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SYRACUSE VS. KENTUCKY HAS LOST ITS STAR POWER

Kentucky vs. Syracuse looks like a bowl matchup that's a year too late.

When the Wildcats (6-5) took the field today against Syracuse (6-5) in the Music City Bowl (4 p.m., ESPN), the quarterbacks involved were Dusty Bonner and either Troy Nunes or Madei Williams.

Not Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb.

Replacing players who went first and second overall in the NFL draft is never easy. But unlike Syracuse, Kentucky coach Hal Mumme found Couch's replacement quickly, and his offense hasn't missed a beat.

"We're real proud of Dusty," Mumme said. "I think somebody wrote about him late in the year that 'Could anybody replace Tim Couch with more class?' and I think that really adequately describes Dusty."

The sophomore turned what was supposed to be a rebuilding year into Kentucky's second straight bowl game. He completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 3,266 yards and 26 touchdowns and led the Southeastern Conference in total offense.

Syracuse didn't get similar production.

Coach Paul Pasqualoni never settled on one quarterback, splitting the work between Nunes and Williams. The Orangemen subsequently finished with an offense that ranked 80th in the nation with 335.8 yards.

Pasqualoni wasn't expected to name his starter for the Music City Bowl until just before kickoff.

Playing in the Music City Bowl is a drop from the Bowl Championship Series games the Orangemen played in the past two seasons. But the Orangemen are trying to salvage their worst season since 1986, especially since they haven't won a bowl game since the 1996 Liberty Bowl.

"It's as big a game for us as it would be for anybody," Pasqualoni said. "Our team is going to be hungry to play in this game."

Nittany Lions drill Aggies

SAN ANTONIO -- Jerry Sandusky is history at Penn State, and LaVar Arrington might be.

Penn State's long-time defensive coordinator and his star linebacker didn't disappoint in what might have been the final game for both men with the Nittany Lions.

No. 13 Penn State defeated No. 18 Texas A&M, 24-0, in the Alamo Bowl on Tuesday night.

"It seemed like a Hollywood script," said Arrington, a junior All-American who might make himself available for the NFL draft. "It's too bad it's too late to show what we had -- but better late than never."

Randy McCown of Texas A&M was 13-for-22 for 105 passing yards, but threw four interceptions, matching the career high he threw in a loss to Nebraska this season. McCown was sacked three times and was pressured by Arrington on three of his interceptions.

Penn State (10-3) started the season 9-0, achieved a No. 2 ranking and hoped for a shot a national title. But the Lions finished the regular season by losing their last three games.

Instead of playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Penn State was bound for San Antonio and trying to avoid the first four-game losing streak of coach Joe Paterno's 34-year tenure.

After more than 30 years as an assistant to Paterno, the 55-year-old Sandusky is retiring. Sandusky coached nine All-Americans and was instrumental in getting Penn State known as "Linebacker U."

"I'm happy for them," Sandusky said after Penn State managed its first shutout this season. "This is the best defensive team with the worst breaks, so I'm happy for them. As far as I'm concerned, it's been a fantastic ride. I told them that today -- this is for you guys."

Around the nation

Washington's versatile junior quarterback, Marques Tuiasosopo, gets to showcase his talents tonight against the nation's second-stingiest defense. Tuiasosopo -- who on Oct. 30 became college football's first 300-200 player (302 passing yards, 207 rushing) -- leads the Huskies (7-4) against Kansas State (10-1) in the Holiday Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN) in San Diego.

Kenny Kelly was named the University of Miami's starting quarterback, then told reporters "It's a shock to me." Kelly will lead No. 23 UM (8-4) against No. 17 Georgia Tech (8-3) in Saturday's Gator Bowl. Coach Butch Davis said Kelly and freshman Ken Dorsey will play.

Alabama coach Mike DuBose was given a two-year contract extension, five months after he was nearly fired in a sexual harassment scandal. DuBose is to sign the contract in Miami, where he is preparing for Saturday's Orange Bowl.

Oregon State football player Charles O'Neal, who was stabbed in Waikiki after playing in the Oahu Bowl, has check of a hospital in Hawaii and was to return to the mainland today.

Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin was able to take a few snaps in practice Tuesday as he recovers from a viral infection. The Vols face No. 3 Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl on Sunday.

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