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Jan. 27, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., - Two-time All-America linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford) made a game-high nine tackles and grabbed an interception in a superb performance in Saturday's 59th Senior Bowl.
Florida's Andre Caldwell scored on a the final play of the game to the lift the South to a 17-16 win over the North at The Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Penn State's career tackle leader with 419, Connor was presented the Under Armour Award, symbolic of the overall North MVP. He was a strong candidate for game MVP honors until the South's game-winning drive in the final minutes. Connor made five solo stops among his nine tackles.
Connor made a big play to set-up the game's first score. On the South's first possession of the game, he intercepted a Colt Brennan press at the South 40, returning the ball four yards. On the next play, Chad Henne connected on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins to give the North a 7-0 lead just 3:00 into the game.
The 2007 Bednarik Award winner, Connor was the 13th Nittany Lion to play in the Senior Bowl in the past five years. In 2007, Penn State standouts Levi Brown, Tony Hunt and Paul Posluszny played in the game, with Hunt earning MVP honors. Former Nittany Lion All-American Larry Johnson was MVP of the 2003 Senior Bowl.
Connor led the Nittany Lion defense to top 15 national rankings in rushing (No. 7, 93.8 ypg), scoring (No. 7, 17.5 ppg) and total defense (No. 11, 308.2 ypg), as well as No. 2 in sacks (46) and No. 10 in tackles for losses (102). Penn State, Ohio State and USC were the only teams to finish in the top 15 in all five categories. A finalist for the 2007 Butkus Award, Connor and the Nittany Lion defense held seven teams to 17 points or less this past season, including a 24-17 win over Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Connor posted nine tackles vs. the Aggies to finish the 2007 season with 145 stops, the second-highest season mark in Penn State history behind All-American Greg Buttle's 165 in 1974. The former Strath Haven High School All-American also had one tackle for loss vs. Texas A&M and ended his career with 34, tied for the 12th best mark at Penn State with Posluszny. Connor was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week four times in his outstanding career.
Connor graduated in December.
Joe Paterno enters his 43rd season as head coach with 19 returning starters (9 defense, 8 offense, 2 specialists). During the 2008 campaign, the Nittany Lions will face eight teams that played in bowl games this past year, including five at home: Oregon State (Sept. 6), Illinois (Sept. 27), Michigan (Oct. 18-Homecoming), Indiana (Nov. 15) and Michigan State (Nov. 22).
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