Cotton Bowl: Memphis Tigers vs Penn State Nittany Lions

I have rooted for Penn State my whole life. They have had a good season. Losing twice to Minnesota and Ohio State, both of those teams are quality programs. Penn State just could not keep pace. But they finished the season and decade strong.

Memphis is a Group of Five team with only one loss to American Athletic Conference (AAC) rivals Temple Owls (ironically a Pennsylvania university). Their season has been so successful, their head coach Mike Norvell has been hired away to lead Florida State. The team stands ready for a good competition.

Memphis has a new coach. Ryan Silverfield is a football enthusiast. Having started his football career not as a player but as a coach at 18 because of injury. He spent the rest of this season as the coach of the offensive line. Now he has the reigns as head coach.

Memphis looked good to start the game. Offense had some solid series to begin with. And the defense got a 3 and out on the first series. Solid first quarter.

But as the second quarter went on, the Nittany Lions came on. Both offense and defense showed why they were in contention for not just the Big Ten east title but a spot in the playoff, earlier in the season.

Journey Brown took everyone on a sojourn. Scoring 2 rushing touchdowns on long, quick powerful runs. Add in big plays by tight end Pat Freiermuth. Linebacker Micah Parsons made his presence felt including forcing a fumble but no turnover. Yetur Gross-Matos came back in this bowl game to make an impact despite declaring for the draft, getting a sack to help out the defensive effort.

Memphis stayed in the game with big pass plays. Tearing up the Penn State secondary. In both halves, Brady White was able to keep the pressure on. Their run game was good for short yardage as well. The Tigers again looked good in the 3rd.

Unfortunately for White and the rest of the Tigers, the best player on the field was Micah Parsons and Micah is a Nittany Lion. Definitely had the most impact on both teams. And the rest of the lions had too much to keep up with in the end.

This is the expected result. If polls mean anything, and I am skeptical that they are in anyway useful, Penn State as the #10 team should be expected to beat Memphis at #17.

But this not any indictment on Memphis. The Tigers played a solid game. They were forced into too many mistakes. More than the Nittany Lions who made their own. But in the balance, Penn State was able to make more positive plays.

Going into the spring, Memphis has a lot to build on. Brady White’s future is going to have something to do with their continued success. But Silverfield has a bright future. Playing against the talent in the AAC is going to make a difference. Competing against UCF, SMU, Cincinnati and dare I say Navy are going to make the conference better.

Penn State is going to need to focus to take the step that will both win them the Big Ten and get them into the playoff. Their high rankings show the committee was taking them seriously. But they can’t get stalled in their pursuit of the East division title that will lead to the first goal.

Commitment to a solid run game will help. When Journey Brown got slowed in the 4th quarter, Noah Cain was the next man up. K.J. Hamler is a solid receiver but he can’t be the only option. Receiver Daniel George and tight ends Pat Freiermuth, Nick Bowers and Zack Kuntz are all viable options. Part of their dearth of receptions might be that Sean Clifford is not the right guy at quarterback. Will Levis showed a lot in “relief” against Ohio State. During spring, I hope Levis gets a good look because he might just win the job.

It is time for James Franklin to step forward. Win the east in the Big Ten beating upstarts like Indiana and Maryland as well as blue bloods like Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Get another Big Ten title. And take all this talent into the playoff.

This is listed as a New Year’s bowl but it is too early for that. Being the lead into the semi-finals is good though. Time for the Lions to become contenders.

About drphlgoode

Just an Average Joe
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