Eight months had passed since Penn State's eye-opening 31-13 upset
of No. 6 Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl -- a performance that promised
remarkable things for the future. A clue as to just how remarkable
would be revealed in the first game of the 1994 season. Would the
offense that had been so devastating against the Vols reemerge? Would
the '94 defense be as stingy as last season's? Would this be the year
for the Nittany Lions' first Big Ten title? Would this be the year
Well, after Penn State starched Minnesota 56-3, there was no
reason to think that the promise of New Year's Day 1994 would not be
realized in the fall.
In a performance that sent opposing defensive coordinators rushing
to their meeting rooms in a panic, the Nittany Lions' perfectly
balanced offense rolled up 689 yards -- 345 rushing and 344 passing.
Ten players ran the ball; 10 players caught passes. Two nights before
Labor Day, in the sterile air of the Metrodome, on its glassy
artificial turf, the Lions proved themselves remarkable.
''They turned us inside out and upside down,'' said Golden Gopher
coach Jim Wacker afterward. In its first Big Ten game ever, one year
earlier, Penn State had defeated the Gophers 38-20 in State College.
At the time it seemed ! impressive, a promising start to a new era.
But the victory in Minneapolis made that one seem like a nail-biter.
After one possession of the second half, with Penn State ahead
42-3, Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno pulled his starters. Junior
tailback Ki-Jana Carter, back to full health after missing three
games in '93 with a knee injury, had already run for touchdowns of
80, 62 and two yards. His 210 yards on 20 carries was the biggest
ground game for a Penn State player since Blair Thomas ran for 214
against Notre Dame in 1987. ''I haven't had long runs like that since
high school,'' Carter said after the game. ''The holes were wide
open. Anyone could have run through them.''
Senior quarterback Kerry Collins, who had been brilliant in the
last three games of '93, completed 19 of 23 passes for 260 yards and
three touchdowns. ''It's a good feeling to get into a good rhythm,''
Collins said. ''Everything seems to slow down, defenses are easy to
read, and your confidence builds. This was a good omen. I just hope
Collins may have been referring to the stiff test that lay just
one week ahead, when reborn Southern Cal was to visit Beaver Stadium.
''We had no adversity in this game,'' said Paterno after dispatching
the Gophers. ''Next week might give us a better idea of where we
stand and how far we've got to go.''