Penn State Hopes to End McSorley Era with Win in Citrus Bowl Tuesday

| January 1, 2019


ORLANDO – No. 12 Penn State concludes the 2018 season with a trip to the VRBO Citrus Bowl to face No. 14 Kentucky. The New Year’s Day bowl is set for 1 p.m. on ABC in Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Penn State is making a bowl appearance for a fifth consecutive season and 49th time overall, ranking the Nittany Lions tied for ninth all-time in bowl appearances. It’s the Lions’ sixth appearance in the Citrus Bowl
and first since the 2009 season.

A third-straight 10-win season is on the line for Penn State, equaling a feat that has not been accomplished since 1980-82.

Leading the Nittany Lions for the final time is senior quarterback Trace McSorley, Penn State’s all-time passing and wins leader. Just one passing attempt will make him the first Penn State quarterback to throw in four bowl games.

McSorley was named to the All-Big Ten second team along with running back Miles Sanders.

Penn State’s defense is led by two All-Big Ten first team picks, defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and cornerback Amani Oruwariye. Gross-Matos ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (1.7 per game) and is one of three Nittany Lion defensive linemen to rank in the top-10 in the Big Ten in sacks per game. Oruwariye ranks third in the
Big Ten in passes defended with 1.3 per game.

The Lions face a Kentucky team on the rise. The Wildcats went 9-3 during the regular season, their best mark in 41 years, led by a stifling defense and strong running attack.

Linebacker Josh Allen won the Bednarik and Nagurski awards as the nation’s best defender and was also the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the nation with five forced fumbles, ranks third with 1.17 sacks per game and 11th with 1.5 tackles for loss per game. Running back Benny Snell Jr. and offensive guard Bunchy Stallings joined Allen on the All-SEC first team.

HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS

Mark Stoops was named as UK’s head coach in 2013. Stoops was named the 2018 SEC Coach of the Year by the
Associated Press and fellow SEC coaches.

UK has tied or improved its record every season since he became head coach in 2013, and is the only FBS team to do so.

Stoops came to Kentucky from Florida State, where he was defensive coordinator from 2010-12. He was defensive
coordinator and DBs coach at Arizona from 2004-09, working for his brother, Mike, who was head coach of the Wildcats.

Mark and Mike are also brothers of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. The eldest Stoops brother, Ron Jr., is special teams coordinator at Youngstown State.

Stoops was raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and played at Iowa, graduating in 1990.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS

No. 14 Kentucky went 9-3 during the regular season, which is the team’s best regular season in 41 years since the 1977 team went 10-1.

Kentucky ranks eighth in FBS allowing just 16.3 points per game and 22nd in total defense 332.2 yards per game.
Snell leads the offense, ranking 12th in FBS with 1,305 rushing yards and 14th with 14 rushing touchdowns.

PENN STATE IN JANUARY BOWL GAMES

Penn State will be playing in the program’s 31st January bowl game and owns an 18-12 record in the month.
This is Penn State’s 25th time playing on New Year’s Day. Penn State last played on New Year’s Day for the 2011 Outback Bowl. Penn State is 15-9 when playing on New Year’s Day.

BOWL STANDOUT

Penn State is led by quarterback Trace McSorley, who is poised to become the first Nittany Lion quarterback to attempt a pass in four bowl games.

McSorley looks to add to his school career bowl records of 64 completions, 97 passing attempts, 738 passing yards and eight touchdown passes.

McSorley made his bowl debut midway through the 2016 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in relief of an injured Christian
Hackenberg. In the first significant action of his career, he completed 14-of-27 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns, nearly rallying the Lions from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit. He tried to tie the game with a Hail Mary pass from the Georgia 39-yard line in the final seconds, but it fell incomplete.

McSorley was responsible for five touchdowns in the 2017 Rose Bowl against USC, rushing for one and throwing for four. His four touchdown passes tied a Penn State bowl record, as did his 72-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.

McSorley eclipsed 400 yards of total offense in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl, as he led the Nittany Lions to a 35-28 win. He was named the game’s Offensive MVP after completing 32-of-42 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while also running 12 times for 60 yards. His 78.0 percent completion percentage in the game is a Penn State bowl record.

SENIORS SET FOR FINALE
A total of 21 Nittany Lion seniors will suit up in Blue and White for the final time.

The 2018 seniors have been instrumental in the Nittany Lions earning a 38-14 record the past four years with four winning seasons, the 2016 Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl appearance, Penn State’s highest ranking since 1999 (No. 2), a Fiesta Bowl Championship and now a fourth bowl appearance.

The group ranks currently ranks as the winningest class since 2011 (38-14), and has an opportunity to be the winningest class since 2009 (40-12).

The group includes some of head coach James Franklin’s first recruits.

