How the Nittany Lions fared in 2002: (9-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten)
Penn State 40, Nebraska 7
Penn State 49, Louisiana Tech 17
Iowa 42, Penn State 35
Penn State 34, Wisconsin 31
Michigan 27, Penn State 24
Penn State 49, Northwestern 0
Ohio State 13, Penn State 7
Penn State 18, Illinois 7
Penn State 35, Virginia 14
Penn State 58, Indiana 25
Penn State 61, Michigan State 7
Auburn 13, Penn State 9
Aug. 30 v. Temple
Sept. 6 v. Boston College
Sept. 13 at Nebraska
Sept. 20 v. Kent State
Sept. 27 v. Minnesota
Oct. 4 v. Wisconsin
Oct. 11 at Purdue
Oct. 25 at Iowa
Nov. 1 v. Ohio State
Nov. 8 at Northwestern
Nov. 15 v. Indiana
Nov. 22 at Michigan State
Starters returning: 12—Five offense, six defense, place kicker
Coach Joe Paterno: Entering his 38th season as head coach at Penn State, Paterno holds a 336-100-3 record. He is the winningest Division 1-A football coach in history. Paterno also coached 16 seasons as an assistant at Penn State for a total of 53 seasons and 595 games with the Nittany Lions.
Versus Wisconsin: The Badgers lead the all-time series 5-3. Wisconsin won the last match up in Happy Valley, 18-6, two seasons ago. Penn State, though, won last season's contest 34-31. After tallying just 131 yards for the game in 2001, the Nittany Lions garnered 145 in the first quarter last year. Penn State's Larry Johnson accumulated 111 yards rushing and a touchdown on just 14 carries and Zach Mills threw for 287 yards. Brooks Bollinger had 217 yards and two touchdowns passing and also rushed for a touchdown for the Badgers.
Badger Nation 2002 coverage:
Nittany Lions 2002 in brief:
Penn State lost four games last season by a total of 20 points, finishing 4th in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions were second in the conference in scoring offense (34.3 points per game) and scoring defense (17.5).
Running back Larry Johnson was a Heisman Trophy finalist after running for an incredible 2,087 yards and 20 touchdowns. Johnson averaged 7.7 yards per carry and also caught 41 passes for 349 yards and three more touchdowns, and led the team with 219 kick return yards. He led the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,655 and a 204.23 per game average.
Receiver Bryant Johnson averaged more than 19 yards per catch, totaling 917 yards on 48 receptions. Safety Shawn Mayer led the Big Ten in tackles (144) and defensive end Michael Haynes led the conference in sacks (15) and tackles for loss (23).
Looking ahead to 2003:
The Nittany Lions return half their starters from last season, but gone are six players who were drafted last April—Larry Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Haynes, defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy and Anthony Adams and cornerback Bryan Scott. Also departed is leading tackler Mayer, who signed with New England as an undrafted free agent.
Zack Mills returns and should be one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten in his junior season. Also returning is his sophomore backup, Michael Robinson, a dynamic player who could again see action at running back and receiver as well. In addition to the two Johnsons, though, Penn State also must replace four starters on the offensive line. Expect a running-by-committee scheme to replace Larry Johnson in the Nittany Lion backfield.
Defensively, replacing three top-notch linemen will be no small challenge and two of the returning starters on that side of the ball are locked in position battles.
While Penn State will not be nearly as talented as they were last season, it would not be wise to discount Joe Paterno's bunch this early in the game. The schedule is a big plus—no Illinois, no Michigan; the Badgers, Buckeyes and Gophers travel to Happy Valley. An early test at Nebraska is surrounded by favorable non-conference matchups. If Penn State has its head above water late, the stretch run of Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State is quite favorable.