Auburn Tigers beat Northwestern Wildcats in overtime of Outback Bowl, 38-35
Sunday, January 2, 2011; 12:36 AM
TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer met at midfield for a postgame handshake and hug, one looking forward to next season, the other looking forward to a different life.
Meyer closed out a highly successful six-year run that included a pair of national championships by leading the Gators back from a second-half deficit to beat JoePa's Nittany Lions 37-24 in the Outback Bowl on Saturday.
"I'm at full peace because I saw a bunch of smiles in that locker room," said Meyer, who announced his resignation last month. "Locker rooms really aren't very much fun when there's ... a pain in your stomach and your chest and everything else. There was a lot of fun in there. A lot of fun."
Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee ran for touchdowns, Chas Henry kicked three second-half field goals, and Ahmad Black sealed the win with an 80-yard interception return TD to help Florida (8-5) send Meyer out with a smile of his own.
The 46-year-old Meyer said he was stepping away from coaching because of health concerns and to spend more time with his family. As for the 84-year-old Paterno, he - and his wife and Penn State officials - spent the week leading up to the game repeatedly shooting down rumors that the Outback Bowl could be his last.
"He said, 'I love you kid,'" Meyer said about his quick postgame meeting on the field with Paterno. "He's the only one who calls me kid. And I love him too."
All week long, Meyer paid tribute to Paterno, the all-time bowl wins leader with 24. He continued to talk about admiration for the Hall of Famer during his postgame news conference.
"He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him," Meyer said.
"If I ever start a coaching school, I'm going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno, and say that's the way you should act in coaching because that's college football. ... You just don't want to lose that man or lose what college football is. That was college football out there today."
Paterno expects to be back for a 46th season with Penn State (7-6). At one point, he called the speculation about his future - including reports that he might be in poor health and had been hospitalized - "ridiculous." He reiterated Friday that he has no plans to retire.
Paterno hoped the Nittany Lions' record 37th bowl trip under him would set a nice tone for next season. The six losses are the most Penn State's had since going 4-7 in 2004, and the legendary coach is confident the team is headed in the right direction.
"As I told them, keep their heads up. ... Go home and take it easy for a couple weeks, and then we'll start thinking about all we'll get done in spring football," Paterno said. "We're obviously way ahead of where we were at this stage a year ago."