The Big Ten didn’t do so hot against the SEC this bowl season.
For the third time in three days, a Big Ten team fell to an SEC team as Penn State lost to Georgia, 24-17, in the TaxSlayer Bowl, bringing the conference’s record against the SEC to 1-3 this postseason.
Despite losing quarterback Christian Hackenberg to a shoulder injury in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds. Backup quarterback Trace McSorley threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to bring Penn State within seven, but Georgia defenders batted down McSorley’s Hail Mary attempt as time ran out.
McSorley performed well, completing 14 of his 27 passes for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hackenberg completed just eight passes for 139 yards and an interception prior to his exit.
In a battle between two of the country’s top defenses, Penn State actually out-gained Georgia, 401-327. But the Lions couldn’t chip into that Bulldogs defense until late in the game.
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Penn State mustered just a field goal in the first half, trailing by two touchdowns at halftime thanks to a 44-yard touchdown throw from wide receiver Terry Godwin and a 17-yard scoring toss from quarterback Greyson Lambert that Godwin caught.
The Bulldogs added another touchdown in the third quarter to make it a seemingly unsurmountable 24-3 advantage. But McSorley hit Geno Lewis from 17 yards out for a score seconds into the fourth quarter. And with a little more than six minutes left, McSorley found DaeSean Hamilton from 20 yards out, the receiver making a great catch to slash Georgia’s lead to just seven at 24-17.
Georgia reached the Penn State 23-yard line on the ensuing drive but turned the ball over on downs with about a minute and a half to play. McSorley took the Lions downfield, at one point completing four straight passes and picking up a huge first down with a 14-yard run on fourth and five inside of 20 seconds to play. But his heave from the Georgia 39-yard line was unsuccessful.
The loss sent Penn State to a 7-6 finish on the season.
Though head coach James Franklin said Hackenberg’s injury wasn’t too serious, it did mark the end of his Penn State career, as the junior quarterback told reporters following the loss that he was declaring for the NFL Draft.