Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Paterno breaks Bryant’s record

Penn State edges Ohio State to give coach 324th victory with Nittany Lions

October 28, 2001

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— Joe Paterno spent the last three months saying his chase for the major college victory record was no big deal.

Now that he's got it, he's changing his tune.

"You never think it's going to be a big deal until it happens like this, with this many people," Paterno said Saturday after his Nittany Lions rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Ohio State 29-27. "It's just hard to describe. But I'm a very, very lucky guy to be at an institution such as Penn State with all these fans."

The win was No. 324 for Paterno, who passed Bear Bryant for the record. Paterno has spent his entire coaching career at Penn State, serving as an assistant for 15 years before becoming head coach in 1966.

Paterno came into the season just one win behind Bryant, but was questioned and criticized even by some of the Penn State faithful after his team started 0-4. He tied Bryant last week with a 38-35 win at Northwestern.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said a brief congratulations to Paterno, then quickly went to his locker room.

"I have respect for his tremendous career, but that moment was for he and his team," Tressel said.

After the game, in the understated style Penn State fans have come to expect, Paterno praised his team, hugged his wife and held his grandchildren at a ceremony at midfield.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of this football team," Paterno told the crowd. "They could have packed it in a long time ago. But they came back last week, and they came back today, and I tell you they're going to be one hell of a football team."

The game solidified freshman Zack Mills' spot as Penn State's lead quarterback. Mills, who came in on the Nittany Lions' second possession after Matt Senneca started, threw two touchdowns and broke his own freshman passing record with 280 yards. He completed 17 of 32 passes and also ran for 138 yards and a touchdown.

The Nittany Lions (2-4, 2-3 Big Ten) took their first lead two plays into the fourth quarter. On the first play, Mills missed the snap from the shotgun formation, ran back several yards to recover the ball and still completed a 31-yard pass to R.J. Luke. Mills' 14-yard touchdown pass to Eric McCoo gave Penn State a 29-27 lead with 14:47 left.

Ohio State (4-3, 2-2) got to the Penn State 17 with 2:55 left, but Bryan Scott blocked the field goal try.

Mills' first touchdown pass came in the third quarter when he found Tony Johnson from 26 yards out.

But the freshman's biggest play might have come earlier in the third, when he took a quarterback keeper, leaped over a blocker, bounced off a defender and ran 69 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest Penn State run in more than two years and the longest by a quarterback since 1991. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving Ohio State with a 27-15 lead.

"Obviously that long run they had by the quarterback was the burst that gave them the confidence," Tressel said.

The Buckeyes took their biggest lead, 27-9, on Derek Ross' interception return. The pass skipped high off Drummond's hands and right to Ross, who caught it in stride and ran untouched into the end zone.

Ohio State went up 20-9 two plays into the second half when Jonathan Wells found a huge hole in the line, slipped one tackle and outran the Penn State secondary for a 65-yard play.

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