2012 TicketCity - Houston 30, Penn State 14

Posted Jan 2, 2012

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2012 TicketCity Bowl

2012 TicketCity

Houston vs. Penn State

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
1st Total Offense 94th
63rd Total Defense 10th
1st Scoring Offense 110th
40th Scoring Defense 5th
62nd Rushing Offense 54th
78th Run Defense 48th
1st Passing Offense 95th
47th Passing Defense 5th
7th Turnover Margin 32nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
H   P
5 Quarterbacks 1.5
4 RBs 4.5
5 Receivers 2.5
3.5 O Line 4
3 D Line 4
3.5 Linebackers 4
3 Secondary 5
4 Spec Teams 3
3 Coaching 2
TicketCity Bowl
Houston 30 … Penn State 14

- CFN Thoughts on the TicketCity

Houston: Yards. Houston 600 – Penn State 306. … Case Keenum completed 45-of-69 passes for 532 yards and three scores … Charles Sims ran six times for 39 yards. … Justin Johnson caught 12 passes for 148 yards and a score, and Patrick Edwards caught ten passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. … Marcus McGraw and Kent Brooks each made ten tackles. … Nick Saenz made eight tackles wnd two interceptions.

Penn State: Rushing yards: Penn State 169 – Houston 68 … Rob Bolden completed 7-of-26 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown with three picks. … Stephfon Green ran 15 times for 63 yards and a score. … Devon Smith made two catches for 49 yards. … Nate Stupar made 12 tackles.

DALLAS (AP) -- Penn State's tumultuous year ended with a 30-14 loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl on Monday, a dispiriting finish to a season in which coach Joe Paterno was fired as part of a child sex-abuse scandal that shook college sports.

The 24th-ranked Nittany Lions were picked apart by Cougars star Case Keenum, who threw for 532 yards and three touchdowns. Penn State was allowing 162 yards passing per game, but Keenum threw for more than double that by halftime.

"I thought the guys came out and they played hard. It's been a difficult year for them," Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said. "It just didn't go our way."

Keenum burned the Nittany Lions' veteran secondary with touchdown passes of 40 and 75 yards to build a 24-7 lead by halftime.

It was the school's first bowl game without Paterno as head coach since the 1962 Gator Bowl, a 17-7 loss to Florida.

The Hall of Famer was fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of the shocking charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Longtime defensive coordinator Bradley took over on an interim basis, tasked with guiding a team besieged by media scrutiny.

"These kids have been through hell and back," said assistant coach Jay Paterno, Joe's son.

Bypassed by more prominent bowls, some Nittany Lions debated whether to travel to Dallas at all, then vowed they were over getting jilted and focused on stopping Houston.

Turned out Linbacker U. got trampled over by Keenum and Houston's high-octane offense.

Receiver Patrick Edwards burned safety Macolm Willis for a 40-yard touchdown pass from Keenum down the left sideline for a 7-0 lead just 1:52 into the game that often resembled a one-sided track meet. Keenum hit Justin Johnson for an 8-yard TD pass with 2:35 left for a 17-0 lead.

Already the NCAA career leader coming into the game for passing yardage and touchdown passes, Keenum added another record to his impressive resume. His 227 first-quarter passing yards set the record for most passing yards in one quarter in any bowl game, breaking the mark previously held by Louisville's Browning Nagle (223 yards) against Alabama in the first quarter of the 1991 Fiesta Bowl, according to TicketCity Bowl officials.

Penn State All-American defensive tackle Devon Still, already slowed by turf toe, couldn't keep up with Keenum's quick release and Houston's no-huddle attack. The Cougars exploited Penn State's bend-but-don't -break defense across the middle, including Edwards 75-yard touchdown reception up the seam from a scrambling Keenum for a 24-7 lead by halftime.

Keenum finished 45 of 69 passing - two fewer attempts than the number of offensive plays Penn State ran all afternoon.

Down by 20 midway through the third quarter, cornerback Stephon Morris tried to keep his fellow defenders motivated on the bench with high-fives. The struggling offense without injured starting quarterback Matt McGloin provided a glimmer of hope after backup Rob Bolden connected with Justin Brown for a pretty 69-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 27-14 at 2:38 of the third quarter.

Penn State's defense adjusted to hold the Cougars to just two field goals in the second half, but the early deficit proved too much to overcome, and Bolden threw three second-half interceptions - two by safety Nick Saenz.

With 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Penn State had already given up 552 yards of total offense to Houston, the most allowed by the Nittany Lions all season.

This wasn't the lasting impression Bradley wanted to leave on the Penn State committee searching for Paterno's replacement. The outgoing Bradley, who is popular with players, is among the candidates who have been interviewed. Acting athletic director David Joyner has said he hopes to have a new coach in place to give him a few weeks to recruit before Feb. 1, when high school seniors can announce their college choices.

