Tuberville Gets To Challenge A Legend

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville will square off against the record-setting coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Orlando, Fla.--Tommy Tuberville will get his first shot as a head coach matching wits with Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in major college history. The Auburn head coach says it is a challenge to face "one of the legends of college football."

Tuberville's Tigers will square off with the Big Ten's Penn State Nittany Lions in the Capital One Bowl. Kickoff is at noon CST (1 p.m. local) on Wednesday at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. Bowl officials are expecting a sellout crowd of 65,000-plus on hand for the second-ever matchup between the Tigers and Nittany Lions. PSU punished the Tigers 43-14 in the 1996 Outback Bowl. The game will be televised by ABC.

Jason Campbell prepares to pass in Auburn's final practice prior to the Capital One Bowl game.

""Players obviously win bowl games, but sometimes bowl games turn into coaches' games early with who can adjust the best," Tuberville says. "We would love to have an opportunity to win this game to beat Coach Paterno because you can always say that you did that. Not a lot of people get that opportunity."

"I think it is going to be a very good matchup," Tuberville says. "I think it is going to be a very good game. We probably match up philosophy-wise as well as anyone in our conference would against a Big Ten team since we've gone more to two backs and been more physical this year running the ball.

"Defensively, we look a lot alike," Tuberville says. "Bowl games normally come down to mistakes and the kicking game. Hopefully, we have done enough work on that to prepare for this week's game. It should be an exciting game. Hopefully, the weather will move through and we won't have weather that will affect a lot of the passing game. I think both teams want to throw the football and see how much we have improved throughout the year throwing the ball.

"It should be an exciting game," Tuberville adds. "We can't control the weather, but we are prepared for it." The forecast is for a storm front to move through the Orlando area on Wednesday morning prior to the 1 p.m. local time kickoff. A sellout of crowd of better than 65,000 fans is expected for the Capital One Bowl at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.

A pair of head coaches watch Auburn's practice. Tommy Tuberville's Tigers will play Penn State on Wednesday, which will be the final day on the job at Auburn for offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino (right), who was named head coach at Louisville.

Tuberville notes that both teams have been hot and cold with the kicking game so overall he predicts it should be a good matchup, especially being an intersectional game against a team the Tigers have played just one time. "We don't know many players they have on their team from recruiting nor do they know many of our players," he says.

Penn State's Joe Paterno says he was irritated that his team was required to go to a bowl luncheon on Tuesday, the day before a game. Otherwise, he says the bowl experience has been "wonderful." The veteran head coach says he believes his team will be ready to play a good game against Auburn. "I hope in the future when they start to plan some things they won't have the kickoff luncheon and everything else (press conference, pep rally) the day before the game. It makes it very difficult to keep your team focused and we are playing a very, very good football team. I have watched the (bowl) games on television and I haven't seen anybody better than Auburn."

"We're as well as we've ever been," Paterno says of his team. "I don't think I've ever been in a football game where we are as healthy as this. We should be rested and ready to play for this bowl game. We have not practiced very hard the last three days. We've had on pads once since we have come up here from St. Petersburg.

"I am concerned about all of the fluff going on and that we sometimes don't understand how tough Auburn is. I'm not worried about us. I'm worried about Auburn. The more I look at Auburn, I'm already nervous. They're a really good football team and they do so many things well and are so well-coached. It is going to be a dogfight and if we go in there without the determination that it is going to take and the intensity that it is going to take and the physical part of the game--that is what worries me."

Paterno refused to answer a question about his star tailback's potential in the pros and whether or not he would be a successful pro tailback in contrast to other PSU star runners who did not have successful pro careers. However, Tuberville would say that there is no doubt that stopping Larry Johnson is the key to victory for the Tigers.

"It starts off with Larry Johnson and our rushing defense," Tuberville notes. "He controls the football. If we have very little time of possession, it is going to be a tough game for us. We focused on that. We think the most improved player is their quarterback (Zack Mills). You can't take him out of the context of how important he's been to their football team. He's kept their defense off the field."

AU linebacker Mark Brown says, "Larry Johnson is a really good running back--he is very powerful. Their line is very physical."

Senior wide receiver Marcel Willis takes a break at his final practice. Two years ago, Willis had one of his best games as a collegian at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium vs. Michigan.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Tuberville says the overall bowl trip has been even more fun than the one the Tigers made two years ago...The Auburn coach says that Penn State likes to spread the field at times, just like the Tigers. The coach says that PSU's quarterback, Zack Mills, is a major key to the Nittany Lions' success this season and that he is a dangerous runner as well as a passer...Auburn senior center Ben Nowland says the execution of his team's offense will be critical to the Tigers' chances of success against the favored Nittany Lions. "I have a lot of confidence in our defense's ability," he says...Paterno took several opportunities to heap praise on Auburn's head coach in the past week. He did it several times at the kickoff luncheon on Tuesday and a press conference the same day. "Tommy has done a great job with their football team," Paterno says.

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