Jimmy Johnson

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The last time the Penn State Nittany Lions won the national championship…

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Joe Paterno had plenty of national championship-worthy teams during his lengthy coaching career, but he only saw his team crowned national champion twice. In 1982, the Nittany Lions went 11-1 and defeated Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs to finally give Paterno his long-awaited national championship. Three years later, the Nittany Lions came up short in the Orange Bowl against Barry Switzer and his Oklahoma Sooners. But Penn State would be back to play for a national championship the following season, and they would do so as a pretty big underdog in a clash of college football cultures.

In 1986, Penn State moved their the regular season without a blip. John Shaffer will never go down as one of Penn State’s top quarterbacks, but he got the job done with a running game fueled by D.J. Dozier. Penn State’s defense was one of the best in school history, with Shane Conlan anchoring things at linebacker. No team scored more than 19 points on Penn State in 1986, including No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 25, 1986. The upset by the visiting No. 6 Nittany Lions threw Penn State into the national title picture for the final month of the season.

A 24-19 victory at Notre Dame followed by a 34-14 home victory against Pitt to close out the regular season assured Penn State would be no worse than No. 2 going into the bowl season, and thus a national championship game was in the cards.

Penn State would play the decided underdog in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 1 Miami, coached by Jimmy Johnson, quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and starring players like Michael Irvin and Jerome Brown. The game would help make the Fiesta Bowl one of the top bowl games it is today, as the unique opportunity to pit No. 1 vs. No. 2 threw the Fiesta Bowl out of its typical pre-Rose Bowl lead-in spot into primetime on its own day, and it pulled in a massive rating for NBC. The classic “Good vs. Evil” storyline was on full display as the teams got off the planes in Arizona, Penn State in their typical travel attire and Miami coming off the plane in battle fatigues. Miami would later walk out of a joint team dinner with Jerome Brown infamously asking “Did the Japanese sit down and have dinner at Pearl Harbor before they bombed them?”

Miami was a heavy favorite, as they had been dominant all season long, but Penn State’s defense would keep the Hurricanes in check. The game reached halftime knotted at 7-7. Miami’s only score came following a fumble recovery at the Penn State 23-yard line. Miami heavily out-gained Penn State, but the Nittany Lion defense buckled down when it had to. Miami ended the game with a 445-162 advantage in offensive yards, and Miami racked up 22 first downs to Penn State’s eight. But the feisty and determined Penn State defense forced a stunning seven turnovers against the nation’s top team, including five interceptions of Testaverde. The final interception, by linebacker Pete Giftopoulos, helped clinch a national title for Penn State, the second and final one for Paterno.

It’s been a while since the Nittany Lions were the No. 1 team. LEt’s look back at what else was happening in 1986 when Penn State won it all.

Last National Championship: 1986 (33 years and counting)

Who was President?

Ronald Reagan was in the White House in 1987, when the Fiesta Bowl for the 1986 season was played, so the Nittany Lions made a trip to the White House. Reagan was in the Oval Office each time Penn State won the national championship.

The current president, Donald Trump, was paying $70 million to buy out the interest in a casino property following poor financial results. He also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

What was on TV?

America was loving the sitcoms of the day. The Cosby Show continued to pull in the top ratings, followed by Family Ties and Cheers as NBC was leading the way with Must See TV at the time. The Golden Girls was also a hit on NBC, as well as Night CourtMurder, She Wrote was leading the way for CBS and ABC was not doing too bad with Growing PainsMoonlighting and Who’s the Boss? It’s safe to say, the theme shows from all of these shows probably still give you some warm fuzzy feelings.

1986 marked the debut for some notable television shows, such as MatlockPerfect StrangersL.A. Law, and ALF. One of the top game shows on Nickelodeon made its debut with the premiere of Double Dare. And one of the most iconic daytime talk shows hit the air for the first time with Oprah Winfrey launching The Oprah Winfrey Show.

There were some notable shows that also went off the air in 1986 as well. David Hasselhoff and KITT rode off into the sunset with the final episode of Knight RiderThe Love Boat also dropped anchor on its run on television after a decade of programming. And The Merv Griffin Show, which debuted in 1972, wrapped up as well. The set of the show would later show up in an episode of Seinfeld.

What movies were hot?

