PASADENA, Calif. -- The offensive star, Ki-Jana Carter, took a bow in one end zone, where the people in blue and white implored him to return to Happy Valley for his senior season with a chant of "One More Year."
The coach, Joe Paterno, put himself a notch above everyone else in his profession, then blew a kiss to the faithful who followed him 3,000 miles.
If only the Penn State admiration society could extend to the media and coaches who are expected to rank Nebraska No. 1, and keep the fellow unbeaten and untied Nittany Lions No. 2 when the final college football polls are released today.
Oh, there were index fingers raised high after Penn State's historic 38-20 victory over Oregon in the 81st Rose Bowl yesterday, but there was also a feeling of resignation regarding the national rankings.
"Tom Osborne's a good friend of mine, and I want him to win a national championship, but not at the expense of my team," Paterno said. "I feel my team is every bit as good as his team, but I'm afraid the people who vote aren't going to feel that way. We should be able to share the title at least."
Paterno's fifth perfect season came in Penn State's second swing through the Big Ten Conference and ended with his first Rose Bowl. He became the first coach to win all four major bowl games, and his 16th bowl victory put him one ahead of the late Bear Bryant.
This was not a normal year for Penn State (12-0), and it was not a normal script yesterday, as the nation's leading offense was out-gained by Oregon, 501 yards to 430.
Quarterback Danny O'Neil set a slew of Rose Bowl records, but the Ducks were undone by special teams play, a resilient Penn State defense, their own blunders and one by the officials. The Nittany Lions pulled away from a 14-14 tie in the final 20 minutes with little help from their offense, which needed to drive just 21, 13 and 13 yards for its last three touchdowns.
"You didn't see the true Penn State offense," wide receiver Bobby Engram said. "Obviously, we were a little down after the Nebraska game the night before, and Oregon threw some different things at us, some zone coverage we weren't expecting."
On the Nittany Lions' first play from scrimmage, All-American went against All-American. Tailback Carter bowled over cornerback Herman O'Berry at the line and rambled untouched for an 83-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
On its next five possessions, however, Penn State suffered from a bad case of Gang Green, as the Oregon defense shut the Lions down. Later, the Penn State offense opened the door for the Ducks (9-4) as lineback
er Reggie Jordan intercepted an ill-advised Kerry Collins pass and returned it 38 yards to the Lions' 17 with 5:35 to go in the third quarter.
O'Neil, who set Rose Bowl records with 41 completions in 61 attempts and 456 yards, connected with Cristin McLemore for a 17-yard touchdown two plays later, and suddenly Penn State, a 17-point favorite, was in a 14-14 tie.
Ambrose Fletcher returned the kickoff 72 yards, however, and Carter trotted in from 17 yards out for the go-ahead score. Two plays later, O'Neil threw a pass for the second time straight into the arms of safety Chuck Penzenik. Three plays after that, Carter went over from the 3.
Three minutes, two Oregon mistakes, two Penn State touchdowns. All that was left was for O'Neil to pad his stats against the prevent defense, and earn co-Player of the Game honors with Carter, who finished with 156 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
"One reason they're national champions is that when a team gets inside the 20 on them, they're great," said O'Neil, who learned that lesson at the end of the first half.
After a 44-yard pass from Collins to seldom-used Joe Jurevicius set up the touchdown that put Penn State ahead 14-7 with 1:36 left in the half, Oregon took the kickoff and moved 57 yards on four straight completions. The Ducks got to the Penn State 9-yard line and took their last timeout with 11 seconds to go, but never got their field goal unit on.
O'Neil foolishly passed on the right side to McLemore, who was kept in bounds, and the Ducks never got another play. Not that freshman kicker Matt Belden was automatic. He missed a 23-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, and a 44-yarder in the second. Both would have given Oregon a 10-7 lead.
The Ducks also were hurt by a noncall on an obvious fumble by Carter in the second quarter and several other breaks. But Oregon coach Rich Brooks refused to alibi.
"I was disappointed we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had," Brooks said. "Penn State had something to do with that. Every time we were in position to lead, they made a big play. I'll vote them No. 1."
Even if Penn State doesn't get a national title, it is the first Big Ten team to leave the Rose Bowl with a perfect record since Ohio State in 1969. There's symmetry involved in that distinction, since that also was the first year a Paterno-coached Penn State team had an unbeaten, untied record and didn't finish No. 1.