12:00 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Beaver Stadium, UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Joe Paterno has been saying all year he has a good football team. His Nittany Lions finally proved it on the field, allowing Paterno to end his 39th season at Penn State with a win.
The Nittany Lions scored four third-quarter touchdowns in a 37-13 win Saturday over Michigan State, and students who booed during three previous home losses chanted "Joe Paterno" and "Joe Pa, Joe Pa" as the game wound down.
Tamba Hali and Paul Posluszny had interceptions and Donnie Johnson blocked a punt for Penn State (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten), which wrapped up its fourth losing season in five years. The loss eliminated Michigan State (5-6, 4-4) from bowl consideration.
There have been calls for the 77-year-old coach to step down, though Paterno again dismissed any suggestion this season might be his last.
"Have I ever said I wasn't (coming back)? Is that wishful thinking? I'm planning to be back next year," Paterno said.
Tony Hunt's 1-yard touchdown run, Penn State's only touchdown generated by the offense, gave the Nittany Lions a 10-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
Two plays later, Hali's interception behind the line of scrimmage set up Zack Mills' 8-yard scoring run -- Penn State's second touchdown in 51 seconds -- for a 17-6 lead.
Posluszny's interception set up another one-play scoring drive, with Mills running it in from the 10 to make it 24-6. Johnson's block led to Mills' 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Robinson to make it 31-6 with 21 seconds left in the third.
"That's about as well as you can play defense. That was lights out," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "I wanted the third quarter to go on forever ... everything was clicking. Guys were making great plays, great drops, great reads. ... It was really fun to watch."
"I'm not going to talk about the third quarter. It was ugly," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "It was just mistake after mistake after mistake."
The toss to Robinson was the 41st scoring pass for Mills, tying him with Todd Blackledge and Tony Sacca as Penn State's career touchdown pass leaders. Mills leaves Penn State as the school's career leader in passing yardage and total offense, and the only player to lead the team in total offense four consecutive years.
"It hasn't sunk in yet -- none of the records, any of that -- hasn't sunk in because I've still been playing, still been going out doing what I need to do," Mills said. "But now that I'm done with this team here, it's very special."
Robbie Gould added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Reaves -- Michigan State's third-string quarterback -- threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jerramy Scott with 8:57 left, but by then it was too late for a comeback.
Calvin Lowry had two of Penn State's five interceptions, a season high.
Dave Rayner kicked a 52-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to give the Spartans a 6-3 lead. The lead could have been bigger, but Anwar Phillips intercepted Drew Stanton in the end zone early in the second quarter.
"I felt like we lost that game in the first half," Smith said. "We didn't take advantage of some opportunities that we have to take advantage of to come into somebody else's house and win."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-16||7-15|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-1|
|FG||10:33||DAVE RAYNER 19 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 78 yards.
|FG||1:43||ROBBIE GOULD 47 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 0 yards.
|FG||0:00||DAVE RAYNER 52 YD FG|
Drive info: 9 plays, 45 yards.
|TD||8:58||TONY HUNT 1 YD RUN (ROBBIE GOULD KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 75 yards.
|TD||8:07||ZACK MILLS 8 YD RUN (ROBBIE GOULD KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 8 yards.
|TD||3:18||ZACK MILLS 10 YD RUN (ROBBIE GOULD KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 10 yards.
|TD||0:21||MICHAEL ROBINSON 6 YD PASS FROM ZACK MILLS (ROBBIE GOULD KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 22 yards.
|FG||12:23||ROBBIE GOULD 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 43 yards.
|TD||8:57||JERRAMY SCOTT 12 YD PASS FROM STEPHEN REAVES (DAVE RAYNER KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 48 yards.
|FG||6:32||ROBBIE GOULD 43 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 2 yards.