When Penn State’s legendary coach Joe Paterno sees a coaching milestone in reach, it just so happens that the opponent he sees across the field is the Northwestern Wildcats, and Saturday was no different for the 84-year-old.
This time the milestone was tying Eddie Robinson, the former Grambling head coach, and his Div. I mark of 408 wins. Paterno will have a chance to to jump ahead of Robinson next week when the Lions head to Champagne to take on the Fighting Illini.
As for the game, the Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) shutout the Wildcats (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten) in the second half after allowing 24 first-half points to hold on for a 34-24 road win.
The Wildcats hung around thanks to outstanding efforts by QB’s Dan Persa and Kane Colter. Persa threw for 294 yards and a touchdown, and Colter ran for a touchdown and caught one from Persa.
Despite putting up 406 yards of total offense, the Wildcats were held to just 125 yards in the second half. Northwestern’s first-half success could be due to the fact that the Lions haven’t faced a running quarterback yet this season, and needed halftime to make adjustments.
The Lions did just that, sacking Northwestern QB’s seven times and getting big plays from the defense in the second half, just as they’ve done all season as one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.
With the Wildcats within two scores and the ball at the Penn State 13 yard line, consecutive sacks by Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley on Colter forced the Wildcats back to the 41 and a punt that essentially ended hopes of an upset.
A Gerald Hodges 63-yard interception return off Dan Persa setup a Silas Redd 19-yard touchdown to put the Lions up 34-24 early in the third quarter, which would prove be the end of the scoring on the night.
Redd torched the Wildcat defense for a career-high 164 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries. It marks the fourth-straight game that the sophomore has gone over 100 yards.
His quarterback wasn’t half bad either, as McGloin played the entire game, throwing a long touchdown to Devon Smith and adding another scoring toss to Justin Brown to open the Penn State scoring. He ended the night 17-26 for 192 yards and the two scores.
McGloin has been in a season-long quarterback competition with Rob Bolden, who has seen McGloin take a majority of the snaps in recent weeks. Bolden wore the headset for the entire game on Saturday, a possible indication of his status with the team.
Coach Paterno was non-committal after the game when asked by reporters if McGloin had won the job.
“No, no,” Paterno said. “Every day is between Bolden and McGloin.”
Regardless of the ongoing quarterback saga, McGloin got a boost from wide receiver Devon Smith, who used his blazing speed to wreak havoc on Northwestern’s defense to the tune of six catches for 110 yards, including the 45-yard bomb from McGloin in the first quarter.
Even after another stellar effort from his football team, it was hard for Paterno to hide from yet another milestone in a storied career.
“I went to bed last night and I said ‘Jeez, if we win tomorrow, I’m going to be tied with Eddie Robinson,’” said Paterno after the game.
When Paterno tied Bear Bryant with 323 wins, he did it against the Wildcats. Win No. 400 came at their expense last season in Happy Valley when Penn State rallied from 21 down to win 35-21.
Who knows what the next milestone will be (He’s only 73 wins behind DIII’s John Gagliardi, who is still active), but rest assured, there’s a good chance it will be against those Wildcats.
“It’s special to play for a guy like that,” Silas Redd said.
Just as special for us to watch Silas. Trust me.
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