Wildcats claim Citrus Bowl with 27-24 victory over Penn State


Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. runs down the field during the VRBO Citrus Bowl against Penn State on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at Camping World Stadium, in Orlando, Florida. Bowden scored Kentucky’s first touchdown of the game. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

The Kentucky Wildcats competed in Orlando, Florida against Penn State, their first meeting in exactly 20 years, in the VRBO Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Kentucky defeated the Nittany Lions 27-24, completing the Wildcats’ historic season with a 10-3 record. 

A non-successful Penn State fake punt put the Cats in convenient field position in Kentucky’s first possession of the game, which resulted in a Miles Butler field goal to put them on the board first at the 12:23 mark. Both teams would struggle offensively while each team’s respective defense proved to be two of the best in the country. Kentucky senior Josh Allen’s first big play of the game was a sack for a loss of seven yards, forcing Penn State to kick a field goal, which they missed. 

Wildcat receiver Lynn Bowden showed his skills as UK’s punt specialist when he ran back a punt 58 yards to the house, putting the Cats ahead 10-0 after a Butler extra point sealed the deal. 

The Nittany Lions responded in the first drive of the second quarter with a Trace McSorley pass to Nick Bowers good for one yard, and the touchdown put Penn State on the board. 

Penn State had another scoring opportunity late in the first half with a field goal attempt, but it was blocked by none other than UK’s Allen, sending both teams to the locker room with UK leading 10-7. 

Kentucky utilized one of its greatest weapons in Benny Snell to score six in the first drive of the second half, when Snell ran it in two yards for the touchdown. Two plays prior to the TD, PSU’s Cam Brown was ejected on a targeting call, which set up the Cats for a first down on on the 11-yard line. 

With the help of a T.J. Carter sack for a loss of six yards, the UK defense pushed Penn State’s offense off the field and gave the Cats another opportunity to score—and they did just that with a Butler field goal. 

On the possession to follow, the UK defense came up big once again, this time from corner Lonnie Johnson after he intercepted a McSorley pass. A 54-yard Terry Wilson pass to Bowden set Snell up for a 12-yard run into the end zone to give him the title of Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher. 

Heading into the fourth quarter with a 27-7 Kentucky lead, the Nittany Lions bounced back and scored 17 unanswered points, placing the Cats in a 27-24 situation with 4:12 left in the game. With the help of Snell, who tallied 25 yards in his team’s closing drive, the Wildcats were able to work the clock and make their way down the field.

A Max Duffy punt gave Penn State the ball with one second left but the Nittany Lions were not able to come up with a game-winning play, and Kentucky left with the 27-24 win.