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The Goal - See 'em all!
Penn State fumble return jolts #17 Tennessee, 20-10;
JoePa wins record 22nd Bowl game
Tampa, FL - Penn State CB Tony Davis scooped up a UT fumble in the fourth period and sprinted 88 yards to break a 10-10 tie to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good in the 2007 Outback Bowl in Orlando. The Lions RB Tony Hunter rushed for 158 yards on the ground and S Anthony Scirrotto came up with the key defensive plays for the Lions to give Head Coach Joe Paterno his 22nd Bowl win of his illustrious career. Paterno leads all coaches in bowl wins and appearances with a 22-10-1 record (he should offer consulting services to the Fighting Irish the next time they wander into a bowl game). For Collegefootballfan.com, it was a great game to cap a great season for us as we saw 26 games this season and brought the total number of teams seen to meet the Goal to 114! Only five teams remain to reach our Goal to see all 119.
PSU's first possession went as we anticipated as the Lions (9-4) moved the ball from their own 19 to the UT 28 where Kevin Kelly's FG attempt failed wide left. The Lion offense we witnessed this season had a penchant for moving the ball at will between the 20s, but would hit the wall as it entered the "red zone". The Vols would eventually score first on their second possession as PK James Wilhoit converted for a 44-yard FG for a 3-0 lead. PSU shifted WR Derrick Williams to QB to set up an option attack to mix in a little deception a la the attack used two years ago with Zach Mills and Michael Robinson at QB. A sign of the future for the Nittany Lion offense? Two questionable third down play calls on third downs halted early Lion possession. P Jeremy Kapinos 's skillful punting set the Vols back on their own four before the first period expired.
UT (9-4) got out of the hole quickly, but a mishandled pitch on a reverse from RB Arian Foster to WR Jayson Swain was recovered by DE Jim Shaw at the UT 24. A call on third and ten finally paid off for the Lions as QB Anthony Morelli ( 14 of 25 for 197 yards, 0 INTs) connected with Derrick Williams to the thirteen. "Red zone-itis" set in, however, and Kevin Kelly converted a 34-yard FG to tie the score, 3-3. PSU's next series started from its own 8. Runs by Tony Hunt and short passes moved the Lions into Vol territory. A 32-yard pass play to Deon Butler put the Lions on the two. Like many big, critical plays in this game, the Big East Conference officials' calls were put under review. The play stood. Reviews made for a longer game. Two plays later, Morelli threw a 3-yard scoring pass to TE Tony Quarless. Kelly booted the PAT for a 10-3 Lion lead. Tennessee started the following drive from its own 20 with 3:50 left in Q2. QB Erik Ainge (25 of 37 for 267 yards, 1 INT) converted several key third and long situations into first downs, one on a 3rd and 23 to TE Brad Cottam with 1:32 left. The UT offense effectively spread the PSU defense on those critical plays and did the same when LaMarcus Coker found plenty of running room around left end to run for a 32-yard TD. Wilhoit's extra point was good and the score was tied again at 10-10 with 1:15 left. Surprisingly, PSU did not automatically run out the clock. Tony Hunt effectively moved the ball on the ground and into Tennessee territory as both teams tried to work the clock to their advantage. PSU had its chances to move even closer to score as two of Morelli's passes were dropped by Williams and Butler on consecutive plays. Kelly had to be brought in for a 54-yard FG attempt as time expired, but the score remained 10-10 at the half.
Tennessee's "Pride of the Southland Band" performed "Rocky Top" of course, and the Penn State Blue Band followed with several PSU favorites at the half. 2800 HS musicians from nine bands did a medley of Beach Boys hits in the light rain followed by "It's a Grand Old Flag" as a tribute to one of the games sponsors, the United State Marine Corps. Marine honorees, one from Tampa and two each from Penn State and UT were introduced to the crowd of 65,601. High School and college kids were encouraged to sign up and win a raffle for a game ball signed by Head Coaches Joe Paterno and Phil Fulmer. Some may even get the chance to win an all-expense paid tour of Iraq!
The second half started with a bang -literally! WR Swain was wide open, supposedly, for a big pass play down the middle of the field under an Ainge pass. The orange-clad fans roared! PSU's S Anthony Scirrotto closed quickly and (BANG!) dislodged the ball violently for an incomplete pass. The roar rolled from the orange section to the blue and white section of Raymond James Stadium. It took several minutes for Swain to walk off the field with the aid of the medical staff. He would return later. PSU gave Ainge little pressure most of the game, but Scirrotto came up with another big play as he antici9pated an Ainge pass for an interception, setting the Lions up at the UT 46. On the third and 12 at the 48, Morelli connected with Williams at the UT 16 for a seemingly big first down, but the review reversed the call with the receiver not having control of the ball. Karpinos came in to punt and did his job again spotting the Vols back on the eleven. The Vols were on the move though and at midfield as the third period ended with the score still tied, 10-10.
