A few days before N.C. States first preseason practice in 1973, then-Wolfpack football coach Lou Holtz was discussing the nasty non-ACC schedule his team would face.
After an opening game in Carter Stadium (as it was known then) against ECU, Holtz second State team would go to Nebraska in the third game and then to Georgia, which was coached at the time by Vince Dooley.
November would start with a trip to South Carolina, coached by Paul Dietzel, and then to Penn State and Joe Paterno.
I guess the good news is at least Bob Devaney wont be coaching Nebraska, Holtz, ever the quipster, said.
Devaney had retired after 1972, and the Cornhuskers had promoted relative whippersnapper Tom Osborne.
After beating the Pirates (57-8) and Gamecocks (56-35) but losing at Nebraska (31-14) and Georgia (31-12), the Wolfpack took a 6-3 record to Penn State, which was undefeated and ranked sixth nationally.
That Saturday, Nov. 10, 1973, turned out to be one of the most important days in Joe Paternos record-setting career.
When Paterno died Sunday, I couldnt help but think back to that cold, raw afternoon in State College, Pa.
Although outplayed by the Wolfpack much of the way, Penn State escaped 35-29 thanks to a performance by tailback John Cappelletti that won him the Heisman Trophy.
Cappelletti rushed 41 times for 220 yards and three touchdowns, setting the stage for a 12-0 finish and an Orange Bowl win over LSU.
We were lucky, theres no other way to put it, Paterno said. North Carolina State is good. Theyre well coached. We didnt come close to stopping them very many times.
A few weeks later, Paterno was hardly so gracious after the Associated Press panel voted Notre Dame (11-0) its national champion after a 24-23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Paterno wasnt so much upset that Notre Dame was voted No. 1, but he definitely didnt like the fact that his team remained at No. 5, one notch below Alabama.
It was the third time Paterno and the Lions had been jilted after perfect seasons. The 1968 and 69 teams (each 11-0) were skipped in favor of Ohio State (10-0 in 68) and Texas (11-0 in 69).
It was after that 73 season that Paterno vowed to beef up Penn States schedule. Then an independent, the school had difficulty finding mid-season opponents from name conferences.
Not enough people respect us, Paterno said after the bowl win over LSU. They think were softer than some of the teams ranked in front of us year after year.
By 1976, when Paterno got his 100th win with a 41-20 romp over a Bo Rein-coached Wolfpack team, the Lions schedule was tougher but recruiting more challenging.
At rival Pitt, Johnny Majors in 1976 won a national title after only four years at the school a development that bewildered Paterno and Penn State fans.
That frustration only mounted when the 77 and 78 Lions went 11-1 but had to wait until 1982 before the elusive title was finally bagged.
Paterno finally felt his program was respected as much for winning games as graduating players and developing solid citizens.
The respect Paterno earned on and off the field wont be erased.
Allegations of sexual abuse by longtime former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky obviously did much damage to Paternos image and possibly his health. But until the Sandusky situation arose, Paterno earned so much respect and admiration that a good deal of it will survive.