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Penn State University has a long tradition of excellence in football.  Yes, even before Joe Paterno.  "Joe Pa" is so synonymous with Penn State football, faithful fans have forgotten the pre-Paterno era.  Penn State played their first unofficial football game November 12, 1881 against Lewisburg University in Lewisburg, PA.  Penn State won in inclement weather, 9-0.  Six years later in September (1887) meeting the approval of Pennsylvania State University President, George Atherton, Penn State organized it's first official football team. The architects were freshman George "Lucy" Linsz and classmate Charles Hildebrand.  A month later the tradition was born.  Penn State played their first official game November 12, 1887 against Bucknell (formerly Lewisburg) at Lewisburg winning, 54-0.  A week later (November 19) Penn State played their first home game using the Old Main lawn as its field winning, 24-0 over "rival" Bucknell.  Penn State finished their first competitive football season with a 2-0 record.  Penn State did not hire their first "official" head football coach until 1892 when they hired George "The General" Hoskins.  Hoskins led his teams to a 17-4-4 mark before resigning in 1896.  Amazingly there have only been 14 Head Coaches in the history of Penn State Football. 

The first Penn State football champions were crowned in 1892 winning The Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Foot-Ball Association, edging out Bucknell with a 4-1 league record.  Bucknell quickly became Penn State's first "football rivalry".  During this rivalry, games were often heated and hotly contested.  The final game between Penn State and Bucknell was played October 2, 1948, Penn State winning 35-0 at what was called, "New Beaver Field."  Penn State finished with a 28-10 record against "rival" Bucknell.   

Excellence in football is often defined by winning.  Football at Penn State defines excellence.  Penn State's Football Legacy ranks them among the top programs in the nation all-time. 

Penn State has currently played in 37 Bowl Games compiling an impressive 23-12-2 record.  Their first Bowl Game was the 1923 Rose Bowl at Pasadena, which they lost 14-3 to Southern California.  Penn State's next Bowl Appearance was not until the 1948 Cotton Bowl, in which they tied Southern Methodist 13-13.  On December 19, 1959 Penn State defeated Alabama in The Liberty Bowl, 7-0 marking their first post-season bowl victory. 

On April 22, 1950 Charles A. "Rip" Engle head coach at Brown University was named the new Penn State head football coach.  As the innovator of the Wing-T formation his teams experienced tremendous success leading Engle to a career record of 104-48-4.  In May of 1950 Engle named former Brown University quarterback Joseph V. Paterno to his Penn State staff.  He promptly assigned Paterno to coach quarterbacks.  Rip Engle coached his last game in 1965 with a win over Maryland, 19-7 ending a 16 year stint as Penn State head football coach.  During his tenure Penn State did not endure a losing season.  Engle officially retired February 18, 1966.  A day later Joseph V. Paterno was hired head football coach of Pennsylvania State University. 

Paterno won his first game as Penn State head football coach defeating Maryland 15-7 in front of 40,911 fans at Beaver Stadium.  A week later Paterno suffered his first loss getting whipped by Michigan State, 42-8 in East Lansing, MI.  Paterno finished his inaugural campaign with a 5-5 season record.  The 1967 season was a sign of things to come.  Paterno guided Penn State to a 8-2-1 season record and a Gator Bowl berth tying Florida State 17-17.  Paterno's Nittany Lions have won two national championships (1982 and 1986) and produced four other teams worthy of national championship status, finishing with undefeated and untied seasons in 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994.  Joe Paterno ranks only behind Bobby Bowden among Division IA football coaches for most all-time wins. 

Penn State football history would not be complete without mentioning Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti.  Cappelletti, the only Nittany Lion  to win college football's highest individual honor, captured the nations heart with his acceptance speech in 1973.  In his Heisman year, Cappelletti rushed for 1,522 yards and 17 TD's while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.  In his Penn State career he rushed for 2,639 yards and 29 TD's  for a 5.1 yards per carry average.  John Cappelletti began his Penn State career as a defensive back, however, the move to running back occurred his junior year.  In 1973, his three consecutive 200 yard games against Maryland, North Carolina State, and Ohio University remain a Penn State record.                   

Loyalty, pride, and tradition encompass Penn State Football.  From the late 1800's to the present there have been many Nittany Lions who have made Penn State Football what it is today ... A WINNER!