November 28, 2006

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November 18, 2006

No. 4 Pitt downs Massachusetts 85-68

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh is good enough with Aaron Gray in its lineup to be ranked No. 4. What surprised Massachusetts was how good the Panthers were without their 7-foot star.

Pitt overcame Gray's injury and foul trouble by relying on its balanced scoring and a deep bench to beat Massachusetts 85-68 on Saturday and remain unbeaten.

Gray, the preseason Big East player of the year, drew his second foul 5 1/2 minutes in and didn't return until the start of the second half. Less than a minute after returning, he was cut on his lower lip and needed seven stitches. The 7-footer came back with Pitt (4-0) up 68-52 with 11 minutes remaining.

Despite playing only 17 minutes, Gray had 14 points and five rebounds. He was coming off a 24-point, 14-rebound game against Northeastern.

"We drew up three new plays designed to go right at him and get him in foul trouble," UMass coach Travis Ford said. "When he went out, I said, 'OK,' but it got worse. ... We didn't take advantage while he was out. They're certainly one of the best three or four teams I've seen."

Mike Cook also had 14, Levance Fields had 13 points and five assists, Antonio Graves added 12, and Tyrell Biggs had 11 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role.

"We are eight or nine deep, and when Aaron went out, Tyrell stepped in," Fields said. "When he plays like that, he's going to be tough to stop. We clicked out there and things went well."

The Panthers return eight of their top 10 players from a 25-victory team, and they relied on that depth to keep UMass from making any run to get back into the game during the second half.

"I felt I played strong," said Biggs, who made 5 of 7 shots. "I took smart shots and I took my time and I wasn't rushing shots."

Pitt has already had nine players score in double figures at least once this season. Pitt's bench outscored the Minutemen's backups 24-10.

"We got some good performances from our bench players, but I don't consider them bench players," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We start nine players."

Stephane Lasme had 17 points and nine rebounds for UMass (2-1), which was outrebounded 36-26. James Life scored 15 — all four field goals were 3-pointers — Rashaun Freeman had 14 and Gary Forbes scored 12. Freeman and Life also got into foul trouble in the first half, playing only 13 minutes between them, and that helped prevent any comeback.

"I knew they had great players, but I didn't expect all those guys to make that many shots," Lasme said. "We learned we have to play better and we have to play harder. We're going to be a good team, but we're not there yet."

Ford said, "When we get outrebounded by 10, we're not going to win many games. Pitt is just really, really good."

Even with Gray sitting out, the Panthers scored the final seven points of the first half — Levon Kendall hit a jumper and added two free throws — to take a 46-37 halftime lead. They stretched that to 13 points early in the second half on Mike Cook's drive to the basket off Fields' pass, then held double-digit leads for most of the half. The biggest lead was 19.

"We ran into a great team that played great," Ford said. "We had to hope they played bad."

Both teams are playing three games in three days this weekend in the Colonial Classic, with Pitt taking on Oakland, and UMass meeting in-state opponent Northeastern on Sunday.

Oakland beat Northeastern 67-52 on Saturday. The tournament winds up Friday when Florida State, which won its three home games in the event, plays at Pitt.

UMass, one of the Atlantic 10's preseason favorites, and Pittsburgh were members of the former Eastern Eight from 1976-82 before Pitt left for the Big East. Pitt won nine of its 13 conference games against Massachusetts.
Paterno watches 17-13 win from press box

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - From his perch in the press box, Joe Paterno looked pensive, even a little nervous at times. He had reason to worry.

Anthony Morelli threw for two touchdowns and the defense clamped down after halftime as the Nittany Lions overcame four first-half fumbles to defeat Michigan State, 17-13 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

It wasn't until Tim Shaw's sack of Spartans quarterback Brian Hoyer with less than 3 minutes left in the game that Paterno and his Nittany Lions (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) could breathe easy. It was Paterno's first game back at the stadium since the 79-year-old coach broke his left leg on Nov. 4.

"To drop the ball four times and to be in that football game, it's a tribute to our defense and how they played," said offensive coordinator Galen Hall, who was joined in the press box on Saturday by Paterno.

"Anytime you have that many turnovers, you have a very good chance of getting beat," Hall said.

Instead, Michigan State finished the regular season having lost four straight. The Spartans (4-8, 1-7) were foiled by mistakes of their own — including a couple of dropped passes, a blocked punt and two missed field goals — and head coach John L. Smith's four-year tenure ended on a down note.

Smith found out two weeks ago that his bosses didn't want him back in 2007.

