MIAMI (AP) -- It's not often the coaches on the sidelines get
more attention than the players on the field.
Then again, it's not often Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno play
Try as they might, the two winningest coaches in major college
history can't hide from the hype. Even their players know where the
attention will be when No. 3 Penn State and No. 22 Florida State
meet Tuesday night in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
"For somebody to say it's not a big deal, I think they'd be
lying," Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker said. "This is
like a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and it's not going to happen for
another century. We won't be alive, because you have to coach a
long time to do what these guys have done.
"It's something you can tell your grandkids," Booker added.
"That you actually played for the guy that won the most and played
against the guy that was second on the list."
At 79 and 76, respectively, Paterno and Bowden are the
patriarchs of the college coaching profession. Bowden has the most
victories with 359, while Paterno is right behind at 353. They're
both in their 40th year as head coaches, with Paterno spending all
of his time at Penn State and Bowden in his 30th season in
They've become good friends through the years, traveling
together with their wives at coaching seminars in the offseason.
Despite all that, they rarely play each other. Only seven times
in 40 years, and the last meeting was way back in 1990. Paterno, by
the way, has won all but one of their meetings.
"I'm going to look across the sidelines and say 'That's
JoePa,"' Seminoles running back Leon Washington said. "I'm just
proud to be a part of it. I can tell my son or my daughter that I
played in that game. I can tell my grandkids that I played against
See, it's that kind of talk that makes Bowden and Paterno
cringe. Ever since their Orange Bowl matchup was announced last
month, the two coaches have been trying to deflect the attention
from themselves. They realize their rare meeting is a point of
interest, but they want the focus to be on the players.
Both teams have struggled lately, and winning this game would
bring a measure of redemption for each.
"I don't look at it as something personal," Paterno said
Monday. "All I wanted to do was make sure everyone knew that we
have a good football team."
But that's part of what makes this matchup so special.
For decades, Paterno and Bowden's programs were among the best
in college football. Bowden's team finished in the top five every
year from 1987 to 2000, and he won two national titles during that
run. Paterno's 1982 and 1986 teams were national champs, and four
other squads were unbeaten. He had one losing season in his first
34 years of coaching.
The last few years have been tough for both teams, though, and
winning this game would show an old coach hasn't lost his touch.
After Penn State's fourth losing season in five years, there was
a growing chorus of fans and alums calling for Paterno to step
aside. But the Nittany Lions rebounded with a 10-1 record, their
best season in a decade, and earned a trip to their first marquee
bowl since 1996.
"The thing about great teams is if you don't finish the story,
it ain't going to be a story that's going to be remembered,"
cornerback and tri-captain Alan Zemaitis said. "We go out with a
loss, it's going to feel like everything we did, in essence, was
nothing. We brought a lot of stuff back. But for our seniors, for
the young guys, we've got to go out with a win."
Though the Seminoles haven't had a losing season since 1976,
Bowden's first at Florida State, they've lost 15 games in the last
four years _ two more than they did in all of the 1990s. This year,
they lost three straight for the first time since 1983, and were
out of the Top 25 for the first time in four years.
But the Seminoles (8-4) closed the season with an upset of
then-No. 5 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. Beating Penn
State would make it two victories in a row over top-five teams, and
three this season.
"People won't remember the small little losing streak that we
had. They wouldn't think that the game we had against Virginia Tech
was a fluke," receiver Willie Reid said. "I think it would put an
exclamation point on the whole season and be a good way to start
the new one."
For those that pay attention, that is. Most people just care
about the coaches.
"I am Exhibit B, Joe is Exhibit A. That's all we are." Bowden
said. "There's a game in there somewhere."