By Harry Allison
It’s hard to make the case in a game in which 92 points were scored:
But defense was the tipping point for No. 10 Penn State in the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl in history, a 53-39 win over No. 17 Memphis.
First Team All-American linebacker Micah Parsons (above) sparked the defense and 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, rushing 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’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 Year’s Six bowl games in the last four seasons and evens Franklin’s bowl record at Penn State at 3-3.