Wednesday, September 09, 2009
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No. 7 Penn State readies for old rival Syracuse

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[September 09, 2009]  STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Old rivals Syracuse and Penn State can generate headlines when they meet that have nothing to do with football.

Penn State's beloved Nittany Lion shrine has been vandalized three times before Syracuse visits to Happy Valley -- once by coach Joe Paterno's wife, no less, in 1966 in a scheme to provoke once-quiet Nittany Lion crowds.

Walking on the hard artificial turf of the Carrier Dome during last year's win over the Orange made Paterno's hip injury worse -- an ailment that eventually led to surgery.

And now, this week, the rebuilding Orange (0-1) travel to Happy Valley with starting quarterback Greg Paulus, who once played point guard for one of the most storied basketball programs in the nation at Duke.

The Paulus hoopla has almost made Penn State (1-0) a footnote heading into Saturday's game at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions jumped two spots to No. 7 in the AP Top 25 poll released Tuesday.

"I can't tell you why that program deteriorated. I think we all remember that Syracuse was not only one of the great programs in the East, but in the country," the 82-year-old Paterno said Tuesday. "I think they've got the right combination now."

Paulus and first-year Syracuse coach Doug Marrone are part of that Orange mix looking to revive a program that has stumbled to the Big East basement.


Syracuse has played Penn State 69 times, more than any other Orange opponent. Penn State is 41-23-5 against Syracuse since the first meeting in 1922.

Paterno's favorite moment? A game in 1954 or 1955, he recalled, when Nittany Lions running back Lenny Moore dueled with Syracuse great Jim Brown.

Then there was a time when another standout Orange running back, Floyd Little, burned Penn State on special teams.

"I still remember Floyd Little running by me three times for three punt returns," said Paterno before smiling and mimicking a wave. "He waved to me."

But the Nittany Lions have been the ones smiling since Paterno took over as head coach in 1966, going 22-4 against the Orange since then.

It was in Paterno's first year as coach that his wife, Sue, and a friend secretly splashed water-soluble orange paint on the Nittany Lion statue the week of the Syracuse game. Sue Paterno thought she would get into trouble until Syracuse fans later that week doused the shrine with oil-based paint, which was tougher to remove.

Twelve years later, the ear of the lion statue was broken off "in a raid by Syracuse students" the week of the game, according to Penn State's media notes.

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Funeral Director

On Saturday, Marrone wouldn't mind creating the headlines on the Beaver Stadium turf. A win over Penn State would require a David and Goliath-type upset effort.

"He's from Brooklyn. I'm from the Bronx," Marrone said. "I hope I can have the same type of success, or a little of the success, that coach Paterno has had."

Penn State once recruited Marrone, who eventually decided to play college ball at Syracuse, though Paterno couldn't recall the particulars of his recruitment.

One characteristic did stand out, though, to JoePa.

"Oh boy, he is Italian, isn't he," joked Paterno, who is of Italian descent himself.

The reporter didn't know, but someone told Paterno that Marrone hailed from the Bronx, which like Brooklyn, is a borough of New York City.

"What do you mean you couldn't tell me? That's the second most important thing to me," Paterno quipped. Being "from the Bronx doesn't hold much water with me."


Saturday's game is the second of a home-and-home series between the two schools, and there are no immediate plans for the rivalry to continue. Penn State routed Syracuse, 55-13 at the Carrier Dome in 2008.

[Associated Press; By GENARO C. ARMAS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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