Sure, Penn State was cool and efficient today. These are just the standard elements of the Joe Paterno patent on pulverization.
The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions added a twist to their traditional mode of victory: a defense that was downright Hoss-tile.
Penn State defeated 13th-ranked West Virginia, 24-0, before a record 60,958 in Mountaineer Field. In advancing to 6-1, the Nittany Lions stopped West Virginia quarterback Jeff (Hoss) Hostetler, who was Penn State's starting quarterback in 1980, before he transferred his rollout to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Hostetler was held to 63 yards passing in the first half, as Penn State built a 10-0 lead. Then four minutes into the fourth quarter, Penn State inside linebacker Scott Radecic intercepted Hostetler's cross-field pass and went 85 yards for the touchdown that made it 17-0.
It has been 27 years since West Virginia last defeated Penn State. Today's victory guaranteed the Nittany Lions of extending their NCAA record to 44 straight winning seasons. Paterno has been the coach for 17 of those years.
Prior to this game, Hostetler had an injured left toe and a sprained left ankle. His desire, however, was unscathed.
In the first quarter, after he tripped over tailback Curlin Beck and fell down on a fourth-and-one failure from the Penn State 24, he also had a hyperextended left knee. This was the play that turned the game entirely Penn State-ward.
"That play reminded me that I still had the hurt toe," Hostetler said as he sat on a locker room training table, where he spent more than 45 minutes after the game.
"What hurts the most?" asked the quarterback who completed 19 of 37 passes for 250 yards, with two intercepted. "Probably my pride."
This was not the renewal of acquaintances that Hostetler had hoped for. Six minutes into a scoreless game, he made his first crucial mistake. Under pressure -- as he was all afternoon -- he fumbled on the West Virginia 44 and defensive end Steve Sefter recovered. Eight plays later, Nick Gancitano kicked a 31-yard field goal and Penn State led, 3-0, with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
On the very next series, Hostetler drove West Virginia to that fourth-and-one situation at the Lions' 24. "We knew then that we could move the ball. We had confidence," said Mountaineer tight end Mark Raugh.
West Virginia Coach Don Nehlen did not want kicker Paul Woodside to attempt a 41-yard field into a brisk wind. Instead, he wanted the first down. And he had just the play, he thought.
"We surprised a lot of people with the play," Nehlen said of the decision that had Hostetler faking a handoff, then rolling to his right.
The field was wide open.
"The play was dynamite. Jeff could have walked 10 yards," Nehlen said.
But Hostetler tripped and fell. He gained no yards and one hyperextended left knee.
Later, when Penn State fullback Jon Williams took a reverse from Curt Warner and ran four yards for a touchdown, making it 10-0 with 1:57 left in the half, 60,958 Mountaineer devotees became remarkably quiet.
They knew West Virginia has not beaten Penn State since 1955 and that the teams have played every year since then. But they also know Hostetler. They were thinking comeback.
Soon enough that hope would perish. The usually reliable Woodside missed a 42-yard field goal attempt that could have closed it to 10-3 with 4:30 left in the third quarter, ending a deep drive and a deep hope with zero production with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
If the West Virginia hope didn't entirely drift away at this point, certainly it did when Hostetler drove West Virginia to the Penn State 17.
Once again under pressure, Hostetler threw across field to tailback Tom Gray. But Radecic intervened and ran 85 very slow yards. Later, Radevic said, "I never thought I was going to make it."
Neither would West Virginia (5-2) make it today. Penn State flanker Kenny Jackson ran nine yards for the touchdown that settled it at 24-0 with 2:42 left.
"Jeff is a good friend to a lot of us," said Nittany Lions safety Mark Robinson. "A couple of times during the game, we would tackle him and kid around, saying 'You're a traitor.' "
After the game, quarterback Todd Blackledge (11 of 21 for 118 yards) spoke with Hostetler, whom he replaced as the Penn State starter in the third week of 1980. "I told him to hang in there and to take care of himself physically. He'll be back," Blackledge said.
Even though the five bowl scouts who were in attendance today might now look the other way from his team, Hostetler said after the game, "The thing I'll remember about this game is how about 30 of their guys came over to me after the game. That was about the best feeling I ever had. I love those guys. I really do."
Even though, today, they were dowright Hoss-tile.