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Penn State Football: Game Note Highlights: Georgia

by on December 29, 2015 11:00 AM

 Penn State returns to a Florida bowl for the first time since the 2010 season when the Nittany Lions take on Southeastern Conference foe Georgia in the 71st annual TaxSlayer Bowl. The game will air on ESPN. Here are some of the most interesting bits of news and notes.

• Penn State made its first postseason appearance in 1923 when they traveled across the country to face USC in the Rose Bowl Game to cap off the 1922 season. Since then, the Blue and White have made the ninth-most postseason appearances in FBS history.
• Penn State will be making its 46th bowl appearance all-time, tied for No. 9 nationally. The Nittany Lions' 28 post-season victories are tied for No. 3 nationally with Georgia and Oklahoma, and lead all Big Ten Conference institutions. 
• Penn State's 64.4 winning percentage in bowl games (28-15-2 record) is No. 2 nationally among teams with at least 20 post-season appearances. USC (67.3) is the only school with a better bowl winning percentage than Penn State. 
• Penn State has won five of its last eight bowl games, with victories in the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl (Florida State), 2007 Outback Bowl (Tennessee), 2007 Alamo Bowl (Texas A&M), 2010 Capital One Bowl (LSU) and 2014 Pinstripe Bowl (Boston College). The losses came in the 2009 Rose Bowl (USC), 2011 Outback Bowl (Florida) and 2012 TicketCity Bowl (Houston).

• Penn State has a 1-2-1 record in four appearances in the formerly named Gator Bowl. 
• Penn State made its first appearance in 1961, defeating Georgia Tech, 30-15. 
• The Nittany Lions ultimately made three consecutive bowl appearances in the Gator Bowl, returning the very next year in 1962, falling to Florida, 17-7, and returning after a five-year bowl drought in 1967, tying Florida State, 17-17. 
• Penn State made its last appearance in 1976, suffering a 20-9 defeat to Notre Dame.

Meeting Notre Dame for the first time since 1928, a 3-0 turnover deficit proved to be Penn State's undoing as the Irish posted a 20-9 victory in the 1976 Gator Bowl.

It was apparent in the early going that the teams were evenly matched and breaks would be the determining factor. After Penn State took an early 3-0 lead that Notre Dame erased with a first-quarter touchdown, the Irish used a turnover and solid offense to outscore the Lions, 13-0, in the second period, cruise to a 20-3 halftime lead and never relinquish their hold.

Penn State out-gained the Irish, 274-273, led by the rushing tandem of Bob Torrey and Matt Suhey. Quarterback Chuck Fusina hit 14 of 33 passes for 118 yards, including Penn State's only touchdown, an eight-yard strike to Suhey in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Cefalo made five catches for 60 yards and had three carries for 18 yards to earn Penn State Outstanding Player of the Game honors. All-America linebacker Kurt Allerman made a game-high 16 tackles.

• Penn State will be playing the program's 29th January bowl game and owns an 18-10 record in those contests. 
• This will be Penn State's fourth time playing on Jan. 2, and the first time since the 2012 TicketCity Bowl. 
• Penn State is 2-1 on Jan. 2, winning the 1987 Fiesta Bowl and 1995 Rose Bowl.

• Penn State will be competing against a repeat bowl opponent after playing in first-time match-ups in its last two bowl games at the 2012 TicketCity (Houston) and 2014 Pinstripe (Boston College) Bowls. 
• The Nittany Lions had played repeat opponents in seven straight bowl games prior to the TicketCity Bowl. 
• The meeting against Georgia will be Penn State's second all-time and in a bowl. The Bulldogs are the Nittany Lions' 12th repeat bowl opponent. 
• Penn State and Georgia last met in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. Penn State's victory earned it the National Championship. 
• Penn State has matched up with the following teams multiple times: Alabama (3), Auburn (2), Florida (3), Florida State (3), LSU (2), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (2), Tennessee (3), Texas (2), Texas A&M (2) and USC (3).

