Penn St. Beats Florida St. in Three OTs
MIAMI - This really was one for the ages. For more than four hours, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden paced the Orange Bowl sidelines, searching for offense and enduring one missed kick after another. Finally, in the third overtime, at 1 a.m. Wednesday, Kevin Kelly made a 29-yard field goal, giving Paterno and Penn State a 26-23 victory over Bowden's Florida State Seminoles.
"I told him we're too old for this," the 79-year-old Paterno said afterward. "It's almost past my bedtime."
Paterno had said he didn't want the game to be about him and 76-year-old Bowden, who rank 1-2 in career coaching victories. It turned out to be about missed opportunities, improbable twists — and epic length.
Given two earlier chances to win the game, Kelly missed field goal attempts of 29 and 38 yards. Paterno calmly patted the freshman's back after the second miss, then sent him onto the field on second down for the winning kick.
Florida State counterpart Gary Cismesia missed an extra point in the first half and field goal tries of 44 and 38 yards in overtime.
"Sometimes you miss at the wrong time," Bowden said. "Joe was having that problem for a while."
The No. 3-ranked Nittany Lions finished 11-1, with the only loss coming when they gave up a touchdown to Michigan on the game's final play. The season represented a big rebound for Paterno's program, which went 7-16 in 2003-04.
No. 22 Florida State fell to 8-5, Bowden's worst season since 1981.
Moments after the game ended, the two old friends came together and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a crush of cameras and microphones to exchange warm words.
"No animosity. No animosity. I mean that," Bowden said.
"Both teams played so hard," Paterno said.
"Both teams played as well as they could play," Bowden said.
In a bowl season that started before Christmas and has included plenty of lackluster affairs, this one really was worth staying up for. And it served as a perfect warmup to the biggest game yet: No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Texas in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
Florida State mostly contained Big Ten most valuable player Michael Robinson, who threw a touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half but was limited to 253 yards passing and 21 rushing. One scrum knocked off his helmet.
He hit two clutch completions to give Penn State a chance to win the game in regulation. But Kelly, hampered by a shaky hold, was wide left on a 29-yard field goal attempt with 35 seconds left.
Cismesia kicked a 48-yard field goal with 4:08 left in regulation to tie the game at 16-all, but on the first series of overtime he was wide right on a 44-yard attempt.
Then it was Kelly's turn. He again pushed a try wide left, this time a 38-yarder with a perfect hold.
Austin Scott's 1-yard run put Penn State ahead. B.J. Dean pulled the Seminoles even with a 1-yard scoring run.
After Cismesia's 38-yard attempt hit the right upright, Kelly finally came through. The kick gave Paterno his 354th career win, second in Division I-A only to Bowden's 359.
Paterno improved to 7-1 against Bowden. The only loss came the last time they met, when Florida State beat Penn State in the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl — also at Miami.
With his first win in the Orange Bowl since 1974, Paterno improved to 21-10-1 in bowl games.
Both offenses spent much of the game going backward, but there were fireworks, too. Ethan Kilmer made a leaping 24-yard scoring reception with six seconds left in the first half to give Penn State a 14-13 halftime lead.
The Seminoles scored two touchdowns in 80 seconds — on an Orange Bowl-record 87-yard punt return by Willie Reid, and on a 57-yard reception by Lorenzo Booker.
But they totaled only six first downs before Drew Weatherford drove them 65 yards for the tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny, the Butkus Award winner, appeared to hurt his right knee during the drive and was carted off the field.
Tony Hunt, a 1,047-yard rusher for Penn State, departed in the first quarter with a left ankle injury. Replacement Scott ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
The teams punted 20 times. In the second half, they swapped eight possessions before either made a first down — on a pass-interference penalty.
Defense produced the first score of the half. Weatherford, working from his end zone, was called for intentional grounding — a safety — when Penn State's Jim Shaw forced a throw.
Leading 16-13, the Nittany Lions had a chance to take control with nine minutes left. But on first-and-goal at the 4, Florida State recovered a botched snap.
The Seminoles netted 26 yards rushing and were penalized 129 yards. Despite the lack of punch, they stayed in the game thanks to two big plays.
They trailed 7-0 when Reid weaved up the middle on a runback, cut left and dashed to the end zone. The punt return broke the Orange Bowl record of 80 yards by former Florida State athletic director Cecil "Hootie" Ingram for Alabama in 1953.