MIAMI — This really was one for the ages.
For more than four hours, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden paced the Orange Bowl sidelines, searching for offense and enduring missed kicks.
Finally, in the third overtime, at 1 a.m. Wednesday, Kevin Kelly made a 29-yard field goal attempt, giving Paterno and Penn State a 26-23 victory over Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles.
“I told him we’re too old for this,” the 79-year-old Paterno said afterward. “It’s almost past my bedtime.”
Paterno had said he didn’t want the game to be about him and 76-year-old Bowden, who rank 1-2 in career coaching victories. And it turned out to be about missed opportunities, improbable twists and epic length.
Kelly’s winning kick came on second down. Given two earlier chances to win the game, he missed field goal attempts of 29 and 38 yards.
Florida State counterpart Gary Cismesia missed an extra point in the first half and field goal tries of 44 and 38 yards in overtime.
“Sometimes you miss at the wrong time,” Bowden. “Joe was having that problem for a while.”
The No. 3-ranked Nittany Lions finished 11-1, with the only loss coming when they gave up a touchdown to Michigan on the game’s final play. The season represented a big rebound for Paterno’s program, which went 7-16 in 2003-04.
No. 22 Florida State fell to 8-5, Bowden’s worst season since 1981.
The two old friends came together after the game ended, stood shoulder-to-shoulder and exchanged warm words, just moments after the game was still in doubt.
“No animosity. No animosity. I mean that,” Bowden said.
“Both teams played so hard,” Paterno said.
“Both teams played as well as they could play,” Bowden said.
Florida State mostly contained Big Ten most valuable player Michael Robinson, who threw a touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half but was limited to 253 yards passing and 21 rushing. One scrum knocked off his helmet.
He hit two clutch completions to give Penn State a chance to win the game in regulation. But Kelly, hampered by a shaky hold, was wide left on a 29-yard field goal attempt with 35 seconds left.
Cismesia kicked a 48-yard field goal with 4:08 left in regulation to tie the game at 16-all, but on the first series of overtime he was wide right on a 44-yard attempt.
Then it was Kelly’s turn. He again pushed a try wide left, this time a 38-yarder with a perfect hold.
Austin Scott’s 1-yard run put Penn State ahead. B.J. Dean pulled the Seminoles even with a 1-yard scoring run.
After Cismesia’s 38-yard attempt hit the right upright, Kelly finally came through. The kick gave Paterno his 354th career win, second in Division I-A only to Bowden’s 359.
Paterno improved to 7-1 against his longtime friend. The only loss came the last time they met, when Florida State beat Penn State in the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl — also at Miami.
With his first win in the Orange Bowl since 1974, Paterno improved to 21-10-1 in bowl games.