Do you have the need? The need for speed? Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer starred in the top-grossing movie of 1986 with the release of “Top Gun,” and you will never escape the visuals and the music for as long as you live.

Maybe Penn State fans will hope the stars align once again with a brand new “Top Gun” movie coming in 2020. The box office in 1986 was also fueled by some sequels, including “The Karate Kid Part II,” “Aliens,” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” A cult classic was also born in 1986 with the release of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

A couple of other cult classics of sorts included “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Three Amigos,” each featuring Steve Martin. Oen of the best sports movies of all time was also released with Gene Hackman starring in “Hoosiers.”

On the other side of the spectrum, and in a world long before movies involving Marvel characters were a sure box office hit, “Howard the Duck” also hit theaters to dismal reviews and results.

What else happened in 1986?

College football’s conference championships in 1986 were awarded to Arizona State (Pac-10), LSU (SEC), Michigan and Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big Eight), Clemson (ACC), Texas A&M (Southwest Conference), San Diego State (WAC), San Jose State (PAcific Coast Athletic Association) and Miami Ohio (MAC). Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth was named the Dick Butkus Award winner, while Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy.

The most iconic moment of the year in sports in 1986 happened in the World Series, when a baseball off the bat of Mookie Wilson got by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing the New York Mets to steal Game 6 of the World Series. The Mets, of course, kept the Red Sox World Series drought ongoing by capturing the second (and most recent) world championship in franchise history.

A season after the Chicago Bears did the Super Bowl shuffle earlier in 1986, it was Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants that were on their way to a Super Bowl championship during the 1986 season. The Giants would capture their Super Bowl title in the Rose Bowl, back when the NFL would play their championship game in a college football venue.

Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics took down the Houston Rockets in six games in the NBA Finals. Louisville won the NCAA MEn’s Basketball Tournament over Duke.

Mike Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight boxing champion at 20 years and four months with a knock out of Trevor Berbick. On the flip side of the age spectrum, Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner (46) and won his last major golf championship at The Master’s.

What about that 1994 team?

A few years after winning the national championship, the landscape of football started to change with expansion. Penn State would make the move to join the Big Ten in 1993, with some believing the Nittany Lions would become a regular Big Ten champion. After taking a couple losses in conference play in 1993, Penn State put together one of the best offenses college football had seen in 1994 and ran the table to go 11-0 and win the Big Ten title. The championship earned Penn State a trip to the Rose Bowl, where Paterno would become the first coach to win each of the four major bowl games (Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl). Penn State was locked into the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion and was forced to face Pac-10 champion and No. 12 Oregon, while top-ranked Big 8 champion Nebraska was free to play their bowl game against No. 3 Miami in the Orange Bowl. Penn State would play their Rose Bowl a day after Nebraska defeated Miami, when the argument for the national championship was all but decided by the media after the Huskers pulled away from the Hurricanes.

Years later the debate still wages on for some; would Penn State have beaten Nebraska in a national championship game in 1994? They most certainly would have scored some points on Nebraska, but the Huskers offense would have been able to pile up some yards and point son Penn State’s defense as well. It remains a fun debate to this day.

Penn State has had a few years where a national championship season was off to a good start, but tough losses in nail-biting fashion and blowout fashion in conference play have derailed those hopes over the years. A bizarre home loss to Minnesota. A last-second loss at Michigan and at Iowa. Being unable to hold leads against Michigan State or Ohio State. Penn State’s more recent seasons under James Franklin have had some promise for a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, and the Nittany Lions could be a program that makes regular appearance son the playoff radar in the years to come.

Mark Richt named the Walter Camp Coach of the Year

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The first of what should be a handful of these types of awards for Mark Richt is a rather significant one.

The Walter Camp Foundation announced Tuesday afternoon that Richt has been named as its 2017 Coach of the Year.  This award has been handed out annually since 1967 and is voted on by the 130 FBS head coaches and sports information departments.

In his second season at his alma mater, Richt has led Miami to a 10-2 record and the football program’s first-ever appearance in the ACC championship game.  The 10 wins are the most for the Hurricanes since the 2003 season, with that performance netting The U a spot in this year’s Orange Bowl opposite Wisconsin Dec. 30.

Richt is the second Hurricanes head coach to claim Camp honors, joining Jimmy Johnson in 1986.  He’s also the third coach from the ACC to win the award in the past five seasons — Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (2015) and Duke’s David Cutcliffe (2013).

