Outback Bowl Notebook
Kentucky's ground game a Penn State worry, too
Posted: Thursday December 31, 1998 07:18 PM
TAMPA, Florida (AP) -- For all the talk about Kentucky's prolific passing attack, Penn State is worried about someone else running them ragged in Friday's Outback Bowl -- halfback Anthony White.
"They play run-and-shoot basketball, yet they're capable of running the football," said Jerry Sandusky, Penn State defensive coordinator. "They have two outstanding backs that are really good. So I think anytime you play a team that has these kind of statistics passing-wise, the running game probably is just as important."
Consider the four-game stretch this year when the Wildcats ran for 211, 182, 204, and 181 yards to go along with Couch's usual 300 yards of passing production. The result is wins over South Carolina, LSU and Mississippi State and two-point loss to Georgia.
Fullback Derek Homer leads the Wildcats in rushing with 716 yards and seven TDs, but White is the more dangerous back. He's rushed for 437 yards and two touchdowns, but he's also caught 78 passes for 582 yards, often when Couch has dumped it off to him over a blitz.
"I thought they would be strictly a passing team, but on film they seem to be a really good running team, so that's an extra wrinkle," said Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington.
A year ago, Florida took a break from its passing attack against Penn State. Fred Taylor rushed for 234 yards and the Gators won the Citrus Bowl 21-6.
The good news for Penn State is that it has been outstanding against the run this year, holding teams to 97 yards a game, eighth-best in the nation.
And Kentucky might not be able to mix in the run as effectively if, as expected, coach Hal Mumme is forced to start three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line. He lost one player to a broken leg, another in a November auto accident, and a third Tuesday to a twisted knee.
Mumme a Paterno fan
How does Kentucky coach Hal Mumme, who is coaching in his first bowl game, feel about matching wits with Joe Paterno, the 72-year-old Penn State coach who is 18-9-1 in bowls?
"I think I'm going to get his autograph before the game," Mumme said Thursday morning, and it wasn't clear whether he was joking. "It's pretty intimidating."
Paterno still a bowl fan
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno may have been to 28 bowl games, including eight straight New Year's Day bowls, but it's not getting boring.
"People think it's old hat for us, but it's not," he said on Thursday. "There's a new bunch of people. It's just a lotta fun. The fans, last couple of days some of our kids' families came into town. There's a pep rally today. So it's fun."
Not to get too carried away by the hoopla, he added a caveat.
"Of course, in the end, it's all about the game," Paterno said.
Kentucky is in its first bowl game in four years, but that hasn't stopped the players from strutting a bit.
"Penn State taking away our passing game would be like it snowing here," halfback Anthony White said earlier this week. "To do that they would have to drop back five or six people. If they do that, our running game will be wide open."
Nittany Lions linebacker LaVar Arrington wasn't biting when he heard White's words Wednesday.
"I saw how they walked in when we had the Outback dinner," he said. "They seemed really confident. They seemed ready to play and I wouldn't want it any other way. It makes the game more interesting."
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