Signal-caller Sean Clifford and Penn State are ready for the 84th Cotton Bowl Classic against Memphis. The Nittany Lions spent Christmas in Dallas in preparation for Saturday. The team also got news of a new Offensive Coordinator the day after Christmas. Penn State announced that former Minnesota OC, Kirk Ciarrocca, will be the new Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator for the Nittany Lions. With that news announced, Tyler Bowen and the offense can focus on what is ahead, Memphis. Tight ends coach, Bowen, will be calling the plays on Saturday.
Sean Clifford and Penn State Ready for Cotton Bowl
The Nittany Lions will have their starting quarterback back for the Cotton Bowl against Memphis on Saturday. Clifford missed part of the Ohio State game with an injury and then sat out the entire regular-season finale against Rutgers. All signs point to the redshirt sophomore being healthy for the Cotton Bowl against Memphis. Clifford has had a good season as a first-time starter. He has thrown for 2,521 yards this season. Further, he has 22 passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns, and six interceptions. Clifford will have to look out for Memphis defender Bryce Huff. Huff, leads the Tigers 15 tackles for loss and six sacks this season. In addition, Huff has forced two fumbles and recovered one.
Memphis’s High Powered Offense
The Tigers are 12-1 this season and averaging 40.5 points per game. Quarterback Brady White has thrown for 3,560 yards in 2019. Further, he has 33 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. Memphis will be without several key members of the offense though. First and foremost, the Tigers are playing without Head Coach and play-caller, Mike Norvell. Norvell took the head coaching position at Florida State and will not be coaching the Cotton Bowl. In addition, starting tight end Joey Magnifico is not playing due to a knee injury. The senior announced his absence on his Twitter account on Christmas. Magnifico had 20 receptions this season for 335 yards and two touchdowns. Finally, offensive tackle Scottie Dill will also not play in the Cotton Bowl. Dill graduated this winter and Memphis stated that he is not with the team and will not be playing on Saturday.
Even with those three missing on Saturday, there are a lot of weapons for the Tiger offense. Running back Kenny Gainwell has been very good this season. The redshirt freshman has rushed for 1,425 yards this season and is responsible for 15 total touchdowns. He’s not the only Tiger making his presence known. Wide receiver Damonte Coxie averages 16.8 yards per reception with 1,144 receiving yards. Also, Coxie has nine touchdowns on the season.
Penn State’s Top-Ranked Defense
The Nittany Lions are ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense this season. Penn State has accounted for over 30 sacks so far in 2019 in addition to recovering 11 fumbles. Penn State will have to contain Gainwell and pressure White often on Saturday. Two Nittany Lions that will look to do that are defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and All-American linebacker Micah Parsons. Gross-Matos has declared for the NFL draft and is dealing with an arm injury, but it expected to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic. The standout defensive end has 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the season. Sophomore linebacker, Parsons, has also had a very good 2019. He is the first sophomore to be named All-American for the Nittany Lions since linebacker LaVar Arrington in 1998. Parsons has 95 total tackles this season, 11 for loss, and three sacks. In addition, the linebacker has two forced fumbles and one recovered. Parsons will need to make his presence known against Memphis on Saturday.
Cotton Bowl Breakdown; Penn State vs. Memphis
What: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Where: AT&T Stadium; Dallas, TX
When: Saturday, December 28, 2019 @ 12:00 pm ET
Who: No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) vs. No. 17 Memphis Tigers (12-1)