The matchup: Penn State vs. Texas A&M
There’s a distinct 1999 feel to this game, and not only because Paterno now, as then, is the Penn State head coach. Penn State played Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl in 1999, the end to a season that had begun with nine consecutive wins and had the Lions ranked No. 2 nationally. A stunning homecoming loss to Minnesota began a three-game slide, and Penn State ended up in San Antonio with many wondering what kind of effort the Lions would produce to punctuate a disappointing season. They responded by dominating A&M, 24-0. Fast forward to 2007 and Penn State’s players, who began the season talking national championship, are 8-4, including a 35-31 windup loss to Michigan State, a game Penn State had led, 24-7. And, as in 1999, there is speculation about how Penn State will approach this game. The players insist practice sessions have been spirited and the mood is upbeat. The Lions will need all that and more to beat an A&M team that last time out handed it to Texas, 38-30.
PREDICTION: Texas A&M 28, Penn State 24
When: 8 p.m. today ESPN
Where: The Alamodome, San Antonio
Radio: Penn State radio network
SERIES RECORD: Penn State leads 2-1
In the next best thing to a home game for Texas A&M, the Aggies look to win one for interim coach Gary Darnell, who is filling in for Dennis Franchione, the former head coach who resigned after the season-ending win over Texas. Penn State looks to give Joe Paterno a win to celebrate his 500th game as Lions head coach.
BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
Anthony Morelli is looking to leave with a win, Penn State’s all-time passing record, and the mute button temporarily pushed on his detractors. The Penn State defense is looking to make amends for being unable to hold a 24-7 lead at Michigan State, and must do it with its depth depleted by the disciplinary related absences of tackle Chris Baker and linebacker Navorro Bowman, along with three other less-used players left home for various reasons.
By the numbers
Anthony Morelli – 219-of-371 passing, 2,508 yards, 18 TDs, 9 INTs
Dan Connor – 136 tackles, 14.5 for loss
Rodney Kinlaw – 222 carries, 1,186 yards, 10 TDs
The A&M offense is named Stephen McGee, the quarterback who also is the leading rusher with 858 yards on 173 carries. He’s a challenge, as is ground-pounding running back Jorvorskie Lane, listed at 268 pounds on one A&M release, 274 in the team’s bowl media guide. Either way, he’s a handful who has rushed for 16 touchdowns and could wear on that thin Penn State defensive line.
By the numbers
Stephen McGee – 192-of-333 passing, 2,147 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs
Mark Dodge – 108 tackles, 4.5 for loss
Jorvorskie Lane – 159 carries, 746 yards, 16 TDs
Aug. 30, 2008, Coastal Carolina