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Alamo Bowl Notebook: Paterno passes along some bowl wisdom

Tuesday, December 28, 1999

By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- His audience appeared to be bored. So Penn State Coach Joe Paterno thought he'd tell a story, one he thought might be able to answer a question someone asked at yesterday's pre-Alamo Bowl news conference: What does it take to win a bowl game?

Paterno took his audience back to 1959, when the Nittany Lions faced Alabama in the first Liberty Bowl, which was played in Philadelphia. He said the bowl's directors told Alabama Coach Bear Bryant that the temperature would be around 40 degrees. "But it was about 8 degrees with wind chills of 15 below," Paterno said. "And there were about 20 inches of snow that week."

Two days before the game, Penn State Coach Rip Engle told his assistants he wanted to add a fake screen pass to the game plan. The assistants, including Paterno, scoffed. So they stood around as Engle taught the new play to the team.

The addition to the game plan paid off when Galen Hall's fake screen pass resulted in the only score of the game.

"You never know," Paterno said. "If you told us before the game that a fake screen pass would have won it, we wouldn't have believed it. Except for one guy. The boss."

Thompson's arm sore

Paterno said yesterday that quarterback Kevin Thompson, who has played through a variety of injuries this season, hadn't thrown as much as planned because of a sore arm. "It's not his ribs," said Paterno, mindful that everyone in the room knew Thompson played part of the Michigan State game wearing two flak jackets.

He said Thompson was fine to play and that Rashard Casey had practiced well.

"We had four days of practice before we came here, and that was primarily to get Casey and those guys a little better," Paterno said. "If he plays a lot, he will play real well."

Changes on offense?

With Thompson, a fifth-year senior, playing his last game today, redshirt junior Casey, the running quarterback who has shared time with Thompson this season, has the inside track to be next season's full-time starter.

If Casey is the man, offensive coordinator Fran Ganter said, the Nittany Lions likely will implement some plays specifically to take advantage of Casey's mobility.

"We'd put him on the corner," Ganter said.

Such sentiments were a bit of a shock to Casey, who was part of the news conference Sunday that followed Ganter's. He couldn't believe the Nittany Lions would make any major changes in their offense.

"Coach Paterno is stuck in his ways," Casey said, prompting giggles from other Nittany Lions on the dais. "We have to adapt to what he wants to do."

Asked the same question, wide receiver Chafie Fields -- who has been vocal about his wishes that the Nittany Lions played a more wide-open offense -- laughed and said, "I don't know how long you've been watching Penn State football ..."

Short on time

His Penn State football career will end today, but middle linebacker Brandon Short will spend another semester on campus.

In between playing in the Senior Bowl, attending the NFL combine and working with the Penn State strength coaches, Short will attempt to finish his master's degree in business logistics.

"I have two classes that are independent studies, so I'll be able to do those papers on the road on a laptop," he said. "I have one class that I'll have to go to, but hopefully the professor will understand my situation."

Short, 6 feet 3 and 251 pounds, isn't looking to add any size. But he would like to get faster. "Speed kills," he said.

The McKeesport native said he hasn't yet considered how different playing professional football will be from college. "I really don't know what the next level is like. But whatever it is, I'll be fine."

Xs, Os and Y2Ks

Paterno attributed the lack of Penn State fans attending the bowl to disappointment in how the Nittany Lions' season ended and concerns about travel during what he called "the YK2."

He eventually corrected the designation to Y2K. Then he asked what the K meant and was told, "one thousand." He then opined that Y2K sounded like a play that Columbia used to win the Rose Bowl.

"Maybe we'll put that play in this afternoon," he said.

A&M coach reassigned

The Alamo Bowl will be the last game for Ray Dorr as Texas A&M's quarterbacks coach. Dorr, 58, who has been battling Lou Gehrig's disease, will be reassigned to a non-coaching capacity with the team.

"The disease has progressed fairly rapidly. Ray has done a great job this year. He's demonstrated tremendous courage to our football team," Coach R.C. Slocum said.

The Aggies learned in June that Dorr had been diagnosed with the fatal disease, a neurological disorder in which muscles slowly atrophy, causing weakness and eventual paralysis and pain in the latter stages. There is no cure, and treatment generally is aimed at easing discomfort.

All season, Dorr has done his job without missing a single meeting or practice, despite the illness, Slocum said.

"He's one of those guys, over the years in coaching you're always talking with young people about hanging in there, it's not the bad things that happen to you but how you react to those things. This man could not have demonstrated more beautifully what that's all about."

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