The PSU "D" held and the Lions took the ball back after a touchback. On third and inches, the Lions came up with one of their best third down calls as Morelli completed his pass to WR Terrell Golden for 35 yards and a first down. Another sideline completion was reversed and the drive stalled. Kelly's 50-yard FG attempt was partially blocked and the Vols took over from their own 33. UT came up with a big play quickly as Ainge completed a pass to WR Chris Brown at midfield and he took it 53 yards to the PSU 15. On the next play, Lion LB Sean Lee caused a fumble by Arian Foster (12 for 65 yards) which was promptly gathered up by CB Tony Davis who scurried 88 yards to break the tie. Kelly's point after was good as the Lions snatched the sudden lead from the Vols, 17-10. PSU's defense played more intensely as they forced UT to punt on a fourth and twelve from their own 18 on the Vols next possession. In two plays, Tony Hunt moved the Lions from their own 45 to the Tennessee 13. FB BranDon Snow was stopped at the one for a fourth and goal. PSU took the delay penalty for a better angle, and Kelly converted for a 22-yard FG to extend the lead 20-10 with 3:29 left. Tennessee started from the twenty with a 20-yard pass to the forty. LB Sean Lee finally came up with a sack for the Nits to push the Vols back and eventually put the Vols back on a fourth and fifteen. Ainge let one fly, CB Justin King would try to intercept as he covered the intended receiver, but it was Scirrotto who made the smart play and knocked the ball into the ground to halt any kind of UT threat. The Lions had the ball on UT's 35, and promptly ran the clock out. It was an exciting, intense game that we were very happy to have attended. It was a fun bowl game to attend - one that we will never forget! Once again, we were part of JoePa history as he's now won and coached in more bowl games than any other coach in history. We were able to keep our eye on him throughout the game as we sat across the field from him where we could see him in the press box. We could have sworn he was taking some naps while his coaches ran the show. Oh well, he deserves it. We hope he enjoyed the half-time show. He was awake for that!
Extra Points- Great Stadium. Wide walkways, comfortable seats. GGA Eric Koreivo had to take a close-up look of the Buccaneers' Pirate ship after the game. Yours truly almost goofed up as I had read our computer printed tickets put us in section 220. Settled comfortably a few minutes before the game, the real seat owners cam up and when I checked, we were supposed to be in 230 instead. We walked from the east side to the west side as teams ran on the field. Our young GGA was worried that we were sitting with UT fans, but we did buy general admission seats since we bought them before the teams were selected for this one. It turned out better than we imagined. Our proper seats were not only cushioned, bottoms and backs. but we were also covered overhead. We avoided the light drizzle that came down in the second half. We have to remember this if we ever get to do it again. If you ever have your choice between the Outback and the Capital One Bowl, if for no other reason, pick this one base on the stadium alone. Read about the Champs Sports Bowl below.
The Chairman of the Outback Bowl is Steve Schember. Schember is my mother's maiden name. We'll have to check the genealogy and see where Steve falls into line. We may have to be sure he gets invited to a few family functions in the upcoming year if you know what I mean!
Lots of tickets were available in the parking lot. One Lion fan saw us wearing PSU stuff and offered tickets "face value for Lion fans. double for Tennessee!"
Met a family decked out next to us in NY Giants clothing. From Cheshire, CT, they were there to see their sons HS band perform at halftime. Once the show was over, they were gone. We don't get it. Football fans? Great game. $50 seats. You can't wait to see the end of an exciting game? Why wouldn't the band stay as well?
What makes a bowl game different than other college games or even pro games for that matter, it's probably the one game where the number of fans for each team is pretty even. With bands and cheerleaders for both schools, it makes for a lively atmosphere no matter what happens on the field.
We lucked out and parked close to the stadium. I was a little concerned when I saw areas for $15 to park within walking distance to the stadium, but we ended up paying the same about six rows away from the south end of the field where we could see the big screen in the stadium before the game. We sat in the car afterwards for a few drinks as it rained and the parking lot slowly emptied. We drove through hard downpours on I-275 and I-75 all the way back to Venice, FL where we stayed. Over the weekend, it was so warm we not only swam in and outdoor heated pool, but we also went swimming for a little while in the Gulf. Aside from the lousy game we attended at the champs Sports Bowl, we had a great Florida Bowl experience. We hope to do it again some time!
At Tampa Airport on the way home, we briefly met fellow PSU fans and tailgating acquaintances Jim, Biffy, and Tyler Malayter. If you've read PSU reviews in the past, Jim is the one who gave Charlie Weis his first start in coaching football. When Jim became too busy with family life, he stepped down from his assistant coaching position at Boonton (NJ) HS, and was aptly replaced by the current Head Coach of Notre Dame who should hire JoePa as a consultant the next time his team is selected for postseason action! Jim could have been a star!