8:00 PM ET, January 3, 2006
PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI, FL
MIAMI (AP) -- 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."
And one of the most thrilling anyone's ever seen.
Paterno had said he didn't want the game to be about him and the 76-year-old Bowden, who rank 1-2 in career coaching victories. It turned out to be about missed opportunities, improbable twists, epic length -- and nearly unbearable suspense.
Kelly missed field goal attempts of 29 and 38 yards that would have won the game. Paterno calmly patted the freshman's back after the second miss, then sent him back onto the field for another try.
It was second down, and Paterno called for a fake field goal. But Florida State's defensive alignment negated that idea.
Kelly kicked the winner instead.
"I still had my confidence," Kelly said. "I don't think I've ever missed three in a row."
Florida State counterpart Gary Cismesia missed an extra point in the first half and field goal tries of 44 and 38 yards in overtime -- a familiar problem for Bowden. Missed or blocked field goals have helped the Miami Hurricanes beat him six times, including in the 2004 Orange Bowl.
"When they pick the all-time missed field-goal coach, I'll probably get the award," Bowden said. "We're masters at that."
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. Paterno's best season in 11 years represented a big rebound after going 7-16 in 2003-04.
"Obviously this year has been one of the most rewarding," Paterno said at the end of his 40th season in coaching. "To win this one this way at the end of the year is a great tribute to the kids and the coaching staff. So it's a great feeling."
No. 22 Florida State fell to 8-5, Bowden's worst season since 1981. Also concluding his 40th season as a head coach, he tried to shrug off the defeat.
"I told my kids, what a great game that was to build going into next year," Bowden said. "I think we're heading in the right direction."
Moments after the game ended, the two old friends came together, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a crush of cameras and microphones and exchanged warm words.
"No animosity. No animosity. I mean that," Bowden said.
"Both teams played so hard," Paterno added.
"Both teams played as well as they could play," Bowden replied.
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 MVP 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.
|Top 10 Div. I-A coaching victories|
|Amos Alonzo Stagg||314||199||35|
|Bo Schembechler||234||65||8||x- active|
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.
"It came down to one play," Paterno said. "It could have gone the other way."
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.
"We had a lot of perseverance,'' Kilmer said. "We had to just keep plugging away, keep plugging away, keep plugging away."
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, hurt his right knee during the drive and was carted off the field. Paterno said he'll require an MRI to determine the extent of the damage.
Tony Hunt, a 1,047-yard rusher for Penn State, departed in the first quarter with a left ankle injury. Scott replaced him and ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
The teams punted 20 times, all in the first three periods. 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.
It was over when... Penn State's Kevin Kelly, who missed two earlier game-winning attempts, nailed a 29-yard field goal in the third overtime.
Gameball goes to... The Nittany Lions, who survived the three-overtime thriller and finished the season 11-1.
Stat of the game... 3. The Nittany Lions and Seminoles competed in only the third overtime game in BCS history. It is the only BCS game to reach three OTs, too.
The Fan Pick
88.6% of Bowl Pick'em players picked Penn State to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-21||3-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-1|
|TD||4:59||AUSTIN SCOTT 2 YD RUN (KEVIN KELLY KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 85 yards.
|TD||4:09||WILLIE REID 87 YD PUNT RETURN (GARY CISMESIA KICK)||7||7|
|TD||2:49||LORENZO BOOKER 57 YD PASS FROM DREW WEATHERFORD (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 57 yards.
|TD||0:06||ETHAN KILMER 24 YD PASS FROM MICHAEL ROBINSON (KEVIN KELLY KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 40 yards.
|S||13:36||JIM SHAW SAFETY||16||13|
|FG||4:08||GARY CISMESIA 48 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||0:00||AUSTIN SCOTT 1 YD RUN (KEVIN KELLY KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 0 yards.
|TD||0:00||B.J. DEAN 1 YD RUN (CHRIS HALL KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 0 yards.
|FG||0:00||KEVIN KELLY 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 13 yards.