Penn State’s first touchdown had about three dozen people at West Side Stadium Bar & Grill on West College Avenue in a roar of cheers Saturday night.
When wide receiver Chris Godwin ran into the end zone from a 72-year pass from quarterback Christian Hackenberg, fan Dan Rehmeyer stood up and raised both hands in excitement before giving high-fives to a group of friends.
It got even louder at 8:24 p.m., when Penn State kicker Sam Ficken scored the game-winning field goal to beat Boston College, 31-30.
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York was Penn State’s first bowl game since the NCAA lifted sanctions imposed against the team in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
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“This is kind of the beginning of their rebuild,” said Rehmeyer, a State College native and Penn State Class of 2007 graduate. “I’m impressed so many of these guys stuck around, and it’s kind of a treat for them to end the season like this.”
Rehmeyer patroned the bar Saturday with about 10 other friends who graduated from State College Area High School in 2000 and 2001, and who all graduated from Penn State.
The group now lives in different cities, but makes a point to come back to State College each year during the holidays.
“If it wasn’t for the game, we might not have been together tonight,” Rehmeyer said. “We’ve all been kind of busy, but this was a common way to get us all together.”
John Royse was a cornerback on the Penn State football team from 2001 to 2005 under former coach Joe Paterno.
He said he played in the 2006 Orange Bowl, and understood the meaning of ending a season with a bowl game under his belt.
“These games are special,” Royse said. “They’re in a great situation and a great location to play the game, and it makes a lot of people excited, and it’s always nice to see a sold-out stadium.”
Royse said that as a letter recipient he didn’t want to comment on details of the game, the team or its coaching staff, but said he was happy with the team’s poise though the hardships.
“There were some negatives, so all we did was wish for the best,” he said.
Penn State ended the season with a 7-6 record, and fans said that in order to maintain a successful program, its starts with recruiting top level players and working on the team’s offense.
“We got to hit recruiting hard,” said fan and Penn State graduate Nick Campbell. “There have been a lot of changes with the team (and) that’s good to help recruit good players.”
Despite the lull downtown while university students are on break, bar manager Dan Newby said he was happy with the turnout Saturday night.
“We got a good crowd and have a loyal bunch of locals,” Newby said. “They’re all here for a common cause tonight.”