NCF Nation: Capital One 2009 bowls

A quick look at Penn State’s 19-17 victory over LSU on Friday in the Capital One Bowl:

How the game was won: Penn State took advantage of a lethargic and turnover-prone LSU offense and put together a 12-play drive in the final minutes of the game that ended with Collin Wagner’s game-winning 21-yard field goal with 57 seconds to play. The Tigers turned the ball over three times and were held to 243 yards of total offense. They went nearly three quarters with only three points before making a late charge to take a 17-16 lead.

Turning point: After Wagner’s three points the Tigers still had a chance and moved into Penn State territory. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on LSU’s Lyle Hitt killed any hope of winning it on a field goal and moved the Tigers back to their own 40.

Stat of the game: LSU had more penalties (10) than first downs (nine). The Tigers also had more penalty yards (64) than rushing yards (41).

Player of the game: In his final game at LSU, senior receiver Brandon LaFell had five catches for 87 yards. His 24-yard touchdown catch ignited the Tigers’ charge at the end of the third quarter.

What it means: The Tigers (9-4) had their four-game winning streak in bowl games snapped. Les Miles had previously never lost in the postseason at LSU. But he’ll surely be answering questions all offseason about an offense that never found an identity this year and that just wasn’t very good. There were problems in the offensive line. Key injuries played a role, and sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson showed some glaring growing pains of being a first-year starting quarterback in the SEC and was also limited by an ankle. The Tigers lost this game despite allowing just one touchdown. It was reminiscent of the Florida game earlier this season in Baton Rouge. If they’re going to get back to the top of the SEC hierarchy, they will have to improve dramatically on offense next season. Once again, the Tigers had clock management issues on offense. LSU has now lost nine games in the last two seasons. That’s after losing only 10 in the five seasons prior.

The Big Ten finally won a close one, and a critical one at that. Penn State's seniors cemented a successful legacy by engineering a huge win against No. 12 LSU in the Capital One Bowl. The Big Ten evens its bowl record at 2-2 heading into the Daddy.

How the game was won: Penn State seemed to be in command at halftime, as LSU managed only two first downs on a sloppy track. But the Tigers rallied late in the third quarter to claim a 17-16 lead in the closing minutes. It set things up for Penn State senior quarterback Daryll Clark, a school record holder who lacked a true signature win on his résumé. Clark led the winning drive and kicker Collin Wagner kicked his fourth field goal in awful conditions as Penn State prevailed. LSU once again mismanaged the clock and committed a crucial penalty in the final minute.

Turning point: After losing a 13-point lead, Penn State took possession at its own 31-yard line with 6:54 remaining. But Clark led an immensely clutch drive, completing 3 of 3 passes for 33 yards and making several clutch runs. Penn State converted two third downs and marched to the LSU 4-yard before Wagner came up big again. The Lions also took nearly six minutes off of the clock.

Player of the game: Wagner. Yes, I know he's the kicker, but did you see that playing surface? The field conditions were a huge story in this game, and Wagner went 4-for-4 on field goals. An honorable mention goes to Clark, who didn't have great numbers but came up big when it mattered most. Linebacker Sean Lee also stepped up.

Stat of the game: Penn State's defense dominated for most of the way, holding LSU to nine first downs, 243 total yards and only 41 rushing yards. The Lions offense did its part by holding the ball for 38:21.

What it means: Penn State finally notched a signature win and sent a successful senior class out on a high note. The Lions won 11 games for the second consecutive season and claimed their fourth bowl victory in the last five seasons. They also kept pace with a supposedly faster LSU team, as the defense shut down the Tigers for most of the way. Clark finishes his career as one of the best quarterbacks in team history. Joe Paterno added to his NCAA record bowl victories total. The Lions now head into a potential rebuilding season, though their recent recruiting success likely will prevent a big drop-off.

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