When Penn State and USC met in the first Rose Bowl Game in the stadium in 1923, bad planning and logistics led to a nightmare delaying the kickoff by more than an hour.
Problems began when the Penn State team decided to watch the parade instead of heading to the stadium early. After the parade, team members hailed several taxis and soon found themselves stuck in traffic as precious seconds till kickoff ticked away.
According to some reports, cab drivers drove on lawns and sidewalks to finally get the Penn State team to the Rose Bowl stadium.
At that point, kickoff had already been delayed by 10 minutes, and after Penn State Coach Hugo Bezdek requested time for his players to warm up, the game was delayed again, further enraging USC Coach Gus Henderson, who almost came to blows with Bezdek.
USC won that game 14-3. The two teams met again in the Rose Bowl in 2009, and the Trojans won that one as well by a score of 38-24.
Neither team has played in the Rose Bowl Game since.
The fireworks will renew at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 2, when No. 5 Penn State (winners of the Big Ten Conference) squares off against No. 9 USC (champs of the Pac-12) in Monday’s Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.
Penn State operates behind one of the most balanced offensive attacks in college football. Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year, leads the conference in touchdowns with 19 and total yardage, 1,666, and is second in rushing yards with 1,302.
“This is a game and a bowl that players and coaches grow up dreaming about,” Penn State Coach John Franklin told ESPN after the selection was made, despite some disappointment that his team was not in the National Championship picture.
The team’s appearance in the Rose Bowl caps an amazing comeback by the Nittany Lions, who started the season with a 2-2 start and had just a 0.09 percent chance to win the Big Ten championship.
In the Big Ten Championship, the Nittany Lions trailed the Wisconsin Badgers by three touchdowns at the half, but behind the arm and skills of quarterback Trace McSorely managed to edge out a 38-31 comeback victory win the conference championship.
USC also struggled at the beginning of its season but managed to climb back into the national rankings before winning a birth to the “Granddaddy of Them All” among holiday bowl games
“We are tremendously excited and proud to be invited to the 2017 Rose Bowl,” said USC head coach Clay Helton in a prepared statement.. “It is a great honor for our team to have the opportunity to represent our university and the Trojan Family in the Rose Bowl, a bowl in which we have such a long tradition. We are extremely thankful for the invitation. It is a great reward for our football team after a very strong finish to the 2016 season.”
But even if USC manages to stop Barkley, the Trojans still have to worry about the second half of the deadly dynamic duo, McSorley, who threw 25 touchdowns this season.
Ironically, the Trojans have a similar pair with almost identical statistics.
USC sophomore Ronald Jones II ran for 1,027 yards and Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 26 TDs.
But the Trojans have not responded well to tough, physical teams like Alabama, Stanford and Utah. If the Nittany Lions can come out in that style of play, it could make for a long afternoon for USC,
On the other hand, the Trojans must contain Penn State and stop the big play. The Nittany Lions only converted 32.1 percent of its third downs and tend to score quickly, instead of pushing long sustained drives. According to ESPN, in the game against Wisconsin, Penn State wound up with 435 yards. More than half of that total came on just six plays. Michigan beat them by holding the Lions to a season low of two plays that went for more than 20 yards.
The Trojans have not allowed a team to score more than 27 points since September and shut down an explosive Washington offense.
Let the fireworks begin.