|Score by Quarters
||PSU - Austin Scott 2-yard run (Kelly kick)
||FSU - Willie Reed 87-yard punt return (Cismesia kick)
||FSU - L. Booker 57-yard pass from Weatherford (kick
||PSU - Ethan Kilmer 24-yard pass from Robinson (Kelly
||PSU - Jim Shaw Safety
||FSU - Gary Cismesia 48-yard field goal
||PSU - Austin Scott 1-yard run (Kelly kick)
||FSU - B.J. Dean 1-yard run (Cismesia kick)
||PSU - Kevin Kelly 29-yard field goal
MIAMI, Fla. - You'd think that in his 56-year career at Penn State, the
last 40 as head coach, Joe Paterno could claim to have done and seen everything
there is to do and see in college football.
But Paterno, 79, found himself on unfamiliar ground when third-ranked
Penn State concluded its regular season with a victory at Michigan State
on Nov. 19, obliging the Nittany Lions to wait on an opponent and a date
for the BCS bowl their 10-1 record merited.
The Lions waited, all right. And waited. And then waited some more.
Last night's Orange Bowl date against No. 22 Florida State was
Penn State's first game in 44 days, the longest bowl delay ever for a
Paterno-coached team. No wonder JoePa is a proponent of a playoff format.
"One of the biggest concerns I have is that we haven't played
a game in 7 weeks,'' Paterno said earlier this week. "I'm worried
No need to worry. The Nittany Lions worked off the rust by going
to the third overtime before defeating the Seminoles, 26-23, when Kevin
Kelly kicked a 29-yard field goal.
"One play here, one play there and it could have gone the
other way,'' Paterno said. "But we got it, and I'll take it.''
Looking very much like a football team trying to scrape the rust
off in spring practice rather than a finely tuned machine that came within
2 seconds of an undefeated regular season, the Lions finally squeezed
past the Seminoles in an inelegant, seemingly endless contest marked by
offensive futility and botched opportunities by both teams.
The marathon game, which kicked off at 8:15 p.m., alternately thrilled
and frustrated a crowd of 77,773 until 12:59 a.m. when goat-turned-hero
Kelly won it for Penn State.
"I told him we're too old for this,'' Paterno kidded. "It's
almost past my bedtime.''
Held in check throughout the second half, Penn State had a chance
to win it in regulation, but Kelly, the leftfooted freshman from Neshaminy
High who had made 15 of 20 field goals, was wide left on a 29-yarder with
32 seconds remaining. That ruined a late drive that featured Michael Robinson
completions of 20 yards to tight end Isaac Smolko and 38 yards to wide
receiver Jordan Norwood.
Florida State kicker Gary Cismesia - who earlier had missed a crucial
extra point - gave the Lions another reprieve when he was wide right with
a 44-yard field goal attempt in overtime.
One bad turn deserves another, and Kelly came right back with another
missed field goal, this one also wide left from 38 yards out.
The kickers' miscues necessitated a second OT, and this time the
teams matched 1-yard scoring runs, the first by Penn State's Austin Scott,
the second by B.J. Dean. This time, Kelly and Cismesia converted.
But the kickers' buzzard luck clung tighter to Cismesia, who opened
the third extra session by hitting the right upright on a 38-yard field-goal
attempt as Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, a frequent victim of missed
field goals in big games, looked on in disbelief.
Given a third chance to win it for Penn State, Kelly delivered
the chip shot that improved the Lions' record to 11-1.
"Sometimes you miss at the wrong time,'' Bowden said. "Joe
was having that problem for a while.''
Florida State, which had concluded its regular season with three
consecutive losses, got back on track with a 27-22 upset of then-No. 5-ranked
Virginia Tech on Dec. 3, meaning the Seminoles
came into the Orange Bowl inactive for only 31 days. Bowden figured the
team that best adjusted its practice schedule might well walk off the field
at Dolphins Stadium with a victory in hand.
Paterno had brought the Lions to Florida on Dec. 20, a full 2 weeks
before the game.
"Joe may have done it exactly right,'' Bowden said of his fellow
coaching legend's experimental tinkering. "We may have done it exactly
right, too. Or one of us may have miscalculated this darn thing.''
The Seminoles were even more ineffective offensively than the Lions,
who had 403 total yards to 292 for FSU. Willie Reid returned seven punts
for a record 180 yards, including an Orange Bowl-record 87-yarder for the
Seminoles' first touchdown.
Robinson, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, seemed especially
out of sync. Robinson did hook up with Ethan Kilmer on a 24-yard touchdown
with 6 seconds remaining in the first half, enabling the Lions to take a
14-13 lead into intermission, but for most of the evening he was as accurate
as Mike McMahon. He completed 21 of 40 passes for 254 yards and, even more
surprising for someone who had rushed for 785 yards, was a non-factor as
a runner, carrying 17 times for just 21 yards.
Robinson also fumbled when Penn State had a first-and-goal at the
FSU 4-yard line with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lions,
who had a chance to put the game away, clinging to a 16-13 lead. Blame for
that costly miscue, however, went to center E.Z. Smith, who made a bad snap.
Given a reprieve, the Seminoles - who had almost no success in the
second half moving against the Penn State defense - drove 65 yards in 12
plays to even the count on Cismesia's 48-yard field goal with 4:08 to play.
Even worse for the Lions, All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny had to be
assisted off the field with an injured right knee when he was undercut by
tailback Lorenzo Booker.
Things started off badly for Penn State almost immediately when starting
tailback Tony Hunt injured his left ankle on the third play of the Lions'
first offensive series.
But Hunt's backup, junior Austin Scott, who had gained only 163 yards
during the regular season, came in and keyed an eight-play, 85-yard drive
on Penn State's next possession, which he capped with a 2-yard run. Scott
rushed for 109 yards on 26 carries and scored twice, including once in overtime.
Reid's long punt return drew Florida State even, and the Seminoles
edged ahead with 2:49 remaining in the half when quarterback Drew Weatherford
found Booker on a 57-yard scoring pass. Cismesia missed the PAT, however,
a point the 'Noles needed badly.