• The TaxSlayer Bowl will be the third game Penn State has played inside an NFL venue this season. 
• Penn State opened the year against Temple in Lincoln Financial Field, which the Owls share with the Philadelphia Eagles and also met Maryland in M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens. 
• EverBank Field will be the ninth current NFL venue that Penn State has played in. 
• The Nittany Lions have also played in current homes of the Miami Dolphins (Sun Life Stadium), New Orleans Saints (Mercedes-Benz Superdome), New York Giants/New York Jets (MetLife Stadium), San Diego Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium) and Washington Redskins (FedEx Field). 
• The first documented Penn State game in a professional stadium was in 1921 when the Nittany Lions defeated Georgia Tech, 28-7, in front of 30,000 fans at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan in New York City. 
• The Lions have played 19 bowl games in nine different venues that housed NFL teams at the time, posting a 12-7 record. The Lions have also played 38 regular season games in 13 different stadiums with permanent NFL tenants.

OPPONENT NOTABLES • Three 2015 Penn State opponents (Temple, SDSU, Michigan State) reached their respective conference's championship game. Two (SDSU, Michigan State) won the game. 
• Seven (Temple, SDSU, Indiana, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State) qualified for bowl games. Six (all except Indiana) had nine-plus wins. 
• Five (Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan, Temple) were ranked in the final CFP Top 25. Michigan State qualified for a CFP semifinal game with a No. 3 ranking. 
• Including Georgia, Penn State's opponents totaled a combined record of 96-63 (.604) during regular season. 
• Penn State is one of 15 teams to have multiple 10-win regular season non-conference opponents.

• Penn State and Georgia have only met once previously, doing so in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. 
• With Georgia entering the game ranked No. 1 and Penn State No. 2, the game served as the National Championship game. 
• Penn State won, 27-23, and was voted the 1982 National Champion by all the major polls.

• Bryan McClendon was named Interim Head Coach of the Bulldogs on Dec. 3, 2015. He will serve in that capacity through Georgia's appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl. 
• A former wide receiver at UGA, McClendon held three titles during the 2015 regular season: wide receivers coach, assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. 
• From 2009-14, he as the Bulldogs' running backs coach. McClendon also served as recruiting coordinator in 2014-15.

• Georgia is 9-3 overall with a 5-3 mark in SEC play. 
• The Bulldogs have SEC wins over Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky and Auburn. 
• They finished the regular season with a four-game winning streak capped with a 13-7 win over in-state rival Georgia Tech. 
• Assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will serve as Georgia's interim head coach for the bowl game. 
• The Bulldogs suffered a 24-19 loss to Nebraska in the 2014 TaxSlayer Bowl game, its most recent game against a Big Ten team. 
• Georgia ranks eighth nationally in total defense allowing 298.0 yards per game. • Dominick Sanders is tied for the lead in the SEC and 17th nationally with five interceptions.

• Penn State and Georgia are among the nation's premier football programs. 
• Penn State and Georgia both rank among the top-15 programs in winning percentage and total victories in NCAA history. 
• Penn State and Georgia are tied for third nationally with 28 bowl victories each. Georgia is tied for fourth nationally with 51 bowl appearances, while Penn State is tied for ninth with 46. 
• Penn State is second nationally with a .644 bowl winning percentage, while Georgia is tied for eighth at .590. 
• Four of the top-12 winningest programs in NCAA history are from the Big Ten, and four are from the SEC. 
• Penn State is No. 10 in winning percentage (.686) and No. 8 in all-time victories (856). 
• Georgia sits at No. 15 in winning percentage (.649) and No. 11 in all-time victories (786). 
• The Nittany Lions and Bulldogs are also among the most ranked teams in NCAA history, according to the AP poll (since 1936). 
• Penn State has spent 21 weeks ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll (t-15th all-time) and Georgia has earned the No. 1 ranking by the AP on 15 occasions (t-19th all-time). (Not including preseason rankings) 
• Penn State's 591 weeks ranked among the AP Top-25 rank ninth all-time, while Georgia's 542 weeks rank 13th. 
• Both teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally for attendance this season. Penn State was sixth with 99,799 fans per game. while Georgia was eighth with 92,746 fans per game. 
• The top 11 teams in attendance this season were all from either the Big Ten (4) or Southeastern (7) conferences.

HEAD COACH James Franklin
• Franklin guided the Nittany Lions to a 7-5 regular season record to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season and 46th time overall. 
• The Nittany Lions' mentor has guided all five of his teams as a head coach to a bowl appearance.

Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg has started all 37 games of his career under center. He ranks first in Penn State history in career 300-yard passing games (9), 200-yard passing games (21), passing yards (8,318), touchdowns (48), attempts (1,221), completions (685) and total offense (8,072). Hackenberg is the only quarterback in program history with 8,000 yards passing and three 2,000-yard passing seasons.

