At the finish, as a warm, late-November afternoon gave way to dark
mountain chill, the masses were in such delirium that they were
unable to settle on a chant. Just as the 96,000 fans in Beaver
Stadium finally synchronized themselves into a chorus of ''We're
Number One,'' Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter rambled 50 yards for the
last score in a 59-31 win over Michigan State. Instantly the chant
morphed into ''Heis-man! Heis-man!''
All of this giddiness seemed perfectly appropriate for the
occasion. The game was not so much a contest as a coronation. When it
was over, the Lions had set 24 school and four Big Ten season
offensive records as they became the first Big Ten team to finish the
regular season 11-0 since Ohio State in 1979.
''I think we're a great football team and a great representative
of the Big Ten,'' coach Joe Paterno told a crowded press conference
afterward. ''It's up to you guys to tell everyone how good we are.
It's hard to believe that anyone could beat us, but that just sounds
like me pleading our case. We'll represent the Big Ten well.''
Paterno did not need to mention where his team would so capably
represent the conference; after all, he had spoken with great
excitement of making his first trip to the Rose Bowl back when Penn
State transformed the Big Ten into the Big Eleven 4 1/2 years before.
As with several of the Lions' victories during the season, this
one was spiced with drama until it was slashed wide open by their
powerful offense. Michigan State, playing its last game under fired
coach George Perles, scored first, on a 31-yard pass from Tony Banks
to Derrick Mason. After two Penn State touchdowns, Mason returned a
kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-14.
But there was something irresistible about Penn State's offense in
1994 -- something almost supernatural, really -- and if Michigan
State thought it could match touchdowns with the Lions, it was
mistaken. On the day, Penn State had nine scoring drives, eight of
which took less than three minutes each. The | piece de resistance
was a one-play drive with 12:28 to play: quarterback Kerry Collins's
56-yard strike to wideout Freddie Scott, which gave Penn State a
With five minutes left and the Lion reserves on the field, Carter
was informed that he was just 23 yards short of 200 for the game. He
asked assistant coach Fran Ganter if he could go back in. Ganter took
the request to Paterno, who complied. It was moments later, on
Carter's first carry after returning to the field, that he dashed for
50 and the score (he finished with 227 yards on 27 carries), sending
the stadium into madness.
The Lions even went so far as to try to douse Paterno with a
bucket of ice water. It was a feeble attempt, though, as their prank
left him with water dribbling off his back and his head bone-dry.
''They missed me,'' said the 67- year-old Paterno. ''I think they
took it easy on the old man.''
It was, to be sure, the first time all season the Nittany Lions
had taken it easy on anybody.