No. 15 Penn St. 43, No. 16 Auburn 14
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ It doesn’t matter where Joe Paterno takes Penn State for the holidays. Give the coach a month to prepare, and the Nittany Lions are usually successful.
Wally Richardson threw four touchdown passes in the rain and No. 15 Penn State set Outback Bowl records for points and total offense Monday in a 43-14 rout of Auburn at soggy Tampa Stadium.
Bobby Engram had four catches for a bowl-record 113 yards and two TDs, while Stephen Pitts rushed for 118 yards and scored on his only catch of the day to pace the Nittany Lions’ 487-yard attack.
Paterno has taken Penn State (9-3) to 12 different bowl games, more than any other coach. Beating Auburn (8-4) gave him victories in 10 different locations and improved his overall bowl record to 17-8-1.
Auburn cited the weather as a major factor in its most lopsided loss in a bowl game since losing to Houston 36-7 in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in 1969.
Paterno said veteran leadership on a team that’s won three straight postseason games helped the Nittany Lions prepare for Auburn as well as deal with the rain.
``The older guys did a great job of keeping the kids focused,″ the 69-year-old coach said.
``You don’t let the weather bother you. It’s there and there is is nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do anything about is yourself.″
Richardson, whose inexperience hurt Penn State early in the season, completed 13 of 24 passes for 217 yards. The only interception he threw glanced off the hands of receiver Freddie Scott and set up one of Auburn’s two touchdowns.
``I thought Wally played an outstanding game,″ Paterno said. ``He had a lot of poise. He hung in there, didn’t get upset with the deflected pass and played very well.″
Engram, voted the game’s most valuable player, scored on catches of 9 and 20 yards in the third quarter, when Penn State scored 27 points to pull away from a 16-7 halftime lead. Pitts also scored in the period, and Curtis Enis added a 1-yard TD run set up by Kim Herring’s second interception of Auburn’s Patrick Nix.
Auburn, making its first bowl appearance in five seasons, scored on Robert Baker’s 25-yard, second-quarter reception and Kevin McLeod’s 12-yard run in the fourth period.
``Obviously it was not a real good game for us,″ said Terry Bowden, Auburn’s third-year coach. ``Penn State handled the elements much better than we did ... This was the first time since I’ve been at Auburn that we were not in the game at the end, and it wasn’t much fun.″
The Tigers got 119 yards rushing from Stephen Davis, but 92 of those came in the first quarter. The running back was shaken up near the end of the opening quarter and played sparingly after that.
Nix, who threw for 2,574 yards and 15 touchdowns during the regular season, completed just five of 25 passes for 48 yards. Both of the interceptions he threw led to Penn State touchdowns.
``The field conditions weren’t the best. The ball was extremely wet, but still that’s no excuse. You’ve got to get the job done,″ the Auburn quarterback said.
Both teams began the season with expectations of contending for No. 1. Penn State was ranked fourth in the preseason after going 12-0 in 1994, while Auburn started at No. 6 after going 20-1-1 in its first two seasons under coach Terry Bowden.
The Tigers, however, were banned from post-season appearances in each of those years because of NCAA violations that occurred under former coach Pat Dye.
While Penn State was playing on New Year’s Day or Jan. 2 for the fifth consecutive season, Auburn hadn’t appeared in a bowl game since 1990 when the Tigers made the last of nine consecutive trips under Dye.
A morning thunderstorm left the natural turf field a muddy mess. A steady rain continued throughout the game, but didn’t stop either team from throwing the ball.
Still, the run was the most consistent weapon all day.
Penn State rushed for 152 yards in the first half and finishing with 266, controlling the clock and eventually forcing Auburn out of its game plan. Pitts carried 15 times, averaging nearly 8 yards per attempt, and Brian Milne finished with 82 yards on 12 carries.