Dec. 4, 2005
MIAMI (AP) – When their teams last met, Bobby Bowden asked Joe Paterno how much longer he planned to stay in coaching.
Sixteen years later, the legends may have that conversation again.
Florida State and Penn State will meet in the Orange Bowl at Miami on Jan. 3, a game that’ll mark a showdown between major college football’s two winningest coaches. It’s the sixth Bowl Championship Series appearance in eight years for the Seminoles, the first-ever for Paterno’s Nittany Lions.
Bowden’s Florida State team (8-4) earned its Orange Bowl trip by upsetting then No. 5-Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game on Saturday night. And the Seminoles’ reward is a matchup with another highly touted opponent, a third-ranked Penn State team (10-1) that nearly went unbeaten.
It’s a matchup of septuagenarians, with Paterno turning 79 later this month and Bowden now 76. Bowden has 359 wins, six more than Paterno – and both steered their teams to surprising comeback stories in 2005.
“I hope it doesn’t come down to where it’s Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno because he can’t run and I run slower,” Paterno said on ABC, shortly after the expected pairing was formally announced. “I hope it comes down to Penn State and Florida State and people get away from the idea that this has got to be a matchup between two old guys that have had a lot of fun coaching.”
Amid whispers that their longtime coach is too old to compete, Paterno’s Nittany Lions had lost 17 of their last 24 games entering this season and haven’t won a bowl game since the 1999 season. But only a last-second touchdown by Michigan kept Penn State from finishing this regular season with a perfect record.
“Joe Paterno, to me, is maybe the greatest coach ever in my opinion,” Bowden said Saturday night. “I mean that truly, and I said that 10 years ago.”
And Bowden’s Seminoles had lost three straight and fell from the national rankings before the surprise win over Virginia Tech on Saturday night, one that gave Florida State its 12th ACC title in 14 seasons.
Bowden is 1-6 all-time against Paterno; he lost all six meetings as West Virginia’s coach in the early 1970s, and guided Florida State to a 24-17 victory over Penn State in the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl.
It’s probably no surprise that both coaches have sparkling records in bowl games. Bowden is 19-8-1 all-time in bowls, a winning percentage of .696 that is the best in Division I-A history. Paterno is 20-10-1 in bowl games, plus is the only coach to ever win the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and Cotton bowls.