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Inside College Football | Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE
FOOTBALL

No Sites for Sore Guys at Penn State

October 27, 2005|Chris Dufresne

Click on joepamustgo.com and you'll now find a search engine touting low-cost services for, among other things, vacation packages.

Joepamustgo, it appears, took the slow boat to China.

The folks at firejoepaterno.com are so conflicted they shamelessly cross-promote "How do you lose to Michigan?" with the promise of making the site a "shrine" to Joe Paterno should Penn State advance to a major bowl game this year.

Penn State is 7-1 and three wins from at least a share of the Big Ten title and earning the conference's automatic bid to one of four prized bowl championship series games.

If the Nittany Lions defeat Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State, they will play in one of the following bowls: Fiesta, Sugar or Orange.

The schools that were supposed to win the Big Ten -- Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue -- have a combined 13 losses overall.

Had Michigan not defeated Penn State on the last play in regulation, Penn State would be undefeated and in the mix for the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl, the national championship game.

The people who were climbing on soapboxes last season to say 77-year-old Joe Paterno was too old and needed to step down aren't saying as much now that Paterno is almost 79.

Some of the Paterno-must-go websites have become cyberspace's equivalent to Wild West towns that shriveled up after the gold was mined.

It appears the sheriff at "FireJoePa.com" left Dodge after Penn State started 5-0 with a win over Minnesota. He didn't even stick around to update the Nittany Lions' schedule after Penn State upset Ohio State.

It's hard sometimes to blame those in the breathless brigade who shout for a paycheck, or type real hard on their computer keypads, for wanting Paterno gone because the demand for half-baked opinion has increased exponentially.

There are generally no rules of decorum in the wide world of Web, no respect for accomplishment, no quarter given to legends.

So, anyway, Paterno last week recorded win No. 350.

His Penn State team clobbered Illinois, 56-3, and that was only the first half.

Apologies from analysts and columnists don't come as easily as the fire and brimstone.

ABC's Craig James, who gave Paterno more rope than many when things were bleak, said he had no problem criticizing a Penn State program that had four losing seasons in the last five.

"I don't think anyone owes him an apology, because they stunk," James said of Paterno and Penn State.

And now they don't.

"If you're good and I blow your horn, when you stink I've got to blow it too," James said.

James' measured stance was that Paterno shouldn't be fired but that he needed to step down before he hurt the program.

What people were missing through it all was that Paterno, in his 40th season at the Happy Valley helm, did not suddenly forget how to coach when he turned 75 -- he just hit a down cycle after 35 years of sustained excellence.

Three seasons ago, Penn State finished 9-4, losing two games in overtime, one by three points and another by four.

Even during the worst of it, the 3-9 low point in 2003 and last year's 4-7, Paterno never lost control of his team the way, say, John Mackovic lost Arizona.

And rarely, if ever, did a Paterno team get played off its feet.

Penn State did not give up more than 21 points in any loss last year. The seven defeats were by 13 points or fewer.

It has all come together this year, just as Paterno thought it would. He has infused a veteran team led by quarterback Michael Robinson and lights-out (your lights) linebacker Paul Posluszny with his best freshman crop in years, led by Derrick Williams until he was lost for the year to injury.

Asked this week whether he ever thought he was washed up, Paterno related a story his father told him about a boxer never being finished unless he was knocked out.

Paterno was down but never knocked out.

"I don't read the sports page, I don't listen to those crazy talk shows," he said. "I just don't. I don't have a computer. I don't know what's going on on the Internet. I just go out and coach.

"And people being critical of me, sure, you're not winning games, they're critical of you. I think that's human nature. And everybody's got to be an expert. Well, he didn't do this, he should have done that, he's over the hill, he's that. I guess that's what went on. But I didn't pay attention to it, so it's hard for me to tell you where they were coming from."

There have been 766 major-college coaching changes since Paterno took over at Penn State in 1966.

Paterno offered this advice to the 23 new coaches this year.

"Know who you are," he counseled, "and what you want to do. Stick with your plan and have enough guts to stay with it."

In May 2004, Paterno signed a four-year contract extension through 2008.

Brace yourselves, because this could become the oldest story since Grandma Moses, who didn't even start painting until she was 75.

And didn't quit until she was 101.

*

Sneak Preview

It is not too early to wonder whether USC or Texas would win this year's national title game at the Rose Bowl.

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