ROSE BOWL DAILY REPORT : Nittany Lions Become Fans of Hurricanes
If asked to name their favorite college football teams, it is doubtful that Miami would be ranked near the top of the Penn State Nittany Lions’ lists.
“But I don’t think we’ll have any trouble pulling for them against Nebraska,” Penn State guard Jeff Hartings said.
Although the Lions do not plan to gather as a team to watch tonight’s Orange Bowl game between Miami and Nebraska, most said they will be in front of their televisions to see whether the No. 3 Hurricanes can knock the No. 1 Cornhuskers out of national championship contention.
A Nebraska loss combined with a victory by No. 2 Penn State in Monday’s Rose Bowl game against Oregon probably will give the Nittany Lions the title.
But if the Cornhuskers win convincingly, will that lessen the Nittany Lions’ motivation against Oregon?
“No, our motivation is to go 12-0,” Hartings said. “If we go 11-1, everybody will forget about us. People talk about our offense being one of the best in history, but nobody will be talking about that if we lose to Oregon. It will be like Miami in ’86. All anyone remembers about that team is that Penn State beat them in the Fiesta Bowl.”
Penn State Coach Joe Paterno has mixed emotions about the national championship race because of his admiration for Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne.
“I’ve got to be careful here because I want my players to win it,” he said. “But nobody in the country deserves a national championship more than Tom Osborne does. As for myself, I’ve had national championships. But Tom hasn’t had one. I will not be unhappy if it turns out that Nebraska and Tom Osborne win it.”
One poll ranked Penn State No. 1, the other Nebraska until Nov. 5, when the Lions’ 35-29 victory over Indiana made it unanimous for the Cornhuskers. Penn State defensive end Todd Atkins said he and his teammates would like to replay the final two minutes of that game.
Leading, 35-14, they gave up two touchdowns in the final 1:49, the final one on a 40-yard Hail Mary pass.
“Anybody who watched that game I think would agree that we beat them better than what the score showed,” Atkins said. “The score didn’t tell it at all, and a lot of the voters didn’t think we did that good a job. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Paterno said Saturday that his team has not been more fit since the beginning of the season, but Oregon Coach Rich Brooks was concerned only about the twisted left ankle of starting wide receiver Cristin McLemore.
“We’ve still got another 48 hours before the game,” Brooks said. “He should be considerably better unless he steps in a hole at practice today. I should sit him up in the stands and let him watch.”
Nittany Lion cornerback Tony Pittman’s father, Charlie, was the leading rusher for the 1969 Penn State team that finished undefeated.
“The biggest difference in our team and his is that the biggest guy on his team was about 220 pounds,” the younger Pittman said. “We have linebackers bigger than that.”