JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Penn State arrives in the Jacksonville area Monday to begin final preparations for its TaxSlayer Bowl game against Georgia Jan. 2, it will mark a home-away-from-home homecoming for the Nittany Lions.
PSU is back in a Florida bowl for the first time since Joe Paterno’s squad dropped a 37-24 decision to Urban Meyer’s Florida team in the Outback Bowl following the 2010 season. It was Meyer’s final bowl with the Gators, as he “retired” after that campaign.
It turned out to be the final postseason game of Paterno’s career.
For much of Paterno’s long tenure at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were frequent visitors to the Sunshine State for postseason action. In fact, from 1985 through 2010 — a 25-year span — PSU appeared in 13 Florida bowls (going 7-6 in them).
During that period, there was only one drought of Florida Bowls that lasted more than two years — from 1999-2001 (Alamo and two seasons without bowls). And there were only two droughts of more than one year — 2003-04 (two seasons of no bowls) and 2007-08 (Alamo Bowl and Rose Bowl).
That makes the last four-year stretch of no Florida Bowls — which was obviously impacted by since eliminated NCAA sanctions — the longest at Penn State since an eight year drought from 1977 through ’84.
Of course, the bowls the Lions DID attend those years — in order, Fiesta, Sugar (for national title), Liberty, Fiesta, Fiesta, Sugar (for national title) and Aloha — were no slouches. For the record, PSU did not go bowling in 1984 despite finishing with a winning record.
So where Florida Bowls were once a way of life for Penn State football players, nobody on the current team has ever been a part of one. It has been three decades since PSU fielded a team where none of its players had ever traveled to a Florida Bowl.
As you might imagine, the Nittany Lions are anxious to return to the Sunshine State.
In the video above, you can hear some of them talk about it.