Morelli OnLion: Morelli’s Collegiate Career

With confetti littering the turf at the Alamodome, Anthony Morelli strolled across the artificial surface playing air guitar and popping balloons.

Finally, the big guy could take a deep breath and relax.

His Penn State career was over.

So did the Penn Hills High School product live up to the hype of being one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation? When he spurned his hometown Pitt Panthers for Penn State, Nittany Nation rejoiced.

Now, much of Nittany Nation is rejoicing because Morelli is headed out the door.

So what will Morelli’s legacy at Penn State be? Will he be remembered for failures against Big Ten powerhouses? During his time as a starter, he was a combined 1-5 against Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Or, will he be remembered for quarterbacking the Nittany Lions to a pair of bowl victories? Morelli was 2-0 as a starter in bowl games, a fact that many of his detractors fail to mention.

Will he be remembered for making the big touchdown throws? None was bigger than the one he made to Deon Butler in the Alamo Bowl. Or will he be remembered for bad turnovers, like the three interceptions and fumble at Illinois?

When you look at the sheer statistics, it’s hard to deem Morelli’s collegiate career anything but a success.

He leaves Happy Valley with 5,275 passing yards and 31 career touchdown passes. He is the lone Penn State quarterback to throw for over 2,000 yards twice in his career.

The Penn State coaching staff often praised Morelli’s work ethic. Much like he has with most of his quarterbacks, coach Joe Paterno stood by him through thick and thin. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno has said that Morelli never got the credit he deserved when the Nittany Lions put one in the win column.

Maybe what Morelli needed, more than anything, was a good public relations person.

By not showing his face at postgame news conferences following losses, by not showing up on conference calls during game week following a tough loss, Morelli didn’t exactly endear himself to the media. That results in negative ink. And even if JoePa doesn’t read the newspapers, fans do. It has a trickle-down effect.

The Alamo Bowl was the perfect chance for Morelli to set the record straight. He hadn’t spoken with the media since the gut-wrenching loss at Michigan State. He didn’t attend the postgame news conference and didn’t come to bowl media day on Dec. 13. Then, he didn’t show for the offensive players’ press conference the Wednesday before the Alamo Bowl. On Dec. 27, he did appear, saying that the whole thing was a mix-up and he was at Sea World when he should have been meeting with the media.

Dressed in cargo shorts and Penn State hoodie, Morelli sat on a small stage. As reporters came and went, Morelli was relaxed as he chatted about his Penn State career.

The most interesting thing to come out of the session was the fact that Morelli wished he had another year in blue and white.

“I do. I wish I had another year. I’m not gonna lie,” Morelli said. “I would love to come back and play another year at Penn State. It would have been the perfect situation.”

Perhaps Morelli is right. With another year, maybe the offense would have clicked better. Morelli would have been a senior alongside Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood.

Morelli lost the opportunity to redshirt, you’ll remember, during the

2004 and 2005 seasons. In 2004, he threw just 13 passes. In 2005, he threw 20. Many believed that Morelli should have been redshirted during one of those two seasons.

But it never materialized.

Morelli stopped short of criticizing Paterno for burning his redshirt.

“It was the head man, the boss,” Morelli said. “He makes all the calls and whatever he says, goes. At that time, in his mind, it was the right decision. So I went with it.”

Those 33 passes were costly. And all things being equal, Morelli wished that he had just sat and watched one of those two seasons.

“(Paterno) kept telling me that I was going to get a little more here and there. I kinda looked forward to that. Things didn’t work out as planned. I just had to kinda go with it and do what he said,” Morelli said.

In the end, though, maybe losing the redshirt wasn’t such a bad thing.

Can you imagine another season of Morelli? The boos would have only gotten louder.

Perhaps what hurt Morelli the most was the fact that he had to follow in the footsteps of the dynamic Michael Robinson, who was a big-time winner in his lone season as the starting QB. Robinson was also great with the media and fans. He was savvy. He was smooth. Let’s face it

— it was a tough act to follow.

Many forget that Robinson had some early-season struggles in 2005, but the Nittany Lions won those games. They still lost at Michigan and the

’05 win over Ohio State had more to do with defense than with offense.

So what is Morelli’s legacy? Is he a winner? A loser? A great quarterback? An average one?

His legacy may not be determined until several seasons from now, when we can look back and reflect properly.

Until then, Morelli’s legacy will remain undefined.

What will fans remember the most about Anthony Morelli?
(Photo courtesy of Blue White Illustrated)

Basketball Roundup
The Penn State men’s and women’s basketball teams are off to flying starts in conference play.

First, let’s hit the men. The Nittany Lions defeated Northwestern

(79-68) last week and then took down Illinois (68-64) on Sunday afternoon. In addition to a 2-0 start in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions won both games away from the Bryce Jordan Center, which has not been easy in recent seasons. Geary Claxton was named Big 10 Player of the Week, although the honor could have easily gone to teammate Jamelle Cornley.

Penn State is now 11-4 overall and 2-0 in the conference. Not a bad start. Let’s see if the Nittany Lions can maintain it. They have a huge game with Minnesota coming up on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Lady Lions got over the hump as well, winning In front of a national television audience. Playing on CBS on Saturday afternoon, the Lady Lions ended their road drought in style.

Brianne O’Rourke paced Penn State with 23 points to lead PSU to the mild upset in front of 11,245 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

It was the first time Penn State had won a road game in the conference since Jan. 22, 2006

— a 91-48 thumping of the Wildcats at Northwestern.

It was a long time coming for the Lady Lions who improved to 11-4 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten.

Washington said that preparation for the game was key.

“I thought it was critical coming into the game. We talked about it a lot,” Washington said. “We really wanted to push ten-fold. We wanted to get out and score in transition. We played four guards, and one way we can get the easy shots is to score in transition. So that was definitely a focal point of our preparation.”

Last week, the Lady Lions hung on for a wild 49-48 win over Illinois at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State is 11-4, 2-1 in the Big Ten.

Brianne O’Rourke and the Lady Lions picked up a big road win on Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of Blue White Illustrated).

Pataky Update
Penn State Nittany Lion and Clearfield product Brad Pataky will seek an Olympic redshirt this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s been out of action. Pataky continues to build on his freestyle success, something he’s been doing over the past two years.

So far this year, Pataky has competed in two events

the Sunkist Open and the NYAC Open. At the Sunkist Open, Pataky took sixth while competing at 55kg (121 pounds). At the NYAC Open, Pataky claimed fourth place. He racked up a 4-2 record on his way to the consolation finals. There, he dropped a close bout to former Penn State grappler Adam Smith.

Pataky, of course, was a starter for Penn State during the 2005-06 season and went 15-8 including a 6-2 mark in dual meets and a 2-1 record in the Big Ten.



In addition writing for gantdaily.com, Chris Morelli is the editor of Blue White Illustrated, a magazine devoted to Penn State sports. He is also a regular on “Front and Center,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com.

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