"A couple of little different things and of course we win," Smith said. "That's kind of been the story the whole year."

Trailing the entire first half, Penn State took a 14-13 lead after Morelli found Jordan Norwood for a 6-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter. Kevin Kelly booted a 45-yard field goal with 4:28 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Penn State a four-point cushion.

Paterno watched from the press box after missing last week's game against Temple — the first JoePa-less contest for Penn State since 1977. The coach broke the shinbone and tore two knee ligaments in his left leg on Nov. 4 at Wisconsin, and had surgery the following day.

Doctors have said that Paterno must stay off his feet for at least another month.

"Joe was up in the box and had observations, saw some things and it worked," Hall said. "It was good to have him up there .... He was very much involved in the game."

He may not have been pleased with the first 30 minutes.

Penn State fumbled four times in the first half, while Michigan State's offense was able to move the ball easily at times on the stingy Penn State defense even without injured starting quarterback Drew Stanton, who missed his final collegiate game.

Stanton's streak of 24 straight starts was snapped. He had dizziness and headaches after getting knocked out of last week's loss to Minnesota by a hit so hard that it collapsed part of his helmet.

Hoyer filled in admirably, completing 30 of 61 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown. Michigan State confused Penn State early at points with short passes and crossing routes.

Morelli finished 17-of-37 for 220 yards, while Tony Hunt ran for 130 yards on 29 carries for Penn State. But Morelli and Hunt both fumbled twice in the first half.

November 15, 2006

Emmitt Smith wins ABC's 'Dancing' title

NEW YORK - Emmitt Smith, three-time Super Bowl champion, was named the winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" Wednesday night. The NFL's all-time leading rusher beat out actor Mario Lopez.

The hunky, dimpled Lopez was generally regarded as the series most dynamic celebrity dancer, but the public's vote, the deciding factor after the contestants had tied in the judges' tally at Tuesday's final dance-off, brought Smith the victory.

"It is awesome! It is awesome!" declared Smith, after hugging his professional dance partner Cheryl Burke. "We came a long way, we really have."

Burke won last season, too, on the arm of singer Drew Lachey.

Smith had kind words for Lopez, who was gracious in his defeat. He called the former "Saved by the Bell" star a "true gentleman" and said he and partner Karina Smirnoff "raised the bar" during the competition.

"This whole journey was unbelievable ... And Karina, most unbelievable person," Lopez gushed. "It's something I'll never forget."

Smith and Burke wowed judges on Tuesday with a spirited samba, to the tune of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke."

"What's so great about you is you are the everyday man who became a dancer in our eyes in the past 10 weeks," judge Carrie Anna Inaba told Smith, who's been dubbed "The Big Easy" for his laid-back elegance and charm.

In the closing segment of Wednesday's decision show, Burke, in a video clip, praised Smith's work ethic.

"From the beginning, he just wanted to be the best possible dancer he can be," she said.

November 10, 2006

Oscar-winning actor Jack Palance dies

LOS ANGELES - Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in "Shane," "Sudden Fear" and other films who turned successfully to comedy at 70 with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died Friday. Palance died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman. He was 87.

When Palance accepted his Oscar for best supporting actor he delighted viewers of the 1992 Academy Awards by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed push-ups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

"That's nothing, really," he said slyly. "As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not."

That year's Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making increasingly outlandish remarks about Palance's accomplishments throughout the show.

It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor's 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles.

"Most of the stuff I do is garbage," he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too.

"Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic," he said.

Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor's chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in "Panic in the Streets."

After a war picture, "Halls of Montezuma," he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks the terrified Joan Crawford in 1952's "Sudden Fear." The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic "Shane."

That role cemented Palance's reputation as Hollywood's favorite menace, and he went on to appear in such films as "Arrowhead" (as a renegade Apache), "Man in the Attic" (as Jack the Ripper), "Sign of the Pagan" (as Attila the Hun) and "The Silver Chalice" (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Other prominent films included "Kiss of Fire," "The Big Knife," "I Died a Thousand Deaths," "Attack!" "The Lonely Man" and "House of Numbers."

Forty-one years after his auspicious film debut, Palance played against type, to a degree. His "City Slickers" character, Curly, was still a menacing figure to dude ranch visitors Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, but with a comic twist. And Palance delivered his one-liners with surgeon-like precision.

Through most of his career, Palance maintained his distance from the Hollywood scene. In the late 1960s he bought a sprawling cattle and horse ranch north of Los Angeles. He also owned a bean farm near his home town of Lattimer, Pa.

