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Penn State Football: Outback? More Like the Urban Legend Bowl

by on December 05, 2010 6:11 PM

The steak at the 2011 Outback Bowl will be the Nittany Lions and Florida Gators, two teams coming off disappointing 7-5 regular season records.

But the sizzle?

That would be the filet mignon that is Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer.

It’s a match-up made in Tampa, Fla., where the two coaching giants will meet at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day on the natural grass field of Raymond James Stadium. ABC will broadcast the game nationally.

Both coaches have won two national championships, Meyer in 2006 and 2008. Paterno’s came in 1982 and 1986, but as recently as 2008 and 2009 he had back-to-back 11-2 campaigns.

Since the start of the 2005 season, Florida has a 64-15 record (81.0) to rank No. 4 nationally and Penn State is No. 10 with a 58-18 mark (76.3).

Meyer is excited about facing Paterno, who has a major college football record 401 career victories. When Paterno coached his first game as head coach at Penn State in 1966, the future Gator coach was only 26 months old.

“We look forward to facing Penn State and one of the true legends in the game in Coach Joe Paterno,” Meyer said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Paterno and I will be honored to have the opportunity to coach in the same game as him."

Meyer's success at Florida (64-15), Utah (22-2) and Bowling Green (17-6) is eerily similar to Paterno’s first 126 games. Meyer is 103-23, with one undefeated season and three one-loss seasons. In Paterno’s first 10-1/4 seasons at Penn State, he had a 105-20-1 record, with three undefeated campaigns and one single-loss season.

(For a more thorough comparison of Paterno and Meyer –- especially where both stood 25 years into their college football coaching careers -- check out my column from Dec. 27, 2009.)

FIRST MEETING SINCE 1998

Penn State and Florida will be meeting for the first time since the 1998 Florida Citrus Bowl and just the third time overall. The Gators won, 17-7, in the 1962 Gator Bowl and 21-6, in the last meeting in Orlando.

The squads had one common opponent during the 2010 season -- the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Nittany Lions lost in Bryant-Denny Stadium, 24-3, on Sept. 11 and the Gators lost, 31-6, in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2.

The Gators started the 2010 season with a burst, going 4-0 by defeating Miami (Fla.), South Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. They followed that with a three-game losing steak -- to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State -- then went to 3-1 to set up their regular-season finale against Florida State. Florida got whacked in that game, losing 31-7 on Nov. 27 in Tallahassee.

Conversely, Penn State started 3-3, then caught fire under quarterback Matt McGloin to win four of its final six games. Penn State finished 4-4 in the Big Ten, while Florida had the same record in the SEC.

MORE FROM MEYER

Meyer had this to say about the game:

“We are excited to hear that we are going to the Outback Bowl and play in another New Year’s Day game. We are proud of our history of playing in January bowl games – not everyone gets to enjoy that experience.

“We’ve been fortunate around here to be in a bowl game for 20 consecutive years and I’ve told our players and staff to not take that for granted. This is a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow and develop as a football team, while having a week of hospitality in the great Gator city of Tampa.

“I have fond memories of my first bowl game at Florida in the 2006 Outback game,” Meyer said. “I remember the great job that Jim McVay and his staff did in hosting our football team. I want to thank Jim and the Outback Bowl Committee for inviting us back."

McVay, the Outback Bowl president and CEO, knows what his bowl has landed.

"When you talk about tradition and history of college football, it just doesn't get any better than Penn State and the University of Florida," said McVay. "It's our 25th anniversary game and we can't think of a better way to celebrate it on New Year's Day than with coach Paterno's Nittany Lions and coach Urban Meyer's Gators."

JOE KNOWS BOWLS

The game will be Paterno's 538th as head coach at Penn State (compared to Meyer's 127th at three schools), and his 18th bowl trip to the state of Florida, but he's still looking forward to heading south.

"This team has worked hard all season and has been a great group to work with," stated Paterno, who turns 84 on Dec. 21.

