Fourth-quarter surge not enough to grant a Nittany Lion win at the TaxSlayer Bowl

Fourth-quarter surge not enough to grant a Nittany Lion win at the TaxSlayer Bowl

The TaxSlayer Bowl, held this past Saturday in Jacksonville, FL, always had the promise of an exciting bowl game thanks to its two formidable opponents: Penn State (7-5 regular season) and Georgia (9-3 regular season). However, thanks to unpredictable circumstances, the turf in Jacksonville quickly heated up, and fans across the nation had their eyes glued to this heart-pounding game.

After a fierce effort to control Georgia in the first quarter, the Nittany Lions held the score at a 3-3 tie. The game was physical and fast, keeping Penn State on its toes.

Early in the second quarter, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) was hit from the side and fell on his right shoulder, effectively ending his time on the field for the day. Penn State had no choice but to send in its other quarterback, redshirt freshman Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va.).

McSorley’s first plays on the field were not confidence boosters, to say the least, and Penn State was now trailing Georgia by three touchdowns.

Quickly, McSorley adapted and became composed, throwing rocketed touchdown passes to Geno Lewis (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) and DaeSean Hamilton (Fredericksburg, Va.) to bring the Nittany Lions within one touchdown of tying up the game at 21-21.

The Penn State defense was relentless all game, with superstars like Anthony Zettel (West Branch, Mich.) and Carl Nassib (West Chester, Pa.) stuffing Georgia’s last minute attempts to solidify another touchdown.

A Hail Mary pass from McSorley in the final seconds of the game was not enough to tie it up, as Georgia defensemen swatted the ball out of the grasp of the Nittany Lions.

“I was super proud of ,” praised Hackenberg. “He’s been preparing, he’s been right by my side the whole .”

Despite the loss, the team rallied like never before and fought to make up a deficit that some would say might have been impossible to do with any other team. The Nittany Lions came together to fight for their legacy, for their seniors, and for the hard times that they have overcome.

“I love how we competed,” said McSorley. “ came together today.”

Shortly after the game ended, Hackenberg and defensive tackle Austin Johnson (Galloway, N.J.) announced that they will not be returning to Beaver Stadium this fall, choosing instead to take part in the 2016 NFL draft, joining other seniors Zettel and Nassib. The entire Penn State family wishes them success and good health in their endeavors.

“It hasn’t really hit yet ,” said Zettel after the game. “I love Penn State more than anybody.”

Head Coach James Franklin praised the team, especially the seniors, during his post-game press conference.

“They should be very proud,” noted Franklin. “They should walk out of that locker room with their chest out and their head up. We got a lot of work to do going forward…their futures are very bright.”

With that, Penn State Football 2015 comes to a close. See you at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, September 3, 2016, as Penn State takes on Kent State in a season opener you won’t want to miss!