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How Penn State Has Fared In The Cotton Bowl

After getting snubbed from New Year’s Six play last season, Penn State made the cut this year. The Nittany Lions earned a bid in the Cotton Bowl Classic and will take on the No. 17 Memphis Tigers.

This classic in Dallas is a respectable destination, and should prove to be an exciting matchup. A Nittany Lion victory is in the forecast, as ESPN’s Football Power Index gives James Franklin’s program a 71.3% chance to win.

In three Cotton Bowl appearances, Penn State has performed well with a 2-0-1 record. As the Nittany Lions’ fourth appearance in the historic bowl game nears, let’s take a look at how they’ve fared in the past.

1948: 13-13 Tie Against SMU

In their first Cotton Bowl appearance, the Nittany Lions and Southern Methodist University Mustangs had to settle for a draw. This pre-Paterno era bowl matchup featured a lockdown defensive performance by the Nittany Lions and a sub-par showing on offense.

The Penn State offense committed three turnovers; two fumbles and an interception, and blew a chance at victory on a missed extra point on a touchdown pass from Elwood Petchel to Wally Triplett, whose participation in the game as an African-American, as you might remember, was initially disputed. Penn State great Steve Suhey is said to have famously stated “We are Penn State. There will be no meetings,” in an act of solidarity that affirmed his team would play all or it’d play none. Triplett, who passed away last year, was was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame earlier in 2018.

1972: 30-6 Win Over Texas

After nearly a three-decade hiatus from the Cotton Bowl, the Nittany Lions returned to Dallas in 1972 for a matchup between Joe Paterno’s squad and the then-No. 12 Texas Longhorns. The Nittany Lions won in dominant fashion, riding a second-half comeback of 27 unanswered points to record the program’s first Cotton Bowl victory. In addition to the offensive spark that carried Penn State to victory, the Nittany Lions’ defense was instrumental in the comeback, shutting out the Longhorns in the second half.

1975: 41-20 Win Over Baylor

This victory was just like the one three years prior for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions had a slow first half and promptly turned things around with a deficit-squashing offensive surge in the second. Paterno’s squad mustered a mere field goal in the first half, but put up 38 points in the second half.

Sound play on offense, defense, and special teams, orchestrated the statement comeback as quarterback Tom Shuman performed en route to game MVP distinction. The defense gave up just 13 points and forced a turnover on a Mike Johnson interception, and Joe Jackson returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

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About the Author

Andy Mollenauer

Andy is a writer for Onward State, a senior majoring in journalism, and a die-hard Wisconsin pro sports fan despite being from our nation's capital. His taste in music is absolute garbage, ranging from Bon Jovi to Slipknot to Avril Lavigne. If you want to talk sports or share memes and cute photos of French bulldogs, email him at [email protected]


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