Penn State

Lydell Mitchell 
(Authentic Reproduction)




Halfback Lydell Mitchell was all about numbers, really big numbers that made him the career leader in a number of offensive statistics when he left Penn State as an All American and the Colts second round draft choice after the 1971 season. Mitchell and backfield mate Franco Harris, interchangeable at halfback or fullback as both ran, caught, and blocked so well, brought the Lions to an 11-1 season and a victory over Texas in the Cotton Bowl, a game in which Mitchell rushed for 146 yards. The Salem, N.J. native led the nation with 29 touchdowns, 26 rushing TD's, and 174 points scored. He gained 1567 yards on 254 carries, the accumulated yardage a Penn State record for more than thirty years. His career TD total of 41 (38 of those on the ground) and 2934 yards rushing, was a huge reason for Penn State's 29-4 record during Mitchell's varsity career, one that found him fifth in the '71 Heisman Trophy voting and earned him induction to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall Of Fame in 2004. Mitchell had a productive NFL career that stretched from 1972 through the 1980 season, the first six with the Colts. He posted three 1000-plus rushing seasons and led the NFL in receiving in three seasons with Pro Bowl selections 1975-76-77. 

Adding three-inch thick-style navy blue numerals to the sides of the helmet dressed up the uniforms a bit in this significant season. The jump to 8-2 was fueled by young, aggressive players including ten sophomores who cracked the starting lineup and who pushed the upperclassmen ahead of them. The names on the Penn State roster would now appear in the pro ranks in significant numbers and on a yearly basis. Tom Sherman ran the show at QB and after two years in the NFL later reappeared with the N.Y. Stars of the WFL and his target was often junior All American Ted Kwalick, now a 220 pound TE with the agility of a running back. Jack Curry came back for another solid season opposite Kwalick. The sophomore running backs  Charlie Pittman, who stepped in as the leading rusher had pounding Don Abbey a do-it-all FB in front of him. Reserve QB Frank Spaziani was moved to defensive end and later in his career safety, moves which gave him the experience to eventually become the head coach at Long Island's Hempstead H.S. and he current defensive coordinator at Boston College. Rich Buzin and Bill Lenkaitis were solid in prepping for their eventual NFL careers. The defense had an influx of Super-Sophs with Dennis Onkotz following Ralph Baker as the pipeline to the pros for Penn State linebackers. Onkotz was in on the game-saving tackle that preserved the 13-8 win over Number Three ranked North Carolina State (QB'ed by future Marshall and Georgia head coach Jim Donnan) that brought more national attention and a Gator Bowl bid to Penn State. The defense also featured soph starters Steve Smear, John Ebersole, and Mike Reid, all of whom had the NFL in their future. The shaven-headed Lions closed out the season with a 17-17 tie in the Gator Bowl against a loaded Ron Sellers-led Florida State team and Paterno knew he could tweak his young talent and take them even further. As the '67 soph class matured, Paterno had the makings of a dynasty and his juggernaut stoned all ten opponents before playing in one of the most exciting Orange Bowl games ever. Onkotz, Reid, and Pittman played at All American level and TE Ted Kwalick, later to take his wares to the 49ers, was everyone's All American. Steve Smear at DT lived up to his name, teaming with future Jet John Ebersole and Mike Reid to lead an awesome defense. Between them, Reid and Smear had 108 tackles, 62 assists, four recovered fumbles, and two blocked kicks. The constant pass rush helped shutdown defensive backs Pete Johnson and Neal Smith to numerous interceptions. A growing talent opposite Onkotz was outside linebacker Jack Ham. Center Warren Koegel from Seaford (LI) H.S. and Chuck Burkhart provided offensive stability and leadership with Bob Campbell again the all around back who augmented the brilliance of Pittman. The Lions first 10-0 season was followed by a heart-stopping Orange Bowl contest against a Kansas team featuring John Riggins, Bobby Douglas, and Don Shanklin. The tense, hard-fought game was 7-7 at the half, and with less than two minutes to play, 14-7 Kansas. With 1:20 remaining, the Lions blocked a punt with a ten man charge and then drove to the Jayhawk three where a Burkhart rollout made the score 14-13. Electing to go for the win, Burkhart's pass was deflected by a group of jubilant defenders but flags were down indicating that Kansas had twelve men on the field. Films later showed that Kansas had twelve men on the field for the final eighty seconds of the tense finish! Linebacker Rick Abernethy never left the field when his sub came in. Now facing eleven men, Campbell swept to his left for the 15-14 victory that left Penn State ranked number two in the nation with an undefeated and untied 11-0 season.

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