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PENN STATE 35, NORTHWESTERN 21

UNIVERSITY PARK — Ki-Jana Carter was not thinking about 1994 when Northwestern took a three-touchdown lead on Penn State late in the first half Saturday.

The former NFL running back, part of the Nittany Lions’ greatest Big Ten comeback ever when they overcame a three-touchdown deficit to defeat Illinois 16 years ago, remained confident when it appeared Joe Paterno would not notch his 400th career win yesterday.

“We just couldn’t do nothing right in that first quarter,” Carter said. “We played as worse as we probably could play, and you just had to have good breaks, and we were able to get some momentum.”

Penn State got that in the form of a nine-play, 91-yard drive that took up just 41 seconds right before halftime. Matt McGloin found Brett Brackett in the back of the end zone with three seconds to play in the first half, igniting a run of five unanswered touchdowns in the Nittany Lions’ 35-21 victory at Beaver Stadium.

“Scoring that touchdown at the end of the half was huge,” Carter said. “Gained some confidence, and then just steamrolled in the second half.”

Penn State’s comeback against Illinois was the defining moment of a season that ended in Pasadena, Calif., with a Rose Bowl win. And while Paterno could not quite see sunny California from the shoulders of Eric Shrive and DeOn’tae Pannell, the linemen who carried him off the field yesterday, the feeling was as enjoyable as ever for the all-time winningest coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history.

Penn State’s third straight win, which made it bowl-eligible for the sixth straight season, gave the Nittany Lions an extra boost. Their season has taken a turn for the better since an Oct. 9 homecoming loss to Illinois made them 0-2 in the Big Ten.

Now 3-2 after a victory that featured clutch throws from a former walk-on and a touchdown from a converted fourth-string tight end in Nate Cadogan, the Nittany Lions turned toward next week. As Paterno reminded the 104,147 in attendance, Ohio State — and potential win No. 401 — awaits.

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Penn State vs Northwestern

Penn State vs Northwestern

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno won his 400th Career victory as the nittany lions defeated Northwestern 35-21 at Beaver Stadium in University Park on November 06, 2010.

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