Damonte Coxie

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CFT Previews: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

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WHO: No. 10 Penn State (10-2) vs. No. 17 Memphis (12-1)
WHAT: The 84th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
WHEN: December 28th at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
THE SKINNY: Penn State and Memphis will clash for the first time in the Cotton Bowl Classic in the home of the Dallas Cowboys Saturday afternoon. James Franklin is leading Penn State into his third New Year’s Six bowl game in four seasons and is looking to even his bowl record at Penn State. His opponent is the Group of Five representative this season, the American Athletic Conference champion.

Memphis will be playing its first game under new head coach Ryan Silverfield. Silverfield was given the permanent job of head coach shortly after Mike Norvell left the program to take the head coaching job at Florida State after coaching the Tigers to the AAC championship. Despite the coaching change, don’t expect Memphis to change things up now the way this offense has been rolling. With Brady White at quarterback (3,560 yards, 33 touchdowns, 9 interceptions), a pair of scoring weapons at wide receiver in Damonte Coxie (1,144 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Antonio Gibson (636 yards, 8 touchdowns) and breakout freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell (1,425 yards, 12 touchdowns), the AAC champions have the right mix of players to give Penn State’s defense some trouble. Expect Memphis to try emulating the success Minnesota and Indiana had early against the Nittany Lions with long touchdown drives early in the game.

Penn State’s defense will be the best Memphis has seen this season though, especially up front. Micah Parsons, the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and a first-team All-American, anchors the defense, and Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney lead the push along the line. If they do get off to a tough start, they will eventually get in a groove and take control of things just as they have done all season long.

Penn State’s offense has gone through some highs and lows this season, but the running game should be a strength. Journey Brown has emerged as the leading back, and Noah Cain could get back in the mix. But Penn State will need quarterback Sean Clifford to get in a rhythm as he returns to the field for the Nittany Lions for the first time since leaving the Ohio State game in the third quarter. Having reliable tight end Pat Freiermuth and speedy receiver KJ Hamler as options certainly helps and could be the difference in the game.

This Cotton Bowl has a chance to be sneaky-good, with Penn State and Memphis playing a close one going into the fourth quarter. But Penn State’s defense will find ways to make some key stops and allow the Nittany Lions to claw their way to a second New Year’s Six bowl victory in three seasons.

THE LINE: Memphis, +7
THE PICK:
Penn State 34, Memphis 20

Turnovers by No. 23 Memphis fuel Temples upset bid in Philly; Owls up 23-14

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Three turnovers in the first quarter by No. 23 Memphis was not a part of the gameplan this afternoon in Philadelphia, but Temple has gladly taken advantage of the free possessions. The Owls own a 23-14 lead on the Tigers in a crossover division matchup in the American Athletic Conference. Temple has scored nine points off three Memphis turnovers.

Temple’s defense came out of the gates ready to set the tone by forcing an early punt on the opening drive of the game by Memphis. Jager Gardner gave Temple an early 7-0 lead with a short touchdown run on Temple’s first offensive series of the game. Three plays into the ensuing Memphis drive, Brady White was picked off by Harrison Hand around midfield. Temple was held to a field goal for a 10-0 lea. Temple was once again held to a field goal less than two minutes later when a Memphis fumble by White led to another three points off turnovers for the home team. the theme continued one more time with a third turnover in as many drives by Memphis led to yet another field goal by the Owls to go up 16-0.

Memphis reversed the trend in their favor when Damonte Coxie scored ona  14-yard pass from White to get the Tiger son the scoreboard. Memphis took over at their 33-yard line after Temple lost the football on a third down play. But Temple responded before halftime with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Isaiah Wright hurdling his way into the end zone.

But Memphis cut into the deficit on the ensuing drive in quick fashion. Kenneth Gainwell scored a 25-yard touchdown at the end of a 7-play drive that took just 1:13.

Points off turnovers are always important, especially for a team looking to score an upset, but Temple being held to three field goals off three Memphis turnovers may be a win for the Tigers. The 16-0 score is still a two-score game, but Temple’s defense has been playing quite well this season. Memphis still has an uphill battle on their hands in the second half as they look to remain undefeated.