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Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions Keep On Ticking

Posted on October 30, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Joe Paterno received a plaque following his record setting win over Illinois, but you can guarantee he is already thinking about their next game against Nebraska.

Though he watched the game from the cozy confines of the press box rather than the cold sidelines at Beaver Stadium, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno reached another milestone Saturday when his Nittany Lions overcame a shaky offensive performance to defeat Illinois 10-7. The victory was the 409th for Paterno, eclipsing the Division I record previously held by Eddie Robinson.

In case you hadn’t been paying attention, Paterno’s team that most expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten is suddenly has the best record in the Big Ten (8-1) and is the only team without a conference loss.

Granted their three toughest games of the season will come on consecutive weekends beginning with their final home game on November 12th against 14th ranked Nebraska, but if they can manage even just one more league victory either against the Cornhuskers or on the road at Ohio State or Wisconsin, it is likely that the Nittany Lions will be playing in the first-ever Big Ten championship game.

That is quite a turnaround for a team that many thought would struggle just to be bowl eligible and that still hasn’t found a consistent starting quarterback.

The victory over a suddenly struggling Illinois team certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the bottom line is that the Nittany Lions found a way to win, even in a snowstorm and with their quarterbacks completing only nine of 28 passes for less than 100 yards.

Silas Redd carried most of the offensive load for Penn State rushing for 137 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Because an early season injury has forced the 84-year-old Paterno to watch the games this season from the press box, rather than the sidelines, there is some perception that Paterno is no longer the driving force behind Penn State’s performance.

However, even if others are making some of the strategic decisions, there is still little doubt that Paterno’s presence is still powerful over his team. In what some think could be his final season leading the Nittany Lions, the Penn State players have made big plays at crucial moments to keep the team winning.

In the fourth quarter they blocked an Illinois punt that led to their first points of the game. Then, trailing 7-3 in the final minutes, an offense that had sputtered throughout the day finally came to life as they drove 80 yards in less than two minutes to score the game winning touchdown.

Quarterback Matthew McGloin had completed only five passes through the first 57 minutes of the game, but connected on four of six tosses in the final drive to march his squad down the field. Running back Silas Redd, the only consistent offensive performer for PSU with 137 yards for the game, completed the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Illinois nearly pulled off their own miracle as they drove back down the field in the final minute, but a final 42-yard field goal attempt hit the upright and fell to the turf to give Penn State their eighth win of the season.

Paterno’s team will have to play with more consistency over the final three games if they hope to finish the season on top of the Big Ten, but they have spent the first nine games of the season learning how to win and that could be a key against teams that all have lost close games this season.

The winningest coach in major college football history may be nearing the end of the road, but Joe Paterno is still in the driver’s seat and looking to give the fans of the Nittany Lions another exciting ride before he calls it a career.


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