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No. 14 Kentucky holds off rally by No. 12 Penn State for Citrus Bowl victory

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Despite a furious effort by Trace McSorley on a broken foot, No. 12 Penn State (9-4) was unable to dig out of a big hole in the second half as No. 14 Kentucky (10-3) celebrated a rare 10-win season with a 27-24 victory in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. A record-setting day by running back Benny Snell and a dominating performance by linebacker Josh Allen were key in the victory for the Wildcats.

Snell rushed for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead the charge. Kentucky’s offense was not a threat at all until the second half when Snell provided a much-needed charge after a tough first half. Kentucky bewildered Penn State to build a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, Trace McSorley was reportedly being taken out of the game with a broken foot. But just moments after that information was relayed by Penn State beat reporters following an update from a Penn State spokesperson, McSorley appeared to talk his way right back onto the field with Penn State down 20-7. That drive did not last long and it did not end well for McSorley as he tossed up an interception to Lonnie Johnson, who returned the football to the Kentucky 34-yard line. After a quick 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden Jr., Snell rushed up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run to push Kentucky’s lead to 27-7.

The touchdown run by Snell also set the new Kentucky career rushing record. Snell passed the previous school record held by Sonny Collins, who held the record of 3,835 career rushing yards for 44 years in Lexington.

But after going down 27-7, McSorley and Penn State somehow came to life. Penn State scored on a short McSorley run early in the fourth quarter and McSorley completed a touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Kentucky lead to 27-20. Nearly five minutes later, Penn State settled for a field goal by Jake Pinegar to trim the lead to three points for Kentucky rather than take a chance on a fourth down play. Kentucky would drain the clock on the ensuing possession with Snell handling things on the ground and forcing Penn State to use their three timeouts. The Wildcats did have to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions, with one second left on the clock after a punt.

This was Kentucky’s first time winning 10 games in a single season since 1977. The goal of hitting the 10-win mark was not one taken lightly by Kentucky either, as the Wildcats were extremely motivated to do something rarely done in this program’s history. It was part of the reason why a player like linebacker Josh Allen, with all the hardware to show off and nothing more to prove, decided to play in the bowl game when the trend is for potential first-round draft prospects to sit out of what many consider to be a meaningless bowl game. But this wasn’t a meaningless bowl for the Wildcats. This was a bar the team wanted to clear, and now they have.

What does it mean moving forward? For Mark Stoops, the bar has been set and now he must continue to work recruiting and player development to ensure there isn’t a dropoff in 2019. Doing so may prove to be difficult, but the Kentucky football program has been taking small steps forward every season under Stoops and it reached new heights this season. In a division that is already pretty challenging and could potentially get tougher, Kentucky does not look like it might be ready to start taking backseats in the division mix just yet.

Penn State falls shy of winning 10 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1980-1982.

No. 12 Penn State and Trace McSorley end season on winning note and block Maryland from bowl berth

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No. 12 Penn State (9-3, 6-3) ended their regular season on a very positive note, one the Nittany Lions hope will be enough to receive an invite back to a New Years Six bowl game in a couple of weeks. Penn State’s 38-3 win against Maryland (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) saw the senior class go out in winning fashion and brought an official close to the year for the Terrapins. Maryland needed a win in order to become eligible for a postseason bowl berth this year.

Playing in his final home game for Penn State, senior quarterback Trace McSorley made the most of it by becoming the school’s all-time leader in completions and adding his 21st career game with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game. Mcsorley passed the previous school record for most all-time completions set by Christian Hackenberg in the first half and continued to rack up completions to go over 700 for his career. Mcsorley rushed for two touchdowns in the first half and threw his first and only touchdown pass of the game in the fourth quarter to tight end Pat Freiermuth. McSorley finished the day with 230 passing yards without an interception and 64 rushing yards with three total touchdowns before Tommy Stevens entered the game to relieve the Penn State starter.

Maryland’s offense appeared to have run out of steam after last week’s game at home against Ohio State. Anthony McFarland was limited to just 12 yards on six carries a week after a career day. Maryland’s entire running game was held down well by Penn State. The Terps had just 70 rushing yards in the game. Quarterback Tyrell Pigrome picked up just 13 rushing yards and was without a touchdown in the game. Penn State doubled the total offensive production of Maryland, 560-255 as well. It just appeared as though Maryland was out of gas on the road at the end of an emotionally exhausting season, and Penn State playing at home was a bad matchup for that to be the case.

Penn State will now sit and wait to see just what their bowl outlook may look like. Penn State began the week ranked just high enough to be eligible for consideration for an at-large bid to a New Years Six bowl game, but a handful of results this week could pose a threat to the possibility Penn State could play in a New Years Six bowl game (Washington State and Michigan losing), although a clearer picture should be painted on Tuesday night when the next College Football Playoff selection committee rankings are released. Penn State should still be in a spot for consideration, but it is a bit more clouded at the moment. If Penn State misses out on a New Years Six bowl game, the Nittany Lions could still be playing on January 1 with a spot in the Citrus Bowl a strong possibility if passed over for an at-large invitation. Ohio State being selected for the College Football Playoff could help Penn State’s case as Michigan would head to the Rose Bowl in the Big Ten’s tied-in spot.

