NCF Nation: Wildcats-Lions-110610

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The significance of the moment was embraced and understood by everyone at Beaver Stadium, both young and old.

Moments after Penn State beat Northwestern 35-21 to give coach Joe Paterno his 400th career win, Nittany Lions running back Stephfon Green darted through the crowd, holding a sign that read: "400 The Paterno Way."

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Charles LeClaire/US PressiwreJoe Paterno is the only FBS coach with 400 wins.
"Who wants to hold my helmet?" Green asked frantically. "So I can run around and act the fool."

The delirium extended to Green's fellow students, who chanted "We love Joe" and "Joe Pa" in the final moments of the Lions' historic come-from-behind win.

A different sort of joy enveloped Jay Paterno, the Penn State quarterbacks coach and Joe's second-oldest son, when asked to reflect on what his dad had accomplished.

"I told my mom last week after we beat Michigan, 'Is everyone coming in next week?'" Jay said. "She goes, 'No, why?' I said, 'Well, mom, I hate to tell you, but this is kind of a big deal.' Four hundred wins really hasn't been done at this level. It's only been done by two other guys."

Jay Paterno began to choke up.

"I'm a student of the game," he continued."I love the history."

The man who has been such a big part of that history also was moved by the moment. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Penn State players hoisted Joe Paterno on their shoulders and carried him to midfield.

Normally a no-no with Joe, Paterno didn't mind the escort. In fact, he enjoyed it. A little.

"They had me up there before I knew it," he said. "I was hoping they wouldn't. I'd be dishonest if I told you that it wasn't a moving night for me. It was. The crowd, the university making a presentation to me ... all of that was nice. The carrying me off the field, we've all got a ham in us.

"It felt pretty good."

Fittingly, Paterno's 400th win had several historical connections.

Penn State recorded its largest home comeback in Paterno's 45 seasons (it tied for the largest under Paterno home or away after a comeback from 21 points down against Illinois in 1994). The previous record at home was a rally from 18 points down against Ohio State in 2001. That win marked Paterno's 324th and moved him past Paul "Bear" Bryant for the top spot in all-time coaching victories at the FBS/Division I-A level.

Just like that day, when Zack Mills led a second-half rally, Penn State turned to a reserve quarterback for heroics. Sophomore Matt McGloin relieved Rob Bolden and led five consecutive touchdown drives, completing 18 of 29 passes for 225 yards and four touchdown tosses.

"We were down 21-0 and all I could think of was the Ohio State game," Jay Paterno said.

JayPa reminded the players of a different rally Saturday morning, a fourth-quarter comeback against Northwestern in 2005 that required a fourth-and-15 conversion. Penn State went on to win the Big Ten and the Orange Bowl.

Jay Paterno text-messaged Michael Robinson, Penn State's quarterback that day in Evanston, and wrote: "Without fourth-and-15, there may not have been a 400."

[+] EnlargeMatt McGloin
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireMatt McGloin led five scoring drives in Penn State's comeback win against Northwestern.
McGloin was too young to remember the 2001 Ohio State game or the parallels there, but he didn't have to. Saturday's comeback belonged to this team.

It was their moment in history.

"To see them come back the way they came back," Joe Paterno said, "it sounds corny, but that really was probably more important to me than whether it was 350 wins or whether it was 400 wins. Some of these kids now know what it takes to get it done."

Northwestern dominated the first 29 minutes, playing flawlessly in all three phases and getting gutsy play from quarterback Dan Persa (201 pass yards, touchdown; 109 rush yards, 2 touchdowns). The Wildcats went up 21-0 with just 56 seconds left in the first half, and a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff backed up Penn State to its own 9-yard line.

McGloin's initial mind-set: sit on it, cut your losses and don't make this any worse.

Then Evan Royster had a nice run on first down. Four plays later, Penn State reached Northwestern territory on Green's 21-yard run.

McGloin's revised mind-set: get close enough for a field goal.

Then he connected on back-to-back 20-yard passes, setting up first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, McGloin found a leaping Brett Brackett in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with three ticks left, completing a nine-play, 91-yard drive in 47 seconds.

McGloin's re-revised mindset: we can win this thing.

