week Showdowns 

Penn State made it a tradition to take the trip to Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving and play the Panthers from 1904 to 1930. While Pitt dominated the series — winning 18 of the 27 games — the tradition was shelved for a few decades before Penn State made its attempt at restarting the holiday classic in the 1970s.

Penn State and Pitt met on Thanksgiving day in 1974 at Three Rivers Stadium. The game in Pittsburgh was pushed to the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1976. The Nittany Lions must’ve liked the idea of an after-Thanksgiving Friday meeting because they scheduled the Panthers to play on the same day in 1978, 1980, and 1982 at Beaver Stadium.

All five of these games featured two AP Top 25 teams, including the 1982 meeting when No. 2 Penn State took down No. 5 Pitt en route to its first national title. That was the Nittany Lions’ last Friday regular season game until their upcoming meeting with Illinois. It was also their last non-Saturday home game.

The Kickoff Classic Games

The Kickoff Classic featured Penn State four times during its 30-year span of bringing college football’s best to Giants Stadium starting in 1983. The games, billed as a preseason bowl game in New Jersey after the failure of the frigid December Garden State Bowl, introduced August football to the NCAA and weren’t hosted on the traditional Saturday schedule.

The Nittany Lions played in the very first Kickoff Classic on a Monday in 1983. Coming off their first national title, the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions fell to No. 1 Nebraska, 44-6, behind a MVP-performance from Turner Gill.

Penn State also played USC twice on a Sunday in the season-opening event — with the No. 11 Nittany Lions knocking off seventh-ranked USC in 1996, and the No. 15 Trojans upending No. 22 Penn State in 2000.

Field Storming on a Wednesday

The other Kickoff Classic game that Penn State scheduled was on a Wednesday in 1991. A battle of top 10 teams — with the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions taking on No. 8 Georgia Tech — Penn State tore through the Yellow Jackets in front of a then-record crowd at the old home of the the NFL’s Giants and Jets.

It finished 34-22, but the game was never really that close. Penn State capitalized on five Georgia Tech turnovers and Nittany Lion quarterback Tony Sacca threw for 206 yards and five touchdowns to put his team in front, 34-3, early in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets tacked on 19 points in the final four minutes to make the scoreline more respectable.

After the win, approximately 1,200 students took their excitement to Beaver Stadium — chanting “Let us in,” according to Daily Collegian reports from the event. 

Somehow making their way through the stadium’s gates on to the field, the crowd tore down the goal post and decided to take it on a “four-hour parade” to the Paterno residence.

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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