Starters returning: 7
Starters returning: 4
September 10, 1978
In 12 seasons under Coach Joe Paterno the Nittany Lions have won 112 games and lost but 24. They have had 23 All-Americas and 10 major bowl bids. In 1968, 1969 and 1973 they were unbeaten and untied. But national championships? Zero. "Maybe," Paterno says grimly, "the polls have been unfair."
Maybe, too, this year the polls will have no choice. Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma might not lose a game; Penn State—loaded as never before—should not. Thirty-one of 44 first-and second-teamers return from an 11-1 season in which the Lions out-gained opponents by four-fifths of a mile and outscored them 32-14 on the average. Moreover, Penn State's recruiting was among the most successful in the nation. Even Paterno, not given to excess optimism, is rubbing his palms. "We're going to be explosive," he says. "Yes, better than last year."
Senior Quarterback Chuck Fusina already owns or shares nine Lion passing records. Last year he completed 58% of his 246 passes and had only nine intercepted. In Matt Suhey and Mike Guman, Bob Torrey and Booker Moore, the Lions have two sets of experienced fullbacks and tailbacks from the team that gained 2,360 yards rushing last season. Split End Scott Fitzkee has a gaudy 22.6-yards-per-catch background. As a punter, Fitzkee booms them an average of 38.4 and, remarkably, his 44 punts last season were returned a total of only 84 yards.
The secondary was a shade. green last April, but by the end of spring drills, Paterno liked what he saw. On the line, Tackles Matt Millen and Bruce Clark are throwbacks to the Mike Reid-Steve Smear duo of 1968 and '69.
The crucial game this season with Ohio State was scheduled four years ago. It was anticipated as the season opener for both teams. But since then Penn State had to schedule Rutgers and Temple before the Buckeyes, a move that has made Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes furious. When it's over, he is apt to be angrier.