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Penn State comeback over Northwestern gives JoePa 400th victory,35-21
State College, PA - Penn State spotted Northwestern a 21-0 lead late in the first half, but under the leadership of sub QB Matt McGloin, the Nittany Lions scored 35 unanswered points in front of 104,147 fans in Beaver Stadium who joined them after the game to celebrate Head Coach Joe Paterno's 400th victory at Penn State (6-3, 3-2). McGloin's third TD pass of four on the day tied the Wildcats, and Silas Red's four-yard TD run put the Lions in the lead for good as the Lion defense shut down NU (6-3, 2-3) to preserve the win and make the Lions bowl eligible with their sixth win. With the win, Paterno is the only head coach to reach that milestone at the highest level of college football. Only college coaches John Gagliardi of D-3 St. John's in Minnesota (477) who is still active and the late Eddie Robinson of FCS power Grambling State (408) have also achieved that many wins. For CollegeFootballFan.com, it was Paterno's 63rd win that we've witnessed against 22 losses since we first saw JoePa coach in a victory over Syracuse back in 1979.
Northwestern moved the ball at will on its first series resulting in a 74-yard drive capped by Dan Persa's six-yard run to take the very early 7-0 lead along with Stefan Demos' kick for the point after. Guest game analyst Alex Koreivo reported that a purple-clad, female NU fan rose to celebrate the score which prompted a nearby PSU fan to snap, "Sit down, Barney!" PSU's first two offensive drives went nowhere with Frosh QB Rob Bolden under center. We watched HC Joe Paterno confer with assistant coach Mike McQuery who suddenly told back-up Matt McGloin to get ready for the next series.
McGloin's first series only gained 12 yards before punting the ball away in the second period. He led the Lions to the 41-31 win over Michigan the week before. Persa (109 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 16 of 25, 201 passing yards, 1 TD) guided the Wildcats on a 64-yard drive culminating in his four-yard TD run to extend NU's lead, 14-0. The Lion offense continued to sputter and the crowd was slowly fading out of the game. Was the team going to give us something big to celebrate after the game or not? With over three minutes left to play in the half, Persa adroitly mixed the run and the pass. At the PSU nine, he fired a pass to the back of the end zone where SB Drake Dunsmore made a great one-handed grab keeping one foot in bounds while fall out the back to give NU a seemingly out-of-reach 21-0 Wildcat lead. Penn State got the ball back with :53 left in the half at their own nine-yard line. McGloin and the rest of the offense finally got going in the right direction. A 21-yard run by Stephfon Greene followed by consecutive 20-yard McGloin completions to Graham Zug and to Joe Suhey put the Lions on the NU seven. GGA Frank Rafferty ( Lebanon Valley) then predicted: "Penn State 28 - Northwestern 21." The next play went in that direction as PSU's Brett Brackett made a one-hand grab himself in the back of the end zone to put PSU on the board with three seconds left to play, but not until the replay officials confirmed the call on the field. Collin Wagner's kick made it 21-7 before the half ended. The crowd got the spark it was looking for and waited with great anticipation for the second half.
We drove up that morning with eight kids, most attending their first Penn State game ever. We drove through flurries and threatening overcast skies all the way along Route 80 to State College. We met with John and Kelle Massimilla and fellow tailgaters from the Chambersburg area outside of town to drive in together to tailgate. John and Kelle have both seen more that the 63 JoePa wins since they both graduated from Penn State in the late 1970s. Canopies were set up with optional side walls to keep out the wind and early drizzle that followed us into the Happy Valley parking lot. John Van Horn (fellow Juniata alum) whipped out a drill to adequately anchor down the canopies to hold them in place. Tailgating is always a continuous improvement process which is open to the latest and greatest in new technologies (I'm being facetious here). But as we feasted, drank, and regaled about the game we were hoping to see, the skies eventually cleared up. The burgers, sausages, and hot dogs were great. Our high school kids watched college kids and recent grads nearby entertain with drinking games that will surely prepare them for future college endeavors. I realize that this is the last year that Brian and Sarah Massimilla will be matriculating at Penn State. Both will be graduating in the spring, and we probably won't see them again until next fall. We wish the best of luck to both of them after their graduations in the spring! Time goes too fast. GGA Frank Rafferty and some of the kids who came with us got to attend their first PSU game as JoePa looked to win his 400th time with the Lions. What an introduction to PSU football. Matt and Kristen Bonnefond attended a PSU game for the second time, but got to enjoy a much different atmosphere than when they attended the Minnesota game with us a year ago. PSU won 20-0, but snow forced us to park far from the stadium last Oct. 20, and the decimated crowd, especially in the student section, took away from the spirit that they would get to enjoy on this particular day. Kelly Costa said that she wouldn't tell her dad, but she enjoyed the spirit of the college game much more than the Jet games she attends with him sometimes. Nick Rafferty, starting Soph FB for Lenape Valley HS wants to play at PSU someday. Billy Sabo, senior DB for LVRHS, also enjoyed all the festivities surrounding the game in Happy Valley. Will Portingting, a quick junior DB for LVR enjoyed his first PSU game as well. Kenny Costa, Eric Koreivo, Matt and Nick analyzed the game and the crowd from seats in the upper level of section SHU, where they could see the pass patterns and the holes open for the big plays. They also had prime seats for the big scoreboard directly in front to them across the field. They could have sat with us on our bleacher seats in EC on the 20, but they preferred the comfort of seats with backs.
