As I started writing a recap I realized that everyone already knows what happened. We know we came back from a huge deficit and we know those final plays were not what we had hoped for. We know we all sat in disbelief on our couches, in the stands, with friends as we cradled our heads in our hands.
I thought I might add my reflections about this Rose Bowl from the perspective of a student (soon to be graduate - yikes!) who has attended just about every home game for the past four years.
When I applied to Penn State, I knew next to nothing about the school. I knew it was big, prideful, and “liked” (an understatement at the time) football. When I came to Penn State I realized all of those things were true, but on a level that only Penn Staters will ever understand.
My freshman year was Bill O’Brien’s final year at Penn State, and despite a tough season with even tougher sanctions, the stadium was full, the student section was loud, and the whiteout game was fun. You really wouldn’t have even known the struggle the team was going through, had you not been a Penn Stater. That says something.
Sophomore year I had the pleasure of working for James Franklin as his first year of head coach. I worked in recruiting, which at the time seemed like a laughable position. How were we going to recruit? But then we got our scholarships back. We got our wins back. We got a bowl game. We were growing, we were proving people wrong.
For those wondering, the entire coaching staff as well as Franklin are the most genuine, caring, intelligent coaching staff in the nation, as far as I am concerned. A family.
Junior year was tough, but we surprised critics yet again when we weren’t decimated by Ohio State and when Saquon Barkley (Coplay, Pa.) broke onto the scene. Unfailingly, the stadium was packed and the students were loud.
Bring it up to this year. A magical year. I unabashedly cried when we won the Big Ten East as it was my last home game as a student.
Coming from very far behind to overtake Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship was something else. Something I could not take more pride in as a student.
This Rose Bowl game was huge. If you had told little freshman me that before I graduate we would have our scholarships returned, multiple four- and five-star recruits commit in 2016-17, and come within a single play of winning the Rose Bowl, I would have shrugged and walked away.
This season was magical as a student because every student who attended a game felt like part of the win. When we beat Ohio State, we knew our noise helped mess up the Buckeyes, even just a little bit. We felt like we were helping our Nittany Lions. It was a feeling totally unique to this season.
This football team played great football. For students who came here in 2013 and prior, we came here not because we thought Penn State was playing great football at the time. We came because of the community, the passion, and the pride that all Penn Staters bring to all we do. The football is now just a plus.
We all need to hold our heads high post Rose Bowl. Every play had me on the edge of my seat, and every tearful press conference had me crying, too. The immense pressure on the shoulders of every coach, staff member, and player on the team has been released. Although we did not win, we achieved something far more important - we became a top program again.
The new era of Penn State Football is here. Thank you for taking the time to read my game recaps and giving me your feedback for the past two years. I feel honored to have been part of all of this, all of the things that only true Nittany Lions will understand. It is a bond I will take with me for the rest of my life. We Are!