"I'm happy for the squad that their efforts will be rewarded with an opportunity to go to the Outback Bowl, where we have had some wonderful experiences, and be involved in a good, tough game. It will be fun to go back to the Tampa Bay area."

Paterno is a postseason machine.

He is the all-time leader in bowl appearances (37th) and bowl victories (24-11-1 record). This will be PSU's 25th New Year’s bowl game under Paterno, who is 17-7 in such games.

Meyer is 6-1 in bowl games, including a 4-1 mark while at Florida. In addition to his two BCS championship game victories, his teams won the 2006 Outback Bowl and the 2010 Sugar Bowl.

Both Florida and Penn State have been to the Outback three times. Florida is 1-2, losing to Big Ten opponents Michigan, 38-30, in 2003 and Iowa, 37-17, in 2004. The Gators came back two years later in 2006 to beat Iowa, 31-24.

Penn State is 3-0, beating three SEC opponents – Auburn (43-14, 1996), Kentucky (26-14, 1999) and Tennessee (20-10, 2007). For a history of Penn State’s success in the Outback, see this earlier report.

LIONS BOWL OVER RANKED FOES

Penn State is 4-1 in its last five bowl games, with three of the four wins coming against ranked teams -- the last two victories against ranked teams coming vs. SEC schools. Those five games:

2006 Orange -- W, 26-23, vs. No. 22 Florida State
2007 Outback Bowl -- W, 20-10, vs. No. 17 Tennessee
2007 Alamo Bowl -- W, 24-17, vs. Texas A&M
2009 Rose Bowl -- L, 38-24, vs. No. 5 Southern Cal
2010 Capitol One Bowl -- W, 19-17, vs. No. 13 LSU

NITTANY LIONS IN TOWN FOR NFL GAME

Three former Nittany Lion stars now in the National Football League will be in town for the Sunday, Dec. 26, game between host Tampa Bay and visiting Seattle at Raymond James Stadium.

John Gilmore, a 2001 co-captain for Penn State, plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A 6-foot-5 and 257-pound tight end, he is in his third year with Tampa Bay after six years with Chicago Bears. Heading into NFL action on Sunday, in 11 games he caught seven passes for 109 yards, a 15.6-yard average.

He’ll be facing a pair of former Nittany Lions, one of whom played for Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2007.

That would be wide receiver Deon Butler, who is in his second season with the Seattle Seahawks. Entering Sunday’s game, Butler started seven of Seattle’s 11 games, grabbing 27 passes for 274 yards, with three touchdowns. He also plays on special teams. Butler is the Nittany Lions’ all-time leading receiver, with 179 receptions, and was PSU’s top receiver in the 2005, 2006 and 2008 seasons.

Throwing Butler those passes at Penn State in 2005 was Michael Robinson, who is once again Butler’s teammate. MRob, a running back and special teams player in the NFL, joined the Seahawks in September after four seasons with San Francisco.

The NFL game kicks off at 1 p.m. Tickets range from $46.25 to $121.25. To purchase tickets online, go to Ticketmaster.

TO PURCHASE OUTBACK TICKETS

Nittany Lion Club members and 2010 football season ticket-holders – May buy tickets beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday online at www.GoPSUSports.com. Buyers will need to have their respective account numbers and passwords. While there is no limit on the quantity of tickets a NLC member may buy, members will receive priority locations for up to 10 tickets, allocated in NLC point order.

General public -- May purchase tickets by phone starting Monday at 10 a.m. by calling (814) 865-5555. Tickets cost $70.

Students -- Tickets for students will be available via a walk-up sale at the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office at a time and date to be announced. Student Nittany Lion Club members will receive priority for ticket purchases and locations. SNLC members are encouraged to present their membership cards to expedite the buying process. There will be a two-ticket limit per student ID and tickets can be purchased with cash only.

Students interested in buying bowl tickets should check Student Central or The Daily Collegian this week for the date and time of the sale. Tickets will be issued at the time of purchase.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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