While Penn State awaits its bowl fate, Maryland will continue to figure out just what happens next with the program. Matt Canada remains the interim coach as the program will now be able to focus on a coaching search to name a new permanent head coach. Despite the loss to Penn State, Canada should be among the list of candidates Maryland interviews for the job unless the school decided to wipe the slate completely clean of the DJ Durkin era and start over. Maryland’s 2019 season will begin on August 31, 2019 with a home game against Howard, followed by a home date against Syracuse.

Michigan flexing on Penn State, pitching shutout in Big House

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When on the road against a top five team, you simply cannot make as many mistakes as Penn State did in the first half against Michigan. As a result, Penn State finds themselves trailing the Wolverines 14-0 in Ann Arbor, and it doesn’t really feel that close of a game. Failures on third downs, penalties, questionable coaching decisions and an inability to take advantage of opportunities have burned Penn State after one half, while Michigan continues to stick to their identity of power running and defense to hold the upper hand.

Penn State came out swinging on the first play of the game with Trace McSorley completing a 25-yard pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth to get the Nittany Lions to midfield, but back-to-back sacks by Chase Winovich and Josh Uche forced Penn State to punt the ball from their own 36-yard line. Penn State also had to burn a timeout on the punt too.

Karan Higdon then went to work on the ground, carrying the ball on each of Michigan’s first three plays with gains of one, 10, and 50 to get into the red zone. Quarterback Shea Patterson would be the player to get the Wolverines on the board a few plays later with a keeper off to the left side of the line.

Penn State appeared to create a great opportunity early in the second quarter with a blocked field goal attempt by former Penn State commitment Quinn Nordin. A return for a touchdown was taken off the board due to nullifying chop block penalties by Michigan and Penn State, but the Nittany Lions took over at the 35-yard line and quickly advanced to midfield following a pass interference penalty on the Wolverines. But one play later, McSorley and running back Miles Sanders had confusion on a handoff and Winovich pounced on a fumbled ball out of McSorley’s hands.

Michigan stuck with their running game to do most of the damage from there and Patterson ended a 10-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to an open Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 14-0 lead.

Penn State didn’t pick up a third down conversion until the final two and a half minutes of the second quarter. At that point, Michigan held Penn State to -2 rushing yards while the Wolverines had 122 yards on the ground in the first half. Later in the half, Penn State appeared to be threatening to at least get some point son the scoreboard before halftime, but a missed wide open pass by McSorley to his intended receiver (DeAndre Thompkins) for an easy touchdown was followed by a sack on third down by Jordan Glasgow to move the ball well out of field goal position.

Michigan appears to be in great shape at the half, but Penn State is not buried just yet. If the Wolverines continue to pound away though, they could walk away with a big win against Penn State.

Trace McSorley injured as Penn State tied with Iowa at halftime

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Penn State got off to a messy start to the game and lost starting quarterback Trace McSorley to an apparent leg injury early in the second quarter for a brief period of time. All things considered, being tied Iowa at home 17-17 could have been worse. The Hawkeyes have scored two safeties on special teams and had a punter throw a touchdown pass to a defensive lineman as the Hawkeyes are trying to scratch out a key road win.

Penn State punter Blake Gillkin failed to get a hold of the football on the fourth play of the game and had his scrambling punt attempt blocked. The ball sailed back toward the end zone behind Gillikin and wiggled out of bounds for a quick 2-0 Iowa lead, and the Hawkeyes added a field goal on their first offensive possession minutes later.

With Penn State’s offense having trouble getting anything going, Iowa would keep the scoring going in an unorthodox fashion. On fourth down, Iowa tried their luck with a trick play to keep Penn State guessing and it paid off with punter and holder Colten Rasetetter completing a 10-yard touchdown pass to defensive tackle Sam Brincks.

Down 12-0, Penn State answered the call with a solid offensive drive. Trace Mcsorley completed a fourth-down pass to Jahan Dotson for a gain of 18 when they needed three form the Iowa 33-yard line, and one play later McSorley capped the 10-play, 85-yard drive with a touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth in the back of the end zone to get the Nittany Lions on the board before the close of the first quarter.

McSorley was knocked out of the game early in the second quarter at the end of a run. Tommy Stevens took over the offense at quarterback an led the Nittany Lions to a game-tying touchdown on a short one-play three-yard possession following a big interception return by John Reid. Mcsorley headed to the locker room before the end of the half, even though Penn State got the ball back on offense for one last drive. We’ll see what his status is for the second half.

Get ready for a messy second half. It wouldn’t be Penn State vs. Iowa if it wasn’t.