The seniors include: Mark Allen, Joe Arcangelo, Torrence Brown, Ryan Buchholz, Jake Cooper, Frank Di Leo, Donnell Dix, Koa Farmer, Sterling Jenkins, Trace McSorley, Amani Oruwariye, Nick Scott, Tyler Shoop, Charlie Shuman, Zach Simpson, Johnathan Thomas, DeAndre Thompkins, Kyle Vasey, Jason Vranic, Christopher Welde and Chasz Wright.

WINNING WAYS

Penn State clinched its 14th consecutive winning season. Only four other FBS teams have had a winning season each of the last 14 years (Oklahoma, Boise State, LSU, Wisconsin).

Over those 14 consecutive winning seasons, Penn State has totaled at least nine wins in nine seasons, including the last three seasons.

Entering the Citrus Bowl at 9-3, Penn State looks to earn its third consecutive 10-win season after going 11-3 in 2016 and 11-2 in 2017. Penn State last posted three-straight double-digit win seasons in 1980 (10-2), 1981 (10-2) and 1982 (11-1), and did so in four-straight seasons in 1971 (11-1), 1972 (10-2), 1973 (12-0) and 1974 (10-2).

Penn State is 29-6 in its last 35 games, the best span since going 29-6 from the last two games of the 1996 season to the first nine games of 1999.

Penn State is 31-8 over the past three seasons (2016-18), for the seventh-best record in FBS.

Penn State’s 45 wins over the last five years (2014-18) rank tied for 14th in FBS with Florida State, Houston and Memphis, and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 61; Wisconsin, 52).

Penn State’s 87 wins over the last 10 years (2009-18) rank tied for 17th in FBS with Notre Dame and USC, and fourth in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 102; Wisconsin, 101; Michigan State, 91).

Penn State’s 131 wins over the last 15 years rank tied for 16th in FBS with Texas and Utah and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 153; Wisconsin, 148).

STREAKING

Penn State has appeared in bowls in five consecutive years and has won seven consecutive games against nonconference opponents.

Redshirt freshman WR KJ Hamler has a reception in all 12 games of his career.

True freshman TE Pat Freiermuth has a reception in his last 11 games.

Sophomore DE Yetur Gross-Matos has a tackle for loss in his last eight games.

MILESTONE WATCH
Trace McSorley is 15 yards shy of the PSU career QB rushing record of 1,637 yards held by Michael Robinson (2002-05) … 83 yards shy of the PSU career QB season record of 806 held by Michael Robinson (2005) … 347 passing yards shy of 10,000 career passing yards.

McSORLEY MAKES HIS MARK

McSorley owns Penn State career records for passing yards (9,653), completions (703), 300-yard passing games (10), 200-yard passing games (27), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (29), passing touchdowns (75), total offense (11,275), touchdowns responsible for (104) and wins as a starting quarterback (31). He is also the school season record holder for passing yards (3,614; 2016), completions (284; 2017), passing touchdowns (29;
2016), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (11; 2017, 2018), total offense (4,061; 2017), touchdowns responsible for (37; 2017), 300-yard passing games (5; 2016, 2017) and is tied for the top spot in 200-yard passing games (11; 2016, 2017).

McSorley is the first Penn State quarterback to throw for 9,000 career yards and the 14th in Big Ten history. McSorley has 1,182 career passing attempts to rank second on Penn State’s career list behind Christian Hackenberg’s 1,235 attempts (2013-15).

MOVING THE BALL

Penn State ranks 10th in FBS with 12 scoring drives of less than one minute.

Penn State has only yielded tackles for loss on 8.7 percent of plays, improving on last year’s 11.2 percent.
Of Penn State’s rushes, 244 (48.3 percent) have gone for 4 or more yards, improving on 211 such rushes last season (44 percent).

GREEN LIGHT IN THE RED ZONE

Penn State has scored on 74 of its last 79 red zone trips, including 60 touchdowns.

This season, the Nittany Lions are 48-for-52 (41 TD, 8 FG, 1 missed FG, 2 turnovers, 1 kneel down) in the red zone.
Penn State had scored on 26-straight trips to the red zone (including 24 touchdown drives) before missing a field goal in the third quarter against Michigan State.

This season, Penn State ranks sixth in FBS and ranks second in the Big Ten with a 92.3 percent success rate in the red zone, its best since converting at a 93.3 percent clip in 2015 (42-for-45).

Penn State’s 90.99 percent scoring rate score over the last two seasons is fourth in FBS.

Penn State ranks third in FBS in red zone touchdown rate over the last two years, reaching the end zone on 76.58 percent of red zone trips.

PILING UP THE POINTS

Penn State is averaging 34.6 points per game to rank third in the Big Ten and 30th in FBS in scoring.

Penn State has scored 30 or more points 25 times in the last 32 games.

Penn State has scored 20 or more points in 33 of its last 35 games.

