|Smurfs help put Penn State back on top of Big 10|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 23 November 2008 12:40|
While coach Joe Paterno plans to return to the sideline in 2009, his standout receiving trio of seniors Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood have played their last game at Beaver Stadium.
And what a way to go out.
They won the conference as freshmen, helping to send the 2005 Nittany Lions to the Orange Bowl.
They won the conference again as seniors, clinching a berth in the Rose Bowl following a 49-18 rout Saturday of Michigan State. The Nittany Lions (11-1, 7-1) moved up a spot to No. 6 in AP Top 25 released Sunday.
``I hope each and every one of them had a great experience,'' said the 81-year-old Paterno, talking like a glowing grandfather about his senior players. ``I hope 10 years from now, they look back and say, 'By God, I am glad I went to Penn State.'''
om pacing the sideline much of the season.
Then it's back to practice to get the seniors ready for the last game of their college careers.
``We kind of just see him here as having an eternal life here. We knew he would be back for another or so,'' Butler said when asked about rumors this week of JoePa's retirement.
``But we cherished the moment because this was our last home game here and our last season,'' the personable receiver added. ``I think that is more so what was on our minds.''
All three of Butler's receptions against Michigan State went for touchdowns, from four, 70 and 59 yards. Williams, the playmaking centerpiece of the 2005 recruiting class, caught four passes for 51 yards, including a tough 32-yarder over the middle for a score.
Norwood also did his best work gliding across the middle, where he's most dangerous, catching five balls for 127 yards.
Together, they helped Daryll Clark break out of a mini-slump over the last three weeks as their quarterback threw for a career-high 341 yards and four touchdowns. Penn State set a school record with 419 passing yards.
Penn State's spread HD offense excelled on a snowy, chilly afternoon that normally would be more conducive to a running game.
Screens hurt Michigan State early on. The Spartans' secondary got shredded on long third downs. Penn State found success throwing deep between the hash marks.
ided loss, Michigan State (9-3, 6-2) can still take heart with a better-than-expected season that will likely end with a trip to a New Year's Day bowl for a school that went 4-8 in 2006.
``We had not been in this situation before,'' Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ``Playing in a championship is a learning experience for us, and a hostile environment
Nicknamed the ``Smurfs'' because of their smallish stature, Butler, Williams and Norwood put on one final big show in Beaver Stadium.
``Obviously, a game that we wanted to win for a lot of reasons and we are fortunate to have been able to,'' Norwood said. ``I am happy to be able to spend it with these guys.''
The veteran receivers have been a constant, calming influence on a squad that dealt with rising expectations as the wins piled up. They have been key in the development of Clark and the implementation of a spread scheme that has been averaging more than 40 points a game.
Now they're part of the only class in Penn State history that won two Big Ten titles in their careers. The Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993 after years as an independent.
After clutching a rose and the Big Ten trophy, Williams waxed on about his home finale.
``Everything was perfect.''