Mark Story

Blue Preview: Your guide to No. 14 UK’s Citrus Bowl game with No. 12 Penn State

Mark Stoops says Josh Allen is ‘playing some incredible football’

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about star outside linebacker Josh Allen, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. Undefeated UK plays at Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about star outside linebacker Josh Allen, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. Undefeated UK plays at Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018.

Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State

When: 1 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

TV: ABC (play-by-play, Dave Flemming; analysis, Brock Huard; sideline, Laura Rutledge)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1 (for UK Network broadcast); WLXG-AM 1300, WLXG-FM 92.5 (for ESPN Radio broadcast); XM Channel 80, Sirius Channel 80

Records: Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC); Penn State (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten)

Series: Penn State leads 3-2

Last meeting: Penn State beat Kentucky 26-14, on Jan. 1, 1999, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Favorite: Penn State is favored by 6.5 points

The story line

Kentucky seeks to win a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time since the 1952 Cotton Bowl (a 20-7 victory over TCU that followed the 1951 season). The 2018 Wildcats are bidding to be only the third team in school history to reach 10 wins in a season (11-1 in 1950, 10-1 in 1977) and are looking to break UK’s four-game bowl losing streak.

The big threat

Penn State’s Trace McSorley epitomizes the dual-threat quarterbacks that have given Kentucky defenses fits across the years. As a senior, the 6-foot, 201-pound product of Ashburn, Va., has run for 723 yards and 11 touchdowns and thrown for 2,254 yards and 16 TDs for Coach James Franklin’s Nittany Lions. Having completed only 53.4 percent of his passes and thrown six interceptions, McSorley has struggled with accuracy this season in the passing game. Nevertheless, he has a “find a way” quality that has made him the winningest (31-8) starting quarterback in Penn State history.

Trace McSorley
As a senior, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) ran for 11 touchdowns and threw for 16 TDs. Linsey Fagan

On the spot

Kentucky’s biggest stars. In what will be his final college game before he enters the 2019 NFL Draft, UK junior running back Benny Snell needs 107 yards to pass Sonny Collins (3,835 yards) and become the Wildcats’ career rushing leader. Meanwhile, after Kentucky star outside linebacker/rush end Josh Allen spent December reaping one national award after another for his stellar 2018 season, many neutral fans could be sampling the Citrus Bowl to see if the UK senior backs up his many accolades.

The mood

Hangs in the balance. Offensive struggles in the second half of the SEC season and a dispiriting loss to a highly mediocre Tennessee team in the 10th week robbed some of the joy from the Big Blue Nation for one of the best Kentucky football seasons ever. For UK Coach Mark Stoops and his troops, earning a 10th win with an impressive showing against an old-line football power such as Penn State would win back the good feeling that was lost in Knoxville and earn the current UK team an enduring place in Wildcats football lore.

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about how they are preparing for facing Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen in the Citrus Bowl.



Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.

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