Collin Wagner kicked a 21-yard field goal with 57 seconds left, and the No. 11 Nittany Lions staved off a last-ditch drive by No. 13 LSU for a 19-17 victory Friday.
Penn State (11-2) gave up a 13-point, second-half lead after Stevan Ridley’s 1-yard touchdown run put LSU (9-4) ahead 17-16 with 12:49 left.
But quarterback Daryll Clark led the Nittany Lions on the game-winning, 12-play drive in crunch time. Penn State had two critical third-down conversions to help set up Wagner’s game-winner — one of four field goals on the day for junior kicker.
On the ensuing drive, LSU got to midfield but was whistled for a personal foul penalty that pushed them back to their own 40. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson hit Rueben Randle for a 25-yard gain on the game’s last play to the Penn State 35 but fumbled as time expired.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno got his record 24th bowl win and handed Les Miles his first loss in five bowls as LSU coach.
This game will be remembered as much for the messy beginning as the dramatic finish. A driving rainstorm at the start of the game made parts of the field look like a mosh pit.
Bad footing and dropped passes were normal in the first half, and Clark fumbled the snap exchange twice — though both were recovered by Penn State.
Clark, nagged by questions of whether he can win a big game, ended his college career on a high note. He finished 18-of-35 for 216 yards and 37-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye in the first quarter.
Clark also threw one interception — though he could have had a couple more if LSU had held on to the wet ball.
The Nittany Lions emerged from the muck at halftime with a 13-3 lead, but LSU gained traction after rain subsided in the second half.
Brandon LaFell’s 24-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson with 13 seconds left drew the Tigers within 16-10 to awaken the slumbering LSU crowd.
Jefferson was 13-of-24 for 202 yards with the TD and one interception, while LaFell finished with five catches for 87 yards.
Penn State stalled on its next drive, and Trindon Holliday — the reigning NCAA 100-meter dash champion — returned a punt 37 yards to the LSU 49 to help set up Ridley’s TD run.
The teams exchanged stalled drives before Penn State took over for its game-winning effort with 6:54 left. Clark hit a Graham Zug one third-and-4 from the LSU 42 for a key conversion to keep the drive alive.
The field took another pounding after poor conditions hampered the Champs Sports Bowl earlier in the week on the same turf. The grounds crew worked frantically all week in attempt to get the field in shape for Friday’s game.
Rain started falling about a couple hours before game time, and the field started getting ripped up during warmups. Pregame routines by the marching bands didn’t help either.
Conditions were so bad for both offenses early on that the teams combined for 15 punts — shattering the bowl record of 10 set Miami, Ohio and Florida in 1973.