Although most of his film portrayals were as primitives, Palance was well-spoken and college-educated. His favorite pastimes away from the movie world were painting and writing poetry and fiction.

A strapping 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, Palance excelled at sports and won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left after two years, disgusted by commercialization of the sport.

He decided to use his size and strength as a prizefighter, but after two hapless years that resulted in little more than a broken nose that would serve him well as a screen villain, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942.

A year later he was discharged after his B-24 lost power on takeoff and he was knocked unconscious.

The GI. Bill of Rights provided Palance's tuition at Stanford University, where he studied journalism. But the drama club lured him, and he appeared in 10 comedies. Just before graduation he left school to try acting professionally in New York.

"I had always wanted to express myself through words," he said in a 1957 interview. "But I always thought I was too big to be an actor. I could see myself knocking over tables. I thought acting was for little ... guys."

He made his Broadway debut in a comedy, "The Big Two," in which he had but one line, spoken in Russian, a language his parents spoke at home.

The play lasted only a few weeks, and he supported himself as a short-order cook, waiter, lifeguard and hot dog seller between other small roles in the theater.

His career breakthrough came when he was chosen as Anthony Quinn's understudy in the road company of "A Streetcar Named Desire," then replaced Marlon Brando in the Stanley Kowalski role on Broadway. The show's director, Elia Kazan, chose him in 1950 to play a murderer in "Panic in the Streets," which starred Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas.

November 09, 2006

Paterno won't coach Penn St.-Temple game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Heeding his doctor's advice, injured Penn State coach Joe Paterno will not be in the stadium Saturday when the Nittany Lions play Temple — missing his first game since 1977.

Paterno had surgery Sunday to repair a fractured shinbone and two torn knee ligaments in his left leg. The 79-year-old coach was sent tumbling along the sideline last Saturday by two players in the second half of Penn State's loss to Wisconsin.

Paterno had missed only one game in his 41-year head-coaching career — after his son, David, was involved in an accident. He also missed one game as an assistant in 1955 after his father died.

Paterno talked to his assistants Thursday morning during a meeting in his Mount Nittany Medical Center hospital room.

"You guys know what you're doing and what I want enough that I don't need to be there creating a huge distraction Saturday," he told them, according to a team statement. "Enough on me; let's get back to football."

Team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli advised the feisty Paterno that coaching Saturday might jeopardize his recovery. Paterno remained in good condition Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Karstetter said.

"He just realized he's got to be proactive in this condition," said Guido D'Elia, a team spokesman.

A decision on whether he will coach in Penn State's regular-season finale against Michigan State on Nov. 18 will be made next week.

"It's in his best interest not to be on the field really for the rest of the season," Sebastianelli said Wednesday at a news conference.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and offensive coordinator Galen Hall will oversee their respective units. But Bradley, a Penn State assistant for 28 years, was assigned to make the tough calls on both sides of the ball.

"If a game decision needs to made beyond that, talk it out and if you can't agree, Tom will be the tiebreaker, because he has been around the longest," Paterno said.

Paterno's 41 years as head coach at Penn State ties him with Amos Alonzo Stagg for most seasons leading one school. Stagg coached at the University of Chicago from 1892-32.

Paterno turns 80 next month. His 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

Doctors have said Paterno could be allowed to return to the sideline for a bowl game as long as he stayed off his feet.

Paterno is under contract for another two years. His son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, has said his father has every intention of returning in 2007.

November 06, 2006

One tough Lion: Paterno plans to coach

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno wants to coach this weekend, but don't look for him to pace the sidelines in his blue Penn State jacket and rolled-up khakis.

The feisty 79-year-old coach was listed in good condition Monday at Mount Nittany Medical Center following an 80-minute operation a day earlier on his fractured shin bone and two torn knee ligaments. The injuries stemmed from a sideline collision during last week's loss to Wisconsin.

He was expected to be remain in the hospital through Tuesday, assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said.

Paterno plans to coach Saturday against Temple, though it's unclear if that means from the Beaver Stadium sidelines or a coach's box.

"He woke up today and asked for the second phase of the game plan and scouting reports on Temple," school spokesman Guido D'Elia said. "He's been on the phone all day. He's still in charge."

Team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli anticipates a full recovery after several screws were inserted into the injured leg, which was also fitted with a temporary brace. Paterno might be able to put weight back on the leg in about six weeks.

Just in time for a New Year's Day bowl game, which the Nittany Lions would likely wrap up if they can win their last two games of the season.

The injuries didn't keep Paterno from catching up on work. Paterno's son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, said his father was already reviewing scouting reports and game plans from his hospital bed Monday.

