OUTBACK BOWL – JANUARY 1
By Al Curtiss

LIVE QUARTER BY QUARTER UPDATE

Our Knights Sports Productions correspondent Al Curtiss will be providing our quarter-by-quarter live updates.  Enjoy.

2022 Outback Bowl – Penn State vs Arkansas

Tampa Bay FL

1st quarter

The 2022 New Year’s Day Bowls kicked off under the bright sun at Raymond James Stadium with Penn State and Arkansas trading big plays on third down and interceptions.  The game remained scoreless until the last play of the first quarter when Razorback RB Rahem Sanders scooted in from the 3 yard line to make the score 7-0 Arkansas at the end of quarter 1.  The story of the 1st quarter was Arkansas ability to run the ball and Penn State’s struggles on the ground, as the Razorbacks chewed 86 yards on the ground compared to the Nittany Lions 9 yards.   Arkansas also had 22 plays to Penn States 13 plays, and 7 first downs to Penn State’s two.

Second quarter to follow at its conclusion.

2nd Quarter

Penn State took advantage of a 16-yard punt return by Parker Washington and then immediately went up top on the first play for a 49-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to WR Lambert Smith.  Smith was wide open down the middle of the field, taking advantage of a blown coverage by the Razorbacks.

Offensively, Penn State flipped the script in the 2nd quarter, as their offense gained 175 yards while the defense held Arkansas to 25 total yards.   Jake Prinegar made sure this dominance did not go to waste and he followed up the earlier TD and gave the Nittany Lions the lead halfway through the 2nd quarter with a 43-yard field goal that made the score 10-7.

Despite being undermanned, with 6 starters missing the game, the Penn State defense was stingy in defending the end zone against the fast-paced and powerful Arkansas offense during the first half.   Led by Senior Captain linebacker Jesse Luketa, who had 5 tackles from his inside linebacker position and safety Ji’Ayir Brown, who had 3 tackles and 2 interceptions, including a touchdown saving Interception when he raced across the back of the end zone and stepped n front of a wide-open receiver in the first quarter.  Defensive End Nick Tarburton provided constant pressure and recorded 4 tackles and a sack in the first half.

End of the first half, Penn State is up 10-7.

Third quarter to follow immediately upon its conclusion of the third quarter now that the Live Stats is now back on line.

3rd quarter

Arkansas took advantage of deferring the coin toss to start the game, and took the ball 78 yards in 7 plays, all on the ground.  Quarterback KJ Jefferson finished the drive with a zone read run right up the heart of the Penn State D for an 8-yard TD run to make the score 14-10 with 12:42 left in the 3rd quarter.

On the Razorback’s second drive, QB KJ Jefferson once again led the team down the field with his legs, but the Penn State defense bowed its back at the 14-yard line and forced Arkansas kicker Cam Little to make a 36 yard field goal and make the score 17-10.

Arkansas scored again on their 3rd possession of the 3rd quarter, going 79 yards in four plays.  The drive was highlighted by a 34-yard run by KJ Jefferson and a 32 yard run by his replacement Malik Horsnby.  RB Raheim Sanders finished the drive with a 2-yard TD plunge to make the score 24-10.

The 17 unanswered points by Arkansas was sparked primarily by the legs of KJ Jefferson who finished the 3rd quarter with 108 yards on 18 carries.   The Penn State defense, which played a gallantly in the first half looked tired and a step slow after halftime.

Fourth quarter to follow on completion of the tilt.

4th Quarter

Penn State started the 4th quarter with a 75-yard drive to the Arkansas 10, but Razorback safety Joe Foucha stepped in front of a corner route for an interception and sealed Penn State’s fate and a final score of 24-10.  As the 4th quarter progressed Arkansas continued to move the ball at will and ended the game by taking a knee inside the Nittany Lions 10 yard line.

Arkansas finished the day with 451 yards of offense, with 361 coming on the ground.    After a relatively even first half, Arkansas totaled 25 first downs compared to Penn State’s 17, clearly demonstrating the second half dominance on both he score board and the stat sheet.

Below are the comments we have from Head Coaches James Franklin and Sam Pittman along with Outback Bowl.  My questions and their responses are below.

LH : Did it get to a point today where you just ran out of gas?

JF : Yeah, obviously nobody wants to hear me say that. But was that a factor in the game? Yes. Obviously we had a depth situation and we had a bunch of guys that played a bunch of football today that really hadn’t played a bunch of football all year long.  I wasn’t going to bring it up but it was a factor.

LH : Early in the game, Jefferson get on the edge and up comes a defensive back.  #1 lowers his shoulder and ‘s not sliding.  That’s a fullback coming at you now, right?

SP : Yeah, well, it is. We don’t do none of that. That ain’t how we’re built (laughter). Earlier in the year, I said, Hey, KJ you can go left or right No, no, no.  What did you tell me?  Right early in the Texas game, here comes the safety, and he doesn’t even have to run to KJ because KJ just turns and starts running to him (laughter). That’s a little bit of physicality of who he is and hopefully what are team is about.
LH : You beat Texas and finish in the top of the  SEC and win the Outback Bowl.  Did you think before the season began that this is how it was going to unfold?
SP : Oh, yeah. I knew that was going to happen. Look down on a piece of paper, just put the schedule on a piece of paper. You look down on the paper, you go, Huh, who is trying to fire me (laughter)?  One thing about it, we got guys like him. As long as we got guys like him (Jefferson) , coaches like I have, kids that are going to work hard, we’re going to be fine. We are at the University of Arkansas. I’m proud of that. Thank you.
LH : It looked like in the second half you took the game on your shoulders.  Was that the case?
KJJ :: It was. I mean, coach decided he was, like at some point, you got to take over the game, put the game in your hands. We got to put our best foot forward, score points, win the game. That’s what it was.
LH : Coach Pittman said in the beginning of the week that this wasn’t the national championship game but it was our national championship game.  Was that yourr thoughts too?
KJJ :  It was. I mean, we been through a lot over the past years, going through a little rough patch. Now, that we are finally on the rise, on the come-up. Everybody on the team took this to be like a national championship, big stage, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Florida. We had to come out and proved that Arkansas showed.