The victory elevated the Lions to No. 1 in the polls and dashed Michigan's Rose Bowl hopes, not to mention its national-title aspirations. "Penn State isn't going to lose—it's going to go undefeated, go to the Rose Bowl, probably play for the national championship," said Michigan center Rod Payne.
The final 86 seconds were Penn State's to exhaust. Kerry Collins handed off to Mike Archie, then twice carried the ball himself, killing the clock. Behind him in the end zone, a couple of thousand Nittany Lion fans howled at the night. "The whole last three years were going through my mind," Collins said. "That and holding on to the ball." Engram, too, celebrated as the clock died. "I always think about the good and the bad together," he said. "It's hard to put one or the other out of your mind."
Moments later, Paterno gathered his players in the cramped visitors' locker room. "Good win," he told them, looking through the famous glasses, wearing the famous cleats. And he made them look two weeks ahead to their next opponent. "Let's a have a good week of practice," he said. "Ohio State is Step Seven."
Two teams were owed something Saturday, but justice in a football game is measured harshly: A scoreboard clock with yellow zeroes glowing against the night sky, a final score and only one debt paid.