UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State is heading back to the Lone Star State for its sixth bowl game in the state, as the No. 24/23 Nittany Lions will meet the University of Houston in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 2, 2012.
Penn State will be playing in a January bowl game for the 12th time since starting Big Ten Conference play in 1993 and playing in Dallas for the first time since the 1975 Cotton Bowl.
The Nittany Lions and the No. 20/17 Cougars were selected today (Dec. 4) for their third all-time meeting and first post-season clash. The TicketCity Bowl will kick at noon Eastern Time in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium (capacity 92,158) and is the first bowl game of 2012. The game will air on ESPNU and the Penn State Sports Network.
“Penn State University’s administration believes this opportunity is a fitting acknowledgement of the hard work, dedication and perseverance our student athletes have exhibited during this especially challenging season,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “As Penn State continues to move forward from recent events we are committed to help break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse and lead to better protection of our children. We will use revenues received from our Big Ten Conference bowl payout to support our recently announced partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, as well as other related initiatives.
“The Penn State Nittany Lion football team has accepted an invitation to play in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas, and we’re very thankful for the TicketCity Bowl selection committee’s recognition and support of this year’s team and our outstanding institution,” said David Joyner, Penn State acting athletic director. “I know that our fans and our team will show Penn State’s true colors and character throughout our visit to Dallas and the Metroplex. We also congratulate and look forward to competing against the University of Houston in what should be a great and memorable game for all involved.”
Penn State leads the series with Houston, 2-0. Led by Coach Rip Engle, the Nittany Lions won, 24-7 in Houston on Nov. 14, 1964. Penn State won a match-up of Top 10 teams on Sept. 17, 1977, in Beaver Stadium, with the No. 10 Nittany Lions defeating the No. 9 Cougars, 31-14, as Coach Joe Paterno led the hosts to an 11-1 campaign.
The Nittany Lions (9-3) will be playing in the Cotton Bowl Stadium for the fourth time, having earned a 2-0-1 record in three Cotton Bowl appearances (see below).
Penn State has won four of its last six bowl appearances, with victories in the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl (Florida State), 2007 Outback Bowl (Tennessee), 2007 Alamo Bowl (Texas A&M) and 2010 Capital One Bowl (LSU). The losses came in the 2009 Rose Bowl (USC) and 2011 Outback Bowl (Florida).
“We are excited to be playing a great Houston team in the TicketCity Bowl,” said interim head coach Tom Bradley. “I’d like to thank the bowl committee for selecting us and let them know we are looking forward to playing in Dallas in the first bowl game of 2012. We are proud to represent the Big Ten Conference, our University, alumni and fans in the TicketCity Bowl.”
Penn State will be making its 44th bowl appearance overall, good for No. 8 in the nation. The Nittany Lions’ 27 bowl victories are No. 3 in the nation and their winning percentage (65.1, 27-14-2) is No. 2 nationally among schools with at least 20 bowl appearances. USC leads at 66.7 (32-16). Penn State leads all Big Ten teams in bowl victories and winning percentage and is No. 2 in bowl appearances.
Houston (12-1) suffered its first loss of the season Saturday in the Conference USA Championship Game, 49-28, to then No. 23 Southern Miss. Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin played at Purdue and his team is led by senior quarterback Case Kennum, who owns multiple NCAA records. Houston leads the nation in pass offense at 443.8 ypg.
The TicketCity Bowl is in its second year of being played and second with a tie-in to the Big Ten. Northwestern fell to Texas Tech, 45-38, in the first TicketCity Bowl, held on Jan. 1, 2011.
Penn State will be playing in the Cotton Bowl Stadium for the first time since defeating Baylor (41-20) in the 1975 Cotton Bowl. The Nittany Lions tied Doak Walker-led SMU, 13-13, in the 1948 Cotton Bowl and beat Texas (30-6) in the historic Jan. 1, 1972, game in Dallas.
The Cotton Bowl Stadium Stadium underwent an extensive renovation in 2008 that included new seating, turf, facilities, restrooms, concessions and HD videboard. The Rose Bowl Stadium is the only facility to have hosted more bowl games than the Cotton Bowl Stadium.
The Nittany Lions also are 2-0 in the Alamo Bowl, with wins over Texas A&M in the 1999 contest (24-0) and 2007 game (24-17) in San Antonio.
Penn State is 14-0-1 all-time against the schools who are current members of Conference USA, with the most recent meeting resulting in a Penn State win over UCF in State College in 2004. The Nittany Lions are 1-0-1 vs. C-USA teams in bowl games, tying SMU in the 1948 Cotton Bowl and defeating Tulane in the 1979 Liberty Bowl.
The Nittany Lions vs. Conference USA teams: Houston (2-0), East Carolina (2-0), Marshall (2-0), Tulane (1-0), Rice (2-0), SMU (1-0-1), Southern Miss (2-0), UCF (2-0).
Four Nittany Lions are from Texas: freshman offensive lineman Kevin Blanchard (Katy), sophomore placekicker/punter Anthony Fera (Cypress), sophomore guard Frank Figueroa (San Antonio) and senior cornerback D’Anton Lynn (Celina). Fera was selected second-team All-Big Ten placekicker and Lynn was honorable-mention all-conference.
Penn State and Wisconsin shared the first Big Ten Leaders Division title with 6-2 conference marks. Led by senior defensive tackle Devon Still, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, the Penn State defense in ranked in the Top 10 nationally in scoring (5th, 15.7 ppg), total (10th, 300.9 ypg), pass (5th, 167.7 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (5th, 100.1 rating).
The Nittany Lions are 67-22 (75.3) since the start of the 2005 season, the nation’s No. 12 winning percentage over that span. The seven-year run includes two Big Ten Championships and BCS berths and four bowl victories.
Jeff Nelson, Penn State University