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Couch perfects coach's plan

The fact that Kentucky quarterback coach Chris Hatcher played for Hal Mumme at Division II Valdosta State (1991-94) certainly hasn't hurt.

In Mumme's wide-open passing attack, Hatcher completed 1,047 of 1,529 passes for 11,363 yards and 121 touchdowns, and was named the Division II player of the year in 1994.

At Kentucky the past two years, Hatcher has guided QB Tim Couch to some more gaudy numbers: 763 completions in 1,100 attempts for 8,559 yards and 73 touchdowns.

"Having played in the offense helps so much," Hatcher said. "You just can't get that type of knowledge if you hadn't played in the offense, which is almost exactly the same as we had at Valdosta State."

As for Couch, Hatcher said, "Tim picked up this offense right away," and then he jokingly added, "Now I just don't mess him up."

MUMME ON PATERNO: A few years ago Mumme went to a coaching clinic in Georgia where Joe Paterno was a featured guest.

That's where Mumme, then the coach at Valdosta State, was immediately impressed with the Lions' legendary leader.

"I'm sure Joe doesn't remember me from that meeting," Mumme said. "But the thing I remember was that he would look you in the eye and talk to you as if you were Bobby Bowden. He was just a great guy."

Mumme remembered asking Paterno about smoothing out the logistics of travel, which Mumme was having some trouble with at the time.

"You know, Joe has an incredible combination of class, persistence and longevity," Mumme said. "If there's a genius in this sport it's how to obtain longevity. It's tough to stay in one place as long as he has and still have everybody love you."

The Outback Bowl will be Paterno's 29th bowl game in his 33 years as coach at Penn State. He has won 18 of those games, the most for any coach. He also has guided the Nittany Lions to eight straight New Year's Day bowl games, second only to Florida State.

This is Mumme's first bowl game at Kentucky in only his second year at the helm.

"I'm going to get (Paterno's) autograph before the game," Mumme said, joking. "The guy's a legend."

BROOKS' DAY: Bucs LB Derrick Brooks implored players from Penn State and Kentucky to remember to give back to the community at an Outback Bowl function on Wednesday.

Brooks received the Tampa Tribune People's Champion Award, given out annually to bay area athletes who exemplify the spirit of giving to the community. Past award winners include Tino Martinez, Fred McGriff and Pete Sampras.

In a spirited speech that ended in a standing ovation, Brooks reminded the players gathered to "get involved with youths and anyone you feel is at risk."

The two-time Pro Bowl player told the players that giving back to the community should be looked at not as "an honor, but as an obligation. . . . You don't have to be a pro athlete to give back. I did it in college and no one even knew about it. The intensity you see me with on the field is the same intensity I take to sit down with a kid and find out what's the problem."

WAIT 'TIL THIS YEAR: With no national championship on the line and with competition at several positions, it would be easy for Paterno to think about next season. But Paterno said he will not look at another quarterback or try younger players against Kentucky.

"I've found you can't really do that," Paterno said. "You have to prepare your team for the bowl game, you can't worry about next year until next year."

_ SCOTT PURKS, ROGER MILLS,

RODNEY PAGE

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