Rose Bowl (3-3)
1922: USC 14 Penn State 3
Penn State’s first-ever bowl game resulted in a loss to USC. The Nittany Lions have lost three Rose Bowls, all to USC.
1995: Penn State 38 Oregon 20
Just two years after joining the Big 10 conference, Penn State was already regretting the decision. The Nittany Lions went undefeated in the 1994 regular season, as did Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Bowl coalition had been founded a few years early to avoid a split national championship, but the Rose Bowl was not a part of it.
Therefore, No. 2 Penn State was obligated to play Pac-10 champ No. 12 Oregon in Pasadena instead of meeting No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska defeated No. 3 Miami and was crowned the national champions.
Penn State won the Rose Bowl behind 156 yards and three touchdowns from Ki-Jana Carter but at 12-0 finished second to Nebraska. If Penn State was still independent they would have been able to play Nebraska for a shot at the title.
2009: USC 38 Penn State 24
2017: USC 52 Penn State 49
With Trace McSorley, Chris Godwin, and Saquon Barkley, Penn State had a magical 11-2 regular season. An upset over Ohio State got the Nittany Lions into the Big 10 Championship game where they won their fourth Big 10 Championship in program history.
A loss to Pitt in Week 2 and a 2-2 start cost Penn State a spot in the College Football Playoff. No two-loss team has ever made the four-team playoff.
McSorley was outdueled by Sam Darnold, who would eventually be drafted one spot behind Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft.
2022: Penn State 35 Utah 21
Sean Clifford’s four-year career as Penn State’s starting quarterback ended on a high note against Utah in the Rose Bowl. Clifford never got Penn State over the hump, but he won 32 games as a starting quarterback, the most of any Nittany Lion quarterback.