A college football season that began on a massive, Gaelic football pitch in Ireland will end on a baseball diamond in the Big Apple.
Penn State (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) accepted an invitation to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York where Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC) will be Penn State’s opponent. The game is set for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Nittany Lions held Saturday and Sunday practices not knowing who their opponent would be. Now that they know, the Eagles aren’t all that unfamiliar — at least to Penn State’s coaching staff and fan base. Penn State coach James Franklin said he’s known Boston College coach Steve Addazio “for a long time” professionally and has also worked with Eagles defensive coordinator Don Brown and tight ends coach Frank Leonard in the past.
The Eagles are coming off an up-and-down regular season in which they won three of the past five games. One of their losses was to No. 3 Florida State by just a field goal on Nov. 22.
“They’ve done a great job there,” Franklin said. “Tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar, been there a couple of years now. BC’s always had a history of having a hard-nosed, blue-collar team, really good on the offensive line, things like that.”
It’s a well-known history for longtime followers of both programs.
It will mark the 24th meeting in the series between the former rival independent programs that met every year from 1981 to 1992. Penn State leads the series 19-4 and the two teams last played in 2004. It will be Penn State’s 45 bowl appearance.
Most of the current crop of Nittany Lions have never played in a bowl game, however. Only five of Penn State’s players — safeties Adrian Amos and Ryan Keiser, linebacker Mike Hull, running back Bill Belton and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan — played in Penn State’s last bowl game. Then, the Nittany Lions lost to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl to conclude the 2011 season.
Since then, Penn State has done enough on the field winning eight and seven games under Bill O’Brien, enough to get to a bowl game each season. But Penn State was banned from postseason play by the NCAA in 2012 as part of the sanctions imposed on the program for school officials’ handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. The bowl ban was supposed to be in place for four seasons.
The NCAA lifted the bowl ban in September.
“The Pinstripe Bowl brings together three great brands in Penn State, the New York Yankees and New Era in one of the world’s truly great cities,” Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said in a release. “The Pinstripe Bowl will provide thousands of Penn Staters particularly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, an opportunity to support the 2014 Nittany Lions one more time and take in all that New York City has to offer during the holidays. I’m particularly pleased that our senior football student athletes will have a chance to play in a bowl game, and that as a community we will have one more opportunity to honor and thank them. I can’t wait to gather in New York with the Penn State faithful.”
On a home visit with a recruit, Franklin was preparing to check into a hotel in western Pennsylvania after he got word of his team’s destination and wasn’t able to confirm when Penn State would arrive in the city for practices. Instead, Franklin said Penn State’s schedule has already been planned out in full but 80 percent of practices would happen at the team’s on-campus facilities.
Not all of the extra practice time will be devoted to prepping for Boston College. Franklin said the team would divide the upcoming weeks with emphasis placed on developing younger players in addition to establishing a game plan for Boston College.
“You have to be careful because if you have too much time you try to get too cute and kind of get away from who you are,” Franklin said. “The time actually can be a negative.”
But not for a handful of Penn State players who were unable to finish the regular season. With just under three weeks before the bowl game, Penn State linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda and cornerback Christian Campbell are all dealing with unspecified injuries that kept them out of the season finale. Belton is also dealing with an upper body ailment and was unable to finish the final game.
Franklin did not have updates on those players’ statuses.