No. 4 Ohio State rallies from two double-digit deficits to beat No. 9 Penn State

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On a night when its offense struggled to get going and its defense lacked for answers, No. 4 Ohio State overcame a record crowd and a record night from Trace McSorley to rally back from two double-digit deficits to stun No. 9 Penn State, 27-26.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) were out-gained by 100 yards and trailed 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but Dwayne Haskins tossed two late touchdown passes, engineering a 96-yard game-winning touchdown drive, to give Ohio State a crucial win in the Big Ten East race and the inside track to returning to the College Football Playoff.

After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a spectacular 31-yard gain, taking the ball from the Ohio State 48 to the 17.

But a gadget play to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens lost 13 yards on the next snap, and so the Nittany Lions (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) settled for a 34-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State was moved in prime territory to take control of the game when McSorley dashed for a career-long 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the march sputtered and Pinegar’s 46-yard field goal hooked wide left.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28. Once again with a great chance to take control of the game, Penn State again couldn’t muster anything more than a glancing blow. The Nittany Lions could not gain a first down, and Pinegar’s 39-yard field goal pushed the lead to 6-0.

Though the offense couldn’t get anything going, Drue Chrisman tilted the game to Ohio State’s advantage with a pair of booming punts — a 44-yarder to pin the Nittany Lions to their own 12, and then a 58-yarder to the 2.

Pinned near their own end zone, it appeared Penn State was ready to give Ohio State good field position when facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 7, but it was then that the Nittany Lions finally landed a knockdown punch — a slant to freshman K.J. Hamler who outraced the Buckeyes’ defense and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Penn State’s first third down conversion of the night.

Penn State forced Ohio State into a third consecutive three-and-out with 2:32 to go before the break, but a critical mistake allowed the Buckeyes back in the game. Miles Sanders coughed up the ball after being hit by Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland, and the Buckeyes’ Dre’Mont Jones hopped on the ball at the Penn State 25.

The Buckeyes finally got on the board two plays later when Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a screen pass, who carried it 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go before the break.

Ohio State took the ball to open the second half and sliced down the field, moving 75 yards in 13 plays to grab the lead, and it seemed like Haskins and company were finally back on track. It especially seemed that way on the following drive when Ohio State penetrated to the Penn State 16, but the Nittany Lions forced a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal, but that score was wiped off the board due to a face mask call and Nuernberger’s ensuing 48-yard try was no good.

The teams traded three-and-outs over their next two possessions until Penn State moved from its own 38 to the Ohio State 24, when Franklin eschewed another Pinegar field goal to try a 4th-and-1, but Chase Young batted down McSorley’s pass, and Ohio State’s 14-13 lead held heading into the fourth quarter.

But Penn State forced a three-and-out and McSorley then found Hamler again for a 36-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 from the Ohio State 30 — and a targeting call on Isaiah Pryor tacked on another 15 yards, moving the Nittany Lions into the red zone. McSorley covered the final 15 yards, first on a 13-yard keeper and then a 2-yard toss to tight end Pat Freiermuth, see-sawing Penn State back in front 20-14 with 12:22 remaining.

Ohio State moved near midfield on the ensuing possession, and Urban Meyer elected to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Penn State 48, and a Haskins keeper was stuffed. McSorley then covered 49 of the required 51 yards to put the Lions on the doorstep, and a 1-yard Sanders rush put Penn State back up two scores with eight minutes to play.

That 12-point lead was short-lived, though, as two Haskins completions and a pass interference penalty put Ohio State back at midfield and then Binjimen Victor, normally a possession receiver, bobbed and weaved through the Penn State secondary for a 47-yard score, pulling the Buckeyes within five with 6:42 to play.

McSorley again scrambled Penn State into Ohio State territory, but the drive stalled and Penn State punted, pinning Ohio State at its own 4 with 4:35 to play. That field position was short lived; a Dobbins screen for 35 yards put Ohio State near the 40, and gains of 11 and 14 yards pushed the Buckeyes near the 30, setting up a go-head scoring toss from Haskins to K.J. Hill from 24 yards out. Haskins’s 2-point try sailed high, and Ohio State led 27-26 with 2:03 to go.

Armed with three timeouts, Penn State moved to the Ohio State 43, when, after a sack, McSorley gained nine yards on a 3rd-and-14 to set up a decisive 4th-and-5 with 1:22 to play. A total of three timeouts were called before the play, and Greg Schiano won the chess match when the Buckeyes baited McSorley, who set a school record with 461 yards of total offense, into handing the ball off to Sanders, who was stuffed behind the line by Young to complete the comeback.

Haskins closed the night hitting 22-of-39 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Dobbins and Weber combined to gain 174 yards on 29 total touches. McSorley, meanwhile, completed 16-of-32 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 25 times for 175 yards, a school record for a modern-day Penn State quarterback.

The Buckeyes will now be heavily favored in every game through the rest of the regular season, while Penn State will need Ohio State to lose twice to move atop the Big Ten East.