© St. Petersburg Times, published December 30, 2002
ORLANDO -- Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik hasn't had enough time to really savor his homecoming the past few days as the No.19 Tigers prepare to play No.10 Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.
A Clearwater native, he was defensive coordinator at Central Florida from 1998-2001.
"It's really been great," Chizik said. "It's been great to be able to see a lot of old friends, and it's been great to be back down here."
He'll have more time to visit with friends now that most of the game preparation is complete.
"We've been really busy. It's still work and it's still game week for me, but as the week starts winding down, we'll have some more time to do things and see more people," Chizik said.
Also, about 1,000 tickets remain for Wednesday's game at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the Florida Citrus ticket office. Cost is $65.
GATOR: North Carolina State's T.A. McLendon has had to adjust to carrying the ball in his right hand, his normal procedure before breaking his wrist Sept.28.
Running backs coach Dick Portee has been close by McLendon in practice, reminding him to tuck the ball under his right arm, not his left, as he hits the line.
"It's like I'm starting all over again carrying the ball in my right hand," McLendon said. "I feel more comfortable carrying in my left hand than my right."
The Atlantic Coast Conference's leading rusher had 1,083 yards and 16 touchdowns despite wearing a cast for seven games on his right wrist and playing several others with separated shoulders.
INDEPENDENCE: Executive director Glen Krupica believes a one-day delay between Christmas and the Shreveport, La., game would benefit the bowl.
Even after a crowd of 40,712, with 46,096 paid, watched Mississippi upset Nebraska 27-23 Friday, Krupica believes Dec.27 was too close to Christmas for some fans, noting that Nebraska sold only half of its 12,000 allotted tickets.
"We think a day makes a big difference," Krupica said. "I think the date and time was a factor for Nebraska."
MUSIC CITY: Both coaches praised their small groups of seniors as Arkansas and Minnesota went through their final preparations on Sunday.
Both teams list six seniors among their offensive, defensive and special teams starters.
Glen Mason said his seniors are a big reason why Minnesota is playing in its third bowl game in four years. It's the first time the Gophers have accomplished that feat.
"This is a special group and I say that because we've been to three bowl games in four years and by some standards that might not be a big deal," Mason said at a press conference with both coaches. "By Minnesota standards it is a big deal. These kids came there when the thought of going to three bowl games in four years everybody laughed at that. These kids had enough guts and courage."
Minnesota faces No. 25 Arkansas on Monday at the Coliseum in Nashville in its eighth bowl game in school history. It's the first meeting between the two teams.
Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt had similar praise for the seniors who helped Nutt to his fifth bowl game in five years. Nutt thanked defensive captain Raymond House for holding the team together after a 3-3 start and the dismissal of senior lineman Jermaine Brooks the week before the Ole Miss game.
ORANGE: Starsky & Hutch went off the air in August 1979. But the word on the street is that Huggy Bear, the fashionably flamboyant police informant from that '70s cop show, will attend Thursday's game in Miami.
Yes, Huggy Bear Brown is back in town. But instead of wearing his floppy hat and street-wise eye shades, he'll wear a crimson Southern Cal T-shirt with No.25 -- in honor of his son, Trojans tailback Justin Fargas.
"People used to stop me and say, 'Aren't you Huggy Bear?"' Antonio Fargas said. "The only twist now is I'm getting a lot of 'Aren't you Justin Fargas' dad?' The Huggy Bear thing has sort of taken a secondary role."