for this game

Penn State clinches Rose Bowl trip

Nov 23, 2008 - 4:43 AM STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Break out the roses for Joe Paterno and Penn State.

Daryll Clark threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score Saturday as the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions clinched their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 14 years thanks to a 49-18 thrashing of No. 15 Michigan State.

Coaching in what could be his final home game after 43 celebrated seasons at Penn State, Paterno watched from the press box as the Nittany Lions (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) secured a share of the Big Ten Conference championship.

"It has been a great experience, win or lose," Paterno said. "I am just delighted for (the senior class) that they get to go out to the Rose Bowl or whatever pops up and get a chance to play another big football game. I am pleased for them, I really am."

Paterno, who turns 82 next month, has been plagued by leg and hip injuries throughout the season. The Hall of Famer does not have a contract after this season, leading to speculation that he could retire.

But Paterno downplayed those retirement rumors after the victory, claiming that he plans to return to Penn State even if he is not under contract next year.

"I am planning on coming back, yeah," he said. "I never planned otherwise. Everyone is making a big deal out of the fact that I don't have a contract signed. I have never even asked to do that."

Paterno said he plans to negotiate a new contract in the coming weeks with athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State president Graham Spanier.

Both Curley and Spanier were present during Paterno's post-game news conference.

"I will sit down in the next couple of weeks with Tim Curley and Spanier and say 'What do you think of this, what do you think of that, what are we going to do?' - that kind of thing," Paterno said. "So when I talk to high school (recruits), I can be honest with them."

If this was indeed JoePa's last game in Happy Valley, he certainly left on a memorable note.

The sellout crowd of over 109,000 at Beaver Stadium waved white pom-poms throughout the chilly afternoon and serenaded Penn State with chants of "Joe Paterno!" as the Nittany Lions held roses in their mouths.

"We are on top of the Big Ten," said Clark, a senior. "Nobody thought we would be in this position at the beginning of the year. So to be able to do something like this is really a blessing."

Clark completed 16-of-26 passes for a career-high 341 yards and quarterbacked the Nittany Lions to touchdowns on four of their first six drives.

"I woke up feeling really good saying, 'You know, it's going to be a good day for us,'" Clark said. "We knew what we needed to do."

Three of Clark's TD passes went to Deon Butler, a senior who hauled in scoring strikes of 4, 70 and 59 yards.

Jordan Norwood hauled in five receptions for a career-high 127 yards for Penn State, which clinched the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid by virtue of its 13-6 triumph over Ohio State on October 25.

The Nittany Lions will share the Big Ten title with the Buckeyes, who crushed rival Michigan earlier Saturday.

The all-time winningest coach in major college football, Paterno last guided Penn State to the Rose Bowl following the 1994 season, when the Nittany Lions finished 12-0 after defeating Oregon in Pasadena.

Penn State's only other trip to the Rose Bowl came following the 1922 season.

The Nittany Lions booked their latest trip to Pasadena with a wire-to-wire blowout in which they gained 557 yards from scrimmage while limiting Michigan State's Javon Ringer, the nation's third-leading rusher, to a season-low 42 yards on the ground.

"It was definitely rough up there," Ringer said. "No matter how good the running back is, you cannot do anything without your offensive line being pretty dominant up front. Today just wasn't the best day."

Michigan State's Brian Hoyer passed for 206 yards but was intercepted twice.

Backup Kirk Cousins threw a late TD pass to Mark Dell for the Spartans (9-3, 6-2), who have lost their 11 games against ranked opponents.

"Obviously, it's very disappointing when you have high expectations and you come out and have a bad performance," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's not something you look forward to, and it's very disappointing to our fans and our players."