LIMITED ACCESS

Penn State ranks 23rd in FBS and second in the Big Ten behind Iowa (4.67) averaging 4.08 three-and-outs per game.
Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in FBS in red zone defense, only yielding scores on 71.9 percent of opponents’ trips inside the 20.

Penn State ranks fourth in FBS in scoring percentage (20.83).

Penn State’s 1.13 points per possession ranks eighth in FBS and second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State. (Per Coaches by the Numbers)

Penn State’s 1.12 points per possession over the last two years is third in FBS. (Per Coaches by the Numbers)

PSU has limited opponents big plays, ranking 12th in big play percentage (9.58) and fourth in big play pass percentage (10.72). (Per Coaches by the Numbers)

Opponents have averaged 3.78 plays per point, ranking Penn State 10th in FBS. (Per Coaches by the Numbers)

Penn State has held it last three opponents (Wisconsin, 269; Rutgers, 234; Maryland, 259) to less than 300 yards of total offense. The last time the Nittany Lions held three consecutive opponents to less than 300 yards was in 2015 (Buffalo, 274; Rutgers, 294; San Diego State, 242; Army, 294; Indiana, 234).

The Penn State defense owns four second-half shutouts this season: at Pitt, Kent State, Iowa and Maryland.

Penn State has yielded just 25 combined first downs in its last two games. It held Wisconsin to just 12 first downs, the fewest allowed by the Nittany Lions since giving up 11 last year at Maryland, and then limited the Terps to 13 this season in the regular-season finale.

NO FLY ZONE

Penn State has 13 interceptions on the season, the most since collecting 16 picks in the 2014 season. The total ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 29th in FBS.

SACK MASTERS

Penn State recorded five sacks against Maryland to up its season total to 43 sacks. This marks the fourth-straight season Penn State has registered at least 40 sacks, the first such streak for the Nittany Lions since team sacks were recorded in 1988.

Led by DE Yetur Gross Matos ranking sixth with 0.67 sacks per game, Penn State has four defensive linemen ranking in the top 16 in the Big Ten in sacks.

DT Robert Windsor is ninth in the Big Ten with 0.63 sacks per game. Windsor has 5.0 sacks in his last five games and had a career-high two sacks against Wisconsin.

DE Shareef Miller ranks 11th in the Big Ten with 0.58 sacks per game.

The five sacks by the Nittany Lions against Wisconsin were the most since they recorded six at Indiana earlier this season. Entering the game, Wisconsin had only allowed 13 sacks all year.

DE Shaka Toney ranks 16th in the Big Ten with 0.42 sacks per game. Toney recorded 4.0 sacks at Indiana, all coming in the fourth quarter, doubling his previous career high of 2.0 against Northwestern in 2017. Toney’s 4.0 sacks tied the Penn State single-game record, equaling the mark held by three others – Terry Killens vs. Indiana, 1995; Jimmy Kennedy at Wisconsin, 2002; Tamba Hali vs. Wisconsin, 2005.

Causing Chaos behind the line

Penn State leads the Big Ten in both sacks (3.58) and tackles for loss (8.3) per game. Nationally, Penn State ranks second and fourth, respectively.

Penn State’s tackles for loss percentage of 12.3 percent ranks tied for 21st in FBS, while its sack percentage of 9.7 percent ranks fifth. (Coaches by the Numbers)

The Nittany Lions recorded 15 tackles for loss against Maryland in the regular season finale, the fourth game this season that Penn State has had at least 10 TFL. It is the second-highest TFL total for Penn State this year, trailing
only the 16 the Nittany Lions had against Kent State.

Penn State’s 15 tackles for loss are the most in a Big Ten game since registering 15 stops behind the line against Michigan in 2007. The 15 tackles for loss mark the fifth game with 15 or more TFLs since 2000. It was also the first time since 2000 Penn State has had two games with 15 or more TFL in the same season.

Penn State registered 11 TFLs at Rutgers, the most since having 11 against Georgia State last season.

GROSS-MATOS BREAKS OUT

Gross-Matos recorded his eighth-straight game with at least 1.0 tackle for loss against Maryland.

Gross-Matos ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in FBS with 1.7 TFLs per game (20 total). He also ranks sixth in the Big Ten and 37th in FBS with 0.67 sacks per game (8.0 total).

Gross-Matos has a total of 20 tackles for loss this season, marking the 12th time a Nittany Lion has had at least 20 TFLs in a season (11 different players). His 20 tackles for loss are the most by a Nittany Lion since Aaron Maybin had 20 in 2008 and tie him for the eighth-most in a season with Bruce Clark (1978), Todd Atkins (1994), LaVar Arrington (1999) and Aaron Maybin (2008).

His 8.0 sacks are the most by a Nittany Lion in a season since Carl Nassib made a school-record 15.5 sacks in 2015.
Gross-Matos had a streak of at least a half-sack end at five games when he was held without a sack at Rutgers. He tallied 6.5 sacks during the span.

 


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