But as the millennium turned, so too did the program. Or so it seemed. For the first time in Paterno's career, he posted back-to-back sub-.500 seasons (5-7 in 2000, 5-6 in 2001). In the fall of 2001, despite having an overall sub-par season, Paterno did surpass Bear Bryant's record for coaching victories, with 324 gridiron triumphs at that point.
In the 2002 season the Lions got back on track, going 9-4 and making it to the Capital One Bowl, where they lost to Auburn. Paterno's record at the end of the 2002 season stood at 336 wins, 99 losses and three ties.