Before the half, I watched starting QB Rob Bolden approach JoePa. The venerable coach just held up his hand as if to say, wait for your chance when we need you. Coach McQuery patted his should pads a couple of times to reassure him. Penn State received the second half kick-off, and the momentum stayed with McGloin at the controls. On 14 plays primarily with runs by Evan Royster ( 25 carries for 134 yards) and Silas Redd (11 carries for 131 yards), the Lions drove 84 yards with McGloin connecting with TE Nate Cadogan for a three-yard TD to cut the lead to 21-14. The crowd was pumped up and feeling good. The Blue Band played and the stands rocked. The confidence exuded by the team now pervaded the stands. Despite the slow start, you could just feel that there was no way that the Lions were going to lose this game. The defense now did its job forcing an NU punt with a three and out. It took the offense as many plays to score again for the Lions. Evans rushed for nine, McGloin connected with Derek Moye for 18 yards, and then finished the job with a 36-yard strike into the end zone. The score was tied at 21, and you could just feel that the Lions had the momentum now on offense. But you also felt that the Wildcats were not going to give up. The PSU defense held the Wildcats to three and out once again. The ensuing march for the Lions starting at the NU 42 was aided by an interference call by the Wildcats, but the tandem of Royster and Silas kept the ball moving forward on the ground until Redd put the Lions ahead with a four-yard TD run by Redd. PSU now took the lead, 28-21.
In the fourth, PSU took over on its own 21 after another Northwestern punt. Seventy-nine yards later, Evan Royster crossed the goal line with a 13-yard catch from McGloin, his fourth TD pass of the day. PSU looked in command, 35-21. As said earlier though, we had a feeling that NU had not given up. On their next possession, they moved from their 28 to the Lion nine on seven plays. The Lion defense stifled two Wildcat rushing attempts and a pass attempt fell incomplete. On fourth down, Persa rifled his pass into the end zone where it bounced off the chest pad of RB Mike Trumpy for what should have been a lead-cutting TD. But the Lions escaped and took over with 8:13 left. NU would have shown a sense of greater urgency had they scored on the last drive, but the Lion offense used up clock and the defense tightened up once again to preserve the 35-21 score for the Lions' sixth win of the year and the 400th of Old Joe's career.
The 21-point comeback was the biggest ever by a Joe Paterno team in Beaver Stadium. The second biggest? The one we attended in 2001 when Zack Mills led the Lions back to defeat Ohio State when Joe passed Bear Bryant's record with his 324th win to set the record for wins in a D-1 coaching career. The celebration for this milestone began before the game ended as the crowd chanted, "Joe Paterno...Joe Paterno..." The team lifted him on their shoulders as a throng of players, dignitaries, family, and media gathered on the field. Practically the entire crowd of over 104,000 stayed to witness the post game ceremony.
AD Tim Curley honored Northwestern and then congratulated JoePa before turning the microphone over to PSU President Graham Spanier, who congratulated Joe not only for winning #400, but for doing it all these years with integrity and class. On the big screens of Beaver Stadium, a Joe Paterno career highlight reel with game footage, practice films, former players, and Paterno family home movies dating back to the 1960s. As Kelle Massimilla said at our post-game gathering in the parking, it made her want to cry. Frank Rafferty expected to hear that they were going to rename the stadium after Paterno. Curley presented Joe with a football made of crystal to commemorate this unbelievable accomplishment. Joe thanked his players and the crowd and let us all know that we were the reasons why he never left Happy Valley despite other opportunities offered over the years. He said, "Look around. Look around." And then he finished it off with something he rarely communicates in public: "Now that the celebration's over, let's go beat Ohio State!" That must be a Paterno first after 400 wins - bulletin board material!
PSU goes to Columbus. Northwestern hosts 7-2, 4-1 Iowa. CFF.com will be at the Pitt-UConn game in East Hartford on Thursday night before heading out on an early morning fight to Tampa to catch the South Carolina-Florida game on Saturday for our first game ever in The Swamp!
Extra points: When will Joe retire? Evidently when he feels like it. He's on his way to another bowl. Maybe we'll hear something then. I remember people talking to me about his possible retirement back in 1996 at the Army-Navy game when he was approaching the ripe old age of 70. Now he's going to be 84,and the same question looms 14 years later. Amazing. I can see the same conversation taking place in ten years when people will ask again, how old is JoePa? 94? They'll still shake their heads and laugh.
With Nebraska joining the Big ten play next year, a few revisions have taken place on PSU's schedule. Like this year, Illinois will be a home game and Ohio State will be an away game. Nebraska is now on the home schedule. The non-conference schedule has Indiana State, Alabama, and Eastern Michigan at home (please fix this Tim Curley- a weak FCS school and an FBS bottom feeder. We want Pitt!) Temple will be visited at the Linc.
Brian, Rebecca Van Horn's boyfriend and PSU alum who sat with Frank and I in EG, asked what my favorite place was to see a game now that he's familiar with this site depicting my college football obsession. I told him that exempting my PSU experiences, NC State was still probably my other favorite based on the three times I'd been there. The spirit and action has always been exciting when I'm there. FYI- I might be seeing a lot more games there as my daughter Alex is now considering NC State along with a couple of others as her prime schools to consider to major in physical therapy. She loves PSU, but as an out-of-stater, it's too expensive. Brian said that he's proud to say that the only big time games he's ever seen have only been at State College. I understood his feeling as a proud Penn Stater, but I encouraged him as I'd encourage anybody, if you ever get the chance, you should go see at least one game at West Point and one at Annapolis as well!
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the five-man port-a-john's in PSU tailgate lots. No waiting! They are another credit to technological improvements to mankind's endeavor to improve tailgating. We've only experienced this phenomena at PSU - a top engineering school.