News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

College Football Notes


DALLAS — Auburn’s seniors already own the school record for wins over a four-year period with 40. A win today would extend their record, and they’re doing everything possible to pick up the victory.

After the Tigers fell to Wisconsin last year in a January bowl game, head coach Tommy Tuberville has left it up to the seniors to make sure everything goes well this time. It’s all about the senior leadership, he said.

“It did for us a couple of years ago when we played in the Sugar Bowl,” Tuberville said. “We were trying to win our 13th game of the year, and I noticed how much our seniors took control of the team the last few days. I’ve done the same thing in this game. I’ve turned it over to our seniors.”

Alamo Bowl win helped: Until Ohio State beat Michigan on Nov. 18, the Wolverines’ last loss came against Nebraska in the 2005 Alamo Bowl against Nebraska.

Head coach Bill Callahan said that for the Cornhuskers, that win propelled them to the 9-4 season they had this year.

“I will tell you that the Michigan game provided a huge boost of confidence for our football team that carried on through the off season,” Callahan said. “And interestingly enough, as we were going through this season, we had talked about Michigan quite a bit because when we had played them a year ago in the Alamo Bowl we felt that they had national championship caliber talent and they were just a few wins away from being in the title game.”

Bradley Handwerger,
Daily Sports Writer

Penn State

TAMPA, Fla. — An achy Joe Paterno sounded more pessimistic Sunday about coaching Penn State from the sideline for the entire Outback Bowl — if he gets down there at all.

Sore from running through “agility drills” in trying to get ready for Monday’s game against No. 17 Tennessee, the 80-year-old Paterno may watch from the press box if he doesn’t feel his rehabilitated left leg is ready. Paterno fractured the shinbone and tore two knee ligaments during a sideline collision in November.

“I’m going to try to make it. I doubt it. I don’t think I’ll be able to,” Paterno said Sunday about whether he would be on the sideline for his 33rd bowl game, most among coaches.

Later in the news conference Sunday, Paterno said he would definitely be on the field for pregame warmups and decide his whereabouts from there. He doesn’t want to be a distraction for his players.

West Virginia

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — West Virginia All-American tailback Steve Slaton is expected to be limited in the Gator Bowl — if he plays at all against Georgia Tech today — because of a bruised left thigh.

“He made some progress yesterday,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said Sunday. “We’re going to see how he feels to run around a little bit (Sunday). If he makes as much progress (Sunday) as he did (Saturday), we’re optimistic he can play some.”

Slaton, a sophomore, ran for 1,733 yards and 7.1 a carry this season for the Mountaineers, who ranked third in the nation in rushing at 302 yards a game.

Backup tailback Jeremy Bruce is out with a hamstring injury, which could move senior Jason Colson into a prominent role.


MINNEAPOLIS — Critics of college football’s bloated bowl system say it’s too easy to qualify for postseason play and only a handful of the games actually mean something.

Tell that to Glen Mason.

Minnesota fired Mason on Sunday, two days after the Gophers blew a 31-point third quarter lead against Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl and exactly one year after signing a four-year contract extension.

“If we had not lost the way we had lost, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” athletic director Joel Maturi said.

Mason was 64-57 in 10 years at Minnesota and led the Gophers to seven bowl games. But he was just 3-4 in those games, with his latest loss proving to be the backbreaker despite the lengthy contract extension.

The Gophers led the Red Raiders 38-7 in the third quarter on Friday before Tech orchestrated the biggest comeback in bowl history. The 44-41 loss dropped the Gophers to 6-7 for the season, the first time they have finished under .500 in five years.

Maturi said he received plenty of e-mails from angry fans and alumni after the historic collapse in Arizona, two months after chants of “Fire Mason!” started springing up at home in the Metrodome.

Mason was not present at the press conference Sunday, but issued a statement that said he was given “no specific explanation” for his firing during a phone call from Maturi.

“Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed, however I respect the decision of my superiors, Mr. Joel Maturi and president Robert Bruininks,” Mason said.

Capital One Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. — It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Coaches and players were on hand for the luncheon, and a drawing was held for various door prizes, including four footballs. Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick was called to the front along with Wisconsin’s John Stocco to toss the balls to the winners, but things didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

The winner of the first ball — a young boy — was seated all the way in the back of the ballroom, some 50 yards from where Dick was standing. Dick waved the boy toward the middle, away from the tables where people were seated, but when he threw the autographed ball, it landed a few feet away from the kid.

Wisconsin’s John Stocco had similar luck. His first winner was also near the back of the room, and Stocco’s throw hit the ceiling and fell into the crowd.

Dick then overthrew a shorter pass before Stocco finally completed one — about 25 yards toward the side of the ballroom. That throw was caught by Wisconsin receiver Paul Hubbard, deputized by the winner to help receive the pass.

The quarterbacks weren’t the only ones who were a bit rusty at the luncheon. ABC reporter Erin Andrews accidentally referred to Arkansas as the “Arizona Razorbacks” over the loudspeaker while approaching Hogs running back Darren McFadden for an interview.

The Associated Press

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