Penn State shuts out A&M to send off Sandusky
Posted: Wednesday December 29, 1999 12:53 AM
Rashard Casey filled in as Penn State's starting quarterback at the last minute and scored two touchdowns. AP
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Penn State got the outcome it wanted, just not in the game it wanted to play.
Rashard Casey passed for a touchdown and ran for one as No. 13 Penn State, ending a three-game losing streak that cost it a possible shot at the national title, defeated No. 18 Texas A&M 24-0 Tuesday in the Alamo Bowl.
"It seemed like a Hollywood script," All-American linebacker LaVar Arrington said after Penn State's first shutout of the season. "It's too bad it's too late to show what we had -- but better late than never."
Penn State (10-3) sent longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky into retirement with a strong performance, holding Texas A&M to just 80 net yards rushing and 122 yards passing.
"We played like a Penn State defense," said Sandusky, the defensive coordinator since 1977. "We bent, but we didn't break, and people made plays in the clutch. That is what did it. And that's symbolic of the way we played so many, many times."
The defense had carried Penn State to a 9-0 start and a No. 2 national ranking, before the team's title hopes were dashed by losses to Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State.
Penn State avoided what could have been the first four-game losing streak in Joe Paterno's 34-year career as coach.
As the Lions received their Alamo Bowl trophy, Paterno praised his players and the Penn State fans who traveled to Texas.
"It was a great effort by our team, and I'm very, very proud of them," he said. "Let's go get a shower and have fun tonight, guys!"
Penn State jumped to a 14-0 lead by halftime, then added another touchdown when Casey ran in for the score from the 4 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
A 39-yard field goal by Travis Forney pushed the Lions' lead to 24-0.
Casey had his first start of the season and played the whole game for Penn State, which had used Casey and Kevin Thompson at quarterback this year. Paterno said Monday that Thompson's arm was slightly sore.
"I knew I was going to get the start because coach had told me Kevin had messed up his shoulder," Casey said. "I went and practiced like I was going to be the starter."
Casey was 8-of-16 for 146 yards and Penn State added 175 yards rushing.
Randy McCown of Texas A&M was 13-for-22 for 105 passing yards but threw four interceptions, matching the career high he threw in a loss to Nebraska this season. McCown was sacked three times.
"It was tough to stay positive," McCown said. "We wanted to get a good start and we didn't. You're not going to win many football games playing like that."
Arrington, a junior who might make himself available for the NFL draft, had a big game for Penn State with 14 tackles, including one for an 8-yard loss.
"We had a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Arrington said.
Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum knew going into the game that Arrington, not to mention his two fellow All-American defensive teammates, would pose problems for his offense.
"He's a great player," Slocum said. "He was up for every postseason award for a linebacker, so this is not the first time he's done it."
The Aggies had only one promising drive in the first half, and it failed when Shane Lechler -- also the team's punter -- saw his 44-yard field-goal attempt fall short.
Texas A&M looked as though it might get its running game together to start the second half, as Ja'Mar Toombs and D'Andre Hardeman combined for an impressive drive to begin the third.
But when the Aggies got near the end zone, Ron Graham of Penn State intercepted McCown's pass at the 7.
Other Aggies mistakes followed, including Bethel Johnson's fumble of a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
An ocean of Aggies fans packed the 65,000-seat Alamodome, but the loud maroon-clad crowd couldn't keep the Aggies afloat. Some fans started to head for the exits with 10 minutes left in the game.
The defeat ended a season of tragedy for Texas A&M (8-4), whose players wore a helmet decal honoring the students killed in the Nov. 18 bonfire log collapse on campus that killed 12 people and injured 27.
The Lions got on the scoreboard early when Derek Fox ran 34 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter after intercepting a pass by McCown.
Earlier in the first quarter, the Lions took points off the board when they opted to take a first down on a roughing-the-kicker call after Forney made a 38-yard field goal. Four plays later, Forney was wide right on a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Penn State drove 73 yards and scored on a 45-yard pass from Casey to Eddie Drummond and moved ahead 14-0 with 8:54 left before halftime.
This was Paterno's 30th bowl appearance, breaking the record of 29 he shared with Bear Bryant of Alabama. Paterno has won more bowl games than any other coach and now has a bowl record of 20-9-1.
The Alamo Bowl is sponsored by Sylvania.
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