Journey Brown ran for 202 yards with two long touchdowns, Garrett Taylor returned an interception 15 yards for a score after another big play by All-American linebacker Micah Parsons, and No. 13 Penn State beat No. 15 Memphis 53-39 on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, in the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl ever.
While Penn State (11-2, No. 10 College Football Playoff rankings) gave up its most points and yards all season against the big-play Group of Five Tigers, Parsons was pulling down quarterback Brady White, who flipped the ball right into the hands of Taylor. That put the Nittany Lions up 45-36 in the final minute of the third quarter, only three plays after Brown had been stopped short on a fourth and one.
“For our defense to come back and what you probably consider a sudden-change situation, and be able to get that play, I think it was a huge momentum play,” coach James Franklin said.
American Athletic Conference champion Memphis (12-2, No. 17 CFP) played its first game under coach Ryan Silverfield. The offensive line coach was promoted when Mike Norvell left after four seasons to become Florida State’s coach this month.
“It just didn’t end the way we wanted to,” Silverfield said. “I have to do a better job as a head coach to make sure all three phases are prepared. That’s 100% on me. That won’t happen moving forward.”
White was 32-for-51 passing for 454 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Patrick Taylor Jr. and Kenneth Gainwell both had rushing touchdowns for the Tigers, but the rest of their points came on a Cotton Bowl-record six field goals by Riley Patterson, including a record-long 51-yarder.
The Tigers finished with 542 total yards, but White was sacked a season-high six times and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time since the season opener. Two of those sacks were by Parsons, who finished with 14 tackles.
“We go against him all the time. Nobody prepares and prepares for those opportunities and those moments more than this guy does,” Brown said of Parsons, who was sitting right by him.
Freshman running back Noah Cain added 92 yards and two touchdowns rushing for Penn State, which won for the 30th time in its 50 bowl appearances.
The Nittany Lions had 529 total yards. Brown got his 202 rushing yards in 16 carries, including a tackle-shredding 32-yard touchdown early and a 56-yard score when he went up the middle virtually untouched.
No. 14 Notre Dame 33, Iowa State 9
A year removed from an appearance in the CFP national semifinals, Notre Dame closed out another double-digit win season with arguably its best all-around performance of the year against Iowa State at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Ian Book threw for 247 yards and a touchdown, Tony Jones Jr. scored on an 84-yard run, and game MVP Chase Claypool had seven receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown for the Irish (11-2, No. 15 CFP), who finished on a six-game winning streak after losing to Michigan to tumble out of contention for a playoff berth in late October.
Notre Dame also lost to Georgia in September; however, coach Brian Kelly said the team remained focused and continued to focus and get better.
Book completed 20 of 28 passes without an interception, including a 27-yard touchdown throw to Claypool, who went over 1,000 yards receiving for the season and also recovered a fumble on special teams to set up an early field goal.
Iowa State (7-6) lost to four ranked teams — Iowa, Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State — by a combined 11 points this season and was hoping to end its fourth season under Matt Campbell with a signature win for a once-downtrodden program.
Brock Purdy was 17 of 30 for 222 yards and no interceptions for the Cyclones, but he was unable to get his team into the end zone after throwing for a school single-season record 27 touchdowns during the regular season.
The sophomore quarterback left the game in the closing minutes with what Campbell described as a high ankle sprain.
Connor Assalley kicked field goals of 41, 26 and 42 yards.