Penn State Nittany Lions Stats & Analysis
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Penn State Nittany Lions - NCAAF History
The Penn State Nittany Lions took the field for the first time in 1881 with their first conference title (PIFA) coming in 1891. George W. Hopkins was the first-ever coach at Penn State. He went 17-4-4 and still has the best winning percentage in school history.
Over the next 14 seasons, the Nittany Lions went through a host of coaches while claiming two National Championships over that stint.
Coach Hugo Bezdek was at the helm from 1918-1928. Bezdek and the Nittany Lions posted a winning record in nine out of his twelve seasons. In 1922, he led the Nittany Lions to an undefeated season and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Bob Higgins took over the job for the next 19 seasons. Higgins was just as successful as Bezdek; he posted 11 winning seasons during his tenure. He retired for health reasons in 1948 with a 91–57–11 record.
Rip Engle coached for 16 seasons and kept the momentum pushing forward. Engle posted a .500 record or better in each of his 16 seasons. The Nittany Lions didn’t win any conference championships, but they were 3-1 in college bowl games under Engle.
In 1966, Joe Paterno took over the head coaching job for the next 46 years. His stint remains the longest stint ever by a coach in the FBS. Penn State elected to leave its conference and become independent from 1966 until 1992. They returned to the Big Ten in 1993. The Nittany Lions were a force under Paterno. They finished with a winning record in 41 of Paterno’s 46 seasons. Additionally, the Lions won two National Championships and three conference championships under Paterno. They were also invited to play in 37 bowl games and won 24 of them. Paterno finished with 409 wins, which is still an FBS record to this day. The Nittany Lions enjoyed most of their success under Paterno.
The Nittany Lions pushed out more than 60 All-Americans during Paterno’s stint, including NFL stars like Larry Johnson and LaVar Arrington.
James Franklin has been head coach since the 2014 season. Franklin is the first African-American coach in Penn State history. The Nittany Lions made the Pinstripe Bowl game in his first season.
The year 2016 was rather successful for Franklin and the team. They beat rival Ohio State and finished their season 10-2, then beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Penn State posted a 42-11 record under Franklin from 2016-2019.
The year 2020 is the Nittany Lions’ only losing season under Franklin.