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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – West Virginia

The Nittany Lions have owned the series against the Mountaineers, including this memorable matchup.



Penn State Football
Oct 29, 1988, Morgantown, WV, USA; FILE PHOTO; Penn State quarterback Tony Sacca (19) in action against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field during the 1988 season. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue the college football offseason, it is a good time to look back at some of the best games in Penn State football history. Throughout the years, there have been many memorable games and moments. Of course, there have been highs and lows, but for the sake of this series, we will only discuss the victories.

Penn State has a ton of history with many of the opponents on the 2023 schedule. Delaware and UMass will be excluded because the Nittany Lions have never met the Blue Hens on the gridiron and only played the Minutemen once in the 2014 season. As for the remaining ten opponents, let us take a look at the Nittany Lions’ greatest victories against each of them. Up first are the West Virginia Mountaineers.

A bright spot during a rebuilding year for Penn State football

Penn State and West Virginia will meet for the 60th time this upcoming season. The Mountaineers own the third most meetings against the Nittany Lions, only trailing Pitt and Syracuse. While the number of games between the two is high, the series has been one-sided in favor of Penn State. The Nittany Lions own a 48-9-2 series lead. Their best victory in the series occurred during the 1983 season.

After winning its first-ever national title in 1982, Penn State entered the 1983 season with a different-looking roster. Despite the turnover, the Nittany Lions were ranked number four to start the season. That changed quickly as the Lions were demolished in their opening game against number one Nebraska. They followed that loss with two more against Cincinnati and Iowa. Penn State was off to its worse start in decades.

But the horrendous start was followed by four consecutive victories, including an upset over third-ranked Alabama. The Nittany Lions then welcome fourth-ranked West Virginia to Beaver Stadium for a late October showdown.

The Mountaineers looked to be formidable and entered the game 6-0. Led by quarterback Jeff Hostetler, the offense was on a roll. The senior Hostetler was a familiar face to the Nittany Lions, having been in Happy Valley in 1980 before transferring out when he lost the starting job to Todd Blackledge. The Mountaineer defense was tough as nails. It was the top-ranked rushing defense, allowing less than 80 yards on the ground entering the Penn State game.

The less heralded quarterback wins

Hostetler certainly would have liked to notch a victory over his former team. But it was not meant to be on this day. Penn State turned an early fumble by the Mountaineers into six points, and the Lions would never trail. Doug Strang quarterbacked the Nittany Lions, leading them to touchdowns on their first three possessions.

Hostetler was good, but not good enough, throwing for 279 yards and only one touchdown on the day. The lesser-known Strang went 16 of 26 for 220 yards, throwing three touchdowns and scoring one himself on a quarterback sneak.

Penn State bested West Virginia once again, beating the Mountaineers 41-23. The victory extended the Nittany Lions series winning streak to 25. The Mountaineers finally snapped this streak the following season. This game in 1983 included names that would later become the foundation for Penn State’s second national championship team in 1986, such as DJ Dozier, Shane Conlan, and Ray Isom.

After a horrible start to the season, Penn State football won seven of its final nine games. The Nittany Lions capped the season with a victory over Washington in the Aloha Bowl. For West Virginia, the loss ruined its hopes of a national championship. The Mountaineers finished a respectable 9-3, though, with a victory over Kentucky in the Hall of Fame Bowl.

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Shane has been a Penn State fan since he attended his first game in Beaver Stadium when he was 8 years old. A Class of 2005 alum, he has been a contributing writer for Victory Bell Rings, Saturday Blitz and now Basic Blues Nation. He also hosts The Nittany and Badger: A Big Ten Football Podcast. Shane lives near Pittsburgh with his wife and son.


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