STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Joe Paterno has been saying all year
he has a good football team. His Nittany Lions finally proved it on
the field, allowing Paterno to end his 39th season at Penn State
with a win.
The Nittany Lions scored four third-quarter touchdowns in a
37-13 win Saturday over Michigan State, and students who booed
during three previous home losses chanted "Joe Paterno" and "Joe
Pa, Joe Pa" as the game wound down.
Tamba Hali and Paul Posluszny had interceptions and Donnie
Johnson blocked a punt for Penn State (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten), which
wrapped up its fourth losing season in five years. The loss
eliminated Michigan State (5-6, 4-4) from bowl consideration.
There have been calls for the 77-year-old coach to step down,
though Paterno again dismissed any suggestion this season might be
"Have I ever said I wasn't (coming back)? Is that wishful
thinking? I'm planning to be back next year," Paterno said.
Tony Hunt's 1-yard touchdown run, Penn State's only touchdown
generated by the offense, gave the Nittany Lions a 10-6 lead midway
through the third quarter.
Two plays later, Hali's interception behind the line of
scrimmage set up Zack Mills' 8-yard scoring run -- Penn State's
second touchdown in 51 seconds -- for a 17-6 lead.
Posluszny's interception set up another one-play scoring drive,
with Mills running it in from the 10 to make it 24-6. Johnson's
block led to Mills' 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Robinson to
make it 31-6 with 21 seconds left in the third.
"That's about as well as you can play defense. That was lights
out," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "I
wanted the third quarter to go on forever ... everything was
clicking. Guys were making great plays, great drops, great reads.
... It was really fun to watch."
"I'm not going to talk about the third quarter. It was ugly,"
Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "It was just mistake
after mistake after mistake."
The toss to Robinson was the 41st scoring pass for Mills, tying
him with Todd Blackledge and Tony Sacca as Penn State's career
touchdown pass leaders. Mills leaves Penn State as the school's
career leader in passing yardage and total offense, and the only
player to lead the team in total offense four consecutive years.
"It hasn't sunk in yet -- none of the records, any of that --
hasn't sunk in because I've still been playing, still been going
out doing what I need to do," Mills said. "But now that I'm done
with this team here, it's very special."
Robbie Gould added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Reaves -- Michigan State's third-string quarterback --
threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jerramy Scott with 8:57 left, but
by then it was too late for a comeback.
Calvin Lowry had two of Penn State's five interceptions, a
Dave Rayner kicked a 52-yard field goal on the last play of the
first half to give the Spartans a 6-3 lead. The lead could have
been bigger, but Anwar Phillips intercepted Drew Stanton in the end
zone early in the second quarter.
"I felt like we lost that game in the first half," Smith said.
"We didn't take advantage of some opportunities that we have to
take advantage of to come into somebody else's house and win."