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Another Historic Win for Paterno, Penn State

Kenneth Moore celebrates with fans after Wake Forest scored the last 24 points in a bowl win over Connecticut.
Kenneth Moore celebrates with fans after Wake Forest scored the last 24 points in a bowl win over Connecticut. (By Chuck Burton -- Associated Press)
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Associated Press
Sunday, December 30, 2007

Joe Paterno's 500th game as Penn State's coach ended the way most have: with JoePa on top.

Evan Royster broke a tie with a 38-yard touchdown run, Deon Butler caught a debatable 30-yard pass and Penn State erased an early 14-point deficit to beat Texas A&M, 24-17, last night at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Paterno, college football's leader in bowl appearances (34), led the Nittany Lions (9-4) in a thriller that brought him his record 23rd postseason win. The 81-year-old coach now has 372 career victories, one behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden for the most in major college football.

Nervously pacing the sideline in his standard khakis and black sneakers, Paterno couldn't breathe easy until the clock ticked down to zero.

"It was a good tough game," Paterno said afterward, surrounded by jubilant Nittany Lions. "If I had a choice, I'm glad we won."

Texas A&M's Stephen McGee led a 15-play drive to the Penn State 2-yard line before losing four yards on fourth and goal after slipping on an option play with about eight minutes left.

Another Aggies (7-6) drive ended with a punt with two minutes left, and Penn State ran out the clock.

The Nittany Lions secured their third straight bowl victory and spoiled Gary Darnell's one-game stint as interim head coach. Darnell took over Nov. 23, when Dennis Franchione resigned. Texas A&M has hired Mike Sherman, currently offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, to take over in 2008.

Penn State had scored 17 straight points to take the lead before Matt Szymanski kicked a 38-yard field goal for Texas A&M to tie it at 17 with 3 minutes 57 seconds left in the third quarter. The 18-play, 78-yard drive took 8:45, the longest drive by plays and time of possession this season for the Aggies.

The Nittany Lions took the lead for good on the next drive. Anthony Morelli connected with Derrick Williams for a 21-yard reception to the Aggies 41 on a third and six before Royster burst up the middle for the decisive score for plays later.

¿ MIENEKE BOWL: Behind speedy wide receiver Kenneth Moore and a swarming defense full of big plays, Wake Forest rallied to beat fellow upstart Connecticut, 24-10, in Charlotte.

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