STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- In bright white letters against a blue background, the electronic sign boards around Beaver Stadium took note of another milestone for Joe Paterno long after the stands had cleared.
"Congratulations Coach Paterno," the signs read. "Winningest Coach In Division I College Football."
The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) overcame six fumbles -- losing two -- with Silas Redd's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:08 to go. Penn State's only touchdown came after Illinois corner Justin Green was whistled for pass interference while breaking up a fourth-down pass for Derek Moye in the end zone.
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Redd had a career-high 30 carries for 137 yards for Penn State, none bigger than his late run set up after Illinois corner Justin Green was whistled for pass interference after breaking up a fourth-down pass for Derek Moye in the end zone.
Among all coaches, Paterno now only trails John Gagliardi, still active at Division III St. John's, Minn., with 481 victories.
"It really is something I've very proud of, to be associated with Eddie Robinson," Paterno said in a brief postgame ceremony in the media room broadcast to fans still waiting in the stands 10 minutes later. "Something like this means a lot to me, an awful lot. But there's a lot of other people I've got to thank."
The Nittany Lions' 84-year-old leader coached the game itself from the press box on a snowy Saturday in Happy Valley that had fans bundled up in winter parkas and hoodies. Paterno's right leg and shoulder are still sore after an accidental hit in practice in the preseason.
The fourth-quarter flurry surely brought a smile to his face.
After struggling most of the afternoon, quarterback Matt McGloin drove Penn State from their own 20 to the Illini 32 on three long completions before the pass interference call gave the Nittany Lions a second chance.
Redd capitalized four plays later by barreling into the end zone, the crowd erupting in delight.
Jason Ford rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries but Illinois couldn't capitalize on a slew of Penn State mistakes in a defensive slugfest.
The Illini's offense wasn't much better than Penn State, but they got just got enough in the third quarter from scrambling quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to scratch out a 10-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Harris for a 7-0 lead.
Illinois' defense held firm from there until Penn State's late TD drive.
Moye, back after missing two games because of a left foot injury, dropped a third-down pass to groans from the crowd on the winning drive. McGloin went for Moye on fourth down with 1:31 left, and the ball bounced off the receiver's hands in the end zone -- but there was contact bbefore the pass hit hits mark and the interference penalty gave Penn State another chance.
Illinois coach Ron Zook could only wince on the sideline as a once-quiet Penn State crowd burst back to life.
Illinois' struggling offense couldn't get untracked again early, going scoreless in the first half for a third straight game. They wasted opportunities deep in Penn State territory following fumbles by Redd at his own 37 in the first half, and quarterback Rob Bolden at the 29 late in the second half.
On that drive, Illinois receiver Ryan Lankford made a pretty tiptoe catch along the sideline from backup quarterback Riley O'Toole for a 12-yard gain to the 12. The play was upheld by replay -- and fans in the student section showed their displeasure by tossing snowballs on the field.
The snowballs missed the players -- much like most of the passes at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. McGloin was 9 of 24 for 98 yards, while Bolden missed all four of his pass attempts, all in the second quarter.
Illinois still couldn't take advantage after driving to the 4. An illegal procedure penalty pushed them back to the 9, then holder Tim Russell mishandled the snap on a 26-yard field goal attempt and threw a wobbly pass intercepted by Penn State defensive end Sean Stanley to preserve a scoreless first half.
Scheelhaase finished 9 of 16 for 63 yards, and ran 14 times for 89 yards.