Noah Cain

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No. 10 Penn State tops No. 17 Memphis in highest-scoring Cotton Bowl

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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.

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

No. 2 Ohio State clinches Big Ten East with 28-17 win against No. 8 Penn State

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For the first time all season, No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) was challenged into the fourth quarter. And once it did, the Buckeyes sealed the deal with a 28-17 victory over No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten). The win clinched the Big Ten East Division championship for Ohio State and continues to put Ohio State on the inside track to a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Penn State’s defense created a spark in the third quarter with two straight fumbles that led to Penn State points. After Penn State running back Journey Brown capped Penn State’s best drive of the game with a touchdown run, the defense knocked the ball loose from JK Dobbins on the first play on the ensuing possession. After a mad scramble for the ball, Penn State recovered at 12-yard line. Backup quarterback Will Levis completed a pass to Pat Freiermuth to bring the ball just short of the goal line, and Levis took the ball in himself on the following play to quickly bring Penn State within a touchdown. Fumble issues continued for Ohio State on the next possession when Justin Fields lost the football just before his knee touched the ground on the third play of the drive. Another Penn State fumble recovery led to a field goal to trim the Ohio State lead to 21-17.

Penn State’s starting quarterback, Sean Clifford, left the game in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. Levis finished off the game at quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Fields was bange dup late in the fourth quarter but jogged off the field on his own.

Chase Young returned from a two-game suspension and became the school leader for the most sacks in a season. After tying the school mark with half a sack in the first half, Young moved into sole possession of first place in the school’s record books with half a sack in the third quarter on a key third down, moving him to 14.5 sacks this season. Young continued to have a significant impact on the game with non-stop pressure in the backfield. He was, decisively, the best player in the game.

Ohio State will have a date in Indianapolis reserved for the Big Ten championship game in two weeks. The Buckeyes will face either Minnesota or Wisconsin. The Big Ten West division may have to be decided next week in a head-to-head matchup between the Gophers and Badgers. Minnesota will host Wisconsin. Ohio State has already faced Wisconsin and defeated them handily. Ohio State has not played Minnesota this season.

The regular season will come to an end next week. For Ohio State, a chance to put together a 12-0 season heading to the Big Ten championship game will be on the line against That Team Up North when the Buckeyes head to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. Penn State will have a favorable draw to end their regular season with a win with a home game against Rutgers to close out the schedule.

No. 10 Penn State swarms No. 17 Iowa, 17-12, to remain undefeated

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A night game in Kinnick stadium is not supposed to be easy for visitors, but No. 10 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) won their second consecutive night game in Iowa City in three years Saturday night. In a defensive battle, Sean Clifford and a strong display by the Penn State defense held off No. 17 Iowa (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) to remain undefeated. The game was put out of reach with a 17-6 score when Noah Cain took a pitch to the left side of the field for a touchdown. Penn State went on to win 17-12.

This was a tough defensive battle form the start. Clifford had a rough start to the game before he settled in during the second quarter. A.J. Epenesa of Iowa was in his face for much of the night, but the Nittany Lions protected the ball well and went 60 minutes without a turnover. Iowa, on the other hand, could not do the same in a game where possessions came at a premium.

Penn State appeared to take advantage of the first turnover of the game when Clifford connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown over the middle of the Hawkeyes defense late in the third quarter. But a video replay review ultimately overturned the call on the field and marked the ball shy of the end zone. Penn State would still manage to tack on a field goal, but the decision by the replay officials seemed to puzzle many watching the game.

According to David Jones of The Patriot News, the official word in the press box regarding the video replay ruling was it was a judgment call.

Penn State later picked off Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, which setup Cain to give Penn State some much-needed breathing room in the fourth quarter. After not throwing an interception in Iowa’s first four games of the season, Stanley has now thrown four in the last two games as Iowa’s offense continues to struggle against good defenses. They’ll have some time to figure that out before a road trip to Wisconsin in what should be a big game in the Big Ten West, although Iowa is already two games behind the Badgers in the loss column.

Stanley did give Iowa some late life though when he fumbled a snap and recovered for a first down and then tossed a deep ball to Brandon Smith for a remarkable touchdown catch (which was upheld by video review).

Penn State was able to run the clock out after recovering Iowa’s onside kick attempt. Cain picked up some big yardage in crucial situations to help milk the clock as he climbed over 100 rushing yards against a stingy Iowa defense. And in doing so, Penn State secured the first road win against a ranked opponent in the career of James Franklin. Franklin was 0-11 on the road against ranked teams in his career dating back to his time at Vanderbilt, and Penn State was 0-6 in those situations under their head coach.

Penn State will return home for what could be another tough defensive battle. The Nittany Lions host Michigan next weekend in a primetime showdown in front of a whiteout crowd. the game will carry a lot of weight in the Big Ten East as Michigan has already suffered one conference loss and Ohio State is leading the pace in the Big Ten. Iowa will stay home next week for their own division matchup with Purdue.