Penn State has been to 48 bowl games, in some awesome and maybe sometimes not-so-awesome locations. Bowl trips can be a blast for everyone — fans and media alike — for different reasons, which makes this question a fun one to ask and answer:
What’s your favorite Penn State bowl game you’ve ever attended?
The answer could be entirely about football, such as a great game or great finish that you’ll always remember.
The answer could include very little or nothing about football, if something happened on the trip that you’ll always remember.
I asked Penn State fans on Twitter to share their favorite bowl trips, and I’ll get to those in a moment. First, here are my three most memorable bowl games. The photo above, by the way, of the stealth bomber above the stadium during the flyover, is from No. 1 on my list and is one of my all-time favorite photos.
1: The Rose Bowl where everyone got sick
Some PSU fans may know this story, but I’m guessing most do not. What I can tell you is that this bowl trip is LEGENDARY among the media members on the Nittany Lion beat — for one bad reason.
Now, let me say this bowl trip was by far my favorite up until this one crazy situation. My wife, Dana, came along on the trip, and the media room at the hotel we all stayed at was, in a word, incredible. We got to eat and eat and drink and drink as much as we wanted in a phenomenal hotel, plus we had access to pool tables and games.
There are a whole bunch of us who travel to cover Penn State football — more back then than now, unfortunately, because of finances — and most everyone on the beat gets along great. Spending those fun nights in the media room at the hotel is always a blast, and you won’t find a place that treats the media any better than the Granddaddy of Them All.
Until … that night.
The night before PSU’s 38-24 loss to USC and Mark Sanchez, the water or ice or something in the media room had become contaminated. Anyone who had been in there and consumed ice or whatever wound up getting badly sick with food poisoning.
I woke up around 4 a.m. vomiting for the first time. The first of many times. My wife got sick, too, and couldn’t get out of bed, but I had to get going so I could go cover the game.
When I got to the hotel lobby, we learned that a bunch of media members had gotten sick. But we had to suck it up and get on the shuttle bus to go cover the game, and a few of us had carried on vomit bags with us just in case there was an emergency on the shuttle.
A lot of people were still sick at the Rose Bowl. I threw up for the last time in the bathroom during the break after the first quarter.
A few media members who had traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to cover the game actually could not make it and had to stay back at the hotel. I’ve always felt badly for them, because they must have been unbelievably sick to have to make that choice after their companies spent so much money to have them go out to California to cover the game.
Anyway, the food poisoning only lasted about a day, so we were all fine after that. But man oh man, that was one crazy day.
2: The TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville will always be special to me for one reason — this picture:
Those are my 3-year-old twins, Chase and Callie, dragging their suitcases down the long hallway upon arriving at the hotel in Jacksonville. This is one of my favorite photos of my kids, because they were so looking forward to this trip as we drove down to Florida after Christmas. This picture, to me, represents them growing up to the point where they could do things for themselves, something as simple as carrying their own suitcase.
Anyway, the media hotel was fantastic and had a rooftop pool. To this day, my kids still ask if we can ever go back to a hotel that has a pool on the roof.
The game, of course, was the first time we really got to see Trace McSorley, as he came in after Christian Hackenberg got banged up. We saw the first glimpse of the great QB McSorley could become as he made some outstanding throws in a 24-17 loss to Georgia, and after the game, Hackenberg announced he would not return for his senior season.
3: The epic Rose Bowl against USC
This game was bonkers, and even though Penn State lost, 52-49, it remains the greatest college football game I have seen in person.
And of course, it featured one of the best runs you’ll ever see by a college running back, as Saquon Barkley turned in this electrict 79-yard TD.
Those are my favorite and most memorable bowl experiences.
I do want to throw out one more memory, which is still absurd to me. This was from the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, and what I will always remember most about that trip: $34 for breakfast is highway robbery!
Here’s a look at some of the favorite bowl memories Penn State fans shared on Twitter.
‘95 Rose Bowl – needs no further explanation. Should have resulted in a Natty
— Kevin Kovaleski (@kovtweet) December 26, 2020
1989 Holiday Bowl in Blue Band. One of the best games EVER!! And I was a tv star after David Daniels amazing catch. What a game!!
— Greg Deegan (@greg_deegan) December 26, 2020
'87 Fiesta Bowl. My dad and I were high up in the end zone, where Giftopolous made the last pick.
— Steve Tuttle (@SteveTu73357179) December 26, 2020
Even though it was an L: My 1st bowl game in person: 1990 Blockbuster Bowl – Bobby Bowden & Joepa
— Hunter (@CatfishHunter02) December 27, 2020
The only bowl I ever attended was the 2005 Orange Bowl and it was classic with two legendary coaches and long.
— Lisa Metzger (@lam010366) December 26, 2020
Even though SC won our last Rose Bowl. I’ll never forget Saquan’s run.
— Mark (@mark94945) December 26, 2020
Rose bowl 2016 or 2017. Even though they lost in OT. Most exciting game in person.
— chuck (@atwoodct) December 26, 2020
2010 “mud” bowl, aka Capital one bowl. Rained so much it was like playing in the back yard. Oh and it slowed down the much faster LSU tigers.
— scott shutika (@shutz1) December 26, 2020
Fiesta Bowl. PSU V. MIAMI.
— Pat Rushton (@Gilsboy) December 26, 2020
Only bowl , Pinstripe Bowl vs BC 2014 Yankee Stadium. Great win pic.twitter.com/Ds00pgCymi
— frank kokos (@jakas891) December 26, 2020
2006 Orange bowl. PSU win in overtime FSU…
— William J. Donnelly (@WJDonnellyJr) December 27, 2020
Pinstripe Bowl. Stadium was about 66/33 Penn State, and a crazy atmosphere. The BC people next to me couldn’t believe how loud it was. Meant a lot to win after the sanctions and the darkness of the scandal.
— Jake Myers (@JEM326054) December 26, 2020
Fiesta 2017 pic.twitter.com/jRg51yCJK7
— Nicole Wood (@nicrish) December 26, 2020
Little off the board but it feels like a bowl game…Croke Park Classic August 2014 vs UCF in Dublon, gonna be hard to ever top that experience pic.twitter.com/1abwLmHqUc
— rich schellhase (@richschellhase) December 26, 2020
Fiesta Bowl versus Miami when we won the National Championship! Great atmosphere. Great game. Great outcome!
— Mary Robert (@mcrob11) December 26, 2020
2017 Rose bowl – the atmosphere was electric !!! So many big plays and scoring runs between both teams and lots of talent on the field that day !! Best loss I’ve ever witnessed!
— Garrett Beaver (@thegbeav1) December 26, 2020
‘94 Rose Bowl. The Granddaddy with the most explosive offense I’ve ever seen from PSU.
— DP (@412potter) December 26, 2020
No question the triple OT Orange Bowl against Bowden. What a matchup. Feel like that brought Penn State “back”.
— Dan DeMonte (@imdandemonte) December 26, 2020