How the Nittany Lions fared in 2004: 4-7 overall, 2-6 Big Ten
(Links to USA Today game stories)
Sept. 4 – PENN STATE 48, Akron 10
Sept. 11 – BOSTON COLLEGE 21, Penn State 7
Sept. 18 – PENN STATE 37, Central Florida 13
Sept. 25 – WISCONSIN 16, Penn State 3
Oct. 7 –MINNESOTA 16, Penn State 7
Oct. 9 – Purdue 20, PENN STATE 13
Oct. 23 – Iowa 6, PENN STATE 4
Oct. 30 – OHIO STATE 21, Penn State 10
Nov. 6 – Northwestern 14, PENN STATE 7
Nov. 13 – Penn State 22, INDIANA 18
Nov. 20 – PENN STATE 37, Michigan State 13
Sept. 3 – SOUTH FLORIDA
Sept. 10 – CINCINNATI
Sept. 17 – CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Sept. 24 – at Northwestern
Oct. 1 – MINNESOTA
Oct. 8 – OHIO STATE
Oct. 15 – at Michigan
Oct. 22 – at Illinois
Oct. 29 – PURDUE
Nov. 5 – WISCONSIN
Nov. 19 – at Michigan State
Starters returning: 18 – 8 offense, 9 defense, 1 kicker
Coach Joe Paterno: Entering his 40th season as a head coach, all at the helm of the Nittany Lions, Paterno is 343-116-3 overall and 57-39 in 12 seasons in the Big Ten.
Stadium: Beaver Stadium
Versus Wisconsin: Wisconsin is 7-3 all-time against Penn State, including a 16-3 win at Camp Randall in 2004. The last time the teams met at Happy Valley, the Badgers left happier than the Nittany Lions, with a 30-23 win in hand.
Badger Nation 2004 coverage
Nittany Lions 2004 in brief
It was a tale of two teams for Penn State last season. On the one hand, there was the Big Ten's best defense. On the other, the league's worst offense.
Penn State was atrocious offensively, at or near last in the league in every major category. In Big Ten games the Nittany Lions scored just 18 times – 11 touchdowns and 7 field goals.
The low point came against Iowa, which, incidentally, was also one of the defense's best games. The Hawkeyes held PSU to 147 yards, six first downs and zero offensive points in that game. The Nittany Lions scored four points — off of two safeties from their defense, which held Iowa to 168 yards in a 6-4 loss.
The Nittany Lions were 0-6 in conference play before edging Indiana and trouncing Michigan State to close out the season.
Through it all the defense was a silver lining. PSU allowed just 15.3 points per game, fifth fewest in the nation. The Nittany Lions were 10th nationally in total defense.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny led the way with 104 tackles and 12 tackles for loss, while freshman linebacker Dan Connor burst onto the scene with 85 tackles. The Nittany Lions boasted one of the league's best defensive lines, linebacker trios and defensive backfields.
Alas, offense was another story. In his final season running the show, senior quarterback Zack Mills threw for 1,722 yards, nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Running back Tony Hunt led the team with 777 rushing yards and 39 receptions.
Looking ahead to 2005
The Big Ten's best defense returns nine starters. PSU potentially has the league's best linebackers, cornerbacks, strong safety and one of its best defensive lines. If ends Matthew Rice and Tamba Hali can get after the quarterback more frequently (they combined for five sacks last year) this defense can be truly special and could carry the Nittany Lions a long way.
Senior Michael Robinson, who has lined up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver the past three years, will step in for Mills behind center. Robinson is athletic but he has struggled as a passer. Last season he completed just 14 of 39 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. But he led the team with 485 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He still may line up wide this year — when sophomore quarterback Anthony Morelli gets a look, which may be often as the season progresses.
Top tailbacks Hunt and Austin Scott return and the running game is expected to at least achieve mediocrity this season.
What has fans in Happy Valley excited, though, is the arrival of two of the nation's top true freshman: wide receiver Derrick Williams and receiver/corner Justin King. Williams might be this year's Ted Ginn and King looks like quite a player in his own right. If that duo can add some excitement to Penn State's offense, the Nittany Lions will be contenders in the Big Ten this year.