It was a day for killing time. As Penn State's last opponent
before an Oct. 15 appointment with Michigan -- a matchup that would
most likely decide the Big Ten title -- Temple was really just so
much filler. And though Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno and Ron
Dickerson, the Owls' coach who had been an assistant under Paterno
from 1985 to '90, still shared a friendship, their teams were
operating in different football orbits.
There was, in fact, just one moment against Temple when the Lions
fell briefly to Earth. On a drive late in the second quarter, Penn
State tailback Ki-Jana Carter caught a nine-yard pass from Kerry
Collins and lunged toward the sideline. ''I was trying to stop the
clock,'' Carter said later. ''Right away I knew I was hurt.'' He had
landed on his right thumb. Team doctors tried to push the dislocated
digit back into place, but, said Carter, ''it just wouldn't go
anywhere.'' He was taken to Temple University Hospital, where minor
surgery repaired the thumb.
Meanwhile, back at ancient Franklin Field, Penn State easily
filled the void left by Carter's departure. The Lions had been
leading 20-12 when Carter went out; they went on to win 48-21,
rolling up 596 yards for the game. To replace Carter at tailback,
Penn State called on Mike Archie and Stephen Pitts, either of whom
would start for most teams.
Penn State's leading rusher on the day, however, was not a
tailback. Junior fullback Brian Milne ran for 63 yards on five
carries and scored a touchdown -- unspectacular accomplishments, it
would seem, until you consider that Milne's mere presence on the
field was a small miracle.
After rushing for 2,430 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior at
Fort LeBoeuf High in Waterford, Pa., Milne was told that he had
Hodgkin's disease. Ordinarily, doctors would have cracked open his
sternum to remove the grapefruit-sized tumor they found in his chest,
but Milne and his parents requested an alternative procedure. ''My
mom asked the doctor if he could cut horizontally through the muscle
and tissue instead of vertically through the bone,'' Milne says. ''We
were asking the doctors to save my life but at the same time to limit
my recovery time so I could start working out.''
He missed his senior season of football while recovering from
chemotherapy, but in the spring he was well enough to throw the
discus and put the shot for the track team -- and win state titles in
both events. Penn State redshirted him for the 1991 football season,
and after finishing 12th in the discus at the '92 Olympic trials,
Milne took the '92 football season off to concentrate on track and
field (he won the NCAA discus title). In the fall of '93 he rushed
for 94 yards as a backup fullback, and by 1994 he had become a
reliable short-yardage runner and a crushing blocker whose work
regularly brought down the house during film sessions.
His comeback was amazing to everybody but Milne, who said, ''I
never doubted that I'd be back.''
This is an article from the Jan. 18, 1995 issue