While the Rose Bowl is a historic game, its traditions are what make the Granddaddy of Them All so unique. The week leading up to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, was packed with team activities, such as a trip to Disneyland and the Lawry’s Beef Bowl.
Both teams kicked off the week at Disneyland, where they were greeted with songs, dancers, and confetti. A popular ride among players from both teams was Space Mountain.
“It was dark. It was fun. It got a little fast,” said Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki. “I was out there with my teammates, so it was fun.”
Said USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers, “I like how it was fast, and it was all in the dark. I wouldn’t expect anything to be like that.”
The 61st Lawry’s Beef Bowl took place at Lawry’s the Prime Rib in Beverly Hills, with Penn State enjoying the famous prime rib one night before USC. Trojans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and Penn State offensive lineman Derek Dowrey made the ceremonial first cuts for their respective team dinners.
In total, the teams consumed 1,038 pounds of prime rib. The Beef Bowl was so named because in the past, it was a competition between the two teams to see who would eat the most. They currently only serve a maximum of two pieces of prime rib to ensure that players are enjoying their food and the experience.
Both teams also observed their own traditions and honored their seniors after their last practices of the season. Following the final Penn State practice, the seniors were carried off the field. At the last USC practice, seniors wore their high school uniforms.
In addition to the traditional festivities for the two schools, fans of the teams had a great time. A few days ahead of the game, Penn State held a pep rally, where about 10,000 fans were in attendance at L.A. Live. The rally featured PSU president Eric Barron, athletic director Sandy Barbour, coach James Franklin, and former player Ki-Jana Carter, among others. There were also appearances by the Penn State marching band and the cheerleaders.
USC put on its own pep rally at the Americana at Brand, where the marching band played and the Song Girls performed.
Although Penn State is more than 2,500 miles away from Pasadena, Nittany Lions fans came from far and wide to support their team. This included the King family—Jeff and Wendy King and their two teenage sons, Jerrett and Jesse—who traveled from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to watch PSU play. Jeff and Wendy are both Penn State alums, but they did not meet while they were students. They met in Los Angeles while they were both attending the 1995 Rose Bowl between Penn State and the Oregon Ducks.
Now, approximately 20 years later, they returned with their kids to watch Penn State play in another Rose Bowl. “We kept it a surprise for our boys,” said Jeff. “They didn’t know we were coming until Christmas morning, until they opened their presents.”
Said Jesse, of the moment he saw the tickets, “There were some tears that were shed.”
While USC is only about 15 miles from the Rose Bowl, it did not feel like there was any home field advantage for the Trojans. Penn State fans were dressed in white to try to mimic the White Out they do for home games. The entire Penn State fan section gave the appearance of a layer of white snow. Nittany Lions fans were loud throughout the game and often would spontaneously chant, “We are…Penn State.”
USC fans were equally as loud, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. After the game, coach Clay Helton remarked, “I have to credit the Trojan Nation, because it was loud. It was really loud. Hopefully it affected [Penn State] a little bit.”
Though USC came away with the victory, Rose Bowl week was an unforgettable experience for both teams and fans.
Photographs by (from top): Tournament of Roses; Sarah Liu (2)