Last year’s winner was Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre.  The first honoree?  Indiana’s John Pont.

Miami Hurricanes to honor Irvin, Lewis, Reed, Sapp and Taylor in Ring of Honor

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When the Miami Hurricanes host Georgia Tech for a critical ACC Coastal Division showdown in October, the program will pay tribute to a handful of great players from the program’s history. Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Warren Sapp, and the late Sean Taylor will all be added to the school’s Ring of Honor in Hard Rock Stadium.

That is quite a collection of program legends to honor on the same night, but it is also a group very much deserving of the honor from the program. With Miami hosting the Yellow Jackets for a primetime Thursday night game, expect Miami to be able to showcase the history of the program on as grand a stage as possible. The game is scheduled for an 8 pm kickoff on ESPN.

Irvin holds the Miami record for most career touchdown receptions (26) and he was a part of Miami’s national championship team in 1988. The brash wide receiver went on to have a Pro Football Hall of fame career with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was coached for a time by former Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson and won three Super Bowls.

Lewis was an all-Big East player for the Hurricanes in 1994 and 1995 and went on to have a Pro Football Hall of Fame-worthy career as the cornerstone of the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 through 2012 with a pair of Super Bowl victories and one Super Bowl MVP award. Reed was a teammate of Lewis from 2002 through 2012 with the Ravens, where he also put together a hall of fame-caliber career. Reed was a two-time consensus All-American in 2000 and 2001 and a BCS national champion with the Hurricanes in 2001. Like Lewis, it will just be a matter of time before heading to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sapp is already in Canton, and he had quite the career at Miami before heading to the NFL. Sapp became the first Miami player to win the Lombardi Trophy and was the unanimous Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 1994, when Miami played Nebraska in the Orange Bowl with an outside shot at claiming a national championship (Nebraska and Penn State each went undefeated and finished 1-2 that season; Miami was No. 3 going into the Orange Bowl against the Huskers).

Taylor looked like he would be another hall of fame player before his untimely death in 2007. At Miami, Taylor led the nation in interceptions in 2003 and set the Miami record for pick-sixes with three in the 2003 season. He was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a result and remains the program’s fifth-all-time interceptions leader. He was a part of Miami’s 2001 national championship team.

Miami will also be wearing their brand new alternate black uniform for the game.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 1990 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.

Tom Herman was once fired by Subway for freeloading on pastrami

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Tom Herman, the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns, has come a long way in his career. It was just a few years ago Herman was the hot assistant coach on the rise who would soon lead the Houston program to a New Years Six bowl game and a 22-4 record to make him a leading candidate for the Longhorns job. As he prepares for the biggest job of his career, Herman reflected on one of his previous jobs from his high schools days and explained how he got fired from the job.

Herman was employed by a Subway sandwich stop, and he apparently had a thing for pastrami. Having had the pastrami at Subway before, I can understand his craving. Unfortunately for Herman, his love for pastrami would be his undoing as he got caught eating as much as he could in secret. He explained the ordeal to The Dallas Morning News;

 

“I used to love the pastrami,” he says. “They had those big walk-in refrigerators. I was standing in there one day, with the door shut, just throwing pastrami in my mouth.

“It was like something out of a movie. I’ve got this bin of meat, throwing meat in my mouth, the door swings open and it’s the owner.

“He goes, ‘Get out. Don’t come back.’ “

Herman held many jobs before getting into the coaching business including at a tuxedo shop, a batting cage, multiple radio positions (he remains no stranger to making headlines on radio airwaves to this day) and even as a highlight coordinator for NFL on FOX.

“This was back when they recorded games on those big laser discs. I was a highlight coordinator. My job was to go in and watch games, watch and type. Basically every time the camera frame changed, I had to log it as something: ‘Emmitt Smith rushed for 4 yards. . . . Close-up of Jimmy Johnson on the sidelines . . . 37-yard field goal.’

“That way, when you’re watching Packers vs. Vikings, young Tom Herman has his eyeballs on the Cowboys vs. Redskins game. When J.B. (James Brown) and Howie (Long) cut into your game and say, ‘Let’s give you a quick update,’ you’d see highlights and they would read information I typed.”

That time spent breaking down highlights may have come in handy.