When preparing to broadcast an Illini game against Penn State...there are all the usual bits of information about the two teams that I consider for use on the radio.
Items like recent matchups between the Illini and Lions. For example the Illini have actually battled PSU fairly close in recent trips to Happy Valley...even though they have never won in State College.
Two years ago it was in the "Whiteout Game" at Beaver Stadium that the Illini took the opening possession and marched right down the field in front of nearly 110,000 fans to grab the lead. But Penn State's Derrick Williams (remember him?) ran wild as the game progressed..compiling 241 all-purpose yards. He scored on a rushing TD...caught a TD pass... and ran back a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. The Lions won 38-24.
Even some struggling Illini teams made Paterno's teams earn the victory. In 2002...Ron Turner's Illini held PSU to 18 points...but only could muster 7 points themselves. In 2006......one of Ron Zook's early Illini teams came in to Beaver Stadium as huge underdogs and were within range of an upset before losing 26-12.
There has only been one neutral site game...in Cleveland in 1959. Penn State won the game 20-9. (One note on that game....the Marching Illini made the trip to Cleveland to help cheer on the Illini. The band members traveled to the game on a train.)
And who can forget the 35-31 Penn State come-from-behind-win in Champaign...after the Illini led 21-0 in the first quarter. That Nittany Lion team went on to finish 12-0 that year.
When the Illini have defeated the Lions recently...they have had big seasons themselves. In 2001 a Kurt Kittner-led Illini team beat Penn State....and wound up in the Sugar Bowl. In 2007...another Illini win over PSU in Champaign helped propel them to the Rose Bowl.
There are other items...like Jason Ford scoring his first collegiate touchdown 2 years ago at Penn State.....and offensive lineman Jeff Allen making his first career start in Happy Valley the same game (he now has started 25 straight games).
But when you come upon the information on legendary coach Joe Paterno in the media notes....there gets to be almost too much information to mention. But here are a few things about "JoePa" that you may or may not know.
*He got career win #397 two weeks ago vs Temple....which is getting him close to Eddie Robinson's 408 wins. He is now 27-0 against the Owls.
*He has recorded 150 wins at Penn State since Penn State joined the Big Ten nearly 20 years ago.
*Penn State is 220-41 at home under Joe Paterno....and are 39-5 in Homecoming games under Paterno (Illinois is the Homecoming opponent this weekend)
*He is in his 45th season as head coach.......but 2010 is year #61 overall for Paterno on the Penn State staff.
*The Lions have won 501 games with Paterno on staff (assistant or head coach-since 1950)
*Paterno has recorded 17 New Year's Day Bowl wins. Those are just the wins. Think about the games the Lions played in at the start of the New Year.... and didnt win. And how about the total number of bowl wins (24) in (36) bowl trips. He is the current leader in both of those categories.
*Paterno has had 252 players make NFL teams....had 33 of those be 1st-round NFL picks....and has had 241 Academic All Big Ten Selections since the Nittany Lions joined the league in 1993.
*He has been coach at Penn State through 9 different U.S Presidents... and through 7 different Beaver Stadium renovations.
*There have been 860 head coaching changes at the Division One level in college football since Paterno took over the PSU program in 1966.
*Paterno has donated more than 4 million dollars to Penn State University to endow scholarships, professorships and to assist in facility projects.
*He has left his mark on the PSU campus...not only with 2 National Championships and 7 unbeaten, untied teams.....but also with the 11-year old Paterno Library...all 139,000 square feet of it.
I have barely scratched the surface.....but you get the idea.
Joe Paterno has been in remarkable health most of his life....and only recently did those of us who cover him in the Big Ten notice that he is just now starting to move a little slower than usual.
I also understand that his assistant coaches have been at Penn State a long time (two of them working alongside Paterno for more than 30 years)...and they shoulder a lot of the day-to-day responsibility of the team.
But when you look at the depth and breadth of Joe Paterno's accomplishments in the last few decades...it does make you appreciate him even more.
It also takes up a lot of column space in media guides....and IlliniHQ.com blogs!