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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.

Penn State special teams a disaster as Kentucky leads Nittany Lions in Citrus Bowl

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The VRBO Citrus Bowl between No. 12 Penn State and No. 14 Kentucky has been dictated by the defenses by both teams and a handful of special teams miscues by the Nittany Lions. At the half, Kentucky leads Penn State 10-7 in Orlando, with Kentucky prepping to get the ball to start the second half.

It was a first half of special teams blunders for Penn State, but none were more costly than Lynn Bowden Jr. returned a punt out of the Penn State end zone 58 yards to the house for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Paired with a field goal on Kentucky’s first offensive series of the game, Kentucky had a 10-0 lead in the first quarter despite not getting much on offense against a stingy Penn State defense.

Penn State started the game with two straight three-and-outs and then capped their third possession of the game with a missed field goal try in the first quarter. Penn State picked up some momentum at the beginning of the second quarter with a screen pass to speedy KJ Hamler, which setup Trace McSorley for a short touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers to bring the score to 10-7 in favor of Kentucky.

Penn State has had a few special teams miscues in addition to giving up the punt return touchdown. The Nittany Lions were stuffed on a fake punt run on the opening possession of the game, missed two field goals, and cost themselves some field position by not calling for a fair catch in their own end. It hasn’t been all bad, however, as Blake Gillikin did get off a 71-yard punt that pinned Kentucky deep on their side of the field.

If Kentucky was able to get anything going on offense, Penn State would be in serious danger. But because the Nittany Lions defense is keeping things within reach, this is still anybody’s game in the second half.

Neither team has a third-down conversion at halftime, with Penn State 0-for-8 and Kentucky 0-for-7.

CFT Previews: VRBO Citrus Bowl

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WHO: No. 12 Penn State (9-3) vs. No. 14 Kentucky (9-3)
WHAT: The 73rd VRBO Citrus Bowl
WHEN: 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
THE SKINNY: Kentucky is going for the first 10-win season in school history in over three decades. Penn State is looking for a third-straight double-digit win season for the first time since joining the Big Ten. Something will have to give as both Kentucky and Penn State see the final games played by some influential playmaker in a college uniform.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has collected a good amount of hardware this past awards season as he cements his legacy as one of the top defensive players to ever wear a Kentucky uniform. Playing one final game rather than sit out to focus on the NFL Draft is a testament to how much Allen wants to help the Wildcats accomplish a rare feat of a 10-win season before he moves on to the next level. He will be tasked to making sure Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley doesn’t get opportunities to make big plays with his arm or his legs. McSorley has been banged up this season but the time off before the bowl game may have helped get him closer to being the player Penn State needs him to be. With backup quarterback Tommy Stevens not available due to offseason surgery, it will be McSorley or bust for the Nittany Lions.

The running back matchup with Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Penn State’s Miles Sanders should be fairly even and just as much of a factor in the outcome of this game. Neither defense has a way of shutting everything down against the run so Snell and Sanders could have some opportunities to do some damage. But in the end, Penn State may have the edge of their receivers and tight ends keep their hands on the football.

THE LINE: Penn State -7.0
THE PREDICTION: Penn State 34, Kentucky 26

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.

Trace McSorley adds another school record as Penn State leads Maryland at half

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A week after taking Ohio State to overtime in a high-scoring affair, Maryland is having trouble finding the offensive gears to become bowl-eligible on the road at Penn State. No. 12 Penn State owns a 17-3 lead on the Terrapins at halftime in Beaver Stadium.

History continued to be made in the first half, however, by the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback. Senior quarterback Trace McSorley continued to etch his name in the school record books in the first half. McSorley completed his 694th career pass to pass Christian Hackenberg for the most career completions in school history. McSorley also rushed for two touchdowns as Penn State has been having more success on the ground than through the air in some wet conditions moving through the area.

Both teams have had their struggles on offense, though. Third downs have not been easy for either team with the two teams combining for two conversions, one each, in the first half. Maryland’s running game was a major factor last week against the Buckeyes, but Penn State has held it in check in the first half with just 54 rushing yards allowed.

Maryland needs to win this game in order to become bowl eligible this season. Penn State, meanwhile, could use a good win to close out the regular season if they hope to be selected for a possible spot in a New Years Six bowl game for a third straight year.