Lions say good-bye to assistant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

The Associated Press

Penn State’s long-time defensive coordinator and his star linebacker didn’t disappoint in what might have been the final game for both men with the Nittany Lions.

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

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Penn State’s long-time defensive coordinator and his star linebacker didn’t disappoint in what might have been the final game for both men with the Nittany Lions. No. 13 Penn State defeated No. 18 Texas A&M 24-0 in the Alamo Bowl on Tuesday night, boosted by the Lions’ powerful defense and the talents of junior quarterback Rashard Casey.

”It seemed like a Hollywood script,” said Arrington, a junior All-American who might make himself available for the NFL draft. ”It’s too bad it’s too late to show what we had – but better late than never.”

Penn State (10-3) started the season 9-0, achieved a No. 2 ranking and hoped for a shot a national title. But the Lions finished the regular season by losing their last three games.

Instead of playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Penn State was bound for San Antonio and trying to avoid the first four-game losing streak of coach Joe Paterno’s 34-year tenure.

The way Paterno grinned after defeating Texas A&M (8-4) in the Alamo Bowl, it looked as though he’d won an even bigger contest.

”It was a great effort by our team, and I’m very, very proud of them,” he said.

Paterno, accepting the Alamo Bowl trophy, thanked Sandusky.

After more than 30 years as an assistant to Paterno and 23 years as defensive coordinator, the 55-year-old Sandusky is retiring. Sandusky coached nine All-Americans and was instrumental in getting Penn State known as ”Linebacker U.”

”I’m happy for them,” Sandusky said after Penn State managed its first shutout this season. ”This is the best defensive team with the worst breaks, so I’m happy for them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a fantastic ride.”

Next season, Penn State will have a new defensive coordinator. Arrington said he will decide soon whether to turn pro or remain for his senior year.

The players dumped Gatorade and ice on a laughing Sandusky as Tuesday’s game neared its end.

”The defense played great out there, forced a lot of turnovers, put pressure on the quarterback,” said Brandon Short, another All-American linebacker for Penn State.

Casey, a junior who played the whole game for Penn State as senior quarterback Kevin Thompson remained on the sidelines, was 8-for-16 for 146 yards. Penn State added 175 yards rushing.

Paterno said Monday that Thompson had a sore arm.

”I just try to be as comfortable as possible out there. I try to keep my teammates up and excited and expect to make big things happen every time I touch the ball,” Casey said.

Randy McCown of Texas A&M was 13-for-22 for 105 passing yards, but threw four interceptions, matching the career high he threw in a loss to Nebraska this season. McCown was sacked three times.

”It was tough to stay positive,” McCown said. ”We wanted to get a good start and we didn’t.”

Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum said he tried to remind McCown, a senior, that he’d made a big contribution to the Aggies’ football program.

”He had a good career here. He won the Big 12 championship (in 1998),” Slocum said.

The Aggies were coming off an emotional victory over Texas to end the regular season after a tragic bonfire log collapse on the Texas A&M campus that killed 12 and injured 27 others. Texas A&M players wore helmet decals Tuesday to honor the fallen students.

Arrington led the Penn State defense with 14 tackles, including one for an 8-yard loss.

”We had a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Arrington said. ”I got a hand on every interception. Every time I got the chance, I would punch his arm when he was trying to throw the football.”

The Lions got on the scoreboard early when Derek Fox intercepted a pass by McCown and ran 34 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Penn State also scored on a 45-yard pass from Casey to Eddie Drummond to move ahead 14-0 in the second quarter.

Penn State added another touchdown when Casey ran in from the 4 on the first play of the fourth quarter. A 39-yard field goal by Travis Forney made it 24-0.

The Aggies had only one promising drive in the first half, and it failed when Shane Lechler’s 44-yard field-goal attempt fell short.

Texas A&M looked as though it might get its running game together to start the second half, but Ron Graham of Penn State intercepted McCown’s pass after the Aggies drove to the 7.

Other Texas A&M mistakes followed, including Bethel Johnson’s fumble of a kickoff return.

The Alamo Bowl is sponsored by Sylvania.