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Penn State Football: Outback Bowl Has History as Lions Territory

by on December 05, 2010 4:00 AM

UPDATE posted @ 6:11 p.m. Sunday: Penn State to Face Florida Gators in Outback Bowl


Only four years after their last Outback Bowl victory, the Nittany Lions are returning to Tampa, Fla., to play the Florida Gators.

The Lions must be thrilled.

Joe Paterno's squad has taken snaps in the Outback Bowl three times. It has won all three games.

No other team has a better record (though, to be fair, Georgia and Michigan both have 3-1 records to their names)

Forget about home-field advantage. Florida has only one Outback Bowl victory in three tries, a 31-24 victory over Iowa in Florida coach Urban Meyer's first season. It had lost in both of its appearances (2003, 2004) before then.

And don't forget: Penn State fans travel very well to Florida.

A perfect record hasn't come easy for the Lions, and it's no indication of how they will fare against Florida, anyway, but it is a comforting trip down memory lane between season and post-season.

2007: Penn State vs. Tennessee

At the half, this seemed to be destined for overtime. The Vols struck first with a field goal; the Lions matched. Penn State put up six with a pass; Tennessee found the end zone on the ground.

Tony Davis was the third-quarter hero when now-Houston Texan Arian Foster coughed up the ball in the red zone. Davis took it back 88 yards for the game's last tie-breaker.

The Penn State defense lived up to the hype for the remainder of the game, and the Lions walked away with a 20-10 victory.

The game's MVP was running back Tony Hunt, who ran 31 times for 158 yards.

"When you play against [Coach] Joe Paterno's football teams, they're going to be tough, they're going to be disciplined, and they're going to be able to run the football," Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said, according to

(For Davis' game-changing play, skip ahead to 3:56)

1999: Penn State vs. Kentucky

In the Outback Bowl's first sell-out that showcased some of the day's biggest superstarts, the Lions were taking on a Wildcats team that hadn't been to a New Year's Day bowl game in almost 50 years.

Kentucky QB Tim Couch was the No. 1 NFL draft pick in 1999.

Penn State defensive players Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington were drafted first and second, respectively, the following year.

Couch had led his team to a 14-3 lead over the Lions in the first quarter of the 1997 Outback Bowl game before Penn State began its slow and steady comeback.

With a touchdown and a field goal in the second quarter, the Lions went into halftime down by one.

Once again, the Penn State defense became this fairy tale's Prince Charming. They didn't allow any points in the game's last three quarters, and the Lions added two more field goals and a touchdown in the second half for the 26-14 win.

So there weren't any videos available from that game, so how about some LaVar Arrington highlights from 1999 instead?

1996: Penn State vs. Auburn maybe this one game actually was easy for the Nittany Lions. At least, it appeared to be awfully easy.

The match-up was a good story, but a bit unfair when it came to coaches. On one side, there was Joe Paterno, the winningest bowl coach in history. On the other side was Terry Bowden, the other active coaching legend...'s son, who was in his first bowl game.

In "The Mud Bowl," the Lions turned a close 16-7 halftime score into a 43-14 final score that was as pretty as the field by the game's end.

Bobby Engram, who had two TD receptions in the third quarter, was named the game's MVP.

In 2011, Penn State will take a young quarterback, an injured defense and an aging coach and put them up against either South Carolina or Florida, high-quality teams with successful coaches of their own.

For more analysis about how that game should play out, keep an eye out for Mike Poorman's coverage later today. Continue to check for more information leading up to and after the game.

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Terry Casey is a former managing editor of He can be reached at [email protected]
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