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There was neither an interview nor a shower for LaVar Arrington.

The linebacker just sat there in his pads, numb.

A No. 2 ranking and a run at the 1999 national championship were both gone by the hands -- or rather the leg -- of a freshman kicker.

"I've lived with that every day," Arrington said. "That pushed me in my life. I strive not to lose ever, just based off of moments like that. I've never gotten over that loss."

Almost a decade ago, Minnesota upset Penn State, 24-23, when Dan Nystrom kicked a 32-yard field goal on the last play.

This year, the two foes are back at Beaver Stadium.

Since that game, Golden Gophers' head coach Glen Mason got fired, Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno battled through criticism and Beaver Stadium underwent an expansion.

But the pain remains for the former All-American, as do the memories.

"My father was the only one that could get me out of [the locker room]," Arrington said. "I sat there so long, there was barely anyone outside by the time I got my equipment off and got my stuff together and then came out."

The game-deciding drive started with a first down Hail Mary pass to get past midfield. Then there was the fourth-and-16 pass to get into field-goal range.

And, finally, the kick that sailed just over the leaping Lions.

But it all started innocently enough just two days later.

It was homecoming, Paterno's 400th game and Arrington dedicating the game to Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who died earlier that week on Nov. 1.

The Thursday night before the Nov. 6 game, Mason remembers having his daughter -- then a Minnesota student -- and her boyfriend over. The boyfriend, a fraternity member, started egging on Mason into going to a party at his frat.

Mason reluctantly agreed.

When Mason returned after the stunning victory, his wife reminded him that he promised to go to the party. He gave in, went and got a "gift."

"I didn't stay there long," Mason said with a laugh. "A kid walked up and gave me -- I'll never forget -- and gave me a can of Busch Light beer that was warm. I said to him, 'This is all I get for beating Penn State?' He goes, 'Hey, ice is expensive.' "

That seemed to be the only setback for Minnesota regarding the game.

The Gophers came in 5-3 with close losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue.

The Lions were a lofty No. 2 and unbeaten with three close wins and a defense bolstered by players like Courtney Brown and Arrington. That duo went one-two in the NFL Draft.

As such, Mason fashioned the perfect game plan.

"On Wednesday night, I told the offensive staff, 'I've got the game plan, it's called patience,' " Mason said. " 'We're going to play conservative.' "

Of course, there was a twist.

If Mason's team was still in the game in the fourth quarter, the Gophers would get aggressive.

After Paterno decided to punt the ball instead of going for the field goal at the Gophers' 33, Minnesota got the ball at its 20 with 1:50 left.

Fran Ganter, Penn State's offensive coordinator at the time, said the decision was solely Paterno's, adding the coach rarely hesitated. Even Mason said he would've done the same if he had Penn State's defense. In fact, the former coach said his team lucked out on the next play.

"I said, 'Call the Hail Mary,' " Mason remembered with a laugh. "My offensive coordinator said, 'On first down, you want the Hail Mary?' I said yeah. He said why. I said, 'I've lost my patience.' "

Minnesota quarterback Billy Cockerham found Ron Johnson for a 46-yard completion to get to the Lions' 34. Cockerham, who Mason recalls fondly as a terrible practice player, was a little banged up for the game but battled through nonetheless. He threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns while adding another score on the ground.

But Minnesota was on the brink again after an Arrington sack and two incomplete passes preceded the miracle play.

"The weirdest thing is, we never felt like they were in the game, at least for what I gathered." Arrington said.

"It didn't feel like they were in the game. I don't know. That one still kind of bothers me. We just never felt they should've even been on the field with us."

Cockerham heaved a pass down the field and after it was tipped, receiver Arland Bruce caught the ball on his fingertips for a 27-yard gain.

"I don't think they were as good as we were, man-for-man," Ganter said. "You got to give them credit. They kept it close until the very end."

Moments later, Nystrom got his chance.

The freshman missed an extra point earlier in the game but made sure the upset came into fruition with some assistance from an unusual guest -- a ladder.

After all, Arrington, who blocked two kicks that season and set a career-high with 15 tackles in that game, and his teammates were too big of a threat to not take precaution.

That week in practice, Mason said he first tried having players stand on each others' backs to simulate the height Penn State could reach.

It wasn't enough -- nobody could get that high.

Minnesota then brought in a ladder and had Nystrom kick over it.

Come game time, on the last play of the game in front of 96,753 fans under a blue sky, Mason remembers players yelling, "step ladder, step ladder," as Nystrom stepped onto the field.

The practice must have paid off, as the freshman drilled it just over outstretched arms.

"I just remember I didn't care, we were going to block it, you know? Nobody ever does hard counts on field goals," Arrington said. "I missed the ball by like an inch. It was pretty close, man. It was pretty close. It wasn't meant to be."

It was also a play the other side would never forget.

"It was one of the most impressive things that I have ever seen," said Tim Allen, former Minnesota assistant athletics director for football operations. "Those two guys going up, you're talking about some big-time athletes, going after the ball as hard as they possibly could. It was impressive."

Although Allen is now the director of football operations at Michigan State, that 1999 game remains the most memorable of his career.

The after effects were memorable.

After the kicked sailed through the uprights, Arrington realized that "destiny was broken."

Plus, a kick that came to be remembered as the end of a dream for one team became the image on a poster for another.

Hands raised in victory, tight end Alex Hass picked up Mason in celebration.

Mason, who wore a dress shirt and tie whenever he coached against Paterno -- "when you go to a man's house, you ought to dress accordingly," he said -- soon met the man he considered an amazing coach, a legend and a gentleman.

But also a man who looked torn.

"I swear to God, I can see it like it was yesterday," Mason said. "He had a smile on the face for my team and he had a tear in his eye for his team. That takes an unusual guy. Because he knew what those kids had accomplished and what went into it. He saw maybe a dream for his kids going down the drain. That's why I respect the guy so much."

That day's result was in fact much different from the teams' last game at Beaver Stadium. In 1997, Mason's first year as the Gophers' headman, No. 1 Penn State was down against unranked Minnesota, even trailing 15-3.

The Lions rallied late to win, 16-15, with the benefit of a call and a fumble.

First, a "horrendous" penalty, Mason said, set up Penn State at the Gopher 6-yard line, where Curtis Enis ran into the end zone.

Then, running back Thomas Hamner had a fumble, which Penn State recovered at the Minnesota 10. Another Enis run gave the Lions the final tally.

Two years later, and it was Minnesota who scored the dramatic victory with late-game heroics and a pinch of magic.

The Gophers wound up winning out the rest of the regular season and got to No. 12 before losing to Oregon in the Sun Bowl, 24-20.

The shocking defeat started a downward spiral as Penn State lost to Michigan and Michigan State by a combined 11 points. The Lions blew a 27-17 lead against the Wolverines and fell behind the Spartans, 21-0. It wasn't until the Alamo Bowl that the Lions rebounded, when they sent out defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky a winner, 24-0.

But what had started as a day and season with so much promise instead ended with a star linebacker in motionless disbelief.

"I think we would've went all

the way," Arrington said. "I don't think any of those things would've happened had we beaten Minnesota."