The Valley is Happy Again
Penn State, Paterno vindicated after defeat of No. 6 Ohio State.
Oct. 8, 2005
College Football Recaps: Week 6
Penn State Beats Buckeyes | Valley Happy Again
Roadtrip: USC, UCLA Capture Coastal Wins
Saturday's Best | Weekend Notes | Quotes
Live Saturday Photo Gallery
Top 25 Game Recaps ----- THURSDAY ------ N.C. State 17, No. 24 Ga. Tech 14 ----- SATURDAY ------ No. 1 USC 42, Arizona 21 No. 2 Texas 45, Oklahoma 12 No. 3 Va. Tech 41, Marshall 14 No. 4 FSU 41, Wake Forest 24 No. 5 Georgia 27, No. 8 Tenn. 14 No. 16 Penn State 17, No. 6 Ohio State 10 No. 9 Miami 52, Duke 7 No. 20 UCLA 47, No. 10 Cal 40 No. 11 LSU 34, Vandy 6 No. 13 Florida 35, Miss. St. 9 Northwestern 51, No. 14 Wisconsin 48 No. 15 Texas Tech 34, Nebraska 31 No. 25 Oregon 31, No. 17 ASU 17 No. 18 BC 28, Virginia 17 Minnesota 23, No. 21 Michigan 20 No. 23 Louisville 69, UNC 14 Team Capsules ---------- Air Force Akron Alabama Arizona Arizona St Arkansas Arkansas St Army Auburn BYU Ball St Baylor Boise St Boston College Bowling Green Buffalo California Central Mich Cincinnati Clemson Colorado Colorado St Connecticut Duke East Carolina Eastern Mich Florida Florida St Fresno St Georgia Georgia Tech Hawaii Houston Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Iowa St Kansas Kansas St Kent State Kentucky LSU La Tech Louisville Marshall Maryland Memphis Miami Fla Miami Ohio Michigan Michigan St Middle Tenn Minnesota Mississippi Mississippi St Missouri NC State Navy Nebraska Nevada New Mexico New Mexico St North Carolina North Texas Northern Ill Northwestern Notre Dame Ohio Ohio State Oklahoma Oklahoma St Oregon Oregon St Penn St Pittsburgh Purdue Rice Rutgers SMU San Diego St San Jose St South Carolina South Florida Southern Miss Stanford Syracuse TCU Temple Texas Texas A&M Texas Tech Toledo Troy St Tulane Tulsa UAB UCF UCLA UL-Lafayette UL-Monroe UNLV USC UTEP Utah Utah St Vanderbilt Virginia Virginia Tech Wake Forest Washington Washington St West Virginia Western Mich Wisconsin Wyoming ----------
By Matt Trogdon
Anyone unaware of the importance of Saturday night's clash between Penn State and Ohio State only needed to glance at the ADT National Championship Trophy on display outside Beaver Stadium. This wasn't a national title game, but it had comparable significance for the Nittany Lions. Forget the fact that the winner would have the inside track to the Big Ten championship. This game would answer the question on everyone's mind since Penn State dropped then-18th-ranked Minnesota a week earlier: are Joe Paterno and his boys in blue for real?
The Lions provided a "yes," but not without some drama. Penn State upset Ohio State 17-10 behind a stellar second half from its heralded defense. The Nittany Lions held OSU's offense scoreless after halftime, yielding only two first downs in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes posed only one serious threat, driving to the Penn State 45-yard line in the final two minutes. And when it looked like they had some momentum on their side, senior lineman Tamba Hali sacked OSU's Troy Smith and forced the fumble to end all doubt.
But Penn State didn't exactly dominate. The Buckeye defense kept the Nittany Lion offense pinned back in its own territory for most of the second half. Michael Robinson and his charges managed only one first down in the last 25 minutes. The gutsy and diverse play calling that led to Penn State's first touchdown disappeared as the game wore on. All too often, Lion fans watched Buckeye defenders pummel senior quarterback Robinson as he fought for inches on the ground. In the press box, writers joked that Joe Pa had taken control offensively and was content to let the defense win it for him. In the end, that's exactly what happened.
"I was scared to death the whole time," Paterno said of Ohio State's final drive.
Hali's sack and fumble sent Beaver Stadium into a catatonic frenzy. The student section, decked out in all-white, looked like a pulsating wave of cereal yearning to spill onto the field in celebration. David Duda, a fan from Connecticut, held up a sign that perfectly captured the vibe.
"The Valley is Happy Again," it read.
The State College community did its part in the effort this week, buzzing with the excitement of old. North Atherton Street became a parking lot in the direction of the stadium around noon (for a 7:45 start). Diehard students gained national attention by camping out for a week to get good seats. Incidentally, it was the longest battle-related camping session in Pennsylvania since the one at Gettysburg.
"In all of my years, I've never seen such spontaneous enthusiasm and wanting to help," Paterno said of the students. "That thing with the tents was just...God almighty...it was raining like the dickens out there."
Even the more seasoned fans joined in the frenzy, showing such impatience for kickoff that they sang the national anthem about three notes ahead of the band. Kim Gasper, a thirty-year veteran of Penn State games, exhaustedly held up a sign with lion paws that claimed "We're back."
After the game, both Paterno and Robinson deflected questions about the significance of their win.
"Everyone wants to make this out as the big game," Paterno said. "But you know, we have to go to Ann Arbor next week. We've got plenty of work to do."
"This was a big game for us but we still have a long way to go," Robinson added.
Despite the "aw, shucks" nature of their head coach, the Lions definitely have reason to celebrate. They passed their toughest test of the season to improve to 6-0. They sit all alone atop the Big Ten. If they can get by Michigan next week, then a win in their November 5 home game against Wisconsin could send them to the BCS. At last look, neither Lloyd Carr's nor Barry Alvarez's boys are tearing it up these days.
After this season, one has to wonder how long Penn State will be able to continue its resurgence. The defense, undisputedly the team's best unit, loses seven starters to graduation. The offense loses six, including its starting quarterback and four offensive linemen. Joe Pa talked up his recent recruiting classes in the post-game press conference, but replacing that many starters wont come without growing pains.
But for now, let the party in Happy Valley begin. Penn State looks poised to win its second Big Ten title. Coach Paterno is smiling from ear to ear when he's not reciting the adage "you play `em one at a time." To borrow from singer Bobby Darin, who's "Mack the Knife" the Blue Band played at halftime, "Looks like Old State's back in town."
Random Thoughts and Quotes:
Penn State was ranked 7th all time in program wins going into tonight's game with 765. OSU sat 5th, with 767. Ironically, 765 is also the number of coaching changes that have occurred in Div. 1-A since Joe Paterno took over at PSU...
"What could a young coach do better," Robinson asked reporters in reference to Paterno. "Probably, he could just walk the sidelines faster, but I don't even know if he could do that."
Speculation abounded in the press box as to whether ESPN analyst Lee Corso would leave Happy Valley alive after picking OSU to win. The Gameday crew set up their halftime stage on the field...but away from the student section. Coincidence?
"The thing I've always wanted with Penn State football," Paterno said, "was I wanted people to feel good not only about winning but about the way we win." In the classy fashion set by their head coach, Penn State students refrained from attempting to tear down the goalposts after the game."
Blue Band Drum Major Kevin Rudy nailed his two front flips in the end zones before the game. According to Penn State lore, Rudy's successful flips guaranteed a Penn State victory.