Alamo Bowl Preview




Dec. 29, 2007

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
8 p.m. ET - ESPN

Big Ten Bowl Trip: Valero Alamo Bowl

PENN STATE: Web | Roster | Stats
Texas A&M: Web | Roster | Schedule | Stats

PSU
 
TAMU
 
Scoring
30.8
Pts./ Game
28.8
17.6
Pts. Allowed/ Game
26.1
30:58
Time of Possession
31:48
Rushing
187.4
Yds/Game
215.6
87.9
Yds Allowed/ Game
151.8
25
TDs
29
Passing
211.6
Yds/ Game
187.2
218.7
Yds Allowed/ Game
264.2
225-384
Completions/Attempts
195-345
58.6
Completion %
56.5
18/9
TDs/ INTs
14/7
Turnovers
25
Takeaways
22
24
Giveaways
14

THE SERIES
Overall: Penn State, 2-1
Last Time Out: 1999 - Penn State, 24-0
Noteworthy: The two teams first meet in back-to-back meetings in 1979 and 1980, and were reunited in the latest meeting, which was held at the 1999 Alamo Bowl. Penn State's victory was just the second shutout in its 39-year bowl history.

STAT SPEAK
Penn State's Joe Paterno will be on the sidelines at the Alamo Bowl this year, coaching in his 500th game at the helm of the Nittany Lions. That is a big difference from a year ago when he coached the 2006 Outback Bowl team from the pressbox while rehabbing from an injury suffered in the regular season. And while Penn State has the luxury of being guided by a Hall of Fame coach, Texas A&M will be trying to adapt quickly to associate head coach Gary Darnell, selected to lead the Aggies for one game following the resignation of Dennis Franchione. The Texas A&M coach resigned less than an hour after the team's 38-30 home win over Texas in the final game of the regular season.

While Houston Texans associate coach Mike Sherman was appointed Franchione's replacement, Darnell will leads the Aggies into the Alamodome to face a Nittany Lion squad which has gone 8-2 in bowl games since entering the Big Ten in 1993. Paterno holds the NCAA record for bowl wins and appearances and will look to improve his record to 23-10-1 in his 34th postseason game. The Aggies, meanwhile, have dropped six of their last seven bowl games since 1997 and Darnell has yet to serve as head coach in the postseason.

The 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl will mark a rematch of the two team's visit to San Antonio in 1999. Penn State topped Texas A&M that year, 24-0.

PENN STATE ON OFFENSE
Seniors Anthony Morelli and Rodney Kinlaw will be looking to anchor a Nittany Lion offense that turned in middle-of-the-pack performances this year as a unit in the Big Ten. Penn State ranked fifth in scoring (30.8) and rushing (187.4) and seventh in passing (211.6) and total offense (399.0). Under center, Morelli threw for 209.0 yards per game, which ranked sixth in the conference, with 18 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. In last year's Outback Bowl, he was 14-of-25 through the air for 197 yards and a touchdown in the 20-10 win over Tennessee. History has shown that when Morelli throws for his average, or at least 195 yards, Penn State is 7-1 this season. Kinlaw was the Big Ten's sixth-leading rusher this season with an average of 98.8 yards on the ground, which is impressive considering he was not named starting tailback until midway through the season. His rushing total of 1,186 yards ranked fifth in the conference, and like Morelli, a little better than average day of 100 yards or more for Kinlaw had Penn State 4-1 this year. No one receiver stood out this season for Penn State, which means multiple targets for the Aggies' defense to key in on. Deon Butler (47.8 ypg), Derrick Williams (40.8) and Jordan Norwood (40.3) were all key options for Morelli in the regular season.

TEXAS A&M ON DEFENSE
Texas A&M will look to improve its defense to stop Penn State as the Aggies ranked ninth overall in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 402.8 yards per game. TAMU's defense, which gave up 26.1 points on the season, ranked eighth in the conference against the rush (151.8) and ninth versus the pass (264.2). While its offense only gave up 14 turnovers this season, the Aggie defense won the ball back 22 times for a plus-8 turnover margin that was fourth-best in the league. Fifteen of those 22 takeaways were fumble recoveries and juniors Alton Dixon (3) and Amos Gbunblee (2) combined for five of them, while sophomore Kellen Heard forced three. Texas A&M boasts three of the conference's top-15 tacklers in Mark Dodge (4th, 9.8 tpg), Misi Tupe (12th, 7.4) and Jordan Pugh (15th, 6.8). Senior Marquis Carpenter tied for fifth in the Big 12 with four interceptions on the year. The Aggie line appears to be not much of a threat in the pass rush, having ranked 11th in the conference with only 18 sacks.

TEXAS A&M ON OFFENSE
The Aggies' offense, which ranked ninth in the league with 28.8 points per outing, revolves around junior quarterback Stephen McGee. Despite TAMU boasting the worst pass offense in the Big 12 with just 187.2 yards per game, McGee is coming off the best game of his career. He threw for a career-high 362 yards in 25-of-36 passing and three touchdowns in the season finale against Texas. McGee also has made a significant impact on the Aggies' rush offense, which was second-best in the conference at 215.6 yards per game. He led the team with 858 yards and ranked eighth in the league with 71.5 yards per outing. His 250.4 yards of total offense was ninth-best and he has thrown seven interceptions on the season, the second-fewest in the Big 12. McGee is looking to avenge a dismal Holiday Bowl performance from a year ago where he was limited to 177 yards passing and 31 rushing in the 45-10 loss to California. Look for 268-pound junior running back Jorvorskie Lane to get the ball inside the red zone. Lane rushed for 16 of his 17 touchdowns this season and ranks second in the conference with 8.7 points per game.

PENN STATE ON DEFENSE
Linebacker U turned in another great defensive performance this season as Penn State ranked sixth in the nation in defending the run (87.9) and eighth in scoring defense (17.6). Senior linebacker Dan Connor, the recipient of the 2007 Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, led the Big Ten and was seventh nationally with 11.3 tackles per game in addition to rating 10th in the conference with 6.5 sacks on the year. Penn State was second in the country in that category with 45, which could mean a battle in the trenches seeing that the Aggies' offensive line allowed 15 on the season, the second-fewest total in the Big 12. In addition to Connor, junior linebacker Sean Lee was third in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally with 10.3 tackles per contest, while sophomore lineman Maurice Evans ranked fifth in the country, yet third in the league, with 12.5 sacks. Evans also totaled 21.5 tackles for loss, sixth-best in the nation, and combined with Lee to force three fumbles each on the season. Junior Justin King topped the conference and was 12th in the country with 17 passes defended for an average of 1.42.

KEYS TO A NITTANY LION WIN
Despite having lost its coach after a big win over rival Texas, expect the Aggies to use that momentum to fill the majority of the Alamodome, creating a home away from home. Playing on the road is something the Nittany Lions have struggled with this season, finishing 2-3 on the road. Penn State allowed Michigan State to come from 17 down to beat them in East Lansing, 35-31. The Nittany Lions must use their strong rush defense to contain McGee in the pocket and force him to throw, something he hasn't had success with until the finale against Texas.