Micah Parsons Puts Entire Country On Notice With Impressive Cotton Bowl Performance

Penn State’s barn burner victory over Memphis in this year’s Cotton Bowl was hardly a defensive masterpiece, but there was one player who certainly stood out for the Nittany Lions on that side of the ball.

Micah Parsons solidified himself as one of the top linebackers in the country with his performance on Saturday afternoon, and the sophomore was certainly in agreement that he had himself quite the day.

“This was another level. This was my best game,” Parsons said.

It’s hard to argue with the linebacker’s assessment of his performance against the Tigers. Parsons finished the afternoon with 14 total tackles, three for loss, two sacks, two pass break ups, and — most importantly — two forced fumbles. Both of the fumbles he forced were recovered by Memphis, but his biggest play of the night didn’t even show up on the stat sheet.

Late in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions went for it on fourth down but were stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Memphis got the ball back trailing by two points and had a chance to take the lead, but Parsons had other plans. The linebacker walloped quarterback Brady White, forcing an errant throw that landed in the hands of Garret Taylor for an easy touchdown.

The play was a clear momentum shift late in the game, and helped the Nittany Lions build a more comfortable lead down the stretch. James Franklin understood the magnitude of the play during his post game press conference.

“Yeah, we like pick sixes. They’re good. They’re good. Obviously, it was at a huge time in the game. If I remember correctly, it was right after we had gone for it on fourth and one,” Franklin said. “But then for our defense to come back and what you probably consider sudden change situation and be able to get that play, I think it was a huge momentum play in the game.”

Parsons finished his sophomore campaign with a staggering 109 total tackles and five sacks. There’s no doubt that the young talent will now have plenty of national attention on him after the impressive season and bowl performance, but he’s still finding areas he can improve on.

“I’ve just got to build on it. No one is perfect. I’ve got to keep learning. I’ve got to keep doing more, keep helping the younger guys,” Parsons said. “You’ve just got to keep building on top of this, and we’re just going to keep getting better and better.”

It’s hard to imagine that there’s much of anything that Parsons can get any better at — especially after Saturday’s game — but don’t be surprised if the young star comes back with even more talent for his junior season. Just ask Parsons’ teammate and fellow Cotton Bowl MVP Journey Brown about his work ethic.

“The running backs go against [Micah] all the time. But nobody prepares for those opportunities and those moments more than this guy does,” Brown said. “This dude is one of the best blitzers I’ve ever gone against just in general. So it’s just proof in the pudding, how much work he puts in and what he does and how much he works on his craft.”

With two impressive seasons behind him, the expectations are only going to grow for Parsons. In fact, there was even some discussion of him being a Heisman candidate next season. While he’s focused on appreciating Saturday’s victory and another 11-win season for the Nittany Lions, Parsons understands how monumental a run at college football’s most coveted individual honor would be.

“I think the door is open. It’s a chance that a lot of hard work and things like that,” Parsons said.” Just being able to get to the table would be an extreme honor and extreme blessing for myself and the program. Being able to do that, influence the kids, all defenders around the country, and even high school and things like that, that would be ridiculous.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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