Penn State holds off LSU
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Dampened by rain, slowed by mud and trailing late in the fourth quarter, Daryll Clark was determined to get Penn State some points.
The No. 11 Nittany Lions and their star quarterback emerged from the muck for a thrilling 19-17 win over No. 13 LSU at the Capital One Bowl.
The late-game drive led by Clark helped set up Collin Wagner’s 21-yard field goal with 57 seconds left, and Penn State staved off a last-ditch effort by the Tigers to preserve the victory.
“No matter what .. whatever it takes, we have to keep these chains rolling,” the senior said in recounting a talk with the offense before the drive. “All we need is a couple points.”
Penn State coach Joe Paterno got his record 24th bowl win and handed Les Miles his first loss in five bowls as LSU coach. It was just the second game ever between two popular college football programs.
But the drama extended well beyond the high-profile coaches.
A driving rainstorm turned the field into a mosh pit in some places. LSU rallied from a 13-point deficit late in the second half to take a 17-16 lead on Stevan Ridley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 12:49 left.
And LSU had one final chance after Wagner’s game-winner. The junior kicker said it was the first time he had ever hit four field goals in a game.
The Tigers got to midfield but right guard Lyle Hitt was whistled for a disputed personal foul penalty that pushed them back to their own 40. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson hit Rueben Randle for a 25-yard gain on the game’s last play to the Penn State 35 but Randle fumbled as time expired.
LSU was still fuming after the game.
“So the opportunity to go down there and have a chance at a field goal late in the game certainly would have been what we planned,” Miles said. “It didn’t work out that way.”
This game will be remembered as much for the messy beginning as the dramatic finish.
Bad footing and dropped passes were normal in the first half, and Clark fumbled the snap exchange twice – though both were recovered by Penn State.
Nevertheless, Clark had a good time in the mud.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We couldn’t use that as an excuse, because they had to play on it, too.”
The Tigers weren’t as happy afterward.
“That was by far the worst field conditions I’ve ever seen in my life. For them to say this is the best bowl outside the BCS, I would expect to play on the best field outside the BCS,” said LSU receiver Brandon LaFell.
Clark, nagged by questions of whether he can win a big game, ended his college career on a high note. Similarly, critics noted Penn State hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season despite its gaudy record.
JoePa has something to smile about in wrapping up his 44th season on the sideline.
“That thing about not beating a ranked team, I mean, between you and me, that’s a lot of hooey (sic), OK, to be honest with you,” Paterno said at a post-game news conference. “I think you guys have to write about something, so you pick out something.”
Clark finished 18-of-35 for 216 yards and 37-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye in the first quarter. Clark also nearly came close to throwing a couple interceptions Friday – if LSU had held on to wet balls.
The Nittany Lions emerged at halftime with a 13-3 lead, but LSU gained traction after rain subsided in the second half.
LaFell’s 24-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson with 13 seconds left in the third quarter drew the Tigers within 16-10 to awaken the slumbering LSU crowd.
Jefferson was 13-of-24 for 202 yards with the TD and one interception, while LaFell finished with five catches for 87 yards.
Penn State stalled on its next drive, and Trindon Holliday – the reigning NCAA 100-meter dash champion – returned a punt 37 yards to the LSU 49 to help set up Ridley’s TD run.
The teams exchanged stalled drives before Penn State took over for its game-winning drive with 6:54 left. Clark hit a Graham Zug one third-and-4 from the LSU 42 for a key conversion to keep the chains moving.
The field took another pounding after poor conditions hampered the Champs Sports Bowl earlier in the week on the same turf. Eight state high school championship games were also played at the stadium in recent weeks.
The grounds crew worked frantically all week in an attempt to get the field in shape for Friday’s game.
Rain started falling about a couple hours before game time, and the field took a pounding during pregame warmups. Routines by the marching bands didn’t help either.
“When you would try to make a play, you’d be slipping and stumbling all over the place,” said Penn State tailback Evan Royster. “I didn’t think the field was going to have puddles like that on it.”
Conditions were so bad for both offenses early on that the teams combined for 15 punts – shattering the bowl record of 10 set Miami, Ohio and Florida in 1973.