1) Micah Parsons sets the tone for his 2020 season...
Just a few weeks after being named a consensus All-American, sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons had the best game of his career as a Nittany Lion. The Harrisburg (PA) native finished the Cotton Bowl with 14 tackles, including three tackles for a loss, and two sacks. He also had two forced fumbles and nearly came away with an interception on two different plays.
Parsons, however, made arguably the play of the game in the final minutes of the third quarter. As the Penn State defense needed a big stop, a blitzing Parsons was able to get to Memphis quarterback Brady White causing White to lose control of the football, landing in the hands of Garrett Taylor who took it for a Penn State touchdown. While the play officially went down as an interception, Taylor never would have had the opportunity without Parsons play making abilities.
If Saturday was any indication, Micah Parsons is going to be a terror next year for opposing offenses and he’s made his early claim as the best defensive player in the nation heading into 2020.
2) Penn State’s rushing attack shines with new OC watching
Penn State’s offense was called by Tyler Bowen on Saturday afternoon and Bowen did a heck of a job to say the least. The Nittany Lions offense put up 53 points including 529 total yards. The Nittany Lions were unstoppable on the ground, rushing for 396 yards in the game and Bowen kept feeding the “Lawn Boyz” throughout the game. The nearly 400-yard team effort on the ground was the most in Penn State’s storied bowl history.
For incoming offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, Saturday’s game must have been a dream come true. Ciarrocca throughout his career as an offensive coordinator as ran the ball with authority and with Penn State’s stable of running backs heading into 2020. It’s going to be a scary offense to say the least. Journey Brown showed that he should be considered one of the nation’s top running backs heading into 2020, totaling 202 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries.
Noah Cain was tremendous as well, totaling 91 yards on 15 carries. He also scored the game-clinching touchdown on a drive where he helped churn out the clock to put the game away. It was his second touchdown of the afternoon. Devyn Ford didn’t see a ton of playing time but was able to pick up a touchdown on his lone carry of the game.
3) Penn State’s defensive performance wasn’t as bad as it looks
Sure, Penn State gave up over 500 yards of total offense but the defense rarely broke against the Tigers. The Nittany Lions only allowed three touchdowns to the high-scoring Memphis offense and none of them came through the air despite giving up over 450 yards of passing.
While Penn State did allow Memphis to move the ball, the Nittany Lions defense often dug in and kept the Tigers out of the end zone. Unfortunately at the same time, Memphis kicker Riley Patterson was perfect against the Nittany Lions, hitting all six of his field goal attempts. The Nittany Lions defense was also great on the ground again against the Tigers as well, keeping the Tigers to less two yards per carry. Penn State’s defense never allowed the Tigers to establish much at all on the ground, holding them to just 66 yards on 33 carries.