Five Things We Learned: Kentucky
No. 12 Penn State’s comeback bid fell just short on Tuesday, as the Nittany Lions fell to No. 14 Kentucky 27-24 in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
The Nittany Lions closed out the season with a 9-4 overall record, falling one win short of their third consecutive 10-win season. Here are five things we learned from the Citrus Bowl.
1.) Special teams play was the biggest factor in the loss
Minus the 71-yard punt from Blake Gillikin, special teams were a disaster for the Nittany Lions. They got stopped on a fake punt on the first drive that gave Kentucky good field position, allowed a 58-yard punt return touchdown and missed two field goals, one of which was partially blocked. Those two misses played a huge factor. Inconsistent special teams play was one of the stories of the season and it continued to plague Penn State.
2.) The end of game sequence was more than head scratching
Yes, we have to talk about the end. This season, Nittany Lion fans have been used to teams coming back on them, now it was Penn State making the furious comeback from a 27-7 deficit. Down six with 4:12 to go, Coach Franklin decided to kick a field goal to make it a three-point deficit. It was a little bit of a weird decision with how the offense was playing, but they still had three timeouts left. On Kentucky’s next possession, Penn State did not take their first timeout until 1:50 was left on the clock, leaving no time for any sort of comeback bid. It was not good clock management by the staff, and a shame the offense didn’t get one last chance.
3.) The term “SEC athletes” is definitely a real thing
Kentucky is not viewed as a football powerhouse compared to the other teams in its conference, but they proved that they could hang most of the country in the Citrus Bowl. They have future pros all over their defense, mainly future top five draft pick Josh Allen. Benny Snell is also a future NFL running back that wore down Penn State’s defense in the second half. Bowl season is where you could compare the conference’s talent the most, and the SEC is the most talented conference top to bottom by a large margin.
4.) Penn State’s defense has a bright future
Although they got worn down a little bit in the heat and humidity of Florida, they played another pretty impressive game and were Penn State’s best unit of 2018. Coming into the season, they had to replace eight starters. Next year, they have a lot coming back. Yetur Gross-Matos and Micah Parsons will be on every preseason watch list for their positions. John Reid, Cam Brown and Garrett Taylor will also be big names back next season. Penn State may be leaning on its defense at the beginning of next season.
5.) Be thankful for Trace McSorley, there are not many like him
Who knew that a three star recruit as a safety would go onto become statistically the best quarterback in Penn State history. In an age when players skip non-CFP bowls to prepare for the NFL, McSorley not only played, but played with a possible severe foot injury. He displayed the true heart of a lion and will be remembered in Penn State history forever. Thanks No. 9.
Kevin McConlogue is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Junior / Broadcast Journalism