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Paterno Gets Carried Away After No. 300

Big Ten: Emotions get to Penn State coach after Nittany Lions' 48-3 victory over Bowling Green.

September 13, 1998|From Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — On his morning walk, Joe Paterno started to think about No. 300.

"I really didn't think it would be a big deal until this morning," the choked up Paterno said after No. 9 Penn State beat Bowling Green, 48-3, on Saturday and gave Paterno his 300th victory. "I got to think about a lot of things, my first game. . . . A lot of things went through my mind, and I thought I'd better be careful or I'll get carried away."

He was carried away all right. After twice being doused with water as the final seconds ticked down, two of Paterno's players lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him to the middle of the field.

By then, Paterno was truly overcome with emotion. As he was handed a microphone to address the fans, who a few minutes earlier were chanting "Joe Pa-terno!" it was tough to tell if he was wiping away sweat, tears or water. With those thick glasses he wears, who could tell?

"I'm so overwhelmed, I really can't tell you how welled up I am with the memories," Paterno said after becoming the sixth coach in NCAA history to win 300 games. "After 48 years at Penn State, I salute all the efforts of every team I've been a part of, and that includes all you fans and all you alumni. I love every one of you. After all, we are . . . "

And the crowd answered: "Penn State!"

Paterno, 71, tried his best to sidestep most questions this week about reaching 300 .

After being presented with a portrait of he and his wife, Sue, and a cake with the number 300 on it, he headed home for a postgame pasta party.

"I think a lot of guys just respect the moment," cornerback David Macklin said. "I know I really respect coach Paterno and what he has accomplished. As a kid, I remember watching Penn State games on TV and seeing him and now I'm a part of it."

Playing the game was easy. Cordell Mitchell ran 77 yards for a touchdown on Penn State's first play, Bruce Branch followed 83 seconds later with a 73-yard punt return for a score and the Nittany Lions coasted.

Penn State (2-0) also scored on interception returns of 16 yards by LaVar Arrington and 30 yards by Joe Dawkins, and Mitchell had 104 yards and two touchdowns in Paterno's milestone victory before a crowd of 96,291 at Beaver Stadium, most of whom hung around for the postgame ceremony.

Paterno, in his 33rd season as coach, joins Bear Bryant (323), Pop Warner (319) and Amos Alonzo Stagg (314) as the only major-college coaches with 300 wins. Eddie Robinson, who retired at Grambling last season, has the NCAA record of 408 and John Gagliardi of St. John's, Minn., has 342.

Paterno earned a few distinctions of his own. He is the first major-college coach to win 300 games at one school, and also reached 300 quicker than anyone else--380 games. His record is 300-77-3.

Among those in attendance for No. 300 were players from Paterno's 1973 undefeated team.

"I think it's another game to him, but he understands the exposure it gives to the university, how it helps recruiting," 1973 Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti said during a pregame party just outside the stadium. "After the game he'll go with the flow, and then he'll try for the next guy on the list. You know Joe."

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