Dec. 28 (UPI) -- No. 10 Penn State overwhelmed No. 17 Memphis with its rushing attack Saturday, beating the AAC champion Tigers 53-39 at AT&T Stadium in the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl ever.
The Nittany Lions rushed for a combined 396 yards on 53 carries in the victory, including 202 yards and two long touchdowns from Journey Brown. Following his rushing performance, Brown was named the Cotton Bowl's offensive MVP.
Despite the Nittany Lions' production on the ground, Memphis kept the score close behind quarterback Brady White and his 454 passing yards. Penn State's defense allowed its most points and yards all season in the contest.
Memphis held a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter after Riley Patterson's two field goals and a 3-yard touchdown run from Patrick Taylor Jr. Brown's first rushing score of the game, coming from 32 yards out, gave the Nittany Lions their only points in the opening frame.
Penn State responded with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to grab a 28-13 advantage. Tigers running back Kenneth Gainwell stopped the bleeding with a 1-yard plunge to cut Memphis' deficit to 28-20 with 3:15 left before halftime.
Penn State's Jahan Dotson hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Patterson connected on his third field goal of the contest as time expired, and the Nittany Lions entered halftime with a 35-23 lead.
The Tigers came to within two points at the 10:24 mark in the third quarter after a 1-yard run by White and Patterson's fourth field goal, a 51-yard kick that brought the score to 35-33. Penn State and Memphis traded field goals before Garrett Taylor returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown, giving the Nittany Lions a 45-36 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
"The game was going back and forth," Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons said. "I thought the team who had a defensive turnover would win, and we got one when we needed."
Patterson drilled his fifth field goal to cut Memphis' deficit to 45-39, but Noah Cain's 1-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, with 6:31 remaining sealed the Nittany Lions' victory.
White completed 32-of-51 passes for 454 yards with two interceptions and one rushing score. Taylor Jr. finished with eight carries for 50 yards and one touchdown.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was 11-of-20 passing for 133 yards, one touchdown and a pick.
Memphis will open next season Sept. 5 at home against Arkansas State, while Penn State will host Kent State in its 2020 season opener.