ORLANDO -- Penn State head coach James Franklin had a decision to make Tuesday in the Citrus Bowl.
The Nittany Lions, who had scored touchdowns on each of their previous two drives, faced a fourth-and-7 at the Kentucky 14 down by six points. However, figuring there were more than four minutes remaining and his team had all three of its timeouts, Franklin opted to kick the field goal and trust his defense to get the ball back.
Jake Pinegar kicked 32-yard field goal and 4 minutes, 12 seconds remained. But the defense, which had held the Wildcats to a pair of three-and-outs on their previous two possessions, couldn’t duplicate the effort. The Lions got the ball back with one second to play, too late to affect the 27-24 final score.
“It really just came down to how long the fourth down was going to be and the fact that we had managed the timeouts pretty good,” Franklin said. “If we were able to stop them on those first three plays, be able to go three-and-out, use our timeouts … but we weren’t able to do that.
“Obviously, when you don’t stop them and they run four-minute offense and they’re able to get a first down and burn our timeouts, then it looks like you should have went for it in the earlier situation. But it just really comes down to executing. We didn’t execute.”
All-America running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed on eight consecutive plays for Kentucky, picking up a pair of first downs to all but run out the clock.
The season-long inconsistency of Penn State’s special teams haunted the team again Tuesday, especially in the first half.
The Nittany Lions ran a fake punt on their first possession of the game, but Jonathan Thomas gained nothing after receiving a low snap. Pinegar missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt, and later had a 36-yard try partially blocked by All-America linebacker Josh Allen.
The worst blow, however, was a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown by Lynn Bowden after a sack had moved the Lions back to their own 2.
Franklin called the season-long problems a lack of execution.
“It’s a responsibility for us as coaches to make sure they’re confident and understand what their responsibilities are, but we haven’t done it,” he said. “We haven’t done it consistently all year long. We had some opportunities that haven’t made -- haven’t made plays, haven’t done consistently what we need to do.”
Franklin said he and his coaches would “look at everything, A through Z” with special teams.
There was nothing to report on any Penn State underclassmen announcing they would be declaring for the NFL draft.
Redshirt junior defensive end Shareef Miller (George Washington High) said he would announce his decision “in a couple of days.”
“I hate losing,” he said, “so I’m not really worrying about that right now. It’s up in the air right now.”
Junior running back Miles Sanders also said he would have something to say in the next two days “just to let everybody know.”
McSorley added a 17th school record to his resume Tuesday, rushing for 75 yards to finish with the most career rushing yards by a quarterback. His 1,697 yards broke Michael Robinson’s previous mark of 1,637.
McSorley finished his career with 9,899 passing yards and 11,596 yards of total offense. His 321 total offensive yards against Kentucky enabled him to jump from seventh to fourth on the Big Ten’s all-time list, trailing only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Purdue’s Drew Brees, and Minnesota’s Adam Weber.