The defense was apparently optional in this year’s Cotton Bowl Classic. In the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl in the history fo the game, No. 10 Penn State put the finishing touches on its second New Years Six bowl win in three years by holding off No. 17 Memphis in a wild 53-39 victory on Saturday.
Penn State got a terrific performance out of First Team All-American linebacker Micah Parsons, who was just everywhere in the game, and the defense caused a couple of key turnovers to help counterbalance a strong showing by the Memphis offense. Brady White passed for 479 yards but failed to throw a touchdown and was picked off twice by the Nittany Lions, with one being returned for a touchdown by Garrett Taylor.
Penn State had the decided advantage on the ground with its running game. As a team, Penn State rushed for 390 yards with everyone contributing. Journey Brown led the charge with 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Noah Cain added 92 yards and two more touchdowns. Ricky Slade added 57 yards and Devyn Ford scored a touchdown. Sean Clifford didn’t have a great passing day but did rush for 28 yards on a day he was sacked a number of times.
Penn State and Memphis combined for 84 points to set the record for the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl. Penn State’s 53 points is also a school record for most points scored in a bowl game. The previous record was 50 points in the Holiday Bowl in 1989 against BYU.
Memphis kicker Riley Patterson turned in a record-setting performance, and not just for the Cotton Bowl. Ferguson’s six field goals is a new national college bowl game record. Memphis certainly had the ball moving on Penn State’s defense throughout the game but had to rely on the foot of Ferguson a few too many times as drives stalled.
The Cotton Bowl victory improves James Franklin to 2-1 in New Years Six bowl games in the last four seasons and evens Franklin’s bowl record at Penn State at 3-3.
Penn State will open the 2020 season at home on Sept. 5 against Kent State. Memphis will begin its 2020 season on the same day with a home game against Arkansas State.