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How Penn State Has Performed In The Outback Bowl

The Outback Bowl is the middle child of bowl season. It’s a New Year’s bowl that isn’t a “New Year’s Six” bowl, and it’s a matchup of two teams that are good…but not great.

However, Penn State has a pretty detailed past with the Outback Bowl. As James Franklin’s team gears up for a showdown with No. 21 Arkansas, let’s take a look back at the Nittany Lions’ former trips to Tampa.

1996: No. 15 Penn State 43, No. 16 Auburn 14

The Nittany Lions finished 9-3 on the heels of an undefeated 1994 season in which they were pretty much robbed of a national title. Most of the team’s decline could be attributed to the departures of quarterback Kerry Collins and star running back Ki-Jana Carter, who went No. 1 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. 

Penn State decided to take its frustration out on a hapless Auburn team that had no answer for its offense. Penn State scored 27 points in the third quarter, and its 43 total points were an Outback Bowl record until it was broken by Tennessee in 2016. 

This game also marked the debut of the Outback Bowl’s current name. It had previously been known as the Hall of Fame Bowl from its inception in 1986 until 1994.

1999: No. 22 Penn State 26, Kentucky 14

The 1998 Nittany Lions did not start the season with the lofty expectations of their 1995 counterparts, but they reached No. 7 in the AP Poll before suffering a key loss to Ohio State. They finished just 1-3 against teams that ended the season ranked. Penn State’s opponent, Kentucky, was limping into the bowl after a humiliating loss to the eventual national champion, Tennessee.

Kentucky got off to a fast start and scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. That would be the extent of the team’s scoring, though, as Penn State’s defense clamped down. Quarterback Kevin Thompson led the Nittany Lions out of a 14-3 hole, and running back Chafie Fields sealed the win with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

2007: Penn State 20, No. 17 Tennessee 10

2006 was a similar story to 1995 for Penn State. The previous season, it had gone 11-1 and narrowly missed a national championship, but the team still won the Big Ten and the Orange Bowl. Penn State lost several key players to the draft, including quarterback Michael Robinson and linebacker Tamba Hali, who was selected in the first round. The Nittany Lions had several early-season losses but pulled together for a respectable 8-4 record. Their opponent was a resurgent Tennessee team that entered the game at 9-3 and ranked in the top 25 after a disappointing 2005 season.

Tennessee and Penn State traded scores in the first two quarters. Penn State briefly took the lead following a touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Morelli until Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run to knot the game at 10. Penn State cornerback Tony Davis would provide the game-winning score for the Nittany Lions with an 88-yard fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

With the win, the Nittany Lions snuck their way into the AP Poll at No. 24 to end the season.

2011: Florida 37, Penn State 24

In 2010, Penn State ended the regular season at 7-5 in an uncharacteristically weak Big Ten that produced just two ranked teams. The game had the distinction of being head coach Joe Paterno’s last bowl game before he was fired the following season. Florida was in the middle of the pack in the SEC and had fallen from grace after starting the season ranked high in the polls.

The Nittany Lions held their own against Florida for much of the game and were in the lead heading into the fourth quarter. The defense then buckled and allowed two scores for the Gators. Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin led the offense deep into Florida territory on their last drive, but he was intercepted for a pick-six that sealed the game.

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About the Author

Adam Babetski

Adam Babetski is a senior double majoring in broadcast journalism and medieval history and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He's from the only part of Virginia without tractors and southern accents, except Richmond (reportedly). You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBabetski for hot takes about sports. For serious inquiries, email [email protected].

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