Fast start helps Penn State beat Huskies in Fiesta Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Converting on third downs had been a sore spot for Penn State, so coach James Franklin made it a point of emphasis in spring practices and preseason camp.
The Nittany Lions kept working at it during the season and kept getting better, peaking at the perfect time.
Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards — with both of his touchdown passes to DaeSean Hamilton on third-down plays — as No. 9 Penn State outlasted No. 12 Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
“Our coaches did a fantastic job, and the O-line protected and the receivers made plays,” Franklin said. “We were very efficient. We executed.”
Penn State (11-2) had its way with Washington’s vaunted defense early, building a 28-7 lead by the second quarter. The Huskies (10-3) woke up Saturday night’s Orange Bowl, with No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 11 Miami competing, was not complete at press time. Please visit timesfree press.com for coverage. from an offensive slumber with two touchdowns and pulled to 35-28 on Myles Gaskins’ 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
An inability to stop Penn State on third down kept Washington from getting any closer.
The Nittany Lions converted three third downs on a final clock-winding drive and were 13for-17 overall. Washington had a final shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but a final lateral by Dante Pettiswas intercepted after he passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up one more play.
“I think a lot of it was McSorley,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him, he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time.”
Washington had the nation’s top rushing defense during the regular season, allowing an average of 92 yards per game, but Saquon Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions’ 203 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in what might have been his final college game as he weighs the NFL draft.
The Huskies gave up a season-high 545 total yards. The Nittany Lions had 367 yards by halftime against a defense that had allowed an average of 277.4 yards per game during the regular season.
“They had us on our heels most of the night,” Petersen said.
Said linebacker Tevis Bartlett: “We came out flat in the first half.”
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) throws against Washington during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz. Penn State defeated Washington 32-28.