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March 10, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; March 10, 2008 - A pair of Penn State's first team All-Big Ten performers have been named to the preliminary Watch List for the 39th Rotary Lombardi Award, presented by Wachovia.
Defensive end Maurice Evans (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and center A.Q. Shipley (Coraopolis) are among the candidates for the prestigious award, which is limited to down linemen and those defensive players who line up within five yards of the football.
Candidates earned a place on the preliminary Watch List by earning All-American honors or by being named to their respective all-conference first team as selected by the conference's head coaches in 2007. The Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List will be updated prior to the start of the 2008 season in order to identify those players who have been selected as pre-season honors candidates.
Penn State All-American Dan Connor was a Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalist in 2007. All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny was a finalist for the honor in 2005 and 2006.
In his first year as a starter, Evans recorded a sack in each of the first three games en route to first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and coaches. He was second in the conference in tackles for losses (No. 6 in nation) with 21.5 for minus-117 yards). He was third in the Big Ten in sacks in sacks (No. 8 in nation) with 12.5 for minus-94 yards. A finalist for the 2007 Ted Hendricks Defensive End Award, the quick and athletic Evans also was second in the Big Ten with five forced fumbles. For the season, he was fifth on the squad with 54 tackles (31 solo) and also had three pass breakups.
Evans delivered one of Penn State's most impressive individual defensive efforts in the Big Ten era in the critical win at Indiana to earn Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week accolades. He made six stops (five solo) and recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks for a loss of 36 yards. Evans made a total of 4.5 TFL (minus-38 yards) and forced two fumbles, one on a sack, which he picked up and returned 55 yards to the Indiana 13 to set up a field goal, losing a shoe as he chugged downfield. His other fumble hit also set up a fourth-quarter field goal and he broke up one pass.
A starter in all 25 games the past two seasons, Shipley anchors an offensive line that emerged as one of the squad's most consistently productive units in 2007. A hard-working leader for the offense, Shipley has used his skills and tenacity to become one the top offensive linemen in the Big Ten. The conference coaches recognized him as the 2007 first-team All-Big Ten center.
Shipley and the offensive line were instrumental in helping Rodney Kinlaw post the fourth 1,000-yard rushing season by a Nittany Lion in the past six years. Kinlaw's total of 1,326 yards was ninth-highest in school season history In the Nittany Lions' 24-17 victory over Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl, Shipley helped the Lions rack up a season-high 270 yards on the ground on 6.6 yards per play. A 2007 Rimington Award candidate, he also made his first career reception for four yards on a deflected pass. For his efforts, Shipley earned a spot on the ESPN.com All-Bowl Team.
Joe Paterno enters his 43rd season as head coach with 18 returning starters (8 defense, 8 offense, 2 specialists). Spring practice begins March 24 and the Blue-White Game is April 19, as part of the Gridiron Bash The Ultimate Fan Competition that will include a concert by Fergie on April 18, the first concert to be held in Beaver Stadium.
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).