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2011 TicketCity Bowl Recap

Houston Cougars vs Penn State Nittany Lions - Houston 30, Penn State 14

The 2012 TicketCity Bowl will be remembered as a game in which one team cared about being in Dallas, Texas, while the other team’s collective mindset was removed from football. It will also be remembered as the day when a great quarterback found a fitting and fulfilling capper to a legendary career.

The Houston Cougars enjoyed their short trip to another Texas metropolis, as they thrashed the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first of six bowl games on January 2. Houston, a former member of the Southwest Conference, once lived to play in the Cotton Bowl game, the reward for the champion of that now-defunct league. Houston, in fact, played in three Cotton Bowls in a four-season span from 1976 through 1979. How richly satisfying yet ironic it must have been for the 2011 Cougars to come to the Cotton Bowl stadium for this middle-tier bowl battle against one of the big brand-name programs in college football. Penn State beat Texas and Baylor during the 1970s, as former coach Joe Paterno built a resume of considerable proportions on the field. However, as Penn State returned to this venerable Dallas stadium for a January bowl, Paterno was missing… and so was the light from the Nittany Lions’ eyes.

Penn State was just not in a good frame of mind for this game. The team entered without a permanent head coach, and it also knew that interim boss Tom Bradley would not be returning as the permanent coach for the 2012 season. Moreover, the Nittany Lions were internally rocked yet again when a fight injured their starting quarterback, Matt McGloin. Penn State’s season had already been taken off the rails by the sex-abuse scandal which reached deep into the PSU athletic department and forced the iconic Paterno to be fired last November. After the McGloin incident, the Nittany Lions had even less incentive to play this bowl game. The controversies and bad feelings which engulfed the team made this a game the Nittany Lions simply wanted to finish and be done with. The offseason simply couldn’t have come quickly enough for this ballclub.

Houston and Case Keenum seized their moment of opportunity.

Keenum, granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility after suffering an injury early in the 2010 season, has stuck around long enough at Houston to rewrite the NCAA record book. The prolific quarterback smashed several passing records at UH, including the three biggies – passing yards, touchdowns, and completions. He celebrated his legendary career by going wild in this game. He completed 45 of 69 passes for 532 yards and three touchdowns. Most notably, Keenum didn’t throw one interception in those 69 pass attempts. He lit up Penn State’s secondary largely because he was able to get the ball to his favorite target, Patrick Edwards, who collected 228 yards on 10 catches, two of which went for touchdowns. Houston rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead and was never seriously threatened.

It felt like the late 1970s for Houston. It did not feel like a 1970s-era Cotton Bowl experience for Penn State.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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