Penn State has a close call, and it’s not alone

Isn’t ugly beautiful?

Penn State thought so Saturday and seems to be trying to maximize this oxymoron all the way to a Big Ten Conference championship.

Joe Paterno’s team was held scoreless for 53 minutes, at home, against Illinois. It was cold outside, snow was falling and someone needed to light a fire under both offenses.

Penn State was the “Nuttin’y Lions” for most of the game, yet somehow married a late field goal with a late touchdown to pull out a 10-7 win.

It took the Illinois kicker bouncing the potential game-tying field goal off the upright, but who cared?

Penn State added to a list of underwhelming victories that included Temple (14-10), Indiana (16-10), Iowa (13-3) and Purdue (23-18) and walked out of Beaver Stadium with an 8-1 record.


Paterno notched career win No. 409, moving him past Grambling’s Eddie Robinson on the all-time coaching list.

No one will remember in five years that 2011 Penn State telecasts were tagged with “viewer discretion advised.”

Penn State and Illinois combined for only 192 yards passing on a weekend when Houston quarterback Case Keenum, by himself, had 534.

Penn State was outgained, 286 yards to 209, and its quarterbacks were a combined nine for 28.

The phrase “three yards and a cloud of dust” usually applies to a plodding rush attack. Penn State, on Saturday, averaged 3.5 yards per pass completion.

When it mattered most, though, Penn State drove 80 yards in 10 plays and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1 minute 8 seconds left

“We had a tough day adjusting to the weather, things like that,” quarterback Matt McGloin said. “But when we needed to get something going we did.”

Paterno’s team was hardly alone in thinking it defied defeat.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw nine straight incomplete passes in one span against Florida in the second half. The Bulldogs’ special teams were so not special Coach Mark Richt should have left Jacksonville, Fla., and headed straight to a punt, pass and kick competition.

Yet, Georgia defeated Florida, 24-20, to remain in heated contention for the Southeastern Conference’s East Division.

Murray completed fewer than half his passes, but all that mattered was defeating Florida for only the fourth time in the last 22 tries.

You think that was exciting/ugly?

Arkansas, No. 10 in last week’s Bowl Championship Series standings, had to rally from 14 points down to beat Vanderbilt, 31-28.

Vanderbilt had a chance to win but frittered away first-and-10 at the Arkansas 14, seemingly content — with victory yards away — to force overtime with a field goal.

Naturally, the poor Vanderbilt kicker pushed his chip-shot field goal to the right.

“We’re lucky they missed the kick,” Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said.

Arkansas, with its 7-1 record, could not run out of Nashville fast enough.

“You can’t get frustrated winning,” Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright said, speaking on behalf of the beautifully blemished.

Virginia Tech knew the feeling. The Hokies escaped Duke with a 14-10 victory. It was Duke’s 44th straight loss against a ranked opponent, but it almost wasn’t. Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas had two interceptions. The teams combined for six turnovers.

“I’m proud of our effort,” Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. “I’m not proud of some of our executing. We got out of here with a win.”

Oregon defeated Washington State, but the game was in Eugene and the final score was only 43-28.

Washington State scored 28 points? It used to take the Cougars years to do that.

It was only 15-10 at halftime in a game in which Oregon welcomed quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James back from injuries.

James ran for only 53 yards and Thomas had two of his passes intercepted and was benched in the second half in favor of Bryan Bennett.

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said afterward he thought Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance in the second half.

Thomas, wearing a brace on his left knee, later brushed off any talk of a quarterback controversy. At No. 7, Oregon (7-1) is the highest-ranked one-loss team and trying to stay that way as it anticipates a Nov. 12 showdown at Stanford.

Remember, though, winning isn’t the “ugly” thing — it’s the only thing.