The early college football teams representing the Pennsylvania State College did not have a head coach on record from the 1887 through 1891 seasons. The teams played its home games on the Old Main lawn on campus in State College, Pennsylvania.

The first recorded game occurred on November 12, 1881, when Penn State traveled to Lewisburg, PA to play Bucknell, known until 1896 as the University of Lewisburg. Penn State won 9–0, which was nine goals to none. At the time, this was really a game of "American rugby." The father of American football, Walter Camp, did not develop the "scrimmage," the "first down" and the "gridiron" (yard markings) until 1882. Although this game was reported in two State College newspapers and the Mirror (University of Lewisburg campus newspaper), Bucknell denies that this game ever happened. Penn State did not field teams from 1882 through 1886.

Despite the article title, the school did not adopt the Nittany Lion as its mascot until 1907. An early mascot was "Old Coaly," a mule that hauled stone for the original Old Main (completed in 1863 and demolished in 1929).

In 1891, the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Football Association (PIFA) was formed. It consisted of Bucknell (University of Lewisburg), Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Haverford, Penn State and Swarthmore. Lafayette and Lehigh were excluded because it was felt they would dominate the Association. Penn State won the championship with a 4–1–0 record. Bucknell's record was 3–1–1 (losing to Franklin & Marshall and tying Dickinson). The Association was dissolved prior to the 1892 season.

1887 season

1887 Penn State Nittany Lions football
1887 record2–0
Head coachnone
← 1886
1888 →

The 1887 Penn State Nittany Lions football team would become the school's first undefeated team, going 2–0, and the school's only unscored-upon team. The quarterback of this team was George H. "Lucy" Linsz (1887–1889). For whatever reason, Lucy Linsz only played for three years (only 1887 at quarterback). He later changed his last name from Linsz to Lins, probably during World War I. In 1887 Penn State's school colors were dark pink and black.

Date Opponent Site Result
November 5, 1887 at Bucknell Lewisburg, PA W 54–0  
November 19, 1887 Bucknell Old MainState College, PA W 24–0  

There is a date discrepancy. Bucknell lists this game as being played on November 12, 1887.

1888 season

1888 Penn State Nittany Lions football
1888 record0–2–1
Head coachnone
← 1887
1889 →

In stark contrast to the 1887 team, the 1888 team is the only winless team in Penn State history. Harry Leyden (1887–1889) played quarterback in 1888.

Date Opponent Site Result
October 31, 1888 Dickinson Old MainState College, PA T 6–6  
November 7, 1888 at Dickinson Carlisle, PA L 0–16  
(date unknown – last game of season) Lehigh Old Main • State College, PA L 0–30  

There is a score discrepancy. Lehigh lists the final score as 32–0.

1889 season

1889 Penn State Nittany Lions football
1889 record2–2
Head coachnone
← 1888
1890 →
Date Opponent Site Result
September 27, 1889 Swarthmore Old MainState College, PA W 20–6  
November 9, 1889 at Lafayette Easton, PA L 0–26  
November 11, 1889 at Lehigh Bethlehem, PA L 0–106  
November 25, 1889 Bucknell Old Main • State College, PA W 12–0  

1890 season

1890 Penn State Nittany Lions football
1890 record2–2
Head coachnone
← 1889
1891 →
Date Opponent Site Result
October 10, 1890 at Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA L 0–20  
October 12, 1890 at Franklin & Marshall Lancaster, PA L 0–10  
November 15, 1890 Altoona Athletic Association Old MainState College, PA W 68–0  
November 27, 1890 at Bellefonte Academy Bellefonte, PA W 23–0  

1891 season

1891 Penn State Nittany Lions football
ConferencePennsylvania Intercollegiate Football Association
1891 record6–2 (4–1 conference – PIFA Champions )
Head coachnone
← 1890
1892 →
Date Opponent Site Result
October 2, 1891 at Lafayette Easton, PA W 14–4  
October 3, 1891 at Lehigh Bethlehem, PA L 2–24  
October 17, 1891 at Swarthmore Swarthmore, PA W 44–0  
October 24, 1891 at Franklin & Marshall Lancaster, PA W 26–6  
October 27, 1891 at Gettysburg Gettysburg, PA W 18–0  
November 7, 1891 at Bucknell Lewisburg, PA L 10–12  
November 26, 1891 Dickinson Altoona, PA W Dickinson forfeited  
December 5, 1891 at Haverford Haverford, PA W 58–0  

Dickinson was a "no show."


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