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Penn State notebook: Morris family will celebrate emotional day

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris talks to reporters during Media Day festivities at Beaver Stadium on August 09, 2012.

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By Scott Brown
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 11:30 p.m.

The father who wanted Stephon Morris to stay at Penn State but left the decision up to him sent him a text message Monday night.

Roman Morris told his son, a starting cornerback for the Nittany Lions and the unquestioned leader of the secondary, how proud he was of him. That message — and the fact that the elder Morris has been at every game since his son has been at Penn State — is why Stephon Morris won't fight the emotion that is sure to flood his senses when he runs out of the tunnel at Beaver Stadium for the final time.

Morris and the rest of the Penn State seniors will play their last collegiate game Saturday, and they will be honored along with their families before the 3:30 p.m. kickoff against Wisconsin.

“I'll probably get very teary,” Morris said. “I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life.”

The player whom coach Bill O'Brien has said is one of the most improved cornerbacks in the Big Ten, didn't just have to overcome the adversity of the NCAA sanctions that threatened to bury Penn State's football program to get to this point.

Morris said his mother tried to give him away when he was two months old. His father took him in and raised Morris along with his stepmother.

They will share an emotional farewell together Saturday.

“I told my dad if I can be half the man he was my life would be complete,” Morris said.

Morris said his former coach will also be on his mind

“We can't forget about coach (Joe) Paterno and everything he has done,” Morris said. “He's the reason why all of are here. He's one of the reasons why I stayed.”

Off the bench

Penn State won't play in a bowl game for the first time since the 2004 season because of NCAA sanctions.

Since the Nittany Lions lose the 15 practices that come with a bowl game, they have used the last couple of weeks getting backup quarterback Steven Bench more repetitions in practice.

The true freshman has played sparingly since spelling an injured Matt McGloin in the second game of the season. But he is next in line with McGloin closing out a record-setting career Saturday.

Bench will be the only scholarship quarterback on the roster after this season though Penn State has received a verbal commitment from Christian Hackenberg, one of the top signal-caller prospects in the country.

“Steve's come a long way,” McGloin said. “I'm always honest with him and telling him that he's going to have to fight and battle to win this job. He's got to keep pushing hard and working hard.”

Postseason awards

The Big Ten will announce its all-conference teams Monday, and outside linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges figure to be among those honored.

O'Brien said McGloin and senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill also deserve recognition for their strong seasons.

“Those guys should be represented on the all conference team in same way, shape or form,” O'Brien said. “I think those guys have had excellent years for us.”

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