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UA-Penn State series was delayed five years

By Jeff Rice Centre Daily Times
Published: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 11:33 p.m.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. | Penn State and Alabama went 20 years between games. It was nearly 15.


The Nittany Lions and the Crimson Tide were scheduled to meet in a home-and-home series in 2004 and '05, with Alabama visiting Beaver Stadium in 2004 and hosting a rematch the following year.

But Alabama had been issued a five-year probation in February 2002, which included a two-year postseason ban and heavy scholarship reductions. The idea of playing two games against a traditional power like Penn State — even though the Nittany Lions were in the midst of a rough patch themselves — was unappealing to Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore, who called Joe Paterno in 2003 to more or less beg out of the two games.

“He frankly said, ‘Our program's down, can we postpone this series for a couple of years?'” Paterno recalled Tuesday. “I said, ‘That's OK with me but you ought to talk it out with (Tim) Curley,' our AD. I told Mal that it was OK with me. What went on with Tim and Mal, I don't know, but it appears that Tim was receptive to that, so we ended up with this home and home we have now.”

Paterno received a lot of questions about the Penn State-Alabama rivalry Tuesday. Some (and understandably) he answered with little enthusiasm, like those about the Nittany Lions' crushing 14-7 loss to the Crimson Tide in a 1979 Sugar Bowl that amounted to the national championship game.

But when it came to the subject of his old rival, former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Paterno didn't want to reach back into the past, saying several times he wanted to talk about the current teams, not two of college football's most legendary coaches.

“I think that's not fair to the kids playing the game today,” Paterno said.

“There's a bunch of kids who don't know anything about either one of us. Why even get into it?”

Learning curve

Paterno's public praise of Rob Bolden will likely have to be measured differently this season.

Though taking care to temper expectations for his dynamic freshman quarterback, Paterno voiced confidence — or something approaching it — in Bolden's ability to handle a high-pressure situation in Tuscaloosa, even if he didn't share that same confidence in Bolden's offensive line.

“We can't protect him like we did against Youngstown,” Paterno said. “He's going to be knocked around. But I don't think he's going to lose his poise. Is he going to have the kind of success he had against Youngstown? No. Alabama's too good for that.

“He's got to go down there and do what he can do.”

The Nittany Lions have had to work on improving the soft-spoken Bolden's volume in the huddle during practices this week, but were pleased with how he handled himself and the offense in the win over Youngstown State.

“He's very cool and calm and very grounded,” right guard Stefen Wisniewski said. “He just acted like it was no big deal. ... Players really like that about him. Going into an environment like Alabama, we think that having a demeanor like that will be a big advantage for him.”

Staying put

Chaz Powell handled his move from cornerback to wide receiver a couple weeks back the same way he handled his move from wide receiver to cornerback this spring — easily. But Penn State's versatile junior believes he has a home on offense, at least for now.

“I don't see myself moving back over to defense this week,” Powell said. “If the opportunity does come, I'm willing to do anything to help this team.”

Powell said his time on defense gave him a better understanding of what defensive backs are looking for from receivers and ways to counteract it.

Miscellaneous

Sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti said Tuesday he has been taking reps at both strong-side linebacker and middle linebacker and feels comfortable at both spots. Mauti played both positions with the first-team defense against Youngstown State. ... Safety Drew Astorino, who had off-season shoulder surgery, said he played pain-free in a game Saturday for the first time in two seasons.

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