STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — In bright white letters against a blue background, the electronic sign boards around Beaver Stadium took note of another milestone for Joe Paterno long after the stands had cleared.
“Congratulations Coach Paterno,” the signs read. “Winningest Coach In Division I College Football.”
It took all 60 minutes on a snowy, sloppy Saturday in Happy Valley, but JoePa broke Eddie Robinson’s record with victory No. 409 as No. 21 Penn State defeated Illinois 10-7.
Paterno Joe Paterno earned his 409th win, passing Eddie Robinson for the most in Division I history. Paterno is also second all-time through all NCAA divisions. John Gagliardi, active at Division III St. John’s, Minn., has 481 victories.
The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) overcame six fumbles — losing two — with Silas Redd’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:08 to go. Penn State’s only touchdown came after Illinois corner Justin Green was whistled for pass interference while breaking up a fourth-down pass for Derek Moye in the end zone.
Illinois (6-3, 2-3) drove from its 17 to the Penn State 25 on the next drive, but Derek Dimke’s 42-yard field goal attempt bounced off the right upright as time expired.
Even JoePa was nervous in the press box before Penn State’s last drive. Paterno coached upstairs since he’s still got a sore right leg, shoulder and pelvis following an accidental preseason hit.
“Did I have any doubts,” he asked rhetorically with a chuckle. “Sure I had doubts … but it worked out anyway.”
In a common occurrence over his remarkable 46-year career, Paterno was feted again with a postgame ceremony. School president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley presented JoePa with a plaque that read, “Joe Paterno. Educator of Men. Winningest Coaach. Division One Football.”
Among all coaches, Paterno now only trails John Gagliardi, still active at Division III St. John’s, Minn., with 481 victories.
“It really is something I’ve very proud of, to be associated with Eddie Robinson,” Paterno said in a brief postgame ceremony in the media room broadcast to fans still waiting in the stands 10 minutes later. “Something like this means a lot to me, an awful lot. But there’s a lot of other people I’ve got to thank.”
Start with Redd, the budding star who had a career-high 30 carries for 137 yards for Penn State, none bigger than his late TD run.
An early-season snowstorm had fans bundled up in winter parkas and hoodies. The offenses seemed to be frozen stiff.
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After struggling most of the afternoon, quarterback Matt McGloin drove Penn State from their own 20 to the Illini 32 on three long completions before the pass interference call gave the Nittany Lions a second chance.
“I thought it was a good play myself,” frustrated Illini coach Ron Zook said. “But obviously (the referee) thought … I don’t know, I didn’t ask him.”
Redd capitalized four plays later by barreling into the end zone, the crowd erupting in delight.
Jason Ford rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries but Illinois couldn’t capitalize on a slew of Penn State mistakes in a defensive slugfest.