Daily Dose of Crimson Tide: Joe Paterno's Final Loss
Over the years a very respectful rivalry with Penn State developed and the games between Paul W. “Bear” Bryant and Joe Paterno nothing short of epic. Among them was the 1982 meeting when Bryant notched victory No. 314 to tie Amos Alonzo Stagg’s record for career victories, and the 1979 Sugar Bowl to determine the national championship.
“I don’t talk about wanting to play much, but that series I would love to have a chance to play against Penn State again,” Cornelius Bennett said after Alabama agreed to home-and-home meetings in 2010 and 2011. “We never should have stopped the series.
“You know, Coach Bryant, Joe Paterno. Need I say more?”
Paterno was one of the few coaches with a winning record against Nick Saban, 3-2 from his Michigan State days, when Penn State visited Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden received a special invitation to attend and the three legends shook hands at midfield before the Crimson Tide’s 24-3 victory.
No one knew that when Alabama visited Beaver Stadium on September 10, 2011, and won 27-11, that it would be Paterno’s final loss as a head coach.
After notching 409 wins he was fired in November for his “failure of leadership” regarding a sex scandal surrounding an assistant coach. Similar to Bryant, he died shortly after the conclusion of his coaching career, on January 22, 2012. He was 85.
"Joe Paterno gave his life to college football," Saban said at the time. "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."
The teams haven't played since.
"The first memory I have of Joe Paterno is a 15-year-old kid who's a high school quarterback who goes to a West Virginia game and sits on the edge of his seat to see Joe Paterno and Penn State run out of the tunnel," said Saban, who grew up in West Virginia and admired what Paterno "exemplified in college football."
"Probably as much as anything what we all try to get as coaches, a well-disciplined team that gives tremendous effort, plays physical, has the ability to execute down-in and down-out and play winning football," Saban said.
"And when you played Joe's teams, that's exactly what you were playing against. They always had real good athletes, but to me it was the level they performed at that was indicative of the kind of program that he ran, the kind of influence that he had on the players."
He added: "I'm a guy that always believed in Joe Paterno."