TAMPA, Fla. – Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer met at midfield for a postgame handshake and hug, one looking forward to next season, the other looking forward to a different life.
Meyer closed out a highly successful six-year run that included a pair of national championships by leading the Gators back from a second-half deficit to beat JoePa’s Nittany Lions 37-24 in the Outback Bowl on Saturday.
“I’m at full peace because I saw a bunch of smiles in that locker room,” said Meyer, who announced his resignation last month. “Locker rooms really aren’t very much fun when there’s ... a pain in your stomach and your chest and everything else. There was a lot of fun in there. A lot of fun.”
Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee ran for touchdowns, Chas Henry kicked three second-half field goals, and Ahmad Black sealed the win with an 80-yard interception return TD to help Florida (8-5) send Meyer out with a smile of his own.
The 46-year-old Meyer said he was stepping away from coaching because of health concerns and to spend more time with his family. As for the 84-year-old Paterno, he spent the week leading up to the game shooting down rumors that the Outback Bowl could be his last game.
“He said, ‘I love you kid,’” Meyer said about his quick postgame meeting on the field with Paterno. “He’s the only one who calls me kid. And I love him too.”
All week long, Meyer paid tribute to Paterno, the all-time bowl wins leader with 24.
“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him,” Meyer said.
“If I ever start a coaching school, I’m going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno, and say that’s the way you should act in coaching because that’s college football. ... You just don’t want to lose that man or lose what college football is. That was college football out there today.”
Copyright Associated Press