Citrus Bowl: Penn State, Kentucky have unfinished business

By The Sports Xchange
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) cuts to the left and gains 13 yards in the fourth quarter on September 29 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) cuts to the left and gains 13 yards in the fourth quarter on September 29 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

Running back Benny Snell Jr. will continue his pursuit of Kentucky's career rushing record while Trace McSorley will become the first Penn State quarterback to throw a pass in four postseason games when the 14th-ranked Wildcats and No. 12 Nittany Lions meet in Tuesday's VRBO Citrus Bowl.

Kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando is 1 p.m. ET on ABC.


The Wildcats (9-3) are looking to post a 10-win season for just the third time in program history and will be trying to end a bowl losing streak that reached four games with last season's 24-23 Music City Bowl loss to Northwestern.

"I know it's bothered me when you're in those bowl games and you put that amount of work in and you exit that field and one team is up there accepting a trophy and the other team is going in the locker room," Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops said. "And I can promise you there are no runner-up trophies going in our trophy case.


"They gave us one a year ago and I think its permanent place is the bottom drawer, and it will stay there so we need to go win one."

Looking to post back-to-back bowl wins for the first time since they won the 2006 Outback and 2007 Alamo bowls, the Nittany Lions (9-3) are going for a third consecutive 10-win season, which would be their first such run since 1980-82, which would "be huge" in McSorley's eyes.

"Obviously, for our team, that's our goal," the senior quarterback said. "It's hard to win 10 games two years in a row, but it's harder to do it three years. I mean if you look at teams that can do that, it's Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, those programs that are always at the top.

"So, if we can do that, I think that it puts us in a really good spot for the future and it's something that is a testament to all the hard work that we put in this year."

McSorley enters the game with a school-record 11,275 yards of total offense in his career, and he also owns the program career record for passing yards with 9,653. He has rushed for 1,622 yards, and, among quarterbacks, only Michael Robinson with 1,637 has rushed for more for the Lions.


That puts McSorley well within reach of the school career rushing record for quarterbacks. With 84 yards on the ground against Kentucky, he will surpass Robinson's single-season quarterback rushing record of 806 yards. McSorley enters the game with 723 for 2018.

Snell, who already has announced his decision to bypass his senior season to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, comes into the game having rushed for 3,729 yards in his collegiate career and needs 107 to take over the No. 1 spot in the Kentucky record book from Sonny Collins.

The opportunity to do that no doubt was a factor in Snell's decision to play in the bowl game instead of skipping it to prepare for the draft, as some college stars have opted to do.

"I have unfinished business," he said. "Whatever I start, I make sure I finish. I got one more chance to wear that uniform. Bet I make it count."

Besides Snell, linebacker Josh Allen (28.5 career sacks) also is playing.

Penn State coach James Franklin joked that he was following Allen on Twitter and sending messages to tempt the defensive stalwart to save himself for the draft, but "obviously that didn't work," he said with a laugh.


"I think the biggest thing is his length and his athleticism and how twitchy he is," Franklin said when asked what stood out about Allen. "Obviously, when you're considered the best defensive player in college football, the way he's been able to impact the game in so many different ways, that's probably what's been so impressive. How twitchy he is, how productive he is, his length."

This will be Penn State's 49th bowl appearance and sixth in the Citrus Bowl. The Lions are 29-17-2 all-time in bowls but only 2-3 in the Citrus. Making its first Citrus Bowl appearance, Kentucky is 8-9 all-time in bowls.

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