After Houston raced out to a 24-7 half-time lead, Penn State's defense made a series of half-time adjustments that kept Case Keenum and the Cougars high-flying offense in check.
However, Penn State's run-based offense isn't designed for big second-half comebacks, and Houston's defense was able to take advantage of struggling Nittany Lions QB Rob Bolden, intercepting him three times in the second half.
Keenum, meanwhile, finished the TicketCity Bowl with an eye-popping stat-line of 45 completions, 69 attempts, 532 yards and 3 TD's, capping an illustrious career with a 30-14 victory that gave Houston a 13-win season and a likely top 15 finish in the final polls.
Playing a Penn State team used to grind-it-out Big Ten defensive struggles, the Cougars rushing game never really got going. Senior WR's Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson more than made up the slack, as the two combined for 376 receiving yards in their last game with Keenum.
Houston's defense, which abandoned them in their only loss of the season against Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game, bounced back with a strong performance, allowing only 306 total yards.
It was a resounding win on a national stage for new coach Tony Levine, who will now have to prove he can keep the program's momentum going as it enters the Big East while replacing Keenum.