WOGENRICH: Ranking the top-10 bowl games in Penn State football history

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)

Penn State will meet Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 30, marking the team’s 48th bowl game dating to 1923.

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 1987, file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno is carried off the field after the Nittany Lions defeated Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., to win the national championship.

The Lions have played a host of memorable bowl games.

Here are the top 10.

10. 1982 FIESTA BOWL

Penn State 26, USC 10

In their second consecutive Fiesta Bowl, the Lions held Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Allen to 85 yards rushing and buoyed their own rushing star. Curt Warner gained 145 yards and two touchdowns in the game that set up Penn State’s first national-championship season.


Penn State 50, BYU 39

The Lions’ highest-scoring bowl game (until 2017) produced 1,115 total yards of offense and just three punts. But the most memorable play came on defense, as Gary Brown blitzed BYU quarterback Ty Detmer, stole the ball mid-pass and raced 53 yards for the final touchdown. Running back Blair Thomas had 232 all-purpose yards.

8. 1995 ROSE BOWL

Penn State 38 Oregon 20

The Lions capped their most prolific offensive season in history by breaking nine individual or team bowl records and becoming the first Big Ten team to finish 12-0. Ki-Jana Carter got things rolling with an 83-yard touchdown run on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage. Joe Paterno became college football’s first coach to win the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton bowls.


Penn State 26, Florida State 23 (3 OT)

A wild game ended when Kevin Kelly made a 29-yard field goal in the third overtime, capping the Lions’ 11-1 season. Parkland High graduate Austin Scott ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Tony Hunt, and walk-on receiver Ethan Kilmer made a contorted touchdown catch just before halftime.


Penn State 13, SMU 13

The Lions’ first bowl game in 25 years ended in a tie after a third-quarter PAT was ruled no good, though it appeared to go through the uprights. More important, Penn State made a statement by staying together at a Naval Air Station because no Dallas hotels would allow the team’s African-American players, Wally Triplett and Dennie Hoggard, to stay at their facilities.

5. 1979 SUGAR BOWL

Alabama 14, Penn State 7

Alabama’s Barry Krauss and Penn State’s Mike Guman took their place in college football history, when Krauss stopped Guman on a fourth-quarter fourth-and-goal to help preserve the lead and, eventually, a national championship. The game also was noteworthy for a pre-replay touchdown catch by Alabama’s Bruce Bolton. Photos later appeared to show that the ball touched the ground before Bolton caught it.


Penn State 15, Kansas 14

Important defensive plays by Mike Reid, Neal Smith and Paul and Pete Johnson kept Penn State in the game late. With 8 seconds remaining, quarterback Chuck Burkhart ran for a touchdown to bring the Lions within a point. Going for the win, Penn State failed on its first 2-point-conversion attempt, but a penalty brought a second chance. Bob Campbell’s ensuing score gave the Lions an 11-0 season and No. 2 final ranking.

3. 2017 ROSE BOWL

USC 52, Penn State 49

The highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever ended on a last-second field goal by USC kicker Matt Boermeester, who capitalized on a Trace McSorley interception late in the fourth quarter. Both teams held double-digit leads in a game that produced 1,040 yards of offense, 707 of them by quarterbacks McSorley and Sam Darnold. Saquon Barkley set Penn State bowl records with 306 all-purpose yards and 194 rushing.

2. 1983 SUGAR BOWL

Penn State 27, Georgia 23

Penn State won its first national championship in a game that made Gregg Garrity a legend. Georgia rallied from a 20-3 deficit to tighten the game before the receiver made a diving touchdown catch of a Todd Blackledge pass in the fourth quarter that led to victory.


Penn State 14, Miami 7

The game that changed college football ended with Pete Giftopoulos’ interception near the goal line, preserving the underdog’s second national championship in four years. Penn State’s defense intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde five times in a game watched by more than 70 million people.