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What Happened To Penn State Football Teams That Went 0-2?

Another weekend, another loss for Penn State Football.

On Halloween, the Nittany Lions dropped their second straight game of the season to Ohio State (0-2). While this may be unusual to a typically successful program, let’s look back on what has happened to previous Penn State squads that went 0-2 to start the season.

2012 (8-4) — Probation

The last time Penn State found itself in this big of a hole to start its football season was 2012. Dropping their first game to Ohio (no, not Ohio State, literally just Ohio), the Nittany Lions suffered a second defeat at the hands of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The 17-16 loss didn’t come without its fair share of drama, though. Penn State legend Sam Ficken trotted on the field to win the game with a 42-yard field goal but shanked it just left. It was one of four field goals Ficken misfired on during a disappointing September afternoon.

Give Virginia credit, however, as quarterback Micheal Rocco threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also converted an impressive third and 16 during the game-winning drive.

All in all, Penn State would find its way back to contention in a wild ride of a year. Winning five straight behind standout quarterback Matt McGolin and wideout Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions ended their season at an impressive 8-4. Sadly, sanctions brought on by the Sandusky Scandal held them out of a bowl game.

2001 (5-6) — No Bowl Game

There was nothing pretty about the 2001 Penn State football season, as the Nittany Lions didn’t only drop their first two games of the season. Instead, they dropped their first four, coming up short against future national champion No. 2 Miami, Wisconsin, Iowa, and No. 14 Michigan.

Not as intriguing as their first game of the year, the second loss in 2001 was to an unimpressive Wisconsin team. To make matters even worse, Penn State played in a packed Beaver Stadium for this matchup. The Badgers ended their year just 5-7 after starting the season ranked No. 22.

The most interesting part of the 2001 game against the Badgers was the timing since gameday came just 10 days after the September 11 terrorist attacks. While a heartwarming pregame remembrance might have been the only highlight for Penn State in this one, the 2001 season turned out to be a wash.

2000 (5-7) — No Bowl Game

Penn State rolled into East Rutherford preparing for a big game against USC. The Trojans rolled No. 22 Penn State and might have ruined their whole season, as the Nittany Lions would drop the next game to Toledo.

Toledo would end the year a highly impressive 10-1, giving Penn State some excuse. However, the 2000 season would serve as the beginning of Penn State’s two-year skid.

Luckily, the Nittany Lions would bounce back the next week to defeat Louisiana Tech 67-7. However, the win was short-lived, as the Nittany Lions would be shut out 12-0 by Pitt and then routed 45-6 against No. 6 Ohio State.

1990 (9-3) — Loss In Blockbuster Bowl

If you ever wonder why Penn State plays games against mediocre opponents in its first few games of the year, look at the last three sections of this post for evidence. In 1990, Penn State started the season ranked No. 21, but early losses to Texas and then No. 6 USC painted a bleak picture for the 1990 season.

Penn State was not done after its 0-2 start, though. Nine consecutive wins, the most notable over No. 1 Notre Dame, would launch a highly successful campaign for Penn State in 1990.

If the 2020 Nittany Lions want to draw advice from any of their past 0-2 counterparts, the 1990 team may be the answer. Finishing the season ranked No. 7 looked highly unlikely when it sat in an 0-2 hole.

1983 (8-4-1) Won Aloha Bowl

While the 1990 Nittany Lions may be the standout 0-2 team, the 1983 team wins runner-up. With a tough loss to No. 1 Wisconsin to start the season, No. 20 Penn State faltered against Cincinnati and ended up on the wrong side of a 14-3 upset.

The Nittany Lions clawed their way back to play some good games against No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 West Virginia, but the 0-2 start would prove too much for Penn State to overcome, as they finished the season unranked.

The toughest blemish to Penn State’s record was a tie against Pitt. Attempting to play spoiler against the No. 14 team in the country, Penn State landed just short of the upset and wound up with a tie.

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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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