UNIVERSITY PARK - It started out as the Snow Bowl and turned into the Snooze Bowl for about three hours, only to finish up as the Super ... well, let's not get carried away.
No one will confuse Penn State's matchup against Illinois on Saturday for anything close to a great game.
The beauty of sports, however, is just how quickly something truly forgettable can morph into something memorable.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State defensive tackle Devon Sill reacts near Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse after a defensive stop on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
"Whoever thought that was a lousy football game," PSU offensive lineman Chima Okoli said, "you're entitled to your opinion."
Virtually everyone watching the game must have had that opinion. Then, in the span of 3 minutes and 5 seconds, everyone's opinion changed.
The No. 21 Nittany Lions, inept on offense all day, put together the mostly timely 80-yard TD drive of the season to take the lead with 1:08 to play. Illinois, also poor on offense all day, countered with a good drive, only to miss a tying field goal - which hit the right upright - as time expired.
Penn State has escaped with close victories time and time again all season, and Saturday's 10-7 win on a cold, snowy day at Beaver Stadium sent about 60,000 fans home happy after braving miserable weather conditions.
"To all the fans out there, thanks for sitting through that today," Joe Paterno said before delivering a great one-liner. "You've got to be nuts."
The comeback gave Paterno his 409th career victory, moving him ahead of the late Eddie Robinson for most in Division I history. Penn State president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley presented Paterno with a plaque commemorating the milestone.
"I'm really proud to be associated with Eddie Robinson," Paterno said before repeating his recent praise about Robinson and Jake Gaither being instrumental in helping black athletes succeed in college football.
"For me, a kid from Brooklyn whose grandfather was an immigrant, to be something like this really means a lot to me. An awful lot."
Penn State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) trailed 7-0 entering the fourth quarter, then got a big blocked punt from redshirt freshman Brad Bars. The Lions' drive stalled at the 7, and Anthony Fera - who had missed a 43-yard try in the first quarter - got his team on the board with a 30-yard field goal with 7:00 to go.
Penn State's defense stopped the Illini (6-3, 2-3) and forced a punt that went into the end zone, putting Matt McGloin and the offense at the 20 with 3:05 to play.
"I was telling the guys at halftime, 'It's going to happen. It's going to happen for us, it's just a matter of time,'" McGloin said. "It was a little later than I would have liked, but it did happen for us."
Even after struggling all day, the players on offense took the field in the closing minutes with a lot of confidence.
"It's crunch time, and we knew that this drive was our season," offensive lineman Chima Okoli said.
"I think we just buckled down," running back Silas Redd said. "I think we were a little riled up the whole game. ... But we kind of just took a step back, took a couple of deep breaths."
It helped immensely having top receiver Derek Moye on the field for the drive. He missed the past two weeks with a broken foot and played only a few snaps Saturday until the final drive.
McGloin hit Moye in the right flat on the first play for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, McGloin found Justin Brown for 13 yards to the Illini 47, and McGloin found Brown again for 19 yards to the 36.
A 4-yard run by Redd and two incomplete passes set up fourth-and-6 at the 32. McGloin eluded pressure and fired a pass to the left side of the end zone for Moye, who couldn't come up with it as he was defended by cornerback Justin Green.
The officials flagged Green, however, for pass interference, keeping PSU's hopes alive.
"I really question it, but the guys with the stripes called the pass interference," Illini defensive back Terry Hawthorne said.
Illinois coach Ron Zook agreed, saying, "I thought it was a good play myself. Obviously they felt like he arm-barred him or something. I'm not sure, I didn't ask."
That gave PSU the ball at the 17, then McGloin hit Moye for 9 yards to the 8.
"That kid came off the bench with a broken foot, made two huge catches," Okoli said. "The guy's a freak."
Redd gained 3 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5 with 1:20 to go. He then picked up 2 yards on first down and barreled into the end zone from 3 yards out on the next play for a 10-7 lead with 1:08 to go.
Redd finished with 137 yards on 30 carries, becoming the first PSU runner since Curtis Enis in 1997 to have five consecutive 100-yard games. Redd said he played through a stinger in his left shoulder - the second straight week he's dealt with that injury - and he continues to be a workhorse for the offense.
"To play in this conference and carry it as much as he's carried it the last weeks, that's pretty special," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said.
Penn State scored so early that Illinois still had plenty of time to try and put together a drive. The Illini took the kickoff, started at their 17 with 1:01 to play and found success through the air.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was just 9-of-16 for 63 yards on the day, and three of those completions and 42 yards came on the final drive. He hit Jon Davis for 16 yards and found A.J. Jenkins for 20 yards to the PSU 34 with 19 seconds left.
Jason Ford, who had 100 yards on 24 carries, gained 9 on the next play to put the Illini at the 25 with five seconds to go.
Illinois' Derek Dimke is one of the best place-kickers in the Big Ten, going 24-for-29 last year and 7-for-7 this season with a long of 49. Penn State called a timeout to try and ice the kicker, then he lined up a 42-yard try.
The snap was perfect - a bad snap on a field goal try in the first half spoiled an attempt - but Dimke's kick drilled the right upright to give Penn State the victory.
"Usually he is money on that kick right there," Zook said of Dimke.
Not this time.
Penn State's sideline erupted as the players saw the kick miss. The Lions are now the only unbeaten team left in the Big Ten, and it doesn't matter to them that they're winning ugly.
"It feels great," Redd said, "especially going into the bye week."