Penn State 26
TAMPA, Fla. (CNN/SI) -- It took a 6-foot-5 savior named Tim Couch to
send Kentucky to a New Year's Day bowl. The Wildcats brought thousands
upon thousands of fans to Tampa to cheer on their favorite son in what
would be his final college game.
Unfortunately for Kentucky, it was running into a Joe Paterno-coached
Penn State squad with plenty of experience playing on New Year's Day.
Armed with a devastating pass rush, the Nittany Lions showed exactly how
a team should play on New Year's Day. No. 22 Penn State grounded Couch
and Kentucky's potent passing attack after a strong start and dominated
the final three quarters of the Outback Bowl for a 26-14 victory.
Couch, playing his final college game, threw for two first-quarter
touchdowns and finished with 337 yards passing. But he also was
intercepted twice and sacked six times.
Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in bowl history, improved his
postseason record to 19-9-1. His 29th appearance in 33 seasons at Penn
State ties him with Bear Bryant for first on the career list.
Kevin Thompson threw a 56-yard TD pass to Joe Nastasi, Chafie Fields
scored on a 19-yard reverse and Travis Forney kicked an Outback
Bowl-record four field goals for Penn State (9-3). The Nittany Lions
also rushed for 233 yards, including 105 by Eric McCoo.
But the story of the game was the defense, which ranked 12th
nationally during the regular season and led the Big Ten with 47 sacks.
End Courtney Brown, with seven tackles and two sacks, was voted the
game's most valuable player.
Kentucky (7-5), playing in a New Year's Day game for the first time
since the 1952 Cotton Bowl, had the country's second-most productive
passing attack this season with Couch throwing for 4,275 yards and 36
touchdowns. Penn State slowed down the junior by mixing coverages and
unleashing a relentless pass rush after falling behind 14-3 on Couch TD
passes of 36 yards to Lance Mickelsen (video) and 16 yards to Anthony White
The Nittany Lions also blocked a short Kentucky field goal, stopped the
Wildcats on downs to set up Fields' fourth-quarter TD, and turned back
Couch's most promising drive of the second half in the closing minutes.
Couch, who threw for 8,159 yards and 73 touchdowns the past two seasons,
had until Jan. 8 to decide whether he will skip his senior season and
enter the NFL draft. The expansion Cleveland Browns have the first pick
and Couch has been monitoring their search for a coach. He said last
week he might not be willing to leave Kentucky unless he's confident
he'll be selected No. 1 overall.
Penn State started slowly, missing a field goal after blocking a punt
and settling for three points after a wide open Tony Stewart dropped a
pass inside the Kentucky 15 with nobody between him and the goal line.
An offside penalty also cost the Nittany Lions two points, wiping out
Brown's sack of Couch in the end zone late in the opening quarter. The
play still shifted the game's momentum.
Thompson threw his long touchdown pass to Nastasi on Penn State's
next possession, Anthony King intercepted Couch twice within nine
minutes, and Forney kicked a 26-yard field goal just before the half,
trimming Kentucky's lead to 14-13.
Forney's third field goal put the Nittany Lions ahead midway through the third quarter and his fourth made it 19-14 going into the last period. Fields scored, putting the game out of reach after Penn State stopped Kentucky on downs at the Wildcats' 35 with just over 13 minutes left.
Couch and Kentucky started strong.
|Couch is pursued.||Chafie Fields scores on a 19 yard reverse.|
|Courtney Brown gets Couch.||Fields 19 yard run put it away.|
|Choo Choo McCoo||LaVar Arrington|