Joe Paterno is an icon in the College Football world and across the Big Ten. But his name was also built against good victories and heart breaking defeats against the SEC. Penn State and the SEC are tied at 16-16, a good sign of evenly matched opponents. Most of all Paterno believed in a very good defense with a clock controlling offense. This sounds very familiar to SEC teams that have won previous National Championships. So much so that SEC coaches still use this formula today. Below are the quotes of Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier about Paterno's influence on them.
"Joe Paterno gave his life to college football, He gave his life to the players and college football.
Not just at Penn State, but when I was the head coach at Michigan State, we had a player who could get a sixth year because of an injury, and Joe was the head of the committee. He got it done for the player, and that player actually ran a touchdown against them that could have cost them the game later that season.But never I never doubted with him that he was going to do what was best for college football, and the players that played it, and I think that should be his legacy."
"I have the utmost respect and admiration for Joe Paterno. I've coached around 300 college games and only once when I've met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the '97 season when we were playing Penn State. I had one of our university photographers take the picture with me and Coach Paterno, and I still have that photo in the den at my house. That's the admiration I have for Joe Paterno. It was sad how it ended, but he was a great person and coach."
Joe Paterno's greatest moment against the SEC wasn't one particular moment. But it was what happened between two national championships playing against two SEC titans of the game. The first against Paul "Bear" Bryant's Alabama team in the 1979 Sugar Bowl. Joe Paterno tried his best to penetrate one of the best defenses that have played the game.
It would prove to be a lost cause—an unforgettable defeat for Penn State. Paterno went back to the drawing board. It would take him a few more seasons to get back to the Sugar Bowl against Vince Dooley's No. 1 Georgia Team. This time, Paterno had his SEC experience and held a team with superstar running back Herschel Walker to just 23 points.
Since then, once the SEC got a win over Paterno, he found a way to pull another defeat against the conference. This league's biggest asset is the competition that is brought out every year. And Joe Paterno has been a part of the mold that has made this powerful conference that it is nowadays.
Today, a little piece of SEC history has passed away with the fellow Blue and White counterparts from the North.