TAMPA, Fla. -- A hotel shooting that left five people dead here Thursday afternoon was a brief scare for Georgia coach Jim Donnan and his Bulldogs.
A television reporter from Indianapolis phoned Donnan's hotel room at the downtown Hyatt Regency and asked the coach for comment on the shooting.
Donnan, who had been preoccupied with media functions that day, had not heard about the attack at the Radisson Bay Harbor hotel, where a housekeeper was charged with firing at co-workers.
The reporter told Donnan that he heard, from a television reporter in Orlando, that the shooting was at the Bulldogs' hotel, and it involved several players.
"That was news to me," Donnan said Friday in the final session with the media before this morning's Outback Bowl.
"I called our hotel security right away, and they told me there was nothing to that."
The Dogs are staying downtown; the shooting occurred across town at near the airport. According to The Tampa Tribune, at least 37 children and chaperons from Georgia attending the YouthLink 2000 religious celebration in Tampa are staying at the Radisson.
Georgia's senior offensive guard Steve Herndon is looking for redemption five years after leaving LaGrange, Ga.
Herndon and Purdue center Jim Niedrach played at rival high schools, Herndon at LaGrange High, Niedrach at Troup. Herndon figures Niedrach owes him a couple of wins.
"In my junior year, Jim's team beat us 19-17," Herndon said. "We caught a touchdown pass at the end of the game, but it was ruled incomplete. Then my senior year, we threw a touchdown pass to win the game with basically no time on the clock, and they called it back on an illegal chop block.
"Both years it was the last game of the season, and we thought we won them both but didn't on controversial calls."
YOUNG IN THE MIDDLE:
Purdue's best linebacker, sophomore Jason Loerzel, will miss today's game after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the season-ending Indiana game Nov. 20. Replacing him at middle linebacker will be freshman Joe Odom.
"Joe is our fastest linebacker, our most athletic linebacker," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "The only problem with Joe is that he's a freshman who still has a lot to learn. When you play a season, and now our 12th game, they're no longer freshmen. They're sophomores."
If it feels like today's game has more of a Purdue feel to it, it's because the Boilermakers sold more than 17,000 tickets. Conversely, the Dogs sold 7,100 tickets, about 900 short of their allotment.
Tiller likened Georgia's defense to Michigan State, and he considers that a compliment despite Purdue piling up 52 points and 568 total yards on the Spartans.
"They had an awful day against us," he said. "But they were pretty salty against everyone else. We weren't as good as we were that game, and they weren't as bad. It was one of those games where everything went right for us, and everything went wrong for them."
Tiller also compared Quincy Carter to Notre Dame quarterback Jarious Jackson. In the Irish's loss to Purdue, Jackson rushed and passed for a touchdown, and threw for 267 yards.
"I don't think Quincy's as heavy as Jackson, but they're both awfully similar with strong arms and the ability to run the football," Tiller said.
The forecast for today's game call for bright sunshine and 66-degree temperatures at kickoff.
Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.
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