Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Long It's Been: Rutgers Beat Penn State In Football

September 24, 1988: Finally, for the 1st time in 70 years, Rutgers beats Penn State. The score is 21-16, and it happens at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, in Happy Valley, in front of 85,531 fans.

Penn State mounted a late comeback, led by Tony Sacca, a quarterback from Delran, Burlington County, New Jersey, but the Scarlet Knight defense made a courageous stand and stopped the Lions.

Along with the 2006 win over Louisville, it is arguably the most treasured football game in Rutgers history.
Just 5 months later, Rutgers would beat Penn State for the Atlantic 10 Conference basketball title, which remains that program's biggest win since the Final Four season of 1975-76.

If I had been doing this at the time, I would have had to say the last time Rutgers beat Penn State was in their 1st-ever meeting, in 1918, 70 years earlier, during World War I and the Spanish Flu Epidemic.

Now, this wasn't nearly as long ago. Still... 9 meetings over a period of 28 years and 2 months, with the next meeting coming up this Saturday. How long has that been?


There was no Big East Conference, which is just as well, as Rutgers was never going to win it, regardless of whether Penn State was going to be in it. It would have hurt Penn State far more anyway, since it would have meant a tougher schedule for Ol' Ratface Joe Paterno.

As I said, Beaver Stadium could fit over 85,000 people, and it's since been expanded so that over 110,000 can squeeze in. Rutgers Stadium could seat a mere 23,000, with room on grass berms to raise "seating" capacity to 30,000, not that it was needed very often. It's since been replaced by a stadium capable of holding over 53,000.

Despite opening the season by beating defending Big Ten Champion Michigan State and then beating Penn State, coach Dick Anderson's Scarlet Knights only went 5-6. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions started out 4-1, Rutgers being the only team to beat them in that stretch, but then lost 5 out of their last 6, including losing to Pittsburgh at Beaver Stadium and away to Notre Dame, who went on to win the National Championship.

The defending National Champions were the University of Miami, a year after Penn State stopped them from winning the National Championship in a thrilling Fiesta Bowl. The defending World Champions at the time were the Minnesota Twins (with the Los Angeles Dodgers about to replace them), the Washington Redskins, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Edmonton Oilers.

Only 6 stadiums in use by MLB teams in 1988 are still in use: Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Anaheim (now Angel) Stadium down Interstate 5, the Oakland Coliseum up Interstate 5, Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Kansas City. 

There were 7 current NFL stadiums in use then: Rich Stadium (New Era Field) outside Buffalo, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the Los Angeles Coliseum (albeit then the home of the Raiders, not the Rams), Joe Robbie (Hard Rock) Stadium outside Miami, the Superdome in New Orleans and Jack Murphy (Qualcomm) Stadium in San Diego.

Only 4 NBA arenas from the Autumn of 1988 are still in use: Madison Square Garden in New York, the Palace of Auburn Hills outside Detroit, the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, and the Oakland Coliseum (Oracle) Arena. Only 3 NHL arenas are left: The Garden, the Saddledome in Calgary, and the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit (and that will be gone after this season).

The defining football players of the era in which I grew up? Aside from Joe Montana, they were pretty much all retired. Ray Lewis was 13 years old, Peyton Manning was 12, Tom Brady 11, Drew Brees 9, Tony Romo 8, Eli Manning and Troy Polamalu 7, Ben Roethlisberger 6, Ryan Fitzpatrick 5, Aaron Rodgers 4. Clay Matthews 2, Richard Sherman was 6 months old, and Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota weren't born yet.

The current coaches of each team were in high school: Chris Ash of Rutgers in Ottumwa, Iowa, and James Franklin of Penn State in Langhorne, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Of the current New York Tri-State Area teams' mangers and head coaches: Terry Collins of the Mets was managing in the Dodgers' minor-league system, Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was coaching in junior hockey, Jeff Hornacek of the Nets was playing for with the Phoenix Suns, Todd Bowles of the Jets was a defensive back with the Washington Redskins, Joe Girardi of the Yankees was in the Chicago Cubs' minor-league system, Jack Capuano of the Islanders was in the minor leagues, Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was at the University of Richmond, Derek Fisher of the Knicks and John Hynes of the Devils were freshmen in high school, and Ben McAdoo of the Giants was 11 years old.

The Olympics were in progress in Seoul, Korea. They have since been held in America twice, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain, Russia and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held in America, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan. Vice President George H.W. Bush was about to be elected to replace him. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, their wives, and the widows of Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy were still alive. Bill Clinton was in his 4th term as Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush was working for his father's campaign, and was soon to buy the Texas Rangers. Barack Obama had just entered Harvard Law School.