His confidence grew even more when Penn State marched 84 yards in 14 plays to begin the second half.

"The fans were into it, the sideline was into it, I was feeling great, everyone was feeling great," he said. "We acted as if we were winning at that point."

Penn State racked up 358 yards on its five touchdown drives. McGloin was on point, the offensive line held its blocks and running backs Royster (134 rush yards) and Silas Redd (131 rush yards) wore down the Wildcats.

"Everybody felt once we got the momentum, it wasn't going to go away," Royster said on the field after the game. "And that was the case."

The defense did its part, holding Northwestern to one first down and 32 yards in the third quarter.

"We just knew," defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said. "You kind of feel that mojo coming."

It came in a hurry as Penn State scored 35 points in 18:25.

Paterno's party continued after the game, as Penn State held an on-field ceremony that included a video tribute and a crystal football given to the coach to commemorate No. 400.

"People ask me why I've stayed here so long," Paterno told the crowd of 104,147, none of whom went home. "Look around!"

Then, in typical Paterno fashion, he looked ahead.

"Let's go beat Ohio State."

video

Video: Penn State's Matt McGloin

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
8:44
PM ET

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin talks about his performance and Joe Paterno getting his 400th career win.

Video: Penn State's Devon Still

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
8:43
PM ET

Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still talks about the win over Northwestern.

Penn State fullback Joe Suhey talks about his career day in the win over Northwestern.

Penn State rally gets JoePa No. 400

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
6:58
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- You couldn't have scripted it better than this.

Penn State mounted the biggest home comeback under coach Joe Paterno to give the 83-year-old his 400th career victory. The Nittany Lions rallied from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit to defeat Northwestern, 35-21, marking the biggest home comeback since rallying from 18 points down in 2001 to give Paterno his 324th career win, passing Paul "Bear" Bryant for the all-time major college record.

The rally matched Penn State's biggest under Paterno home or road. Penn State rallied from 21 points down at Illinois in 1994 to preserve its perfect season.

Northwestern blew a big lead for the second time in three weeks. The Wildcats only must look at the end of the first half to see why they lost this game. It was inexcusable to let Penn State march 91 yards in less than a minute.

Much more to come from Happy Valley.

video

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Remember when Penn State had a lousy offense?

Those days feel like long ago as the Nittany Lions have surged since their bye week. After putting up 41 points last week, the Lions are on fire right now.

Penn State has scored touchdowns on its last five possessions, piling up 358 yards on those drives. Running backs Evan Royster and Silas Redd both have eclipsed 100 rushing yards and quarterback Matt McGloin is on fire.

The Lions haven't been facing the best defenses and get a much tougher test next week at No. 11 Ohio State, but their offensive woes clearly have turned around.

Northwestern finally is showing some life on offense, but the Wildcats are still down 35-21 with 8:55 left.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern is typically a poised team on the road, but Pat Fitzgerald's crew is melting down.

After allowing a touchdown late in the first half, the Wildcats have done nothing in the third quarter as Penn State keeps scoring at will. Northwestern failed to get a yard on two attempts and then shanked a punt, putting Penn State in business for another scoring drive.

Penn State continues to do no wrong, and the fans are sensing Joe Paterno's 400th career win. The party is back on at Beaver Stadium, as Penn State leads 28-21.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Matt McGloin has a special quality about him, a confidence that Penn State's other quarterbacks simply don't possess.

It's why I wanted the Nittany Lions to start the sophomore ahead of Rob Bolden even though Bolden is healthy and might still be the team's future. McGloin has helped Penn State rally to tie the score at 21-21, and his confidence is spilling over to his teammates. Bolden might not be healthy after absorbing a big hit in the first quarter, but McGloin will be the man the rest of the way.

No. 11 made a perfect throw to Derek Moye for a 36-yard touchdown and Penn State has taken the life out of Northwestern and injected it into Beaver Stadium.

We've got a new ballgame here in Happy Valley.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Overshadowed in the first half was the fact that Penn State ran the football pretty well.

Senior Evan Royster carried over the momentum from his 150-yard performance against Michigan and ran extremely hard for 49 yards, while freshman Silas Redd nearly broke free several times. The Lions had little to show for it, but not anymore.

