No. 9 Penn State defeated No. 11 Washington, 35-28, in the 47th Annual PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in front of a crowd of 61,842 at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Making the program’s seventh trip to the Fiesta Bowl and first since 1997, the Nittany Lions took advantage of a strong start to hold off the Huskies and add to its perfect 7-0 record in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Nittany Lions (11-2, 7-2) jumped out to an early 28-7 lead, behind the offensive duo of Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley. Barkley found the end zone twice, including a Fiesta Bowl record 92-yard run, and McSorley hit DaeSean Hamilton with a 48-yard scoring pass to jump out front.
However, Washington (10-3, 7-2) wouldn’t back down, scoring 21 of the game’s next 28 points. Head coach Chris Petersen reached into his bag of tricks to spark Washington from an early funk, calling a double pass that led to a 52-yard gain to tight end Drew Sample, setting up Jake Browning’s one-yard TD run. The Huskies brought the game within a touchdown in the fourth quarter after a Myles Gaskin 69-yard scoring run, his second of the day. The junior running back led the Washington offense, rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries.
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.
Coming into the game, Washington had the top-ranked rushing defense in the FBS, led by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Vita Vea, but had no answer for Barkley. Including a Fiesta Bowl and Penn State program record 92-yard touchdown run, Barkley carried the ball 18 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Barkley, However, was not the only thing going right for the Penn State offense. Junior quarterback Trace McSorley added 61 yards on the ground and 342 yards through the air with two touchdowns, both coming on third down plays to Hamilton. The Nittany Lions offense put up an unprecedented 545 yards on the Huskies’ defense.
With the win, head coach James Franklin picked up his second bowl victory and helped Penn State to its first bowl win since 2014. Click here to see a video recap.