Houston Overpowers Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl
Penn State really did not have a chance on a day when Houston quarterback Case Keenum nearly set the record for most completions in a bowl game. The Nittany Lions could not muster enough offense to keep up in a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas.
Keenum went 45-69 passing for 532 yards and three touchdowns on the day. The record he nearly broke had been 47 pass completions, which was set by Northwestern’s Mike Kafka in the 2010 Outback Bowl. Patrick Edwards led the way receiving with 228 yards on nine catches.
Houston got on the board quickly, converting two third downs along the way to do so. Keenum had two long passes on two third downs, leading to an early 7-0 advantage. His 40-yard pass to Patrick Edwards capped off a 6-play, 76-yard drive that took just 1:52 off the clock.
After stopping Penn State on its first drive, Houston continued to utilize the passing game to gain yards. Six more Keenum passes led to a 35-yard field goal, giving Houston a 10-0 lead. To this point, the Cougars passed 12 times, foregoing the run entirely.
The Cougar offense did not stop there in the first quarter. Keenum reached 191 passing yards with 2:35 left in the first quarter after leading Houston to another touchdown. He connected with Justin Johnson for an 8-yard touchdown to put Houston up 17-0.
Penn State finally got on the board with 5:57 left in the first half. Rob Bolden completed a 43-yard pass to Devon Smith. Then, Stephfon Green took a direct snap and ran for a touchdown to make it 17-7. Penn State more than doubled its offensive output to that point on the drive.
After stopping Houston on a 4th-and-1, it looked like the Nittany Lions were gaining some momentum. However, the Cougar defense held Penn State to a 3-and-out. On the ensuing drive, Keenum passed to Edwards for a 75-yard touchdown. The play put Houston up 24-7 with 1:43 left in the first half.
The Cougars toyed with the Penn State secondary. Keenum finished the half with 380 yards passing and three touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Bolden and the Nittany Lion offense could do very little. Bolden was 2-for-10 passing for 55 yards. Green led the way on the ground with 36 yards rushing, and Silas Redd contributed 23 yards. The Nittany Lions kept getting burned by big plays while making very few of its own.
The pace settled down in the third quarter, but Houston was able to extend its lead to 20 points with 4:21 left in the third quarter. The drive lasted just 1:55, but a 38-yard field goal put the Cougars up 27-7. To that point in the half, the Nittany Lion defense had been more successful, but the offense still could not move the ball well. Bill Belton got significant time at quarterback in the wildcat formation to start the half.
On the next drive, Bolden completed his second deep pass of the game, this time to Justin Brown. The two connected for a 69-yard touchdown pass-and-catch. Penn State reduced the lead to 27-14 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
Houston once again made sure that Penn State would not gain too much momentum. The Cougars went 68 yards on 10 plays en route to a 22-yard field goal to go up 30-14. Keenum reached 490 yards on 60 passing attempts on that drive.
The loss caps a tumultuous season for the Nittany Lions. The Sandusky scandal and the firing of Joe Paterno left a black mark on the football season. Matt McGloin’s fight with Curtis Drake took both out of the bowl game. In the end, the team did not perform well in its final game. Bolden finished on 7 of 27 passing for 137 yards. Green finished with 63 yards on the ground, and Brown led the way receiving with one catch for 69 yards.