The school canceled Paterno's regular Tuesday news conference at Beaver Stadium. Another news conference was scheduled for Wednesday with Sebastianelli. It was unclear if Paterno would be available.

Saturday, however, appears a done deal. The school said there was a "mobility plan" to make Paterno available for team activities on and off the field, though the exact details haven't been determined.

One football staffer had mentioned a golf cart as a possibility to get around on the sidelines. D'Elia talked about a "super-cart" or "souped-up scooter" as a possible long-term transportation device.

Or might Paterno, who stubbornly tried to shoo away help initially after he was injured, try walking on crutches?

Such are the questions buzzing around the football team now at Penn State, where even the left leg on the statue in his honor outside Beaver Stadium has been wrapped with a bandage.

Paterno is in his 41st year as Penn State head coach and under contract through the end of 2008. Only Amos Alonzo Stagg coached as long with one school, leading the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932.

Paterno's 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

The Penn State coach went down last weekend after Nittany Lion tight end Andrew Quarless and Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy ran into him. Replays showed Levy colliding helmet-first with Paterno's left leg after falling while trying to tackle Quarless.

The injury overshadows the Happy Valley homecoming of Temple coach Al Golden, one of four Penn State alums on the Owl football staff. Golden played tight end at Penn State from 1987-91 and was linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator under Paterno in 2000.

"I told some of my players the other day, 'This guy is 80 years old.' He didn't want to leave the field," Golden said Monday. "That's tough, now. We need some of those players on our team."
Paterno may need surgery for broken leg

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno isn't going let a broken leg keep him from coaching his team again.

The 79-year-old Penn State coach broke his left leg and damaged a knee ligament when two players ran into him during the Nittany Lions' loss to Wisconsin, and team officials said Sunday that surgery was being considered.

Paterno's son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, said he spoke with his father Sunday and there was "no thought whatsoever of not coming back this year. ... It's not even in the discussion. There's nothing more to read into this in terms of his career."

Paterno fractured the top of his tibia, or shin bone, on Saturday, according to team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli. The injury typically heals on its own with rehabilitation, though doctors and team officials were considering whether surgery would help the leg heal faster, said Guido D'Elia, director of communications for football.

"He wants to make the quickest fix," D'Elia said.

Paterno had some ligament damage to the left knee, though the extent was unknown, assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said.

Paterno, who turns 80 next month, was trying to maintain his normal routine while working from home Sunday, reviewing tapes, talking to staff by speakerphone and getting ready for the next game at home against Temple.

"It was a matter of we should have done that, we should have done this," Jay Paterno said. "He had suggestions for everybody this morning."

The elder Paterno is in his 41st year as Penn State head coach and under contract through the end of 2008. Only Amos Alonzo Stagg coached as long with one school, leading the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932.

No determination had been made about whether Paterno could return to the sideline for the Temple game or monitor his team from the coach's box above the stands.

Fans hoped for the best. A statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium had a bandage wrapped around his left leg, and one fan left a sign that read, "Get well soon JoePa, we love you!" Former players such as O.J. McDuffie, KiJana Carter and Michael Robinson called or sent messages of concern.

Paterno's 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State's Bobby Bowden.

Paterno was knocked to the turf at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., when Nittany Lions tight end Andrew Quarless and Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy barreled into him. Quarless had just caught a pass along the sideline early in the second half of the Nittany Lions' 13-3 loss to the Badgers (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten). Penn State (6-4, 4-3) lost to a ranked opponent for the fourth time this season.

Replays showed Levy colliding helmet-first with Paterno's left leg as the linebacker fell while tackling Quarless.

Paterno stood for several minutes along the sideline after getting hit before having to be helped to the bench, where he remained seated most of the third quarter surrounded by trainers and police.

"He's a wily old rascal," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who filled in for Paterno in the second half, said after Saturday's game. "He's not going anywhere unless he has to. He's pretty tough."

Paterno was then carted to the locker room with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter, and flown back to State College on Saturday night ahead of his team.

It has been a rough season physically for Paterno.

Paterno had to leave the sideline in Penn State's game at Ohio State on Sept. 23 after he became ill — the first time he left the field during a game in more than four decades as head coach.

He returned briefly at halftime, then left again before coming back at the start of the fourth quarter.

In practice the following week, Paterno was blindsided by two players — one of whom was Quarless — going full-bore for a pass.

Paterno didn't run out with his team before the next game, a win over Northwestern, and looked a little hobbled pacing the sideline. Afterward, he jokingly referred to his "banged up ribs."