STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Joe Paterno spent the past three months saying his chase for the major college victory record was no big deal. Now that he's got it, he's changing his tune.
"You never think it's going to be a big deal until it happens like this, with this many people," Paterno said Saturday after his Nittany Lions rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Ohio State 29-27. "It's just hard to describe. But I'm a very, very lucky guy to be at an institution such as Penn State with all these fans."
The win was No. 324 for Paterno, who passed Bear Bryant for the record. Paterno has spent his entire coaching career at Penn State, serving as an assistant for 15 years before becoming head coach in 1966.
Paterno came into the season just one win behind Bryant but was questioned and criticized — even by some of the Penn State faithful — after his team started 0-4. He tied Bryant last week with a 38-35 win at Northwestern.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said a brief congratulations to Paterno, then quickly went to his locker room.
"I have respect for his tremendous career, but that moment was for he and his team," Tressel said.
After the game, in the understated style Penn State fans have come to expect, Paterno praised his team, hugged his wife and held his grandchildren at a ceremony at midfield.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this football team," Paterno told the crowd. "They could have packed it in a long time ago. But they came back last week, and they came back today, and I tell you they're going to be one hell of a football team."