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Journey Brown, Penn State Run All Over Memphis in Cotton Bowl

by on December 28, 2019 10:18 PM

ARLINGTON, Texas — No. 10 Penn State's run game powered the team to an exciting 53-39 victory over No. 17 Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl.

The Nittany Lions finished the game with a season-high 396 rushing yards against the Tigers, whose rush defense ranked 80th in the nation by allowing an average of 171.6 yards per game entering the Cotton Bowl. Ja’Juan Seider’s #LawnBoyz averaged 175 yards on the ground per game throughout the regular season — not a bad total, but it ranked 49th in the nation.

Penn State struggled to get much of anything going throughout its first three drives — with the exception of Journey Brown’s 32-yard touchdown dash, breaking tackles along the way to give Penn State a 7-3 lead. That was one of nine plays the Nittany Lions ran throughout their first three drives. The other eight were passes in which Sean Clifford went 4-for-8 with a little more than 50 yards.


Brown, the game's offensive MVP, finished the day with a career-high 202 yards (a Penn Sate bowl game record) and the fourth multi-touchdown game of his career. Whether he was bullying the Tigers’ secondary or just blowing past his opponents with blazing speed, the redshirt sophomore put together perhaps the very best performance of his career.

“I would say this is in the top three. My other top two are from this year,” Brown said postgame. “I feel like just the line up front — those big boys, they really set the tone. We said coming into this game that we wanted to control the pace. If we want to go fast, we’ll go fast. If we want to go slow, we’ll go slow.”

On top of his offensive linemen, Brown, who also sprinted for a 56-yard score, had plenty of praise for the Nittany Lions’ wide receivers and tight ends’ efforts in downfield blocking throughout the contest. Those players definitely deserve plenty of credit, but at the end of the day, Brown’s two touchdowns were all him.

Penn State’s No. 4 wasn’t the only running back to make a significant impact on the action. Noah Cain got his first meaningful snaps since the team’s contest against Michigan State on Oct. 26, and he balled out on a big stage. James Franklin has had tons of praise for Cain’s tough running style and knack for picking up 4-to-6 yards per carry, and those attributes were on full display during his 15-carry, 92-yard performance.

The true freshman also found the back of the end zone twice, but more importantly, his consistency in putting together productive runs helped settle down an otherwise-hectic game at times. Elsewhere, Ricky Slade chipped in with 58 yards on five carries, and Devyn Ford posted a 1-yard score for the Nittany Lions as well.

Penn State’s run game had tons of success under the direction of a unique play-caller. Tight ends coach Tyler Bowen was thrust into the offense’s play-calling duties after Ricky Rahne’s departure for Old Dominion’s head coaching job. Aside from a few notes, Franklin had plenty of praise for the job Bowen did on Saturday.

“I thought he did a great job. I’m very proud of Tyler. Tyler played for me [while I was] an offensive coordinator, he was a graduate assistant for me, and he kind of worked his way up the ladder,” Franklin said. “I thought we got away from the run on a few drives, but besides that, I thought he did an excellent job. I’m very, very proud of him.”

Mikey Mandarino is a staff writer for Onward State.
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