Penn State run past Memphis in Goodyear Cotton Bowl

Led by a team-bowl-record 202 rushing yards by running back Journey Brown (Meadville, Pa.), No. 10 Penn State rushed for a team-bowl-record 396 yards en route to a 53-39 victory over No. 17 Memphis in the 84th annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Saturday in AT&T Stadium.

Penn State concludes the 2019 season with an 11-2 record for its 17th 11-win season in program history and third in the last four years, repeating a feat not accomplished since 1968-71. The Nittany Lions also improved to 3-0-1 all-time in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and earned their second consecutive win in a New Year’s Six bowl game (Fiesta, 2017).


Brown and fellow running back Noah Cain (Baton Rouge, La.) rushed for two touchdowns each. Additionally, Brown totaled a career-high and Penn State bowl-record 202 yards, while Cain rushed for a career-high 92 yards and surpassed the school record for most rushing touchdowns by a freshman in a season (8). Brown was named the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player and linebacker Micah Parsons (Harrisburg, Pa.), who totaled a career-high-tying 14 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and two forced fumbles, was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Penn State’s seven total touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns both tied Cotton Bowl records.

Memphis (12-2) was led by quarterback Brady White, who threw for 454 yards and kicker Riley Patterson, who set team, Cotton Bowl and Penn State opponent records with six field goals. However, White was intercepted twice in the second half, as senior safety Garrett Taylor (Richmond, Va.) made a pick-six late in the third quarter and freshman cornerback Marquis Wilson (Windsor, Conn.) picked off a pass at the Penn State 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter to secure the win. White was also sacked six times as Penn State surpassed the 40-sack mark for a fifth-straight season.

How It Happened

The Tigers’ Patterson converted a 48-yard field goal inside the game’s first five minutes, but the Lions answered with a three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive keyed by a 31-yard reception by KJ Hamler (Pontiac, Mich.) and capped by a 32-yard touchdown run by Brown.

Memphis regained the lead after a 56-yard completion to Kedarian Jones setup a Patrick Taylor touchdown run with 7:44 remaining in the opening stanza, and the Tigers also added another field goal for a 13-7 advantage.

However, Penn State scored three consecutive touchdowns during the second quarter to build a 28-13 lead it would not relinquish. Cain punched the ball in from 1-yard out with 11:14 remaining in the quarter, Ford did the same with 7:47 to go and Brown broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run with 5:51 on the clock.

Memphis and Penn State then traded touchdowns late in the quarter, with Kenneth Gainwell rushing for a 1-yard touchdown for the Tigers and Jahan Dotson (Nazareth, Pa.) scoring on a 4-yard catch for the Nittany Lions. Patterson converted a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the half, and the teams went to the locker room with Penn State leading 35-23. The Lions’ 35 points in the first half and 28 points in the second quarter were both Cotton Bowl and program bowl records.

Memphis cut into the deficit with 10 points to open the third quarter, using big pass plays to setup a quarterback sneak for a touchdown and an interception by Austin Hall to setup a successful 51-yard field goal conversion. Penn State and Memphis then traded field goals before Taylor intercepted a pass at the Memphis 15 and returned it for a touchdown and 45-36 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Memphis opened the fourth quarter with another field goal, but it would be their final score. Cain rushed into the end zone from 1-yard out with 6:31 remaining and tight end Pat Freiermuth (Merrimac, Mass.) hauled in a two-point conversion throw for the final margin. Wilson’s interception in the red zone with 4:36 remaining ended the Tigers’ final bid to get back in the game.