After Wild Rose Bowl, Emotional Season Comes To An End

Story posted January 5, 2017 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Gross

James Franklin, alongside Saquon Barkley and Malik Golden, sat down at the podium in front of a half-filled press room. He glanced at the stat sheet and began his usual post-game press conference routine. As always, he spoke of the tremendous respect he has for USC, how thankful he was for the Rose Bowl Game staff, and gave a thank-you to the tens of thousands of Penn State fans who traveled to Pasadena.

Franklin began to talk about his seniors. Then, he paused mid-sentence. His eyes wandered around the room, to the ceiling, to his players beside him. The 44-year-old head coach, who had just orchestrated one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history, began to cry. So did Golden and Barkley. What else were they supposed to do following a heartbreaking 52-49 Rose Bowl defeat to USC to end an emotional season?

A loss is only a loss if it’s treated like one. What happened in the 2017 edition of the most prestigious game in college football was nothing short of incredible. A back and forth roller-coaster ride between two of the top teams in America will go down as an instant classic. For Penn State, the 17 unanswered fourth quarter points surrendered to USC will sting for a while, as will Trace McSorley’s demoralizing interception to set up the Trojans’ winning field goal. The decision to go for it all on the McSorley pick rather than play for overtime will be debated for years to come.

Keep this in mind: Would the Nittany Lions even sniff the roses if it hadn’t been for their quarterback’s record-breaking season? (He finished with the most single-season total yards in program history). Does Penn State win the Big Ten Championship without Joe Moorhead’s aggressive play calling? Absolutely not. The players and coaches should hold their heads high, because, while they may have lost the final battle, they won the war. And that’s what matters.

There’s no need to recap the season that was. Fans of the program, and college football as a whole, know exactly what happened in Happy Valley. It was nothing short of miraculous. The best part about it for the Penn State faithful? The Nittany Lions should be even better next season. Only a handful of contributing players graduate, and barring transfers or early departures for the NFL Draft (in addition to Garrett Sickels and Chris Godwin), the main weapons of this season’s team will be back. Throw in the elite recruits that James Franklin has hauled in, and it’s clear that something special is brewing. Penn State is here to stay.

Back at the post-Rose Bowl press conference, Malik Golden, who had just completed his final game in the Blue and White, sat stoically but still full of emotion. Saquon Barkley, the budding Penn State superstar, was visibly shocked by what had transpired in the fourth quarter. James Franklin wrapped up his answer to the final media question. The moderator ended the conference and the three on stage rose to their feet and began to walk away. As they left, the media, (yes, the media) clapped. A cardinal sin of the field, to applaud or cheer for one side. But they did, and it was warranted. Some things are just greater than sports. That season, that game, and that team certainly were.


Jonathan Gross is a sophomore double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics. He can be  reached at