GLENDALE, Ariz. — Converting on third downs had been a sore spot at Penn State, so coach James Franklin made it a point of emphasis in spring ball and fall camp.
The Nittany Lions kept working at it during the season and kept getting better, peaking at the perfect time.
Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards and had both of his touchdown passes to DaeSean Hamilton on third-down plays, helping No. 9 Penn State outlast No. 12 Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
"Our coaches did a fantastic job and the O line protected and the receivers made plays," Franklin said. "We were very efficient. We executed."
Penn State (11-2), No. 9 in the final College Football Rankings, had its way with Washington's vaunted defense early, building a 28-7 lead by the second quarter. Washington (10-3) woke up from an offensive slumber with two touchdowns and pulled to 35-28 on Myles Gaskins' 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies' inability to stop Penn State on third down kept them from getting any closer.
The Nittany Lions converted three third-down attempts on a final clock-winding drive and were 13 for 17 overall. Washington had a final shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but Dante Pettis' final lateral was intercepted after he passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up one more play.
"I think a lot of it was McSorley," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him, he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time."
Washington had the nation's top run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards per game, but Saquon Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions' 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns in what could be his final game if he decides to turn pro.
The Huskies, No. 11 CFP, gave up a season-high 545 total yards.
"They had us on our heels most of the night," Petersen said.
The Nittany Lions lost a chance at the CFP with consecutive losses to Ohio State and No. 24 Michigan State, but ended up in a familiar place: The Fiesta Bowl, where they had not lost in six previous trips.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Alex Hornibrook threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Danny Davis, and No. 6 Wisconsin capped off the winningest season in school history by topping No. 11 Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl.
Jonathan Taylor capped his record-setting freshman season with 130 rushing yards on 26 carries for the Badgers (13-1), who rallied from an early 14-3 deficit. Taylor finished the year with an FBS-freshman-record 1,977 yards.
A.J. Taylor also had a scoring catch for Wisconsin — one where he mimicked ripping Miami's "Turnover Chain" off the neck of teammate Kendric Pryor.
The Badgers dominated time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Hornibrook completed 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards, going 20 for 25 in the final three quarters.
Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas had rushing scores for Miami (10-3), which was in the Orange Bowl for the 10th time and lost on its home field for the first time in 2017.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Allen Lazard tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches and put Iowa State ahead with a remarkable 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, and the Cyclones beat Memphis 21-20 on the Tigers' home field.
Iowa State (8-5) held after losing its first fumble this season just as it appeared on the verge of scoring an insurance touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The Cyclones led 21-20 and had third-and-goal from the 1 when David Montgomery fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. Jonathan Cook recovered in the end zone for a touchback with 4:06 left.
The call stood after replays were inconclusive as to whether Montgomery had reached the end zone before Memphis' O'Bryan Goodson knocked the ball loose. Iowa State was attempting to become the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to play an entire season without losing a fumble.
Memphis (10-3) drove to the Iowa State 40 on its next possession but lost the ball on downs when Riley Ferguson overthrew Phil Mayhue on fourth-and-10 with 1:52 remaining.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Freshman Keytaon Thompson, making his first start in place of injured quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns to help Mississippi State beat Louisville and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Thompson and Jackson provided many of the highlights — and some lowlights.
Thompson scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard plunge with 3:39 remaining that put the Bulldogs (9-4) ahead for good.
Jackson had the Cardinals (8-5) on the move late, but safety Mark McLaurin intercepted his third pass of the game. After a failed fourth-down conversation, Jackson got a final chance in the waning seconds, but his final desperation pass was batted away in the end zone.