Jan. 1, 2007
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Joe Paterno was a no-show on the sideline. That hardly kept Penn State from shining in the Outback Bowl.
With the legendary coach watching from the press box while recovering from a broken leg, Tony Hunt ran for 158 yards and Tony Davis returned an interception 86 yards for a touchdown Monday, leading the Nittany Lions to a 20-10 victory over No. 17 Tennessee.
Anthony Morelli threw a 2-yard TD pass to Andrew Quarless and Kevin Kelly kicked two field goals for Penn State, helping Paterno - the all-time leader in bowl wins - get his 22nd postseason victory.
Penn State (9-4) forced three turnovers in holding Tennessee (9-4) to a season-low point total, and the Nittany Lions improved to 16-6 in New Year's Day bowls under their 80-year-old coach.
Paterno broke his shinbone and tore two ligaments in his left knee in a sideline collision during a loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 4. He watched Penn State's next game from home - the first he'd missed since 1977 - and returned to Beaver Stadium to take in the team's season finale against Michigan State from the press box.
As late as Sunday, Paterno remained optimistic about being on the sideline for his record 33rd bowl appearance, although he stressed he would only do so if he felt up to it physically and didn't think it would be a distraction to his players.
He wore his signature rolled-up khakis and blue-and-white Penn State jacket and spent a few minutes on the field during pregame warmups before shaking hands with Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and other well-wishers and returning to the locker room.
The sometimes cantankerous coach was shown on television pounding his fist on a table when Kelly's 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left in the first quarter. The kicker later missed attempts of 54 and 50 yards with the score tied 10-10.
Penn State viewed Monday's game as a final opportunity to assess how far it has come since a lopsided loss to Notre Dame early in the season.
The Nittany Lions were more competitive in subsequent losses to Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, and Paterno felt an opponent as highly regarded as Tennessee would be an excellent gauge of where his team is heading.
Morelli's TD pass to Quarless finished an eight-play, 92-yard drive - Penn State's longest of the season - and gave the Nittany Lions a short-lived 10-3 lead.
LaMarcus Coker countered for Tennessee a little more than two minutes later, using a nifty straight-arm to fend linebacker Sean Lee before sprinting through a hole on the left side and outrunning the pursuit to finish a 42-yard touchdown run.
It remained 10-10 until Davis picked up a fumble by Tennessee's Arian Foster and raced untouched up the left sideline to put Penn State ahead for good with 10 minutes remaining. Kelly added his second field goal with 3:29 left.
Morelli completed 14 of 25 passes for 197 yards and no inteceptions, while Hunt compiled his eighth 100-yard game rushing this season on 31 carries.
Erik Ainge was 25-of-37 for 267 yards, but also threw his first interception since Oct. 21 for Tennessee. The Volunteers were threatening to break the 10-10 tie after his 53-yard completion to Chris Brown. However, Lee hit Foster on the next play to force the fumble that Davis returned for his TD.