Vinny Testaverde

Photo by Fiesta Bowl/Collegiate Images

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.

A not-so-surprising Heisman Trophy first in NFC Championship Game

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The NFL’s conference championship weekend is set with another bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the AFC and the top two teams in the NFC, Arizona and Carolina, going toe-to-toe for the NFC championship. While there will be plenty of attention given to yet another meeting between Manning and Brady, the NFC Championship Game is making some history with a college football twist. With Cam Newton of the Panthers and Carson Palmer of the Cardinals set to start in the NFC Championship Game, we will see the first NFL postseason meeting between two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

At first glance, that comes across as a surprising factoid to consume, but it should not come across as a major shock. Given the track record of Heisman Trophy winner sin the NFL, we already know the Heisman Trophy is far from a guarantee for sustained NFL success. This is especially true for quarterbacks, although the jury is still out on a number of the more recent Heisman-winning QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota offer some good promise, and who knows if there is still time to save Robert Griffin III, for example). Also keep in mind that for the majority of the history of the Heisman Trophy, running backs were the dominant position before the turn of the 21st century gave way to quarterbacks taking control of the award more often than not.

Take a look through Heisman history and look at the quarterbacks who have won the stiff-arm trophy over the years. Just two quarterbacks won the award in the 1960s, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte. Staubach went on to have a stellar career. Huarte? Not so much. Two quarterbacks won the Heisman in the 1970s, and once again the careers of Jim Plunkett of Stanford and Pat Sullivan of Auburn took drastically different paths. Of the three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1980s (Doug Flutie, Andre Ware, Vinny Testaverde), only Miami’s Testaverde proved to have a sustained NFL career, which included a couple of solid runs here and there, but he almost never faced another Heisman-winning QB during his lengthy career.

The 1990s saw four quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Ty Detmer was essentially a career backup. Gino Torretta‘s run in the NFL was brief. Danny Wuerffel did not fare too much better. And Charlie Ward went on to play in the NBA instead of the NFL. Ward may have been the best NFL QB out of that bunch had he focused on the NFL instead.

Even the quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 have been farther from competing for an NFL conference championship more often than not. This weekend, 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer just won his first postseason game as a starting quarterback since blowing out Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has an NFC Championship ring, but that came as a backup. 2001 winner Eric Crouch played four years in the NFL with three teams and ended his playing career in the short-lived UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks. 2003 winner Jason White was not even drafted and stepped away due to bad knees. 2004 winner Matt Leinart never lived up to his perceived potential in Arizona and moved on to Houston, Oakland and Buffalo before getting into TV. 2006 winner Troy Smith was a career back-up, for the most part, behind Steve McNair and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Sam Bradford has been plagued by injuries and Robert Griffin III is looking to rejuvenate his career in a new situation in 2016. And I’m even going to spare you the talk about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel.

One more piece of information to keep in mind was the AFC and NFC Championship Game structure was not utilized until 1970 when the NFL merged with the AFL. For an award that was first handed out in 1935, that cuts out a number of quarterbacks from even having the possibility to play in an NFL conference championship game (Davey O’BrienAngelo Bertelli, Lee Horvath, Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Baker).

So yes, it is surprising we have not seen a matchup of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in an NFL postseason game before, but it is not at all shocking given the history of the Heisman Trophy. And no, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady never won the Heisman Trophy either.

Derrick Henry joins an even more exclusive fraternity with Heisman Trophy win

Kelly Kline/Heisman Trust via AP
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When Alabama running back Derrick Henry was named the winner of the 2015 Heisman Trophy Saturday night in New York City, the Crimson Tide star joined the exclusive fraternity of Heisman Trophy winners. This is often referred to as the most exclusive fraternity in sports, as only one player per year is inducted into the club every season since 1935. But Henry joined an even more exclusive club in college football history with his Heisman Trophy win by becoming the 22nd player to win each of the three major individual awards in college football; the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year.

USC’s O.J. Simpson was the first player to win all three major awards in the same season, doing so in 1968. Simpson actually prevented UCLA’s Gary Beban from being the first triple crown award winner in college football when he was named the inaugural Walter Camp Award winner in 1967. Beban won the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award that season. Stanford’s Jim Plunkett became the second player to sweep the three individual honors in 1970, and Penn State’s John Cappelletti swept the awards in 1973.

