Penn State Football: Lions Disappointed With 'Ticket' to Dallas
Penn State is playing in a January bowl against a Heisman Trophy candidate and a one-loss team that was ranked No. 6 a week ago.
So why were some football players upset upon hearing the news they will play in the TicketCity Bowl against quarterback Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars at noon Jan. 2 at Cotton Bowl Stadium?
"We feel a little disappointed we got passed up by some teams we beat in the Big Ten," senior co-captain and safety Drew Astorino said on the Big Ten Network. "But we’re ready for the challenge."
A season unlike any other in the 125-year history of Penn State football will end with a chance at defeating a ranked team for the first time since a 19-17 victory against LSU in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. It's also a tremendous test for the defense as it tries to contain Keenum, who holds FBS career records for passing yards, total offense, touchdown passes and completions and led Houston to top the NCAA in offense this year with 599 yards per game.
"He's an excellent quarterback," Astorino said. "They've been throwing the ball all over the field, so we'll definitely have our hands full."
But all that did not cause much excitement Sunday evening, as several players took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
"Might as well play against concord high psu vs chs [sic]," was posted on junior wide receiver Justin Brown's Twitter account.
"Smh worst case scenario [sic]" was posted on defensive end Jack Crawford's Twitter account.
On linemate Eric Latimore's? Even stronger feelings. "WTFFFF![sic]."
Dropping to the lower-tier bowl is the latest fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that tore through State College last month like a tsunami, washing away all conventional thinking among bowl reps regarding Penn State.
Ten of its 12 opponents were bowl eligible, with the Lions going 7-3 in those games en route to a share of the first Big Ten Leaders Division title with Wisconsin, which won the Big Ten Championship and earned the conference's automatic BCS berth in the Rose Bowl.
The Lions went 0-3 in games against ranked opponents, but a nine-win season would typically result in a second-tier bowl game such as the Outback, Insight, Gator or perhaps even the Capital One, the non-BCS bowl with the highest payout.
All of them passed on Penn State.
Bowl selections trickled in earlier Sunday evening, with Northwestern (6-6) headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas — another to have passed on the Lions — and Ohio State (6-6) to the Gator Bowl, per the bowl websites.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges would be in favor of a do-over.
Interim coach Tom Bradley was more diplomatic than some of his players in an interview on ESPN shortly before 10 p.m.
"I think (the players) are excited," said Bradley, who shed no light on his future at Penn State beyond the bowl game. "Houston's got a great football team. They know that."