No. 9 Penn State tops No. 12 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Penn State Nittany Lions outlasted Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, defeating the Huskies 35-28 on Saturday.
Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Saquon Barkley ran for two more scores to lead No. 9 Penn State.
Penn State (11-2) had its way with Washington’s vaunted defense early, building a 28-7 lead by the second quarter. Washington (10-3) woke up from an offensive slumber with two touchdowns and pulled to 35-28 on Myles Gaskins’ 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies, No. 11 CFP, allowed Penn State to work the clock to under a minute on the next drive and gave up a season-high 545 total yards.
Washington had a shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but Dante Pettis passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up a another play, and threw a final lateral that was intercepted.
Washington had the nation’s top run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards per game, but Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions’ 203 yards rushing.
Penn State also was 13 for 17 on third downs, including touchdown passes by McSorley and three conversions on its final clock-draining drive.
The Nittany Lions lost a chance at the CFP with consecutive losses to Ohio State and No. 24 Michigan State, but ended up in a familiar place: The Fiesta Bowl, where they had not lost in six previous trips.
Penn State raced toward No. 7 by going to the air early against the run-stingy Huskies.
McSorley picked Washington’s secondary apart, hitting nine receivers for 219 yards in the first half. He connected with DaeSean Hamilton on a 48-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and set up scoring runs of 2 yards by Barkley and 1 yard by Miles Sanders.
Barkley then did it all himself, bursting through the left side for a 92-yard touchdown run to put Penn State up 28-7.
The Nittany Lions had 367 yards by halftime against a defense that allowed 277.4 yards per game during the regular season.
Washington was in the Fiesta Bowl for the first time, but it was not the first go-round for Huskies coach Chris Petersen; he made a name for himself by trick-playing Boise State to a pair of Fiesta victories
Petersen reached into his trick-play bag to spark Washington from an early funk, calling a double pass that led to 52-yard gain to tight end Drew Sample. That set up Jake Browning’s 1-yard TD dive.
The Huskies turned a recovered fumble into a much-needed touchdown just before halftime, cutting Penn State’s lead to 28-14 on Gaskin’s 13-yard run.
Another big score came right after halftime: Browning 28 yards to Aaron Fuller.
Washington’s defense continued to have trouble slowing the Nittany Lions and McSorley threw another TD pass to Hamilton, a 24-yarder to put Penn State up 35-21.
Penn State could wonder what might have been in the CFP, but a Fiesta Bowl is a nice way to close out the season.
Washington’s defense had its worst outing of the season at the worst possible time.
Barkley is a junior, but could decide to leave for the NFL. So is McSorley and the Nittany Lions should have most of their offensive line back.
Washington will lose two offensive line starters and receiver/punt returner Pettis to graduation, but gets back most of its defense. Browning, Gaskin and DL Vita Vea also are juniors, if they decide to stay in school.