Penn State’s matchup against No. 21 Arkansas will be the program’s fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, and the first since 2011.
Let’s take a quick look back at the previous four games in Tampa.
1996 vs. Auburn (Penn State won 43-14)
The 1995 season wasn’t quite as special as the magical 1994 campaign, but it still ended in triumph. The Nittany Lions blew out Auburn, 43-14, thanks to Bobby Engram’s MVP performance. Engram had 113 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns.
The first half was controlled by the defenses, with Auburn taking a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. After back-to-back Penn State field goal drives, a Wally Richardson touchdown strike to Mike Archie extend the Penn State to 16-7 going into halftime. From that point forward, it was a complete domination from the Nittany Lions.
Just five minutes into the second half, Richardson connected with Engram on a nine-yard touchdown pass. A drive later Richardson again passed for a touchdown, this time hooking up with Steven Pitts. Just like that it was 29-7.
The scoring wasn’t over, though. Curtis Enis plunged into the end zone from a yard out and then a minute later Engram snagged his second TD grab of the afternoon to make it 43-7. That was 40 unanswered points for the blue and white. A late Kevin McLeod rushing touchdown for the Tigers made the final score 43-14.
A complete effort for Penn State to earn its 17th bowl win.
1999 vs. Kentucky (Penn State won 26-14)
Just three years later, Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions were back in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.
Heisman trophy finalist Tim Couch got the scoring started with a touchdown pass to Lance Mickelesen and put the Wildcats up 7-0 early. Penn State answered back with a field goal, only for Couch to connect on another touchdown pass to put Kentucky ahead 14-3.
A Kevin Thompson found Joe Nastasi for the Nittany Lions’ first touchdown of the day in the second quarter, before another Travis Forney field goal closed the gap to 14-13.
Two more Forney field goals gave Penn State a 19-14 lead. In the fourth quarter the Nittany Lions took full control as Chafie Fields scored on a 19-yard touchdown run with four minutes left to give Penn State a 26–14 lead. That would prove to be the final score.
2007 vs. Tennessee (Penn State won 20-10)
A defensive struggle for most of the afternoon, Penn State and Tennessee traded field goals on either side of the first period. The Nittany Lions scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard connection from Anthony Morelli to Andrew Quarless.
The Volunteers answered on the next possession with a LaMarcus Coker 42-yard touchdown run.
A scoreless third quarter saw the score locked in a 10-10 tie, only for a Tony Davis 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown to completely flip the game on its head for the Nittany Lions.
A stingy Penn State defense and another Kevin Kelly field goal secured the 20-10 win, the Nittany Lions’ third win in Outback Bowls.
2011 vs. Florida (Florida won 37-24)
The game started brightly enough for the Nittany Lions as Matt McGloin found Derek Moye for a 5-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
The Gators bit back with 14 unanswered, including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Then, Penn State responded with 10 points unequalled of their own (a Michael Zordich TD plunge and then a Collin Wagner field goal). At halftime, the Nittany Lions held a narrow 17-14 lead.
The second half proved to be a different story, though. In what was Urban Meyer’s final game as head coach of the Gators, Florida rallied to outscore Penn State 23-7 in the second half. An Ahmad Black 80-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the win for the SEC outfit. It was Penn State’s first loss in the Outback Bowl.
So, there you have. A brief history of Penn State at the Outback Bowl. Let’s hope the Nittany Lions improve to 4-1 in the game in a few weeks.