Henry is the fourth player from the SEC to win all three major awards, joining Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Florida’s Danny Wuerffel and Auburn’s Cam Newton. Henry is also the first running back to pull off the feat since Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne took all three honors in 1999. Ricky Williams of Texas did it the previous season in 1998 as well. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won all three individual awards last season as well. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron prevented Florida State’s Jameis Winston from winning all three awards by being named the Maxwell Award winner in 2013. Alabama’s last Heisman Trophy winner before Henry, Mark Ingram in 2009, actually prevented Texas quarterback Colt McCoy from pulling off the triple award feat. McCoy won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards in that 2009 season.

Players to win Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year in Same Season

  • O.J. Simpson, USC (1968)
  • Jim Plunkett, Stanford (1970)
  • John Cappelletti, Penn State (1973)
  • Archie Griffin, Ohio State (1975)
  • Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh (1976)
  • Charles White, USC (1979)
  • Marcus Allen, USC (1981)
  • Herschel Walker, Georgia (1982)
  • Mike Rozier, Nebraska (1983)
  • Doug Flutie, Boston College (1984)
  • Vinny Testaverde, Miami (1986)
  • Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State (1988)
  • Desmond Howard, Michigan (1991)
  • Gino Torretta, Miami (1992)
  • Charlie Ward, Florida State (1993)
  • Eddie Georgia, Ohio State (1995)
  • Danny Wuerffel, Florida (1996)
  • Ricky Williams, Texas (1998)
  • Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1999)
  • Cam Newton, Auburn (2010)
  • Marcus Mariota, Oregon (2014)
  • Derrick Henry, Alabama (2015)

Like father, like son: Vincent Testaverde Jr. heading to Miami

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Following in his father’s footsteps, Vincent Testaverde Jr. will join the Miami Hurricanes football program his father, Vinny Testaverde, once led as a national power. The former Heisman Trophy winning Testaverde confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday his son will complete a transfer from Texas Tech to Miami.

It was reported in late December the younger Testaverde was leaving Texas Tech with the intent of transferring to another program, but it was unknown which direction he would head for sure. Because Testaverde was not on scholarship at Texas Tech, he will be eligible to play right away in 2015, but do not count on this sparking a quarterback competition at Miami.

The Hurricanes are pretty set at quarterback, at least with a starter, with Brad Kaaya coming off an inspiring freshman debut. Kaaya passed for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns with 12 interceptions in 2014 and will be the starting quarterback for the Hurricanes in 2015. Testaverde will add some depth to the roster, but not much experience. Testaverde appeared in just one game in 2014.

Testaverde’s father suggests the transfer of his son to The U should also be seen as a sign of approval to the job being done by head coach Al Golden. Golden has coached Miami to two straight bowl losses and is just 28-22 since being hired after a stint with Temple. The apparent lack of progress being made at Miami has been frustrating for some, but Golden has been coaching the program under two years of an NCAA cloud hovering above it as well. Former Canes have been turned off at times, but Golden is selling something to Testaverde.

“I hope people see if I’m allowing my son to go (there) under the tutelage of Al and his staff, it speaks to what I believe in,” the elder Testaverde said to the Associated Press in support of the job being done by Golden.

Report says Testaverde transfers out of Texas Tech

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It has been a while (well, at least a few weeks) since the Texas Tech quarterback depth took a hit, so this may have been just a little overdue.

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury may be one of the best quarterbacks in Texas Tech program history, but he sure seems to have a rough time keeping quarterbacks in the stable in Lubbock. Freshman quarterback Vincent Testaverde, son of former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, will reportedly transfer out of the Red Raiders program.

A report from Wreck Em 247 says the younger Testaverde transferred with the intention of moving closer to home in Tampa, Florida. No school has been reported as the next college football home for Testaverde, who played in one game this season.

Testaverde will have to sit out the 2015 season if he transfers to another FBS program due to NCAA transfer rules. He would be eligible to play in 2015 if he transfers to a lower division school, however.

UPDATE: Because Testaverde was never on scholarship, he is technically eligible to play at any FBS program in 2015. However, as Texas Tech has demonstrated in the past, the Red Raiders have the ability and power to block Testaverde from playing for any number of other schools, including those within the Big 12. Because he is a walk-on player, Testaverde needs to ask for permission to hear from other schools. Without that permission, Testaverde may not be contacted by potential landing spots.