By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Penn State's fourth Rose Bowl appearance less than two weeks away, it's only fitting to take a look back at the three times in program history the Nittany Lions have traveled to Pasadena, California for the "Granddaddy of Them All."
We've spanned several decades in parts one and two, rewinding to Penn State's first bowl game following the 1922 season before arriving at one of the most memorable seasons in Nittany Lion football history - the undefeated 1994 squad.
In Penn State's most recent Rose Bowl appearance, the 2008 Nittany Lions met USC on New Year's Day, 2009 on the heels of an 11-win season that featured the program's third Big Ten title.
The fabric of the 2008 team consisted of another explosive offense, guided by first-year starting quarterback Daryll Clark. The Nittany Lions closed out the regular season averaging more than 40 points per game, with nine 30-point scoring performances along the way.
Penn State rolled through its non-conference slate, out-scoring opponents 211-40, rising from a pre-season No. 22 ranking and rising to No. 6 after opening the Big Ten Conference slate with a 38-24 win over Illinois. Penn State knocked off its next three conference opponents with ease, winning at Purdue (20-6), at Wisconsin (48-7) and against Michigan (46-17) on Homecoming to stretch its winning streak to nine games, including the 2007 Alamo Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
Penn State put its winning streak on the line the next week, though, heading to No. 9 Ohio State for a primetime showdown in Columbus. The No. 3 Nittany Lions pulled off a stunning fourth-quarter comeback, scoring 10 points in the final frame, as senior safety Mark Rubin's forced fumble set up the game-winning touchdown to help boost Penn State to a hard-fought 13-6 victory.
In the next game, the Nittany Lions saw a 23-14 fourth quarter lead become a heart-breaking night loss at Iowa, as the Hawkeyes stormed back and converted a 31-yard field goal with :01 remaining to claim a 24-23 win.
The Nittany Lions quickly rebounded from their first loss, topping Indiana 34-7 before heading into the regular season finale focused on the opportunity to beat Michigan State and capture the Big Ten Championship.
Leading just 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, Penn State's offense got into its rhythm, rolling to a 49-18 victory, totaling 557 yards along the way, including 419 through the air.
Clark was sensational for the Nittany Lions in the Spartan victory, as the first team All-Big Ten quarterback threw for a career-high 341 yards and four touchdowns. Penn State averaged 8.4 yards per play in the win, as Clark hit Derrick Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass and Deon Butler for a 70-yard touchdown grab, finishing with 21.3 yards per completion.
In possession of their third Big Ten title under Coach Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions clinched an berth in the Bowl Championship Series, earning a spot in the 95th Rose Bowl game.
Winners in their last three bowl game appearances, the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions were paired up with the No. 5 Trojans, who entered the match-up seeking their third consecutive Rose Bowl victory.
Clark ran for a nine-yard touchdown late in the first quarter to tie the score, 7-7, but the Nittany Lions may have played their worst half of the season against the Trojans. Penn State committed nine penalties for 72 yards against USC, including 62 yard in the first half alone. Uncharacteristic turnovers and penalties took their toll as the Trojans entered the locker room leading 31-7 at the half.
Despite a scoreless third quarter, the Nittany Lions did not go down without a fight, as All-American Williams grabbed a two-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to bring Penn State within, 31-14. Jordan Norwood added a nine-yard touchdown catch in the final frame following a Nittany Lion field goal, but the 17-point fourth quarter was not enough to overcome USC's lead. Penn State fell in a 38-24 decision in front of a crowd of 93,293 in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State finished with 410 yards, marking the most by a USC opponent all season. The Nittany Lions were also the first team to tally more than 20 points against USC's top-ranked scoring defense, which was allowing a mere 7.8 points per game entering the contest.
Clark finished with 273 passing yards to re-write Penn State bowl game record, setting another school bowl mark with 290 yards of total offense. He went 21-for-36 with two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Trojans.
In less than two weeks, Penn State and USC will meet again in the 103rd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. On January 2, 2017 the Trojans will become Penn State's most common bowl opponent, as the teams prepare to square off in "The Granddaddy of Them All," for the third time and in postseason play for the fourth time in their storied, rich histories.