The Governor of Pennsylvania was Bob Casey, father of the current U.S. Senator of that name; of New Jersey, Tom Kean; and of the State of New York, Mario Cuomo. His son Andrew Cuomo, now Governor himself, was a lawyer running an organization named Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP). Current Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was running his family's building materials company, and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was practicing law in Cranford. The Mayor of the City of New York was Ed Koch. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio was working for a charity in Nicaragua. Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were the only Justices of the Supreme Court who are still there.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Brian Mulroney, and of Britain Margaret Thatcher. The British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed. Liverpool Football Club had won England's Football League, but were denied "The Double" when South London club Wimbledon, a.k.a. The Crazy Gang, shocked them in the FA Cup Final. Liverpool would win the Cup in the 1988-89 season that had just begun, but would again be denied The Double when North London's Arsenal beat them on the final day of the season.

Major novels of 1988 included Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Major films released in October included Alien Nation, Punchline, The Accused and Mystic PizzaThe TV shows Yo! MTV Raps, Dear John, Empty Nest and Roseanne had recently premiered. The modernized Mission: Impossible, Murphy Brown and Mystery Science Theater 3000 soon would.

The Number 1 song in America was the least likely song in human history to achieve its title with its listeners: "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. launched their Rat Pack Reunion Tour, selling out sports arenas from coast to coast despite being 72, 71 and 62 years old, respectively. Keith Richards released his solo album Talk Is Cheap, proving that he needed Mick Jagger a whole lot less than Mick needed him, and sparking the Rolling Stones to reunite the next year to record the album Steel Wheels and embark on their 25th Anniversary tour.

Steve Earle released his best-remembered album, Copperhead RoadKenny G released his breakthrough album Silhouette. Roxette released their breakthrough album, Look Sharp! The Bangles released Everything, including "Eternal Flame." Michael Jackson was raking in royalties from his big release the year before, Bad. People were beginning to notice his altered appearance, but he wasn't considered that weird yet.

U2 released the soundtrack to their film Rattle and Hum. Yoko Ono released her own documentary and soundtrack album: Imagine: John Lennon. Paul McCartney released a live album of his recent Soviet Union concert -- but only in the Soviet Union, leading to the juxtaposition of the West having to get it on bootlegs, instead of the other way around like they used to have to do back in the U.S.S.R. George Harrison was enjoying the praise for his comeback album Cloud Nine and his "supergroup" the Traveling Wilburys, but mourning the death of personal hero and Wilburys bandmate Roy Orbison. Bob Dylan was also a Wilbury, as were Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra. George, fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, and Lynne would soon help Petty record Full Moon Fever.

Kourtney Kardashian was 9. Kim was 7. Khloe was 4. Rob was a year and a half. Kendall and Kyle weren't born yet. Beyonce was 7. Lady Gaga was 2 1/2. Rihanna was 7 months old. Kevin was the only Jonas Brother who had yet been born. Neither Miley Cyrus, nor Nicki Minaj, nor Ariana Grande, nor Justin Bieber, nor any member of One Direction had yet been born.

The Atari 5200 SuperSystem was the leading home video game system. Personal computers were now in a majority of phones, but the Internet as we know it had not yet been developed. There was no World Wide Web, no Netscape, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Skype. But on November 2, less than 6 weeks after Rutgers beat Penn State, the Morris Worm, the world's 1st computer virus, was launched from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the late Summer and early Autumn of 1988, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Discovery, resuming flights after the Challenger disaster 2 1/2 years earlier. The Soviets launched their own ripoff of the American shuttle, the unmanned Buran -- making its one and only flight. A riot in Algeria led to the government killing 500 protestors and torturing many more. Tamil mercenaries failed to topple the government of the Maldives. The French government allowed the distribution of RU-486, which became known as "the Morning-After Pill." Osama bin Laden formed al-Qaeda, to fight the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan. A truce was reached in the Iran-Iraq War. Three jets crash in an air show at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, killing 75 people. A riot broke when the New York police tried to clear homeless people out of Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side.

Automaker Enzo Ferrari, and boxing champion Henry Armstrong, and soccer legend Jackie Milburn died. Masahiro Tanaka, and Derrick Rose, and Mesut Özil were born.

September 24, 1988. Rutgers defeated Penn State in football. It has never happened since.

On Saturday night, they try again. Is there a chance? Of course, there's a chance. There's also a chance that Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose 19th birthday was the day after that landmark Rutgers win, making her 3 months younger than me, will leave Michael Douglas -- born in New Brunswick while his father Kirk was working for Johnson & Johnson, 44 years plus 1 day after that big win -- for me.

In other words, yes, there's a chance, but who's kidding who?

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