Paterno and Mason recall close clash

Michael Dougherty

Minnesota footbal coach Glen Mason was asked what he stored in his memory banks from the heart-breaking 16-15 loss at Penn State in 1997.
He said, “You know what I remember about it? The atrocious official’s call that Joe Paterno still talks about. That’s what I remember about it, and if you ask Paterno about that game, that’s what he remembers too.”
OK, coach Paterno, how do you remember that game?
“The last time they played up here they just had a tough day with the officiating,” he said.
Ask Gophers linebacker Sean Hoffman what he remembers from that loss and his recollection is quite a bit different. His involves nudity.
“It was unbelievable,” Hoffman said. “I just got out of the shower and I’m sitting there with just this towel around my waist, and here comes Joe Paterno. I mean, who would have thought growing up that here’s a kid standing half naked and here comes Joe Paterno telling me we played a good game. It was quite the experience.”
What was unbelievable about the experience was that Minnesota lost the game. The Gophers led 15-3 against the top-ranked Lions in the fourth quarter, but were victimized by a phantom pass-interference call against defensive back Crawford Jordan.
On third-and-six at the Minnesota 21-yard line, former Lion Curtis Enis stepped out of bounds as he ran a fade route. Jordan ran into Enis while the ball was in the air — the officials threw the flag and ruled Jordan had pushed Enis out of bounds.
The penalty gave the Lions a first down at the six and Enis ran over left guard on the next play to make the score 15-10. Later, Gophers running back Thomas Hamner fumbled a pitch from quarterback Cory Sauter and Penn State recovered at the Minnesota 10-yard line.
Enis scored on the next play and Minnesota’s first shot at knocking off a No. 1 team since 1977 went down in flames.
Paterno came into the Minnesota locker room after the game and told the players they deserved to win.
“They did everything they should have to win except score more points,” Paterno said during a teleconference call on Tuesday.
After that loss, Mason received a call from the Big Ten apologizing for the botched call, which took away a game the Gophers should have won.
“Shoulda, woulda, coulda,” Hoffman said. “We need to go out there and play them tough. I keep saying it, but one of these days we’re eventually going to get one of these wins, I know it. Eventually this team is going to get over the hump.”
Notes
ù Saturday’s game is homecoming for Penn State and will be Paterno’s 400th game as a head coach for the Lions. In his 34th season as head coach and his 50th season with the Lions, Paterno’s record is 316-80-3. Mason, in his 14th season, is 72-82-1.
ù Quarterback Billy Cockerham wore a red jersey during practice on Tuesday. Cockerham experienced back spasms after the Purdue game but offensive coordinator Steve Loney said Cockerham will be fine for Saturday’s game.

Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]