Seasoned Penn State coach reaches winning mark

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2001

With his big, thick glasses and even thicker white socks, Joe Paterno never has been what anyone would consider flashy.

So when he finally matched Bear Bryant with that magical 323rd victory -- after almost a year of waiting and more criticism than he's faced in his career -- his understated reaction was almost fitting.

There was no Gatorade bath, no triumphant ride off the field on his players' shoulders, nothing to give away that this was anything special.

''I'm just excited for this football team. I didn't even think about it until one of the television guys came up to me after the game,'' Paterno said after Penn State's 38-35 upset of Northwestern on Saturday enabled him to match Bryant's Division I-A record for all-time wins.

''Sure it means a lot,'' Paterno continued. ''If I got it, fine. If I didn't get it, I wouldn't have worried about it. I'm just fortunate enough to have coached as many games as I have. I've enjoyed every one of them.''

Paterno is 323-94-3 in 36 seasons at Penn State. Bryant was 323-85-17 in 38 seasons at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama.

If Paterno savors this victory, it will be because of how hard his team worked for it. He's had amazing success at Penn State, with five perfect seasons and two national titles.

But he's going through the roughest stretch of his career, with the Nittany Lions (1-4, 1-3 Big Ten) opening the season 0-4 for the first time.

They had lost 14 of their last 20 games, and some questioned whether the game has passed the 74-year-old Paterno by.

He insisted it hasn't, and he proved it Saturday.

Paterno dug out the power-I formation, an old Penn State standby. It worked.

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