Penn State fans lukewarm about Alamo
Posted: Wednesday December 22, 1999 04:00 PM
By Mark Ambrogi, Special to CNN/SI
The Penn State Nittany Lions, who survived some close calls early in the season, seemed destined for the national championship game.
Instead, the No. 13 Nittany Lions (9-3) lost the last three games to Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State and find themselves in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, facing No. 18 Texas A&M (8-3), on Dec. 28.
Ticket sales for a bowl game haven't been so slow since the 1979 Liberty Bowl.
"It's been pretty bleak around here," said Bud Meredith, the school's ticket manager for the past 30 seasons.
The school even had to send back 2,400 tickets, almost one-fourth of their allotment. Texas A&M fans quickly scooped them up the unsold tickets.
Coach Joe Paterno said he isn't worried about ticket sales. But he is concerned about toning down fan expectations.
"In all fairness, obviously, I am hoping I will be here a few more years," he said. "I can handle all that stuff. But I think it would unfair to have somebody come in here with the idea that in four or five years that you can expect every year to be a national championship football team in a conference as tough as this one. I think you have to be realistic."
Paterno said there wasn't anything seriously wrong with his team in the final weeks.
"I don't think anything went wrong," he said. "I just think that we played hard and we didn't a couple of bounces here and bounces.
"I consider this season successful whether we win or lose the next game. We have played a lot of good football teams. We played competitively and that is all you can ask."
Spartans feel slighted
Michigan State players are going into the Citrus Bowl duel against No. 10 Florida on New Year's Day in Orlando with an ax to grind.
Not only were the Spartans left out of the Bowl Championship Series, but archrival Michigan was selected in their place. Both teams are 9-2. The Wolverines are ranked eighth in both polls, while Michigan State is ninth.
"The case is we won head-to-head," Spartans safety Aric Morris said. "They (bowl selection committee) shouldn't decide based on politics. They should reward us for our hard work."
Said Spartans defensive end Robaire Smith: "We know we're one of the top teams, and we should have been in the BCS picture. I don't know how the computer rankings go. (Michigan) is ranked ahead of us (in the polls), but we have the same record and beat them convincingly."
The Spartans dominated, but the Wolverines closed the final margin to 34-31 in the final minutes.
However, Bobby Williams, who was named head coach after Nick Saban took the LSU job after the regular season, said the team is where it wants to be.
"The Citrus Bowl wanted us," he said. "We wanted to be here."
Michigan offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson said it simple what the Wolverines must do to beat No. 5 Alabama (10-2) in the Orange Bowl: The Wolverines have to run.
"The last few games of our conference schedule we have been able to run the ball effectively when we had to, and that's a plus," Hutchinson said. "We want to be able to run consistently -- something we haven't done all year -- and protect the quarterback."
The Wolverines improved to a 129.5 rushing average by the end of the season. But it won't be an easy task against the Crimson Tide defense.
"They are very aggressive and they're very good," Wolverines quarterback Tom Brady said. "You can get a sense for how they are going to play us from how they played in the big games. The team we'll be seeing is the team that played Florida and Tennessee. And that's when they played their best football."
He's been there
Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez has heard the barbs about the No. 4 Badgers' Rose Bowl opponent, No. 22 Stanford (8-3).
The Cardinal are viewed by many as a poor defensive team from a conference, which struggled this year.
"We went through that for a month and a half last year. We were kind of labeled as a poor representative for the Big Ten going into the Rose Bowl," said Alvarez, whose team upset UCLA 38-31 last year. "And it might have been the same thing the time we went before that (1993 season). I don't pay much attention to that. We have to judge what we see on film. I have the utmost respect for the team we play. They earned the right to get to the Rose Bowl. That's not an easy task. They will be more than worthy opponents."
Alvarez said the exciting thing for the Badgers (9-2) is they have a chance to make Big Ten history by winning two Rose Bowls back-to-back.
"This senior class has done so many things, but this could be another feather in their cap," he said.
Putting the Hamner down
Minnesota senior running back Thomas Hamner said the reason for his major success this season is simple. Hamner has rushed for 1,362 yards this season, second in the conference.
"I feel like nothing has changed about me," he said. "I've always had the ability to do what I've done. I feel like I didn't have the chance at time for whatever reason. But the offensive line did a great job for me and made it possible."
Hamner said many players maturing had a lot to do with Gophers earning their first bowl bid since 1986.
"We've had some ups and downs, tough losses to Penn State and Indiana (in previous years)," Hamner said. "We took a lot of adversity and turned it around into a great program."
Some felt the No. 12 Gophers (8-3. 5-3 Big Ten) might be disappointed with a Sun Bowl date with Oregon on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas. No. 19 Purdue (7-4, 4-4) is going to the more prestigious Outback Bowl, but the Boilermakers did beat the Gophers 33-28. Penn State (9-3, 5-3) is going to the Alamo Bowl even though it lost to the visiting Gophers. The Sun has the fifth choice of conference schools. Outback has the third and Alamo fourth.
"Everybody's probably saying we're not too happy about the Sun Bowl, we can't kick a gift horse right in the mouth," Gophers defensive end Karon Riley said. "We're fortunate to have whatever we get and we're going to party like it's 1999."
High-powered QB battle
Purdue coach Joe Tiller sees Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter's talents as a combination of Notre Dame's Jarious Jackson and Indiana's Antwaan Randle El.
"He's most like Jarious Jackson as a thrower and like Randle El as a runner," Tiller said.
That will be a heavy cross for Purdue's defense to bear. Although Purdue beat both those in-state opponents, those two quarterbacks gave the Boilermakers fits.
Carter will take his crack when No. 21 Georgia (7-4) meets the Boilermakers in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. Outback officials loved the idea of the duel between sophomore Carter and Purdue junior quarterback Drew Brees.
The 6-3, 223-pound Carter has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. The 6-1, 220-pound Brees has connected on 60.9 percent of his passes for 3,531 yards with 21 TDs and 11 interceptions. Carter has rushed for 255 yards, 76 more than Brees.
"Quincy can not only scramble, but he runs like a running back," Georgia coach Jim Donnan said. "He has tremendous athletic ability, probably unparalleled as far as size and speed of guys that I've coached. He's got a great arm, good touch."
Georgia's overall superior speed concerns Tiller. The Boilermakers also will be going in the game without its most consistent linebacker, Jason Loerzel. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Indiana in the regular-season finale.
Redshirt Joe Odom, who filled in mostly at the middle spot, will fill Loerzel's starting weak-side spot.
"We like Odom's foot speed," Tiller said. "He's faster than Jason and the other two starters. I think it will be a good challenge for him."
Micronpc.com Bowl executive director Mitch Morrall holds his game in Pro Player Stadium near Miami on Dec. 30.Two days later, the Orange Bowl is held in the same stadium.
Morrall is having a lot of fun pointing out that his Big Ten team, Illinois, beat Orange Bowl participant Michigan 35-29 at Ann Arbor.
The Illini (7-4) are playing in their first bowl game since the 1994 Liberty Bowl. Illinois will play Virginia (7-4). The Illini are the only unranked Big Ten team in a bowl.
Mark Ambrogi covers the Big Ten for The Indianapolis Star.
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
|Search our site
||Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day
||Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.