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Published: Sunday, 10/7/2001

UM notebook: Penn State has fallen pretty far, pretty fast


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - This may be hard to believe considering the current state of Penn State's football affairs, but the Nittany Lions were 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation as recently as the morning of Nov. 6, 1999.

The University of Minnesota visited Beaver Stadium later that day and delivered a stunning 24-23 upset of the Lions, who have not been the same since.

Including that loss and yesterday's 20-0 setback to the University of Michigan, Penn State is 6-14 in its last 20 games.

“They've definitely lost a lot of respect in the context of being a national power,” Michigan tailback B.J. Askew said. “But you can't take them lightly. They can beat anybody, especially at home.”

Penn State coach Joe Paterno entered the season needing one victory to tie Bear Bryant's 323 career wins, which leads all major college coaches. Paterno still needs that one win as Penn State is 0-4 for the first time in the school's 115-year football history.

“Our players haven't quit,” Paterno said. “I keep sticking up for them because they practice hard. They want to be a good football team. We knew going into the season we were not going to be a dominant football team. I thought, though, that we were going to play smarter and steal some games. It hasn't happened, but I have had my back up against the wall before and I enjoy it.”

NEW JOB: Former University of Toledo athletic director Pete Liske will reportedly return to his alma mater, Penn State, in a high-ranking fundraising capacity for the athletic department. No announcement has been made, but a department source confirmed off the record yesterday that the appointment was expected in the near future. Liske, the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions in the early 1960s, was AD at Toledo for more than five years prior to his contract not being renewed at the end of the 2000-2001 school year.

THREE-DOT DATA: The last time Penn State was shut out at home was on Sept. 25, 1965, by Michigan State (23-0) during Rip Engle's final season as the Lions' head coach. He was succeeded by Paterno, who had gone 211 home games without being blanked. ... Michigan beat Penn State for the fifth straight year and became the first team to win three straight at Beaver Stadium since Army did it in 1957-61-63. ... The Lions are 0-3 at home this season, marking the first time since 1964 they've lost three straight home games in the same year. ... UM receiver Marquise Walker had nine catches for 85 yards and one TD. ... Zack Mills became the first freshman to start at QB for Penn State since Wally Richardson vs. Temple in 1992. Mills had a rough debut as different receivers dropped three straight passes on the Lions' opening possession. ... UM's only penalty of the game was an intentional delay of game before a pooch punt by QB John Navarre with 2:03 to play. ... Linebacker Victor Hobson had nine solo tackles for Michigan.

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