For Penn State and Memphis, Cotton Bowl is all about motivation – Reading Eagle

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 10:44 am

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DALLAS The most important factor in the Cotton Bowl wont be a scheme or a play call, according to Penn State coach James Franklin. It will be about motivation.

Mentality in bowl games is critical, Franklin said. You see it every single year. This is the biggest game in Memphis football history, in my opinion. I think our guys have prepared well, but we better be ready for a dogfight.

The 10th-ranked Nittany Lions (10-2) are favored by a touchdown against No. 17 Memphis (12-1) in the Cotton Bowl today at noon at AT&T Stadium (TV-ESPN).

Two of Penn States previous three losses, a 31-26 decision at Minnesota in November and a 27-24 defeat to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl last season, came against teams that played with a greater sense of urgency from the start.

The Golden Gophers built a 24-10 lead and the Wildcats rolled up a 27-7 advantage before the Lions made late, futile comebacks in each game.

Memphis plays with a lot of emotion and confidence. The Tigers have won 12 games for the first time and are playing in their first New Years Six bowl game. Their only loss came at Temple, 30-27.

This is a very good football team, Franklin said. This is a well-coached football team. This is an extremely prideful team. We better be ready to play.

Memphis watched head coach Mike Norvell and two assistant coaches leave earlier this month for Florida State. Its regular right tackle and tight end arent playing today.

But Penn State special teams coordinator Joe Lorig doesnt expect a dropoff. He coached at Memphis from 2016-18 and knows the roster well.

Ive been talking about the grit and grind that Memphis has, the way wed always play up in big games when I was there, Lorig said. Wed play with a chip on our shoulder. These guys will play their very best football against the very best opponents.

The Tigers feature an explosive offense, which ranks eighth in the country in scoring (40.5) and 10th in total offense (480.7).

Quarterback Brady White has completed 64% of his passes for 3.560 yards and 33 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Kenneth Gainwell, the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, has rushed for 1,425 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wide receiver Damonte Coxie has 68 receptions for 1,144 yards and nine scores.

They just find ways to manufacture yards and points, Franklin said. Theyre very good at the skill positions. The quarterback has a really good feel and understanding of how to run the offense and how to take what the defense is giving. Their running backs and receivers are as good as we have seen this year.

Penn State poses a stiff test, ranking fifth in the country in rushing defense (97.7) and seventh in scoring defense (14.1).

The Penn State defense is the best weve seen, said Ryan Silverfield, who was named head coach after Norvell left. Their front seven is phenomenal. Their back-end guys play well. Theyve got first-rounders up front. They have an All-American linebacker (Micah Parsons).

Its going to be a challenge. I think our offense is one thats accepted a lot of those challenges.

Defensively, Memphis blitzes frequently and allows a lot of big plays. The Tigers have been vulnerable against the run, allowing 171.6 yards a game.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford is expected to return after missing the last game and a half with an unspecified leg injury.

Theyre going to come out swinging, said Journey Brown, Penn States leading rusher. Were going to bring our own juice. If they dont match ours, its going to be a lopsided game and vice versa if we dont bring a lot of juice for ourselves.

Its all about mentality, said Penn State center Michal Menet, the former Exeter standout.

The team that wants it more and that comes out most ready to play from the first snap is the team that probably has had the most focus and best preparation, Menet said. Thats ultimately whats going to set that team up to win.

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For Penn State and Memphis, Cotton Bowl is all about motivation - Reading Eagle

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December 28th, 2019 at 10:44 am

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