No. 13 Penn State tops No. 15 Memphis 53-39 in Cotton Bowl

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Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) looks to throw against Memphis in the first half of the NCAA Cotton Bowl college football game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

ARLINGTON, TX – All-America linebacker Micah Parsons led the big blitz for Penn State, and he had Brady White all wrapped up when the Memphis quarterback suddenly flipped away the ball — right into the hands of Garrett Taylor.

On a day when the Nittany Lions' defense gave up its most points and yards all season, Taylor turned that gift into a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 53-39 victory over the Group of Five Tigers on Saturday in the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl ever.

“A huge momentum shift,” Taylor said.

Journey Brown ran for 202 yards with two long touchdowns, but the Parsons-created pick-six came three plays after Brown was stopped short on a fourth-and-1. Taylor put the No. 13 Nittany Lions (11-2, No. 10 CFP) up 45-36 going into the fourth quarter of the 84th Cotton Bowl.

“For our defense to come back and what you probably consider a sudden-change situation, and be able to get that play, I think it was a huge momentum play," coach James Franklin said.

Said Parsons: “The game was going back and forth, and I thought the team who had a defensive turnover would win, and we got one when we needed."

Brown was the offensive MVP and Parsons, with 14 tackles and two sacks, was the game's top defensive player. Both had gone back and forth about that possibility during practice this week.

“We go against him all the time ... nobody prepares and prepares for those opportunities and those moments more than this guy does,” Brown said of Parsons, who was sitting right by him.