The final tally: Brown 184 yards, Johnson 72.
Johnson, who ran for 2,015 regular-season yards, couldn't break a long one among his 20 carries in his final Penn State game. The Nittany Lions (9-4) fell to 1-4 when he failed to reach 100 yards. Johnson groused that the offense should have given him the ball rather than "trying to be too cute.
"You get 20 carries against a good defense, there's no way in the world you're going to go over 100 against a good defense," said Johnson, who lost six yards in his first five carries. "You pound it and pound it and pound it, and that's the outcome.
"If we'd have done that, maybe the score would be reversed."
Maybe not, the Tigers said.
"All week, the TV and the media were just talking about seeing how far over 200 he's going to get," said Auburn defensive end Reggie Torbor. "Like we're a joke. We feed off that. The more they talk, the better we get."
Auburn linebacker Mark Brown said Johnson was on the sidelines begging for the ball.
"We heard him a couple of times after he made a run telling the coach he could do that all day -- just give the ball to him," Brown said.
Instead, Ronnie Brown kept getting chances. He carried 37 times and scored twice as the Tigers (9-4) won a bowl game for the first time since 1998.
Considering the attention paid to Johnson, Brown, voted the game's most valuable player, was eager to prove himself.
"Personally, that gave me a lot of motivation to be going up against someone like that, a Heisman candidate with so many skills," the sophomore said. "And for us to be an underdog, that kind of gave us a lift as a team."
Penn State quarterback Zach Mills was temporarily benched in the second half and couldn't convert two late drives into points.
"We just came together and said, 'They're not going to get into the end zone,' " Auburn linebacker Dontarrious Thomas said. "As long as they kept getting field goals, we knew our offense was finally going to break one into the end zone."
Penn State's four losses came by a total of 20 points. Coach Joe Paterno failed to add to his NCAA-record 20 bowl victories after a two-year postseason absence.