Saquon Barkley leads No. 9 Penn State to Fiesta Bowl win

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Saquon Barkley leads No. 9 Penn State to Fiesta Bowl win

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Converting on third downs had been a sore spot at Penn State, so coach James Franklin made it a point of emphasis in spring ball and fall camp.

The Nittany Lions kept working at it during the season and kept getting better, peaking at the perfect time.

Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards and had both of his touchdown passes to DaeSean Hamilton on third-down plays, helping No. 9 Penn State outlast No. 12 Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.

"Our coaches did a fantastic job and the O line protected and the receivers made plays," Franklin said. "We were very efficient. We executed."

Penn State (11-2), No. 9 in the final College Football Rankings, 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' inability to stop Penn State on third down kept them from getting any closer.

The Nittany Lions converted three third-down attempts on a final clock-winding drive and were 13 for 17 overall. Washington had a final shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but Dante Pettis' final lateral was intercepted after he passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up one more play.

"I think a lot of it was McSorley," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him, he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time."

Washington had the nation's top run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards per game, but Saquon Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions' 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns in what could be his final game if he decides to turn pro.

The Huskies, No. 11 CFP, gave up a season-high 545 total yards.

"They had us on our heels most of the night," Petersen said.

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.

"We came out flat in the first half," Washington linebacker Tevis Bartlett said.

Washington was in the Fiesta Bowl for the first time, but Petersen had 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.

But Penn State answered on another third down, when McSorley hit Hamilton on a 24-yard TD pass to put Penn State up 35-21.

"(Hamilton's TD) was really, really important, because momentum was starting to swing there," Franklin said.

Browning's quiet day
Browning has been one of the nation's most prolific passers during his career, but found little room to operate against Penn State's secondary. He missed on several throws and finished with 175 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing.

Big picture
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.

Up next
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.

Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now ," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal `80s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, packed the Garden all the way to the last row of the upper deck.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

Big picture
Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.

Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

Big crowd
The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

Something different
The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.

Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

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Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

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NEW YORK -- Nearly a month after Penn State was bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions are back at Madison Square Garden with another chance to win a championship.

Tony Carr scored 21 points, Shep Garner added 18 while breaking the school record for career 3-pointers and Penn State routed Mississippi State 75-60 in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals Tuesday night.

"Of course we were a little disappointed not to make the (NCAA) Tournament, but we made another goal," Garner said. "We saw we were in the NIT and our goal was to get to New York and win it. That's what everyone wants to do. We put ourselves in position to do so."

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (25-13) will play No. 2 seed Utah for the title Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

After the score was tied 9-all, Penn State ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run. From there, the Nittany Lions opened the second with a 19-0 spurt capped by Garner's 3 off an assist from Carr to make it 37-11.

With football coach James Franklin cheering from the stands, Penn State went up 42-23 at halftime and led by as many as 27.

Mississippi State (25-12) wasn't able to get within 20 again until there was 7:56 left in the game. Abdul Ado's dunk made it 65-47, but that was the closest the Bulldogs got before the waning moments.

"We were really impatient," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "Once we started falling behind, we got anxious and we were shooting quick. Quick, bad shots and it just like, snowballed."

Tyson Carter scored 19 points off the bench to lead No. 4 seed Mississippi State. Ado had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Lamar Stevens scored 17 for Penn State, which shot 11 of 20 from 3-point territory. Carr had six assists and five rebounds.

Big picture
Penn State: While the Nittany Lions would have preferred to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, they made the NIT for the first time under seventh-year coach Pat Chambers. Penn State's last trip to the NIT title game was in 2009, when it beat Baylor for the crown. The school's only other appearance in the final was a loss to Minnesota in 1998.

Mississippi State: With just one senior on the roster, the Bulldogs will return most of their team and have something positive to build off as they try to move up the rankings in the rugged SEC next season.

Record producer
With his six 3-pointers, Garner broke Penn State's record for 3s in an NIT along with the school mark of 332 held by Pete Lisicky (1995-98). Garner also had six 3s in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Purdue, giving him 12 in his last two games at Madison Square Garden and 334 for his career.

"They say the record is an individual record, but I've had a lot of teammates that had a lot to do with the record," Garner said. "A lot of people that set screens for me to get me open, break passes to them, they put it right on the button for me and I just finish the job. That's a team record. It's a lot of people that had stuff to do with it. I tip my hat to my teammates and my coaches to put me in a position to do something special like that."

Up next
Penn State: Will try to win the second NIT championship in school history when it faces Utah (23-11), which beat Western Kentucky 69-64 in the first semifinal.

Mississippi State: Starts preparing for a promising 2018-19 season.