MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bruce Keller, a member of the Blockbuster Bowl selection committee, finally got to make his presentation.
He officially invited Penn State to the New Year's Day game in Miami after the Nittany Lions defeated West Virginia, 40-26, yesterday at Mountaineer Field.
The No. 14 Nittany Lions (6-2), who had lost two straight, got the winning touchdown -- a 3-yard leap by Richie Anderson into the left side of the end zone -- with just 52 seconds left to knock the Mountaineers to 3-2-2.
Phil Yeboah-Kodie's interception of WVU quarterback Jake Kelchner and 23-yard return with 38 seconds left provided the final score.
The 12-play, 89-yard game-winning drive was keyed by a 40-yard bTC pass from Kerry Collins to Justin Williams to the WVU 21-yard line at the left sideline.
"The biggest play of all my life," Collins said of the third-and-seven pass. The redshirt sophomore made his first career start after a slow recovery from a broken index finger on his throwing hand.
Collins finished 15-of-30 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson led the Lions with 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The game was a long, tight battle until the final minute.
"I don't know if weird is exactly the word," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said of the game. "It had a lot of ups and downs to it, I know that.
The win officially qualified them for the bowl bid they accepted last spring after they were left out of the bowl alliance involving most of the major conferences.
Leading 19-16 at halftime, the Nittany Lions drove 44 yards on their first possession of the second half, and Anderson's 11-yard run through a big hole up the middle was good for a touchdown and a 26-16 lead 8:26 into the third quarter.
The Mountaineers closed to within three, 26-23, when Adrian Murrell sped down the right sideline for a 28-yard score on the last play of the third quarter.
Murrell had a game-high 154 yards on 21 carries.
Mike Vanderjagt tied it at 26 with a 41-yard field goal with 12:52 left in the game.
The teams scrapped back and forth throughout the first half, with a driving rain storm slowing both teams in the first quarter.
Kelchner hit Ed Hill with a 28-yard scoring pass 2:38 into the game.
The Lions came back with a 10-play, 80-yard drive, with Collins tossing a 9-yard scoring pass to Williams 7:20 into the game. V. J. Muscillo missed wide right with the extra point and it was 7-6.
Garrett Ford returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the West Virginia 48. That's when the rain struck. With sheets of wind and rain at their backs, the Mountaineers inched along on seven short, safe plays.
Vanderjagt boosted the West Virginia lead to 10-6 with a career-best47-yard field goal 9:54 into the game.
The storm was beginning to die down, but the points continued to roll up.
Anderson ran right 14 yards for a score 1:38 into the second quarter and Muscillo hit the PAT, giving Penn State its first lead, 13-10.
With 8:09 left, Mountaineers split end Jay Kearney beat the double coverage of Tony Pittman and Chris Cisar to haul in a Kelchner pass for a 74-yard touchdown.
The Lions weren't done, though. Collins lobbed a short screen pass to Troy Drayton over the middle. The big tight end lumbered past three Mountaineers on his way to a 67-yard TD. However, Muscillo again was wide right with the extra point.
Penn State 6 13 7 14 40
West Virginia 10 6 7 3 26