• Penn State is 23-21-0 all-time against current SEC schools, having played every SEC team except Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. The most recent meeting with an SEC team was versus Alabama in 2011 in Beaver Stadium. 
• The Nittany Lions vs. SEC teams overall: Alabama (5-10), Auburn (1-1), Florida (0-3), Georgia (1-0), Kentucky (3-2), LSU (2-0), Missouri (3-1), South Carolina (2-0), Tennessee (3-2), Texas A&M (3-1) and Vanderbilt (0-1). 
• The Nittany Lions are 12-6-0 vs. SEC teams in bowl games, with the most recent meeting resulting a 37-24 loss to Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl. Penn State has faced Alabama (1-2), Auburn (1-1), Florida (0-3), Georgia (1-0), Kentucky (1-0), LSU (2-0), Missouri (1-0), Tennessee (3-0) and Texas A&M (2-0) in post-season contests.

• Penn State redshirt freshman P Robby Liebel and Georgia freshman OL Mirko Jurkovic played together at IMG Academy (Fla.). 
• Penn State freshman LB Manny Bowen and Georgia freshman OL Sam Madden played together at Barnegat (N.J.) High School. 
• Penn State senior DE Tarow Barney and Georgia freshman SN Hudson Reynolds both attended Bainbridge (Ga.) High School.

Penn State has two players from Georgia on its roster. 
• DT Tarow Barney - Bainbridge / Bainbridge
• CB Grant Haley - Atlanta / The Lovett School

Penn State has four players from Florida on its roster. 
• LS Nick Cox - Tampa / Jesuit
• P Robby Liebel - St. Petersburg / IMG Academy
• CB Amani Oruwariye - Tampa / Gaither
• LB Gary Wooten Jr. - Miami / Hialeah Senior

• The Jacksonville Jaguars boast a league-high four former Nittany Lions, including nine-year veteran and 2013 Pro Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny and 2014 second-round pick Allen Robinson
• This season, Posluszny has 123 tackles to rank among the league leaders in the NFL, and three interceptions. 
• Robinson ranks among the league leaders in receiving yards with 1,292 and touchdowns with 14. It is his first 1,000-yard NFL season after going for 548 as a rookie last season. 
• Veterans Jared Odrick (Miami) and Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland) signed with Jacksonville during the offseason as free agents

• Georgia Senior Associate Director of Strength and Conditioning John Thomas was the head strength and conditioning coach at Penn State for 20 seasons. 
• Former Penn State All-Big Ten offensive lineman Gus Felder is an assistant strength/conditioning coach at Georgia. He is also a North Philadelphia native. 
• Penn State special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff and Georgia associate head coach/defensive line and will linebackers coach Tracy Rocker were on opposing NFL sidelines on Oct. 21, 2012. Huff was an assistant running backs coach with the Buffalo Bills, while Rocker was an assistant with the Tennessee Titans.

• Head coach James Franklin is 5-3 against opponents he has faced as a head coach at both Vanderbilt and Penn State - Army, UMass and Northwestern. 
• Franklin went 1-2 against Georgia in his three seasons with Vanderbilt. 
• Against Army, Franklin guided Vanderbilt to a 44-21 victory over the Black Knights in 2011 - his first season as head coach - and did the same with Penn State in 2015 (20-14). 
• Franklin guided Vanderbilt to victories over UMass in 2012 and 2013, and led PSU past UMass in 2014. 
• Franklin's Commodores lost to Northwestern in 2012 and the Nittany Lions have been defeated by Northwestern the past two seasons.

• Junior wide receiver Gregg Garrity's father, Gregg (1980-82), and grandfather, Jim (1952-54), lettered at Penn State. 
• Gregg Sr. made one of the iconic plays in Penn State football history with his diving TD catch to help beat Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl for the Nittany Lions' first National Championship. The youngest Garrity changed his number to 19 during spring practices to honor his father.

• The Nittany Lions are 52-20-4 all-time in regular-season neutral site games, including wins in the last five, and 28-15-2 in bowl games for an 80-35-6 mark. 
• Most recently, Penn State defeated Maryland in M&T Back Stadium in Baltimore. 
• The Maryland game in M&T Back Stadium marked Penn State's third consecutive season with a neutral site regular season game. 
• Penn State opened the 2013 and 2014 seasons with neutral site victories over Syracuse (23-17, MetLife Stadium) and UCF (26-24, Croke Park Classic), respectively.

