Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Penn State's Lee gears up for final act
By Adam Rittenberg
Sean Lee began his career with a bowl win, getting on the field as a reserve linebacker as Penn State beat Florida State in the 2006 Orange Bowl.
Lee wants to end his career the same way. Penn State is known for winning bowl games, and Lee carries a 3-0 mark into Friday's Capital One Bowl matchup against No. 12 LSU (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET). Remember that Lee missed last year's Rose Bowl loss to USC with a knee injury, so he doesn't know what it feels like to be on the field for a postseason loss.
Sean Lee hopes to finish his college career with a win in Friday's Capital One Bowl.
And he has no intention of starting now.
"I've told the guys it's good to have fun during the trip and experience the city, but you will remember the game," said Lee, a co-captain for the Nittany Lions. "You will remember winning the game, and it'll spoil everything if you don't work as hard as you can and try to win this game.
"We've had that attitude. We've come down here on a mission."
Penn State traveled to Florida earlier than teams usually do for bowl games, a strategy head coach Joe Paterno employs to get his players acclimated to the environment. The team spent the first five days in Daytona Beach, where it was "just straight football," Lee said
That meant two-a-day practices, 7:15 a.m. wake-up calls and a training camp-like atmosphere.
"We were on the beach in Daytona," Lee said, "but we barely got a chance to go partly because it was raining a little bit and secondly, because we were practicing so much and everyone was so tired."
Players have had a bit more fun in Orlando, going to Best Buy on Tuesday for a shopping spree. But Lee and his teammates are locking in on LSU, an opponent stocked with young talent and athleticism.
Lee sees similarities between LSU and the Tennessee squad he faced in the 2007 Outback Bowl, which Penn State won 20-10.
"They have a ton of athletes," he said. "When it comes to their wide receivers, [Trindon] Holliday they use in a ton of ways. And their quarterback, [Jordan] Jefferson, is a really good athlete. When he gets out of the pocket, he makes a lot of plays and gets the ball to their big, good, really athletic receivers. And their running back, [Stevan] Ridley, replaced [Charles] Scott as the year's gone on. He's been a big reason why they've had success."
Lee, who battled a knee injury early this season but surged down the stretch, feels as healthy as he's been since the summer. He leads a Penn State defense that owns sick stats -- fourth nationally in scoring (11.8 ppg), eighth in total defense (277.1 ypg), sixth in tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92 per game) -- but lacks a signature victory.
LSU provides that opportunity.
"We didn't play as well as we would have liked in our two big games at home, against Ohio State and Iowa," Lee said. "This is just another chance to prove the type of football team we are, and to be able to play a team with a ton of tradition like LSU just adds to it."