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Gameday Observations: Utah Rose Bowl

For the first time since 1995, the Nittany Lions are Rose Bowl champions.

Penn State used a strong second half to down Utah 35-21 in the 2023 Rose Bowl. Our football beat made the trip to Los Angeles for the chaotic week, and we now know why it’s called The Granddaddy of Them All. There’s really nothing like it.

While we all know the Nittany Lions shined on the field, here are some other things we observed during the 109th Rose Bowl.

Penn State Honors Franco Harris

Nearly every member of the Penn State football team arrived at Rose Bowl Stadium donning No. 34 jerseys in honor of Franco Harris, who passed away just under two weeks ago. James Franklin led the team off the bus in his No. 34 threads, and he was followed by dozens of his players and staff members

Additionally, the Nittany Lions wore an “FH” decal on their helmets, further paying tribute to the Penn State legend.

It was a touching tribute to recognize a program legend who meant so much to so many people.

Gorgeous Backdrop Impresses

I’ve never seen anything like Rose Bowl Stadium. The view from the press box and from select concourse areas furthers that assessment. It’s an absolutely gorgeous venue that offers a view like none other. Just look at those mountains!

Even at night from outside the stadium, the stadium sign just hits different. It’s beautiful.

My only gripe is that I didn’t get to see a sunset from the press box because of the cloudy and rainy weather. Watching the sun set over the mountains while watching a football game would’ve been something else.

Mickey And Minnie Mouse Make An Appearance

Gosh! Welcome to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Rose Bowl.

In what was an absolutely hilarious moment, Mickey and Minnie Mouse brought the football out to the officials before kickoff. No, we really don’t know why, but it was so funny.

Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!

Sea Of Red Takes Over Rose Bowl Stadium

It’s well-documented that Penn State fans travel well. It’s safe to say Utah fans do, too.

From my estimation, the stadium was probably at least a 65/35 split in favor of Utah red. Not only did Utah fans show out, but they were loud…at least in the first half.

Courtesy of ESPN

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to say all this without mentioning the proximity to Los Angeles from State College and Utah, respectively. That’s certainly a factor there. However, I’m definitely impressed with the Utes’ fanbase for its impressive showing.

Sweet Caroline Blasts Through Pasadena

Now this was awesome.

Many know Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline as a Beaver Stadium tradition. The Rose Bowl must’ve caught wind of that. With the Nittany Lions rolling early in the fourth quarter, Sweet Caroline started blasting over the speakers, and Penn State fans loved it.

For those brief couple of minutes, Rose Bowl Stadium became home away from home for all the Penn Staters in the building.

Nittany Lion Faithful Battle Through Rain For Rose Bowl Celebration

As the fourth quarter winded down and a Nittany Lion victory was in sight, Penn State fans in attendance started to get hyped.

When the clock hit zero and the Nittany Lions prevailed with a 14-point victory, the party was on. As the rain came down in Pasadena, Penn Staters remained in the stands to watch the trophy presentation, which saw Sean Clifford and Ji’Ayir Brown take home offensive and defensive MVP honors, respectively.

Following the ceremony, the Penn State faithful stuck around and started a rowdy “We Are Penn State” chant.

Nittany Lion Rocks Rose Shirt

The Nittany Lion never misses, man.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Symbol of Our Best was rocking a rose-themed, short-sleeve button-down shirt. This is fashion — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A part of me wishes we held off on power ranking the Nittany Lion’s ‘fits until after the Rose Bowl. This one definitely would’ve been ranked toward the top.

Sean Clifford Passes The Torch To Drew Allar, Says Goodbye

Time to get emotional, folks.

Sean Clifford finished his Penn State career with an absolutely stellar performance. Penn State’s former QB1 completed 72.7% of his passes and totaled 279 yards and two touchdowns. It was arguably the best game of his collegiate career.

Late in the fourth quarter, with Penn State possessing the ball, James Franklin called timeout and pulled Clifford off the field, allowing him to get a rousing ovation from the crowd. Clifford was then embraced by several of his teammates and coaches, including Franklin and Drew Allar, before tears started to flow.

Following the game and after all media availability, Clifford came back onto the field to soak it all in…one final time.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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