Utah faces Penn State as the sun sets on a Rose Bowl era

Dec 31, 2022, 10:55 PM | Updated: Jan 1, 2023, 12:59 pm
Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna (58) takes a selfie with teammates in from the of the logo duri...

Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna (58) takes a selfie with teammates in from the of the logo during media day ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

              Penn State head coach James Franklin yells out instructions during practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Utah, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham rides a bicycle to practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Penn State Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Utah wide receiver Luca Caldarella (19) makes a catch during practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Penn State, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter (11) runs a drill during practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Utah, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Utah quarterback Cameron Rising throws during practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Penn State, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford throws during practice ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Utah, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              The Utah and Penn State helmets are placed together during media day ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna (58) takes a selfie with teammates in from the of the logo during media day ahead of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The sun usually sets behind Arroyo Seco late in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl. The moment is often spectacular, with clouds turning pink and orange while the San Gabriel Mountains light up in dazzling reds and yellows amid the dying rays.

The sun is also setting on an era of Rose Bowl history Monday when No. 7 Utah (10-3, No. 8 CFP) faces No. 9 Penn State (10-2, No. 11 CFP).

“We’re playing in the last, I guess, traditional Rose Bowl,” Penn State defensive tackle Nick Tarburton said.

The 109th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All is the last that’s guaranteed to feature the game’s time-honored pairing of Pac-12 and Big Ten teams. The game’s status as a College Football Playoff semifinal next season and the expanded playoff in 2024 has put the future in flux for the sport’s oldest active bowl game.

“If indeed this does become the last traditionally slotted Rose Bowl, it’s a great honor to be a part of that, and we want to do it proud,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

For such a tradition-rich sporting event, this uncertainty is unusual — but not actually unprecedented, as pointed out by Laura Farber, the chair of the Rose Bowl Management Committee.

While the Rose Bowl is a national New Year’s Day institution, kicked off by the famed Rose Parade and continuing to the 2 p.m. kickoff that leads to those famous sunsets, the big game has been played on days other than Jan. 1 — including this year because New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday — and featured all sorts of geographical matchups over the decades, particularly in its first half-century of existence when Ivy League squads and Southern powers often made the trip.

“It’s really hard to say what the future holds, because nobody knows,” Farber said. “What’s interesting is learning to balance between tradition and innovation, and being flexible and embracing the changes, because there’s been hyper-speed changes for the past year in college football, the past few years, really. We’ve had to be flexible, yet remind everybody how much this game means to so many people.”

BIG FINISH

This Pac-12/Big Ten matchup has everything necessary to go out with a bang.

Both programs are repeat visitors to Pasadena, with consistent track records of success under two prominent, respected coaches who never have won the Rose Bowl. The Utes won the Pac-12 and reached Pasadena for the second straight year in another high point on their impressive journey to national prominence, while the Nittany Lions lost only to playoff-bound Michigan and Ohio State in another double-digit win campaign.

The Rose Bowl marks the first meeting between the schools. Utah is the only Pac-12 school the Nittany Lions have never faced.

“I think there’s a lot of similarities between our programs and how they’re built,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “(Utah is a) fundamentalist program, tough, sound. We’re playing really well on defense and have been all year long. I think they’ve been built with his (Whittingham) background on the defensive side of the ball as well. But I think their quarterback really makes them go. I’ve got a ton of respect for him.”

SECOND SHOT

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising could be finishing his college career with one more game in his native Southern California, but the Ventura County product isn’t thinking ahead to the NFL just yet. He passed for career highs of 2,939 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, capped by a stellar three-TD effort in the Utes’ conference title game win over USC.

Rising also has redemption on his mind: He got injured while last season’s Rose Bowl was tied with about 10 minutes to play, and Ohio State rallied for a 48-45 win even after Rising’s backup, Bryson Barnes, led a TD drive.

“We’re happy to be back, but we have unfinished business we want to go get done this time,” Rising said. “I remember seeing (Ohio State) celebrate and have the ceremony right after, and seeing that after I walked off the field. That’s been engraved in my head ever since, and I want to be on the other side of it now.”

LAST CHANCE

Quarterback Sean Clifford is a sixth-year senior playing in his 51st game for Penn State. He is the school’s career leader in yards passing and TDs, but he is looking to cap his career with what might be his biggest victory.

Clifford has just one bowl win on his resume: a 53-39 win over Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl in which he passed for only 133 yards.

“When the lights are shining the brightest, you’ve got to perform at your highest level,” Clifford said. “It’s just taking it all in when you first run out, being out there for a second or two, and then it’s about winning the game.”

SITTING OUT

Both teams will be missing key players who skipped Pasadena to prepare for the NFL draft.

Penn State will be without cornerback Joey Porter Jr., a second-team All-American and shutdown defender on the perimeter, while Utah won’t have its first-team All-American cornerback, Clark Phillips III. The Utes also are without tight end Dalton Kincaid, who had a whopping 70 catches for a team-leading 890 yards and eight TDs, and leading rusher Tavion Thomas.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25 Sign up for the AP Top 25 newsletter here: https://link.apnews.com/join/6nr/morning-wire-newsletter-footer-internal-ads

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE -LeBron James speaks at the opening ceremony for the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, Monday, ...
Associated Press

LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids. Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she […]
1 day ago
Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett, center, is congratulated by his players after notching his 5...
Associated Press

Bennett earns 500th win as No. 18 Saint Mary’s beats USF

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Randy Bennett earned his 500th win as Saint Mary’s coach when the 18th-ranked Gaels beat San Francisco 68-59 on Thursday night for their 11th straight victory. Alex Ducas had 18 points and Aidan Mahaney scored 13 of his 17 in the second half to lead the Gaels (20-4, 9-0 West Coast […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Clippers' Nicolas Batum fouls Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo during the first h...
Associated Press

Antetokounmpo scores 54 points, Bucks beat Clippers 106-105

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrated his most famous 50-point performance by ordering 50 chicken nuggets at a Chick-fil-A drive-through the next day. He already has an idea how to commemorate reaching that plateau for the third time in the last month. Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 54 points in the fourth quarter and the […]
1 day ago
Duke coach Kara Lawson directs the team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game ag...
Associated Press

Duke women’s coach Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida State last Sunday. The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida — the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season. After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 on Thursday, […]
1 day ago
Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman, front, pulls in a rebound in front of Denver Nuggets fo...
Associated Press

Murray, Jokic lead charge as Nuggets beat Warriors 134-117

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray just nodded when asked if this might be the most confident he’s ever been. Nothing else really needed to be said. Murray had 33 points and Nikola Jokic recorded his 17th triple-double of the season, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 134-117 win over the short-handed Golden State Warriors on […]
1 day ago
Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) battles New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. ...
Associated Press

Mavs hang on after Doncic hurt, hand Pels 10th straight loss

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks barely held on after leading by 27 points when Luka Doncic exited the game with a right heel injury on a hard fall. The New Orleans Pelicans thought their one chance to finish the rally and end a long losing streak was taken away by the officials, who acknowledged […]
1 day ago
Utah faces Penn State as the sun sets on a Rose Bowl era