I graduated from Juniata High School six years ago - right before Penn State began its fourth losing season in five campaigns. A lot has changed over the years. I'm certainly no longer a student, and the Nittany Lions haven't had a losing season since.
As a high school student, my favorite subject was history. I enjoyed it enough to make it a minor in college. So when I get the chance to combine history and sports, it's hard for me to stop talking about it.
Simply put, Saturday's football game at Beaver Stadium will forever go down as one of my favorite sports moments - and I'm sure the 104,147 that witnessed Joe Paterno's 400th victory will agree. The chances are very real that we will never again see a college football coach accomplish this feat at the highest level of competition.
To make it even more memorable, Northwestern jumped out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Given Penn State's play when trailing this season, I don't think anybody in the stadium felt that they were going to witness history just hours later. But back the Lions came, led by walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin, with five consecutive scoring drives to make a laugher out of what looked to be a very ugly defeat.
The win was especially important and equally emotional to a pair of Paterno's assistant coaches - son Jay and former quarterback Mike McQueary.
"I told my mom last week after we beat Michigan, I said 'is everyone coming in next week?'" Jay Paterno started. "She said 'No, why?' I said 'Well, mom, I hate to tell you this, but it's kind of a big deal.' Four hundred wins really hasn't ever been done at this level and its only ever been done by two other guys (at any level)."
McQueary, Joe's right-hand man on the sideline for many years, also talked about what the night meant to him.
"You can't explain it - you don't have words for it," he said. "He's legendary and deserves everything he gets, that's for sure. (I've learned) so much from him that you can't even put it into words - about the whole game, about how to live life, about everything."
Everybody has their own personal opinion on whether or not these last four games will be Paterno's final ride. But whether they are or they aren't, one thing won't change for me: I have a new favorite moment inside Beaver Stadium and this one won't go away for a long, long time.
Congratulations from all of us, Joe!
I've been on the Rob Bolden bandwagon since the day he spurned his home state of Michigan and chose to come to Penn State. Here's a guy who knew Penn State's quarterback situation was already jammed (with a sophomore in Kevin Newsome and a five-star freshman in Paul Jones) when he arrived. But the competitor in him committed to the Nittany Lions regardless of that and won the job in the fall.
Naturally, I hate to see Bolden lose his spot because of an injury, especially after he had the offense moving in the first half of that Minnesota game. At this point though, it'd be very tough for the coaching staff to put him back under center while McGloin has rolled off 81 points in the last two games (albeit against two defenses that everyone has scored on).
Bolden isn't going away though. The television cameras even got a glimpse of his competitive nature when he was seen asking Paterno for a chance to re-enter Saturday's game as the offense was still stuck at zero. He's got a lot of snaps left in him over the next three seasons and it's exciting because I believe this very young group has a real shot at being great two years from now.
What more could we ask for than a daunting trip to Columbus to take us back to reality after three straight victories. An upset from the confident and insulted Lions (Ohio State is a 17-point favorite as of press time) would be a huge stretch, but playing the Buckeyes close would be a big step in the right direction heading into the final weeks.
The following two games against Indiana (in Washington's FedEx Field) and Michigan State both are winnable, despite the Spartans' strong season to date. Since Penn State joined the Big Ten, the Nits hold a 13-4 series lead in the battle for the Land Grant Trophy. In games played in Happy Valley, they are a perfect 8-0.
Speaking of FedEx Field, I hope to see a lot of you making the trip to D.C. in two weeks. Indiana University threw us a bone by asking Penn State to play there instead of in Bloomington.
Financially, it makes perfect sense for the Hoosiers as they still are considered the home team and will profit drastically at the gate. During the game though, the Lions will be the ones to benefit from the crowd as Beaver Stadium south should be in full effect.
Drew Pellman is a Sentinel sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.