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What Happened To Penn State Football Teams That Started 0-1?

Following a gut-wrenching loss to Indiana Saturday, Penn State moved to a daunting 0-1 to begin its 2020 season. A controversial two-point conversion helped the Hoosiers secure an upset victory over the then-No. 8 Nittany Lions.

Even though the defeat left many scratching their heads (or cursing at their TVs), this is not the first time Penn State started off on the wrong foot.

Let’s take a look back at how some previous teams fared after losing their respective season openers.

2015 (7-6) — Loss In TaxSlayer Bowl

The last time Penn State found itself 0-1 to begin the season was 2015. With a 27-10 upset loss to Temple, Penn State was put in an early hole to start the year.

Temple went for an impressive 10-4 that season and earned a Boca Raton Bowl birth. The Nittany Lions won the next five straight before running into Ohio State.

Eventually, the Nittany Lions ended up at 7-6, losing to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Freshman Trace McSorely made his debut in that very game before launching an extremely successful and memorable Penn State career.

2012 (8-4) — Probation

The Bill O’Brien era in Happy Valley got off to a rough start with a 24-14 loss to Ohio — and no, I don’t mean Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions eventually turned it around with five straight wins, including an upset over No. 24 Northwestern. Eventual losses to No. 9 Ohio State and No. 18 Nebraska hurt the team, but many deemed this one of Penn State’s most crucial and successful seasons following the Sandusky scandal.

2001 (5-6) — No Bowl Game

Penn State found itself matched up against the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes to begin the 2001 season. While Penn State had dealt blows to “The U” in the past, specifically the 1986 Fiesta Bowl, it was the Hurricanes that got the best of them this time in a 33-7 win.

Behind names like Ed Reed, Antrel Rolle, Johnathan Vilma, and Vince Wilfork the Miami Hurricanes went on to win a national title. Penn State finished a lackluster 5-6 to end the season without a postseason appearance.

2000 (5-7) — No Bowl Game

The Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, New Jersey featured No. 22 Penn State challenging No. 15 USC. Penn State lost and then continued to drop three of its next four against Toledo, Pitt, and Ohio State. The lone bright spot on the season was a staple win against No. 22 Purdue.

1990 (9-3) — Loss In Blockbuster Bowl

The 1990 season was a roller coaster ride for the Nittany Lions. No. 21 Penn State started the season with a 17-13 loss to an unranked Texas team. The next week, it lost to No. 6 USC. However, a string of nine consecutive wins, the most crucial over then-No. 1 Notre Dame, launched the Nittany Lions to No. 7 in the country before losing to No. 6 Florida State in the Blockbuster Bowl.

Thankfully, Penn State didn’t take a dive after this game like Blockbuster did.

1989 (8-3-1) — Won In The Holiday Bowl

Penn State entered the 1989 season at No. 12 with a showdown against unranked Virginia. A crippling loss to start such a promising season didn’t stop the Nittany Lions from finishing strong with a win over No. 19 Pitt, though.

That victory punched their ticket to the Holiday Bowl, where they topped another No. 19, this time the BYU Cougars.

1983 (8-4-1) — Won In The Aloha Bowl

While Penn State’s season ended in a tropical paradise, it started with another loss in the Kickoff Classic, this time to No. 1 Nebraska. Penn State went on to win key matchups against No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 West Virginia but ultimately finished the season unranked.

The 1983 season wound up being a disappointing year following Penn State’s first national title win just a year prior.

1972 (10-2) — Loss In Sugar Bowl

Penn State haad quite the season in 1972 despite getting off to a rocky start. The Nittany Lions opened the season with an exciting No. 6 versus No. 7 matchup, but Penn State wound up losing to Tennessee 28-21.

The Nittany Lions rebounded and found themselves winning 10 straight games before facing No. 2 Oklahoma in New Orleans.

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About the Author

Jackson Buchenauer

Growing up in Mechanicsburg Pennsylvania, I was always a die hard Penn State Fan. As the years went on, I found that Penn State would be my home, even if while I flirted with Rival Pitt. I'm a Freshman Journalism Major, dreaming big, and shooting for the stars. I love to be outside, whether that be hiking, running, or biking with friends and family. Feel free to reach out to me if you have a good story, or you need a friend, I'm always down for a good time! Instagram: @Philly_buch1 Twitter: @buchjackson

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