Bolden finished 7 of 26 passing for 137 yards, while Stephfon Green ran 63 yards on 15 carries including a 6-yard scoring run on a direct snap in the second quarter.

It was one of the few times the Cougars' D was tricked. After getting upset 49-28 by Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game, and lose a chance to play in the BCS, Houston ended the season with an impressive win over a power conference team.

Edwards finished with 10 catches and 228 yards for two touchdowns, while Johnson had 12 catches for 148 yards at the 92,000-seat Cotton Bowl. The stands were about a half-full on a sunny afternoon that ended with Houston's red-clad fans celebrating in the stands and chanting "Houston."

Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3) Jan. 2, 12:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … For an event in just its second year, the TicketCity Bowl sure has staged a pairing that's rich in intriguing headlines.

For positive and scandalous reasons, respectively, Houston and Penn State have commanded more than their usual media attention since the beginning of November. And with these philosophical opposites meeting for the first time since 1977, you can bet that the media will be descending upon the Cotton Bowl as soon as both schools arrive in Dallas.

The Penn State football program—and the Happy Valley community as a whole—has been living a nightmare ever since the allegations of sexual abuse levied against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky became public nearly two months ago. The fallout has derailed a number of careers, including that of iconic head coach Joe Paterno, who won't be on the sidelines for a bowl game for the first time in six decades. The team has basically been operating in a haze ever since the Nebraska game on Nov. 12, navigating a unique situation for which there is no blueprint. Yet, it came darn close to winning the Big Ten Leaders Division before getting roughed up by Wisconsin in the final regular season game. Still, it's easy to forget that this team was 8-1 at one point, and had risen to No. 12 behind an old-fashioned mix of a stifling defense and a quality workhorse on the ground.

JoePa is gone, but interim head coach Tom Bradley remains on staff … at least for now. The longtime assistant expects to interview for the full-time position, though many believe that the new administration will clean house in January like a ServPro crew. Who gets the task of guiding the Nittany Lions out of their darkest hour? The list of candidates is long and fluid, as the program remains tight-lipped about the process. The University's desire to maintain a low-profile took a hit—literally—when starting QB Matt McGloin was knocked out by WR Curtis Drake during a locker room altercation on Dec. 16. On a more positive note, Penn State will be donating its proceeds from this game to organizations that fight child abuse.

So close. Houston came within an eyelash of history, but couldn't finish the job. The Cougars became one of the stories of 2011, riding the record-setting right arm of QB Case Keenum to a 12-0 start and immense national notoriety. A league title. A BCS bowl game. It was all sitting right there for the program until Southern Miss rolled into town for the Dec. 3 Conference USA Championship Game. A foregone conclusion, right? Apparently not according to the Golden Eagles. The defense imploded, the offense was ordinary and the dream ended. The Cougars were blown off the front page, 49-28, a lost opportunity on so many levels.

As if the situation in Space City couldn't get any worse, Houston has lost a successful head coach, Kevin Sumlin, to a Big 12 school for the second time in four years. Sumlin accepted an offer to replace Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, leaving assistant Tony Levine to assume the interim head coaching duties for this game. Levine is just one of a number of talented assistants already on staff, which could prompt athletic director Mack Rhoades to stay within the family for his next head coach.

Players to Watch: Keenum versus a stout, old-school Penn State defense is more than just an appetizing study of contrasts; it's one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire postseason. The sixth-year senior is the most prolific passer in FBS history, and an aficionado of the up-tempo offense. He's surrounded by an artillery of weapons, a slew of jackrabbits who'll challenge the Nittany Lions both vertically and horizontally. Chief among Keenum's targets are backs Michael Hayes and Charles Sims, and receivers Patrick Edwards, Justin Johnson and Tyron Carrier. While Hayes and Sims are do-everything type of playmakers, Edwards is the field-stretcher of the ensemble, with 79 receptions for 1,524 yards and a nation's-best 18 touchdown catches.

Penn State hasn't faced an offense like Houston's, but then again, the Cougars haven't run into a D as ornery as the Nittany Lions in 2011 either. The Nits will bring a unit into Dallas that ranks no lower than No. 10 in the country in pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring D; they've allowed more than 18 points in just three of 12 games. Penn State is flush with stoppers, especially along the front seven. All-American DT Devon Still leads a line that should get a consistent push on the Houston offensive line. And the linebackers, particularly Gerald Hodges, have been effective at shutting down running lanes and frequenting opposing backfields. With passing lanes a little narrower, and time in the pocket shorter, Keenum will need a quick trigger now more than ever before.

