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Published: Sunday, 10/9/2005

Penn State has same old coach, but a modern-looking offense

Penn State safety Calvin Lowry flies out of bounds after being tackled by Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (on ground). Lowry had intercepted one of Smith's passes. Penn State safety Calvin Lowry flies out of bounds after being tackled by Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (on ground). Lowry had intercepted one of Smith's passes.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - It took a while, but even Joe Paterno, the resident curmudgeon of college football, changed his ways. The 78-year-old Penn State head coach has found the spread offense, and made it a part of his repertoire.

When Paterno's Nittany Lions faced Ohio State here last night, his main offensive weapons were no longer a bruising fullback and a sticky-fingered tight end. This edition of Penn State included an athletic and scrambling quarterback, and speedy receivers who Paterno has worked overtime to get more involved in the action.

As evidence of his conversion, Paterno used quarterback Michael Robinson running out of the shotgun in his first series of the game, and had four-receiver sets as part of his base offense. He sent sensational freshman wide receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King on deep routes right from the start.

"They're spreading it around a lot more," Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel said about the Nittany Lions. "They are running a lot of the Utah stuff with two in the backfield. That way you have to be sound with all of your gaps and responsibilities. They run the quarterback keeper off of that, too."

CAMP JOE: It was a week ago that students started camping out outside Beaver Stadium in an effort to be first in line to get the best seats when the gates were unlocked about two hours before game time. After sitting through torrential rains on Friday and a steady, cold drizzle yesterday, their encampment took on a Woodstock-ish look. It was a soggy, muddy, smoky mess. By about 90 minutes before kickoff, the Penn State student section was packed with about 20,000 early arrivals.

ROAD WOES: Ohio State has now dropped five of their last six Big Ten road games, and six of their past nine.

RALLY THE TROOPS: In preparation for last night's game, Penn State staged a pep rally on campus Friday evening. Penn State head coach Joe Paterno participated, and even took a turn coaching the fans in how they needed to cheer and yell when Ohio State had the ball, to make it as difficult as possible for the Buckeyes to hear their signals.

KUDOS FROM JOE: Penn State coach Joe Paterno heaped the praise on the Buckeyes before last night's game, even citing them as one of the top teams he has seen in his four decades as a head coach. "They appear to be a little bigger and stronger than us physically across the board," Paterno said. "This is one of the best teams that you'll ever see - not just this year, but in all the years I've been coaching."

TRAVEL TROUBLE: The Ohio State team and travel party were to have arrived in State College about 6:30 Friday evening after about a 90-minute flight from Columbus on a private charter. But low visibility and bad weather forced the Buckeyes to land in Harrisburg instead of near State College, then bus to their hotel near the Penn State campus. What is normally a two-hour bus ride became three because of traffic, and the Buckeyes finally got to the hotel at 10:30 p.m.. The team was scheduled to leave as soon as possible after the game, and expected to arrive back in Columbus about 2:30 this morning.

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