Blue White Illustrated

December 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 61 of 67

6 2 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M KNOCK ON WOOD Penn State and Michigan State get set to spar yet again over the oft-mocked yet strangely iconic Land Grant Trophy P enn State's rivalry with Michigan State may be the most unique in college football. It all started on a Friday the 13th in 1914 and continues to this day with perhaps the ugliest trophy in organized sports, the Land Grant Trophy, once described by Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin facetiously as looking "like your great- uncle made it in a workshop with leftover parts." The two schools have several historical parallels. Both were founded in 1855, and in 1862 they became two of the first three colleges in the nation established by the federal government with an emphasis on teaching the agricultural and mechanic arts. Michigan State was the first of these colleges under the Morrill Act, with Iowa State second and Penn State third. In the decades before Penn State began playing in the Big Ten Conference in 1993, the teams faced each other 10 times. Of the Nittany Lions' series with current Big Ten opponents, only the rivalry with Ohio State is older, with eight games between the teams from 1912 to 1992. In that span, the Lions won only one game against the Spartans and tied one while winning six against the Buckeyes. The inaugural game against Michigan State, played before a record crowd of 10,000 at Beaver Field, literally started with a bang. Three weeks earlier, Penn State's captain and star full- back, Yeggs Tobin, was severely injured in the then-traditional postgame bonfire celebration near Old Main. The Lions had tied mighty, undefeated Harvard, 13-13 — the most ominous of scores — in Cambridge, Mass. So, the following Monday at 9 p.m., Yeggs threw a torch on the 50-foot-high woodpile. KERBOOM! KERBOOM! Two explosions with large balls of flame shattered windows in many nearby buildings, including the president's residence. Spectators were hit with burning wood, setting some people's clothes on fire. Tobin and several students were rushed to the Centre County Hospital in Belle- fonte with serious burns of the face, throat and hands. It turned out that someone had mistakenly poured gasoline instead of kerosene on the woodpile. The hospital released Tobin on Wednesday, and when Penn State battled Michigan State two days later, the loyal captain was playing, looking like a trick-or-treater leftover from Hal- loween, with bandages on his hands and head. As the weekly Penn State Collegian reported, Michigan State stopped Tobin from scoring just inches from the goal line in the first half, and the Lions' defense held the Spartans in check until a 65-yard run late in the second quarter led to a touchdown and a 6-0 halftime lead for the visitors. Early in the third quarter, Penn State reached the Michigan State 10-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. It was a defensive battle the rest of the way, and as time ran out, the Spartans recov- ered a Penn State fumble at their 11-yard line to win the game. A decade later, the teams played again on Oct. 24, 1925, with Penn State winning 13-6 at Beaver Field in what was de- scribed in the Penn State Col- legian as "a sea of mud and muck…[and] pouring rain." Between 1945 and 1966 there were eight games, four at home and four away. Penn State sal- vaged a 14-14 tie on Oct. 23, 1948, at Beaver Field that kept it undefeated, but a 7-0 upset loss later in the season to archrival Pitt ruined an almost certain invitation to a New Year's Day bowl game. Until 1952, Michigan State had been an independent, like Penn State. Before that season, the Spartans were invited by the Big Nine Conference to join the renamed Big Ten. That year, Michigan State under Coach "Biggie" Munn was national champion. But because of a previous agreement, the Spartans were not eligible to win the Big Ten title or play in the Rose Bowl. Penn State was one of their victims in 1952, losing 34-7 on Oct. 15 in East Lansing. The next time the teams played, in 1965, Michigan State, now coached by Duffy Daugherty, became co-national champs with Alabama, beating Penn State 33-0 in the Lions' season opener at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 25. A year later, Michigan State dealt Joe Paterno his first loss as a head coach with a 42-8 romp Sept. 14 at Spartan Stadium. Although Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1989, the football team could not start playing conference games until 1993. By that season, Michigan State coach George Perles had convinced league officials to schedule PSU as an annual season-ending rivalry game. His ulterior motive was to match the national impact of the traditional Michigan-Ohio State game. To help hype the game, Michigan State's sports information director, Ken Hoffman, created the Land Grant Trophy. L O U P R A T O | L O U P R A T O @ C O M C A S T . N E T

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