SAN DIEGO — A kicker named Ray Tarasi brought some holiday smiles to men dressed in red jackets Saturday when he made a 20-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to give Penn State a 16-13 victory over Pittsburgh at Pitt Stadium.
A few minutes later, Penn State Coach Joe Paterno accepted an invitation from Holiday Bowl officials to bring his Nittany Lions to San Diego. It will be Penn State's first Holiday Bowl appearance.
Penn State (7-3-1) will play the Western Athletic Conference champion Brigham Young Friday, Dec. 29, at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Tarasi's field goal prevented Penn State from going winless in its final three games, something no bowl official likes to contemplate for one of its participants. In its previous two games, Penn State lost to Notre Dame (34-23) and tied Maryland (13-13).
"I don't know why these guys in red coats were so concerned," said Penn State Athletic Director Jim Tarman, referring to bowl officials. "Joe said we'd go to the Holiday Bowl with seven wins."
Penn State's three losses this season have been to Notre Dame, Virginia (14-6) and Alabama (17-16).
Holiday Bowl officials have looked at Penn State since the first weekend they were allowed to scout teams in mid-October.
"We started bearing in on them pretty hard then," said John Reid, executive director. "You look at the teams they've lost to and they've had a pretty incredible season."
Said Paterno: "I've been to San Diego several times, and I'm anxious to have my squad go out there and see what a great city it is."
Paterno said he never seriously considered another bowl bid.
"No, when it looked like this thing was starting to firm up, I told Jim (Tarman) to call John Reid and see if they wanted us when it was the appropriate time to make the bid. I said we'd really be interested."
Penn State has never played BYU.
"I don't think the score will be 16-13," Paterno said. "LaVell (Edwards, BYU's coach) might take it easy on me because I'm his buddy. He is a very special friend of mine.
"We'll make a deal--we'll throw the ball and he'll run the ball and we'll have a very dull game."
The Holiday Bowl has guaranteed each team $1 million, an increase from its payout of $907,613 apiece last year.
The Holiday Bowl is sold out, the earliest sellout in the game's history. It will be televised by ESPN.