SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Claiming that his absence Wednesday was due to miscommunication,

Anthony Morelli

appeared for Penn State's Alamo Bowl media session yesterday.

"I had plans to go to Sea World with the family, and I planned on coming today," the Nittany Lions quarterback said. "They wanted me here yesterday, and it just didn't work out. I'm here today, better late than never."

Morelli had been conspicuously absent since he last spoke to reporters after Penn State's 31-0 win over Temple on Nov. 10. He missed a conference call the following Wednesday and skipped postgame interviews after the Lions lost to Michigan State, 35-31, on Nov. 17. He was a no-show for Penn State's Alamo Bowl media day in State College on Dec. 13.

Morelli, a senior captain, has been a lightning rod for critics of his play over the last two seasons. He said he didn't see the public forum as an opportunity to respond to the hits he has taken from fans and reporters.

"You can take shots," Morelli said. "I don't need to come out and defend myself."

Considered a pro prospect despite reservations about his intangibles, Morelli said he would prepare for the NFL draft after tomorrow's game.

The hunter

While Morelli is typically tight-lipped with reporters, Texas A&M quarterback

Stephen McGee

has the gift of gab.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior provided the sound bites of the day.

On his nagging injuries:

"This is football. You don't sign up and not expect to get the crap knocked out of you every now and then. . . . If you don't like that, then you probably should go play basketball."

On his affinity for hunting:

"I'll go out and hunt anything that moves. I'm a big blaster, and I just let them have it. It's very relaxing for me."

Aside from unsuspecting animals, McGee poses problems for a Penn State defense that has had difficulties with dual-threat quarterbacks. McGee has thrown for 2,000 yards and leads the team in rushing with 858 yards on 173 carries.

"He's the toughest to play because he's not one-dimensional," Penn State linebacker Sean Lee said. "He can beat you a lot of ways."

Shorthanded

With starter

Chris Baker

and reserve

Tom McEowen

not in Texas for various reasons, the Lions are shorthanded at defensive tackle.

Starter Jared Odrick was also lost for the season when he suffered a broken ankle against Wisconsin on Oct. 13. That leaves only Phil Taylor, Ollie Ogbu and Abe Koroma to rotate up front.

"We're going to have to get by with the three guys," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.

- Jeff McLane