No. 9 Penn State headed to Fiesta Bowl; Temple to play in Gasparilla Bowl

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No. 9 Penn State headed to Fiesta Bowl; Temple to play in Gasparilla Bowl

For Temple, there was some suspense. For No. 9 Penn State, the only question was who they would play.

Both the Nittany Lions and Owls are officially bowl bound. Penn State learned Sunday that it will take on No. 12 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. in Glendale, Arizona. Temple will play Florida International in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

Penn State, in the hunt for the College Football Playoffs for most of the season, lost two straight heartbreakers, 39-38 to No. 5 Ohio State on Oct. 28, and 27-24 to No. 18 Michigan State on Nov. 4. The Nittany Lions won their last three games, capped off by a 66-3 drubbing of Maryland last Saturday.

Junior running back Saquon Barkley, once a top Heisman Trophy contender and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, leads the Penn State offense. He has rushed for 1,134 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

Their opponents had their playoff hopes derailed by a 13-7 upset to Arizona State on Oct 14. Washington and Penn State last played in the 1983 Aloha Bowl, which the Nittany Lions won, 13-10. 

Temple sealed Bowl eligibility with a 45-22 win in its regular-season finale against Tulsa. The 6-6 Owls will face the 8-4 Florida International Panthers, who play in Conference USA. 

For the first time in school history, Temple will play in a bowl game for a third straight year. 

Sloppy Penn State falls to NC State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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Sloppy Penn State falls to NC State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

BOX SCORE

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State built its big lead with sharp shooting from behind the 3-point line -- then made it stand by shooting well from the free-throw line.

N.C. State held on to beat Penn State 85-78 on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Omer Yurtseven had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Al Freeman scored 17 points and fellow graduate transfer Sam Hunt added a season-best 14 and hit four of the Wolfpack's season-high 10 3-pointers.

N.C. State (6-2) hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final minute to snap the two-game losing streak that followed its upset of then-No. 2 Arizona last week in the Bahamas.

Coach Kevin "Keatts said we had the flu, and this game was our recovery," Yurtseven said, "and now, we're back healthy."

Lennard Freeman finished with 10 points and Torin Dorn added 12 rebounds for the Wolfpack.

Tony Carr scored 29 points on 12-of-25 shooting for Penn State while Lamar Stevens finished with 13 points and Shep Garner added 10.

In losing for the second time in three games, the Nittany Lions (6-2) -- who usually thrive on generating steals -- instead had 18 turnovers, including two in the final minute.

And while they outscored N.C. State 42-26 in the paint and held a 43-35 rebounding advantage, coach Patrick Chambers said his team missed too many short-range shots and gave up too many rebounds at the wrong times.

"I love the fight that this team has," Chambers said. "They came back, cut it to three. ... We need stops. And we need to cover the glass. I thought they got some timely rebounds."

The Wolfpack never trailed in the second half and led by 13 with just over four minutes to play before Penn State rallied, closing to 79-76 on Lamar Stevens' stickback with 43.1 seconds remaining.

After Markell Johnson hit a free throw with 41.4 seconds left, the Nittany Lions threw the ball away on their next trip downcourt.

Braxton Beverly hit two free throws with 30.9 seconds left to stretch it to 82-76, and after Carr hit a jumper, Johnson added two more to make it a six-point game. Carr was called for an offensive foul with about 10 seconds left and Beverly iced it with a free throw with 4.7 seconds left.

Big picture
Penn State: The Nittany Lions lost their first true road game of the season. Carr continued his scoring tear, but Penn State couldn't get much from another of its key scorers. Mike Watkins, a 10.3-point scorer, finished with eight on 4-of-10 shooting, but did have 14 rebounds.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack took care of some of the hallmarks of first-year coach Kevin Keatts' uptempo system -- shooting 3s and forcing turnovers. They have forced an average of 22.4 takeaways in their five home games, and even Yurtseven got into the 3-point-shooting act, knocking down three of them. "The thing is, if you treat every practice like games, then games are going to be just like practices," Yurtseven said. "That's basically the logic behind it, and whatever you do, it pays off at the end."

Injury report
The Wolfpack were down two players after forwards Darius Hicks and Abdul-Malik Abu suffered knee injuries. Abu, who missed the first four games with a sprained right knee, reported knee soreness and was held out. Hicks, who didn't play in any of the three games in the Bahamas, tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice earlier this week and will miss the season. Keatts said

Key stats
N.C. State's bench outscored Penn State's 39-9. The bulk of that was provided by Yurtseven and Hunt, as N.C. State went only three deep on the bench.

Up next
Penn State: Begins Big Ten play on Saturday at Iowa.

N.C. State: Plays host to South Carolina State on Saturday.

Penn State OC Joe Moorhead reportedly to be named Mississippi State head coach

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Penn State OC Joe Moorhead reportedly to be named Mississippi State head coach

Mississippi State hired a Florida offensive coordinator with no college head coaching experience to come lead its football program.

That was nine years ago, his name was Dan Mullen. It turned out be a risk that worked out extremely well for the Bulldogs.

Now Mississippi State has gone back to a similar blueprint. The Bulldogs will hire Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as their next head coach, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because a deal was still being finalized.

Mullen had a 69-46 record and lifted the Bulldogs from the Southeastern Conference basement to a respected -- and often successful -- program in the Western Division.

He left the folks in Starkville, Mississippi, returning to Florida as the Gators new head coach. The move announced Sunday wasn't totally unexpected -- Mullen's name has been mentioned in connection with other jobs during the past several offseasons.

"In anticipation of this development, MSU has already begun the process of an orderly and expeditious transition to new and exciting leadership for our football program," Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum said in a statement on Sunday.

The new hire happened quickly.

Before coming to Penn State, Moorhead was head coach at FCS Fordham University in New York. He went 38-13 at his alma mater with three playoff appearances in four years. The Rams have made only two other playoff appearances since moving up to Division I in 1989.

While Moorhead has the head coaching experience that Mullen lacked, this is still his first head coaching job at the FBS level.

The 44-year-old from Pittsburgh also has been offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Connecticut and Akron.

Penn State coach James Franklin hired Moorhead after the 2015 season to bring his creative spread offense to State College, and it has helped the Nittany Lions take off. Penn State is 21-5 the last two seasons with Moorhead directing the offense.

Mullen was one of the most successful football coaches in program history. His 69 wins were the second-most at Mississippi State and he led the Bulldogs to a program-record eight straight bowl games.

His best season was in 2014, when Mississippi State was the No. 1 team in the country for five straight weeks. The Bulldogs, who were led by current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, finished with a 10-3 record that season.

The good news for the Bulldogs is the job should be more attractive than it's even been.

"We return a tremendous roster of young talent," Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said when announcing Mullen's departure. "We seek someone who will continue us on our path to competing for championships and developing our student-athletes both on and off the field."

No. 24 Mississippi State has an 8-4 record this season, including a 4-4 mark in the SEC. If the Bulldogs win their bowl game, it'll be the third time in four seasons that they've won nine games.

Cohen wasn't exaggerating; the roster appears stocked for 2018: Starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Egg Bowl last week, but has already had surgery and is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for next season. Only a handful of the main contributors this season were seniors.

Mississippi State has also improved its facilities in recent years. In 2014, Davis Wade Stadium received a $75 million upgrade that increased seating by several thousand and also included more premium seating.

The main downside to the job is the Bulldogs reside in the SEC's Western Division and the other six programs are flush with cash and other resources. But Mullen proved that Mississippi State can be a factor -- and the Bulldogs are looking for someone with the ability to do the same.