The run game is very much alive for Penn State, which has closed the gap to seven points following a 14-play, 84-yard drive to open the second half. Royster and Redd both had some big gains against a Northwestern defense that seems to be losing its edge fast. Quarterback Matt McGloin also is gaining confidence and found big Nate Cadogan in the end zone for a 3-yard score.

Northwestern has to be thinking "here we go again" after the Michigan State loss, while Penn State might still pull this one out for Joe Paterno. Wildcats lead 21-14 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern is spoiling Joe Paterno's party so far, leading Penn State 21-7 at halftime.

Some quick thoughts:

Player of the half: Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. The junior has been outstanding in his return to his home state, completing 9 of 13 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He has added 89 rush yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, showing fearlessness a week after suffering a concussion.

Stat of the half: Penn State entered the game leading the nation in fewest penalties (3.25 per game), while Northwestern came in tied for 98th nationally (7.5 per game), worst in the Big Ten. The Lions have drawn five penalties for 54 yards, while Northwestern's only penalty came with three seconds left in the half and was declined.

What Northwestern needs to do: The Wildcats played a near flawless 29 minutes with no penalties or turnovers, so they just need to keep the pedal down, which hasn't been easy for Pat Fitzgerald's team. Northwestern must avoid the major mistake and continue to put pressure on Penn State's quarterbacks, which you didn't see on that final drive.

What Penn State needs to do: Build off its 9-play, 91-yard scoring drive just before halftime. Northwestern will blow big leads -- the Wildcats lost a 17-0 lead on Michigan State two weeks ago -- so the Lions need to use the crowd's energy and start finishing drives better. They also need to step things up on defense against Persa, who has had his way so far.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern came into this game with the penalty problem, ranking 98th nationally in penalties per game (7.5).

But so far, Penn State has been the undisciplined team, drawing four penalties for 45 yards. The Lions entered Saturday leading the nation in fewest penalties (3.25 per game). Most damaging was a questionable helmet-to-helmet hit by Sean Stanley on Northwestern's Dan Persa, which set up the Wildcats deep in Penn State territory.

Persa suffered a concussion last week at Indiana, but he sure doesn't look like it. The Wildcats quarterback has been absolutely fearless today, carrying the ball 11 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Mike Trumpy also has been impressive both as a rusher and as a receiver.

Northwestern leads 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno talked this week of playing two quarterbacks, and he has done just that.

Freshman Rob Bolden started for Penn State but left the game after taking a big hit and fumbling inside Northwestern territory. Sophomore Matt McGloin provided a brief lift with a 9-yard completion on his first attempt, but penalties surprisingly are hurting a disciplined Lions team, which remains scoreless.

Bolden is standing on the sideline with his helmet off. Not sure if he's hurt or just removed for performance.

Penn State has hit on some nice screen passes, but the Lions simply aren't putting together a good drive. They're fortunate to be down only 7-0 as Northwestern missed a short field-goal try.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Dan Persa and the Northwestern Wildcats have come to play.

The star quarterback made a strong first statement, leading Northwestern 74 yards in seven plays as the Wildcats quickly jumped ahead of Penn State 7-0. Northwestern isn't a big-play offense, but it picked up 50 yards on the first two plays as Persa raced 31 yards and then found Mike Trumpy for a 19-yard gain.

Persa made a clutch throw on third down and ran it in himself for the touchdown. He accounted for all of Northwestern's yards on the march.

As expected, Rob Bolden got the start at quarterback for Penn State.

Northwestern-Penn State pregame

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
3:06
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- We're about 30 minutes away from kickoff here at Beaver Stadium, and both teams are on the field for warm-ups.

Still no official announcement on Penn State's starting quarterback, but it looks like freshman Rob Bolden will get the call. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has been fully cleared since the middle of the week.

Penn State's students are a little late to arrive today. The student section is only about 20 percent full, although there are several good signs. My personal favorite: "Derek Es Moye Bien."

Joe Paterno is walking around, taking a few pictures with fans and watching the quarterbacks.

A lot more to come from Beaver Stadium, so keep it right here.

SPONSORED HEADLINES