Thursday, January 2, 2003

Capital One: Auburn 13, Penn St. 9

By John Zenor
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - While Larry Johnson clamored for the ball, Ronnie Brown kept getting it.

Brown scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 2:19 left and outplayed the Heisman Trophy finalist as No. 19 Auburn beat No. 10 Penn State 13-9 Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl.

The final tally: Brown 184 yards, Johnson just 72.

Johnson, who ran for 2,015 regular-season yards, couldn't break a long one among his 20 carries in his final Penn State game. The Nittany Lions (9-4) fell to 1-4 when he failed to reach 100 yards.

Johnson groused that the offense was "trying to be too cute" instead of just giving it to him.

"You get 20 carries against a good defense, there's no way in the world you're going to go over 100 against a good defense," said Johnson, who lost 6 yards on his first five carries. "You pound it and pound it and pound it, and that's the outcome.

"If we'd have done that, maybe the score would be reversed."

Maybe not, the Tigers said.

"All week, the TV and the media were just talking about seeing how far over 200 he's going to get," Auburn defensive end Reggie Torbor said of Johnson. "Like we're a joke. We feed off that. The more they talk, the better we get."

Auburn linebacker Mark Brown said Johnson was on the sidelines begging for the ball.

"We heard him a couple of times after he made a run telling the coach he could do that all day - just give the ball to him," Brown said.

Instead, Ronnie Brown kept getting chances.

Brown ran 37 times and scored twice as the Tigers (9-4) won a bowl game for the first time since 1998.

Brown, voted the game's MVP, was eager to prove himself against Johnson.

"Personally, that gave me a lot of motivation to be going up against someone like that, a Heisman candidate with so many skills," the sophomore said. "And for us to be an underdog, that kind of gave us a lift as a team."

Penn State quarterback Zack Mills was temporarily benched in the second half and couldn't convert two late drives into points.

Mills threw two straight incompletions before getting intercepted by Roderick Hood. That gave the Tigers the ball at Penn State's 27 with 1:49 left, but four straight runs by Brown only worked the clock down to 42 seconds.

With no timeouts left, Mills moved it to Auburn's 43 with a 14-yard scramble and two short passes to Matt Kranchick. His shuffle pass under pressure fell short of a first down on fourth down.

"We just came together and said, 'They're not going to get into the end zone,"' linebacker Dontarrious Thomas said. "As long as they kept getting field goals, we knew our offense was finally going to break one into the end zone."

Penn State's four losses came by a total of 20 points, as coach Joe Paterno failed to pad his NCAA record 20 bowl wins after a two-year postseason absence.

The Tigers beat their third Top 10 opponent of the season.

Brown passed the 1,000-yard mark despite starting only five games.

Down 9-7, the Tigers started their winning drive at Penn State's 40 with 5:05 left after Robbie Gould's 36-yard punt. Brown carried on five of the six plays, but Jason Campbell's pass on the two-point attempt fell short.

Mills finished 8-of-24 for 67 yards and was replaced on two series by Michael Robinson. All-Big Ten receiver Bryant Johnson was held without a catch.

"The thing about a game like this is you hope someone has a good day," Paterno said. "Larry didn't have a good game, Zach didn't have a good game. They did a great job covering Bryant Johnson. It was one of those days - what am I going to tell you?"

The Nittany Lions' only points came on Gould's field goals of 21, 27 and 31 yards. He missed a 33-yarder in the first half.

The Tigers borrowed a chapter from Paterno's playbook to take a 7-6 lead with 3:52 left in the third quarter. They ran it 13 straight times and milked nearly seven minutes off the clock, with Brown twisting into the end zone on fourth down from the goal line.

He carried on the first six plays and the last four, gaining 59 yards on the drive. The Nittany Lions had gone nearly 10 quarters without giving up a point in the postseason.

The Tigers trailed 6-0 at halftime, losing two turnovers, committing 74 yards in penalties and getting Damon Duval's 24-yard field goal try blocked.

"We tried to shoot ourselves in the foot in the first half, but we cut down on the penalties in the second half and we decided that running the football was going to win the game for us," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

AP-CS-01-01-03 1839EST

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