The divergent bowl seasons of the Big Ten and Pac-12 continues to rule the day as Penn State holds a 28-14 lead over Washington halfway through the Fiesta Bowl.
The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.
Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper.
Though Washington was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.
The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half.
McSorley closed the half hitting 18-of-24 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing six times for 26 yards, and Barkley added nine carries for 126 yards and two scores. The Nittany Lions racked up 367 yards of total offense (on 8.74 a play) with 15 first downs and 7-of-8 third-down conversions against a defense that averaged 277.4 yards (on 4.18 a play) while allowing just 16 first downs and 5.3 third-down conversions per game.
Browning completed 7-of-11 passes for a modest 67 yards while Gaskin led the Huskies with 17 yards on seven carries.
Washington will receive to open the second half.