Back in 1995, when former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, of Sandusky incident fame, was a backup quarterback, Big Red came in to clean up a blowout win for Wally Richardson and with about a minute left completed a 60-yard touchdown play that seemed a bit odd to all observers. Rutgers coach Doug Graber was incensed and at the end of the game, instead of shaking hands with St. Joe, he hurled epithets at him, to which The Sainted One responded with a hearty “Bullshit!” Although the play was subjected to the usual fan and media commentary back then, only recently has anyone concocted the notion that McQueary, who suffers from a notable gambling problem, had bet on the game and needed the touchdown to cover the spread.
Graber thought at the time that Paterno was deliberately running up the score to lobby for recognition in the national poll, having been snubbed in favor of Nebraska the prior year. Paterno says he had called a short pass to the tight end for a first down, but that the home run receiver was wide open, so McQueary chose him.
I pointedly asked McQueary about this at an alumni association meeting several years ago. As I started my question with, “Flash back…” I saw him wince as I uttered those words, but he seemed relieved when I went on with, “…to 1995 when you were backup QB. You came in late to clean up a game and wound up throwing a home run ball. What the hell were you thinking?”
McQueary explained that he checked off the tight end because he was covered and when he looked next at the receiver running the deep route he saw he was wide open, so he went for it. He then added that Joe was OK with that and he didn’t catch hell or anything. I thought otherwise, because the TV camera caught St. Joe shaking his head on the sideline. Furthermore, he had to take all that shit from Graber.
My colleagues criticized me for asking such a softball question then, because McQueary was at the meeting to discuss his recruiting efforts. I didn’t care about McQueary’s recruiting. That play stuck in my mind as a “need to know more” kind of thing. It seemed so atypical on so many levels.
Well, someone else has apparently picked up the ball that I dropped there. David Purdum of Betting Talk came up with the possibility that McQueary had bet on the game and needed the touchdown to win his bet. I’ll let you read his story and you may draw your own conclusions.
Far fetched? Maybe, maybe not. I think many of us are getting the impression at this point that McQueary is somewhat less honorable than we might have thought in 1995 or 2005. His gambling issues have been reported and documented. So, plausible — yes, it certainly is. I didn’t believe McQueary back then when he told me that he didn’t take a beating from Joe for doing it, and I still don’t. I guess we’ll never know.
However, we are all aware of St. Joe’s game philosophies. In games that were won and just being played out, how many times have we seen the offense take a knee on the 2 yard-line. I can’t count those occasions, even with my shoes off. The very least we can conclude about McQueary’s dumbass gambit is that it certainly wouldn’t have met with St. Joe’s approval.
I was just staining a door and my knuckles feel sticky. So I’ll go fix that now. Let me know what you think.