Photo courtesy of MCT
Joe Paterno has been roaming the sidelines as a member of the Penn State coaching staff for the past 61 seasons, 45 of which he has been head coach.
This Saturday, Paterno leads his Nittany Lions into Ohio Stadium for an important Big Ten matchup with Ohio State.
However, the game will be more significant than what the results mean for the Big Ten standings. Penn State enters the game just one week after Paterno recorded his 400th win as head coach.
Last Saturday, PSU trailed Northwestern 21-0 in the first half. After scoring a late first-half touchdown to cut Northwestern’s lead to 21-7, PSU scored 28 points in the second half for a 35-21 victory.
After the game, Paterno didn’t get an ice-cold Gatorade shower. Instead, teammates hoisted Paterno atop their shoulders and held a ceremony celebrating his 400th victory.
“It was a surprise. To be honest with you, I didn’t expect it,” Paterno said in his post-game press conference. “What can you say? I’ve been very, very fortunate. It was a great experience and a great evening for us.”
Paterno is the only Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) coach to win 400 games. It is a record that might never be broken.
“I don’t know if it’s possible. I mean, Joe is special in terms of his longevity, his persistence and the way he handles people, the way he handles the football team,” PSU assistant coach Dick Anderson said after the game. “They say records are made to be broken, right? But who knows? That’s a tough one.”
On Oct. 27, 2001, Paterno became the all-time leader for coaching wins, surpassing former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, with 324 wins, after PSU beat OSU 29-27 in Jim Tressel’s first season with the Buckeyes. Tressel was pleased Paterno won the 400th game against Northwestern last weekend instead of playing for the monumental victory this weekend against the Buckeyes.
“I was the guy who let him beat ‘Bear’ Bryant. I sure wouldn’t want that double play,” Tressel said, jokingly, in his weekly press conference Tuesday.
This week, PSU does not expect a letdown after Paterno’s landmark victory. After the Northwestern game, Paterno was already looking ahead to the OSU game.
“We’ve got three more games. We’ve got a big one coming up this weekend (against Ohio State),” he said. “Now that the celebration is over, let’s go beat Ohio State.”
PSU players hoped to carry the momentum of the special victory into the OSU game.
“We are definitely going to try to go to Columbus with the attitude we had the second half” of the Northwestern game, junior defensive tackle Devon Still said. “We are going to try to shock the world and beat Ohio State.”
OSU will kick off its game against Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.