College Football Classic: Northwestern vs. Penn State (1995)
In an effort to preserve some of the history of Penn State football, Nittany Lions Den will archive some game recaps from the digital archives from past seasons. Here is the AP recap from Northwestern's 1995 victory over Penn State, which snapped Penn State's 10-game road winning streak.
November 4, 1995
Darnell Autry rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns as sixth-ranked Northwestern continued its magical season with a 21-10 victory over 12th-ranked Penn State in a Big Ten game.
Northwestern (8-1, 6-0), the traditional doormat of the Big Ten, extended its winning streak to seven games, longest since 1936, and remained in contention for its first Rose Bowl berth since the 1948 season. The Wildcats host Iowa next week and play at Purdue November 18th in their final two games of the season.
Northwestern is battling fourth-ranked Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) for the conference title. The Buckeyes host Illinois and Indiana the next two weeks and then finish the season at Michigan November 25th. The tiebreaker for the conference title and the Rose Bowl berth is better overall record.
"We tried to start a new season in November," said Northwestern coach Gary Barnett. "Champions are crowned in November."
Autry, who carried the ball 36 times and scored on runs of two and 10 yards in the first half and two yards in the fourth quarter, rushed for more than 100 yards for the 10th consecutive game, dating back to last season. He has a career total of 11 games over 100 yards, tying the school record set by Dennis Lundy (1991-94).
Autry set the school single-season rushing record with 1,339 yards, surpassing Bob Christian's total of 1,291 in 1989. The three touchdowns gave Autry a school-record 14 for the season, passing Ron Burton's record of 12 set in 1958.
The loss snapped Penn State's 10-game road winning streak. The Nittany Lions, who beat Northwestern, 45-17, last year, slipped to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference.
"Northwestern was better," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno. "They didn't do anything we didn't expect. They were quicker than we were. The pass rush was better. They're a good team."
Northwestern inside linebacker Pat Fitzgerald was a standout on defense with a game-high 20 tackles. The last Wildcat to record 20 tackles in a game was William Bennett against Michigan State in 1994.
"Our defensive line did a great job all day, I was just in the right spot to make the plays," said Fitzgerald. "Coach Barnett told us in recruiting you can go to a big-name program and become another name and number, or come here and help us build from the ground up. And we're building something pretty good here."
"Pat's a leader, he makes plays," said Barnett. "He greets the players in the locker room. He's like a coach on the field.
Northwestern has beaten Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State this season, marking the first time that has been done since Michigan State accomplished the feat in 1965.
Northwestern marched 73 yards in 12 plays on their first possession of the game, capped by Autry's two-yard touchdown run.
Autry's 10-yard scoring run increased Northwestern's lead to 14-0 with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
Wally Richardson hit tight end Keith Olsommer with a five-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds left in the half to pull Penn State within 14-7. The touchdown capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive.
Brett Conway kicked a 24-yard field goal midway through the third quarter for Penn State. The Nittany Lions had a chance to cut Northwestern's lead to one point, but Conway missed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Northwestern then took off on a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Autry's one-yard scoring run with 11:03 left capped the drive.
Northwestern's Steve Schnur completed 10-of-16 passes for 96 yards.
"It doesn't matter if we're sixth or 15th," said Schnur. "We would still play the same."
Richardson was 18-of-29 for 129 yards and one touchdown with one interception and was sacked five times.
"They didn't play with any tricks," said Penn State end Terry Killens. "They just came out to play. They were clicking today, and we just had problems."
Northwestern went on to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, where they would lose to Pac-10 champion USC. Autry and the Wildcats would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week with the headline "The Real Deal," as pictured above. Penn State advanced to the Hall of Fame Bowl (today recognized as the Outback Bowl), where they would defeat Auburn by a score of 43-14.
Reflection: As I look back on that 1995 Northwestern team now I continue to be amazed at what they were able to do, and especially what they did against Penn State. We knew that Penn State in 1995 was a fraction of what they were from the previous season, but for some reason I doubted Northwestern would be able to beat the Nittany Lions that year. Sure, Northwestern had already defeated Notre Dame and Michigan, but I figured the magic was due to run out. Little did I know just how good Northwestern's defense was, holding Penn State to fewer than 250 yards of total offense in the game.
After beating Penn State I had hoped that Northwestern's magic season would continue in Pasadena with a win over Keyshawn Johnson and the USC Trojans, but the fun did finally come to an end in the Rose Bowl.
As I wrote today on Examiner.com, the 1995 meeting was one of three times Northwestern entered a game as the higher-ranked team against Penn State. While Northwestern managed to take care of business in this particular meeting, Penn State came through with the wins the other two times, the following season in 1996 and again in 2001. This weekend No. 24 Northwestern will hope to return to their 1995 habit and playing well as the higher ranked team while Penn State continues to improve on a weekly basis.
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