Paterno honored for big turnaround at Penn State

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NEW YORK -- Joe Paterno doesn't have to say "I told you so."

JoePa, who turns 79 today, got an early birthday present Tuesday when he was an overwhelming choice as The Associated Press college football coach of the year.

So much for critics who said the game had passed him by.

Not that he's gloating about Penn State's resurgence.

"The only thing I wanted to do is try to get us back to where we were a good football team and we could be very competitive and make some plays we hadn't made," he said. "We got that done and I feel good about that."

After four losing seasons in the last five years, Paterno and the Nittany Lions rebounded in 2005 to go 10-1, share the Big Ten title and earn a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

For that, Paterno received 45 of 65 votes from media members on AP's college football poll board. Texas' Mack Brown was second with eight votes after leading the Longhorns to a perfect regular season and a spot in the Rose Bowl. Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Southern California's Pete Carroll, whose Trojans will face Brown's Longhorns for the national title, got three votes each.

West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez received two votes. Les Miles of LSU, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, George O'Leary of Central Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, last year's winner, each received one vote.

"It's very flattering," Paterno said. "I think anytime, regardless of whether it be my first year or my 50th year, to have people recognize what's been done is very, very ... uplifting. The only thing I feel sometimes is that the head coach gets too much credit. I think sometimes it ought to be coaching staff of the year."

Despite going 4-7 in 2004, Paterno was convinced that the Nittany Lions were on the verge of good things.

In search of playmakers, he landed two of the nation's top recruits in speedy receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King. By doing so, Paterno showed that he and his staff, led by recruiting coordinator and former Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary, were still capable of bringing in blue-chippers.

Paterno believed in quarterback Michael Robinson, who spent three seasons moving from passer to runner to receiver, and gave offensive coordinator Galen Hall and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno the job of building a system around the multidimensional senior.

Robinson and the fast frosh made the Nittany Lions explosive again, and JoePa had himself a 21st century offense to go along with a rugged defense, led by a throwback Penn State linebacker, junior Paul Posluszny.

The Nittany Lions had signature wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and rose to No. 3 in the nation. In Paterno's 40th season, Penn State was just a couple of seconds away from going unbeaten. Its only loss was 27-25 at Michigan, on a last-play touchdown.

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