Penn State's Hunt shines at Outback Bowl
TAMPA, Fla. - His white pants soiled by dirt and fresh red paint from the field, Tony Hunt barreled into a defender before falling out of bounds on another big run.
The hard-nosed senior finished his Penn State career in trademark fashion.
Hunt ran for 158 yards on 31 attempts to help carry Penn State to a 20-10 win Sunday over No. 17 Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.
"I'm glad someone finally asked me about him," coach Joe Paterno in his postgame news conference. "He's a money football player."
And deserving of the trophy bestowed on the bowl game's MVP. Hunt finished his career with 3,320 yards, second in school history behind Curt Warner (3,398).
It's a long way from his freshman days, when he wasn't even the most highly recruited running back in his class. That honor belonged to Austin Scott.
But Scott has been beset by injuries in his career. This season, Scott was redshirted, and Hunt carried the full load. He went out with a bang, plowing through defenders and always fighting for extra yards.
Hunt's 158 yards were the second-highest for a Nittany Lions player in a bowl game behind Blair Thomas, who ran for 186 in the 1989 Holiday Bowl against BYU. Hunt also finished fourth on the school's career all-purpose yardage list with 1,645.
Now, a potential NFL career awaits.
"You have to move on, and I'm just happy it happened on these terms," said Hunt, sitting next to the trophy.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer's worst fears came through.
"I told you guys when I came here that was my biggest concern," Fulmer said. "I don't know how many yards he had, but they were tough yards."
Hunt was huge part of an offense that pulled off its best performance of the year in the Nittany Lions' biggest win of the season.
The offensive line allowed no sacks and opened up holes to run. The wideouts came up with big catches. And much-maligned junior quarterback Anthony Morelli put together his best all-around performance, escaping trouble, hitting receivers on short rolls outside the pocket and showing poise on the field.
Morelli finished 14-of-25 for 197 yards and a two-yard TD pass to tight end Andrew Quarless. The six-week layoff between the end of the regular season and the Outback Bowl worked wonders.
"Time away, a lot of preparation time. I just felt comfortable," Morelli said. "I just had a lot of fun out there."
But the quarterback knew this win belonged to Hunt and the rest of the Penn State seniors.
"I'm proud of him and all the seniors," Morelli said. "Their last chance to put on a Penn State uniform, and they got a win as well."