For the last time in their careers, seventeen Nittany Lion seniors, ran out of the tunnel, stepped onto the snow-dusted field at Beaver Stadium and had a big going-away present for the 109,845 heavy-layered fans in attendance.
A Big Ten championship was at stake against Michigan State and any doubt that Penn State would represent the conference in the Rose Bowl was erased by the second quarter. The No. 7 Lions won going way, 49-17, marking the 800th victory in school history.
The send-off was apropos for a senior class that ends its run at Penn State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) with 40 wins (so far), two conference titles, a perfect record in bowl games (so far) and two BCS bowl appearances.
I've been proud of them all year, I've been proud of them for four years, head coach Joe Paterno said.
The key player, though, was not a senior. After junior quarterback Daryll Clark struggled for the past three-plus weeks, he turned on an impressive aerial attack, which co-starred senior wideouts Jordan Norwood, Deon Butler and Derrick Williams.
Everything was perfect [today], Williams said.
Butler only had three receptions. The catch -- all three were for touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown in the third quarter followed by 59-yarder three minutes later.
Norwood started Penn State's first scoring drive, which ended on a Graham Zug TD, after being uncovered by the Spartans and going 49 yards to the 10-yard line. He set a career-high in receiving yards with 127 on just five grabs. However, he was the only one of the three to be held without a touchdown.
It was really good. You know, Jordan and Deon and myself have worked really hard in our four years, Williams said. I think those guys, Jordan and Deon, those guys are what Penn State is about.
One person who will not be leaving is Paterno, who said in a pep rally at Rec Hall on Friday that he would be coaching the Nittany Lions in 2009. He reiterated his feelings in his post-game press conference.
I'm planning on coming back, I've never planned otherwise, Paterno said. Everyone is making a big deal that I don't have a contract signed but I've never even asked. I'll sit down in the next couple of weeks with Tim Curley and President [Graham] Spanier and say 'Hey, what do you think of this, what do you think of that?'
Paterno also added that he was sure he was going to have a surgical procedure done on his ailing hip this week.
It was Norwood, Williams and Butler that received the loudest ovations during the pre-game introductions of the seniors.
You just said it, that it was the final time, Norwood said. But it's just a great opportunity we've had the past four years and wouldn't ask for any other couple of guys to spend it with.
Thirty minutes or so after walking off the field, wearing the blue No. 24 for the last time at Beaver Stadium, Norwood was asked whether it had hit him that he had just played his final game at his home stadium.
I don't think so, he said.