• Carl Nassib recorded a sack in his first 10 games of the season with five multi-sack games. 
• Nassib saw his sack streak come to an end at 10 games when he only played two snaps against Michigan due to injury. He was again limited to two snaps against Michigan State. 
• Nassib broke the Penn State single-season sacks record by upping his total to 15.5 at Northwestern. 
• Nassib ranks 14th all-time at Penn State in career sacks with 17.5. 
• Nassib is tied for 16th on the NCAA single season sacks list with Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers (2010). 
• With at least one sack in 10 consecutive games to start the season, Nassib owns the longest sack streak by a Penn State player since sacks became an official NCAA statistic in 2000. 
• Nassib has 19.5 tackles for loss this season, the most by a Nittany Lion since Aaron Maybin had 20 in 2008. Nassib's 19.5 TFL are the fourth-most by a Penn State player since 2000.


• Two standouts on Penn State's nationally-ranked defense, Jordan Lucas and Carl Nassib are among the players to accept invitations to play in the 67th Reese's Senior Bowl. 
• The duo has been invited to participate in the nation's premier all-star contest on Saturday, January 30, 2015. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. ET at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The NFL Network will televise the contest. 
• Lucas and Nassib are the 40th and 41st Nittany Lions to receive invitations to play in the Senior Bowl in the last 20 years. A quartet of Nittany Lions -- safety Adrian Amos, defensive end Deion Barnes, offensive tackle Donovan Smith and linebacker Mike Hull -- participated in last year's Senior Bowl activities. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and defensive tackle Jordan Hill played in the 2014 and 2013 Senior Bowls, respectively. Defensive end Jack Crawford, cornerback D'Anton Lynn and guard Johnnie Troutman played in the 2012 Senior Bowl. 
• With the selection of Lucas and Nassib, a total of 114 Lions have been invited to play in the Senior Bowl.


• Sophomore wide receiver Chris Godwin has caught at least four passes in 10 of 12 games this season and 11 of his last 14. 
• At Michigan State, Godwin grabbed multiple TD catches in a game for the first time in his career and made a career-high 11 catches. 
• Godwin also had 109 yards receiving for his fourth 100-yard game of the season and fourth in the last six games. He has five career 100-yard performances. 
• With the 11 catches, Godwin is now tied for fourth on PSU's single-season receptions lists with 63. He is tied with O.J. McDuffie (1992) and Bobby Engram (1995). 
• Godwin has a team-best total of 63 receptions for 968 yards and is averaging 5.3 catches and 80.7 yards per game, to rank in the Top 10 in both in the Big Ten. 
• Godwin is just the sixth player in program history to have 60 catches in a season. 
• With 109 receiving yards, Godwin moved into seventh place on Penn State's single-season yardage list with 968 yards. 
• Godwin also moved up to 18th on Penn State's career receiving yardage list, passing David Daniels (1,222; 1988-90) and Scott Fitzkee (1,263; 1975-78). • Godwin was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for the nation's top receiver. 
• He has at least one catch in 22 of 23 career games and five career games with five or more grabs, joining his seven-catch night vs. Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. 
• Godwin totaled 103 yards on three catches at Ohio State, and then made four catches for a season-high 135 yards and a touchdown the following week against Maryland. He became the first Nittany Lion to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Allen Robinson in 2013 (106 vs. Nebraska, 122 at Wisconsin). 
• Godwin also posted his fourth career 100-yard game vs. Northwesterm with 104 yards.

• Despite missing 2.5 games to injury and only receiving one carry in the season opener, Saquon Barkley leads the Lions with 1,007 rushing yards in 10 games played, a new Penn State freshman record. 
• Barkley turned in his fifth 100-yard rushing performance of the season at Michigan State with 103 yards to reach 1,007 yards for the season. He is tied with D.J. Dozier (1983) for the most 100-yard rushing performances by a true freshman. 
• He passed Dozier (1,002) for the single-season freshman rushing yards mark. 
• Barkley is the 43rd Nittany Lion to break 1,000 career yards rushing. 
• He needs just seven more yards to break into the Top 20 list for single-season rushing yardage at Penn State.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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