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19. Penn State
Joe Pa needs seven wins to pass the Bear. With an unproven defense, it won't be
How intense is senior defensive end Justin Kurpeikis? Consider that the class he
chose to take over the summer was Intensive Spanish, which required him to
master enough of the language to earn 12 credit hours in only eight weeks.
It was a fitting choice, because Kurpeikis doesn't approach anything at less
than full speed. Playing alongside LaVar Arrington, Courtney Brown and Brandon
Short, Kurpeikis finished 1999 with nine sacks and 39 solo tackles, doing so
without the benefit of being, like the now-departed trio of All-Americas, a
freakish physical specimen. "He's not as big and strong as someone like
Courtney, but he's aggressive and relentless," says coach Joe Paterno.
"He's a good, tough football
| The Book
| An opposing team's coach sizes up the
"They have a lot of holes on defense, but offensively they have got experienced
players at every position and should score a lot of points.... Casey throws the
ball awfully well, but he runs even better. He's very elusive, and they'll call
a lot of bootlegs and waggles for him.... At running back McCoo isn't a speed
merchant but he makes tacklers miss.... Kareem McKenzie might be the best
offensive lineman in the Big
Since Kurpeikis is the only returning defensive player who started more than
seven games last year, Tom Bradley, who was promoted to defensive coordinator
after Jerry Sandusky retired last year, must rely on some raw troops this year.
"We're going to have young guys who have been waiting in the wings like I
was, standing three feet from the field and not being able to play," says
Kurpeikis. "That makes you
The defense lost a fleet of stars to the NFL, but the voracious Kurpeikis
says the young Lions are hungry. |
Offensively the Nittany Lions have more experience but still plenty of
questions. Quarterback Rashard Casey, who last year split time with Kevin
Thompson (who graduated), proved to be as good as advertised. He completed more
than 60% of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 153.94 and was also the
team's second-leading rusher. The man he trailed, tailback Eric McCoo, is also
back, as are wideout Eddie Drummond (18.6 yards per reception) and tight end
Tony Stewart (19.0 yards per catch). During the summer, however, Casey was
charged with the aggravated assault of an off-duty police officer in New Jersey.
The senior signal-caller has pleaded not guilty, and Paterno says that Casey is
still his starter, but the case could drag on into the
Paterno is seven victories shy of surpassing Bear Bryant's Division I-A record
for career wins, but he's not at all sure he'll reach the milestone this season.
"We're not very talented," he says. But if Casey is steering the
potent offense, Kurpeikis vows there will be no lack of effort from the
Issue date: August 14, 2000
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