Besides WR Derek Moye, Penn State has very little confidence in the components of a passing attack that produced just nine touchdown passes all season. Enter RB Silas Redd, the face of the Nittany Lions attack. The sophomore delivered a breakout year as the go-to guy in State College, rushing for 1,188 and seven touchdowns. The 5-10, 210-pounder runs with conviction and good pad level, often bouncing off would-be tacklers for more yards. Both he and senior Stephon Green figure to be very busy at the Cotton Bowl, as Penn State eschews the passing game in favor of a blue-collar, ball-control ground game.

The job of slowing down Redd belongs to the Houston linebackers, a quartet of athletic defenders with the range to make stops all over the field. Although the Southern Miss collapse is what's fresh in everyone's mind, the Cougars D had been authoring its best year in ages prior to that point. The catalysts have been a couple of seniors, Sammy Brown on the outside and Marcus McGraw on the inside. While only 6-3 and 240 pounds, Brown operates with the mindset of a defensive end, using his long arms and quick first step to lead the country with 28 tackles for minus yards. McGraw, on the other hand, is a more traditional run-stopper, an instinctive player who has racked up a team-high 131 stops.

Houston will win if … it doesn't become unnerved by facing the Penn State defense.

Hey, after a steady diet of Owls and Miners and Blazers, it could be a little daunting facing a grown-up D, such as the Nittany Lions. Penn State is bigger, faster and deeper than anything the Cougars have seen this year. The key for Houston will be to play its game, moving in perpetual motion, spreading the ball around liberally and keeping opposing defenses on their heels. It's imperative that the Cougars keep those physical Penn State linemen and linebackers out of Keenum's face so that he can locate one of his open whippets running routes. Houston cannot survive an alley fight with the Lions. It has to dictate the tempo of the game, forcing Penn State out of its element and into a track meet.

Penn State will win if … it runs the ball at least 40 times for at least 200 yards.

The TicketCity Bowl will be a battle of wills, with the Nittany Lions wanting to slow the game down, and shove the ball down the Cougars' throats. Obviously, the most effective way to derail Keenum & Co. is to prevent them from getting on the field. The pivotal player in blue and white will be, ironically, Redd, who'll be asked to be both a good offensive and defensive weapon. Penn State plans to use him like a battering ram behind a veteran line that'll be buttressed by LT Quinn Barham, RG Johnnie Troutman and RT Chima Okoli. If Redd is ripping off seven and eight yards a pop, it'll be bad news for the Houston program.

What Will Happen: Which interim coach will do a better job of keeping his kids' eyes on the ball?

Considering all that's been swirling around these two schools in recent months, maintaining focus will be tantamount to success. Can Penn State tune out the din of controversy and uncertainty surrounding its program? Will Houston be adequately motivated after coming so painfully close to a BCS bowl invitation? In the struggle for tempo, the Lions are going to come out on top, giving the Cougars a black eye both on offense and defense. While Redd will carry the load on the ground, the D is going to physically intimidate the smaller Houston skill position players, handing Bradley a talking point for when he finally gets that interview for the open head coaching job.

CFN Prediction: Penn State 27 … Houston 20
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Houston -5.5    O/U: 57.5
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Penn State has no interest whatsoever in playing in this bowl. The team will say and do all the right things - not the norm for anyone associated with Penn State - but its heart is in a big Florida bowl. Houston and Case Keenum will come out roaring.

By Richard Cirminiello 
For the first time all year, record-setting Houston QB Case Keenum will be facing a grown-up defense. The TicketCity Bowl will be an intriguing study in contrasts.

By Matt Zemek
Now this is a fascinating – and complete – contrast in styles. Such matchups are fun to watch in any sport. Houston and Penn State are 180 degrees different.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Case Keenum wanted - and probably deserved - more.

By Russ Mitchell
There's Houston. Wow...Penn State. I mean, Va Tech gets the Sugar and Houston gets the candy man's old school. Well, look at it this way - the entire sporting world will be pulling for you to put up 10 touchdown passes in this game.

By Terry Johnson
This intriguing matchup pits Houston's high-octane offense (599 yards per game) against the nations 10th best defense in Penn State.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Can you say defense versus offense? Which team was the biggest fluke all year?
Best Bowl Moments
Best Nittany Lion Bowl Moment: In one of the most memorable bowl games of all time, Penn State shocked Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to earn its second national championship in four years. With a record-breaking 70 million viewers watching, the Lions intercepted Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde five times, the last one by Pete Giftopoulos at the Penn State one-yard line, to seal an unexpected and heart-stopping 14-10 win.

Best Cougar Bowl Moment: The last second upset of Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl warrants real strong consideration; however, it's the 30-21 win over unbeaten Maryland in the 1977 Cotton Bowl that has a special place in the hearts of Cougar fans. The school's first trip to a New Year's Day bowl game was the finishing touch on an unforgettable season that saw Houston stun the Southwest Conference by winning the league in its debut as a member.

TicketCity Bowl History
2011 Texas Tech 45, Northwestern 38

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