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OTD: Penn State turnovers lead to USC upset

On this date in 1991, USC orchestrated one of its more improbable upsets of the past several decades, as the unranked Trojans took down the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions.

Sept. 14 1991

Penn State came into the game ranked No. 5 in the country, having beaten No. 8 Georgia Tech to open the season and crushed Cincinnati 81-0 the week before flying out to Los Angeles to take on the unranked Trojans.

USC was coming off a loss to Memphis State, one of the unquestioned low points of the last 30 years for the Trojans.

Offensively, USC didn’t do anything all that remarkable in the 21-10 win. Quarterback Reggie Perry completed 10-of-20 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He and tailback Deon Strother combined for 34 carries, 119 of USC’s 189 rushing yards, and two touchdowns on the ground.

It was USC’s defense that came up big, particularly when it came to turnovers. Defensive back Jason Oliver recorded three interceptions and the Trojans recovered two of Penn State’s seven fumbles.

This was certainly the high moment of the 1991 season for USC, as the Trojans jumped back into the national rankings before losing to Arizona State the following week. After wins against Oregon and Washington State, USC would go on to lose the final six games of the season.

Penn State finished that 1991 season as the No. 3 team in the country.


Other notable “On This Date” events

Sept. 14, 1974

The 1974 USC team suffered just one loss, and it came in the season opener against Arkansas. The Trojans had beaten the Razorbacks to open both the 1972 and 1973 seasons, but this time would be different. USC was shut out offensively, as a 106-yard Anthony Davis kickoff return would be the only points the Trojans would score in a 22-7 loss.

This USC team eventually went on to be crowned national champions, thanks in large part to a certain Notre Dame game that will be featured later in this series.

Sept. 14, 2002

Colorado wasn’t playing with its starting quarterback, but this was still a Buffaloes team that finished the season ranked in the Top 25. But on this day, USC manhandled them like they were a high school JV team. The Trojans won the game 40-3 and even that barely tells the story of what a whipping this was.

Colorado managed just four first downs and completed just two passes all game Its only score came after a muffed punt. The Buffs had 61 yards of total offense, while USC’s longest single play of the game was a 62-yard run by Sultan McCullough.


Previous “On This Date” entries

Sept. 1 – A Dynasty Begins

Sept. 2 – Woo Pig, Again

Sept. 3 – Woody’s Record

Sept. 4 – Renovated Coliseum sees Morton set a record

Sept. 5 – Barkley with the firsts of many

Sept. 6 – Another USC – Stanford Classic

Sept. 7 – Slovis gets his start

Sept. 8 – Stars are injured in USC’s 1979 opener

Sept. 9 – USC’s legendary 1972 team starts with a bang

Sept. 10 – Welcome to the Pac-12

Sept. 11 – Mizz-who?

Sept. 12 – Turning of the Tide

Sept. 13 – Hipp’s game-winner



Erik McKinney
Author
Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.


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