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Updated: January 17, 2023 @ 9:27 am
Maryland offensive lineman Jaelyn Duncan (71) looks to block Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher (97) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Maryland offensive lineman Jaelyn Duncan (71) looks to block Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher (97) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – No. 11 Penn State could be near full strength when it faces No. 8 Utah in the Rose Bowl on Jan 2.
As of Friday, the Nittany Lions received just one opt-out for their New Year’s Six bowl after cornerback Joey Porter Jr. declared for the 2023 NFL Draft late November.
Six players opted out of the 2022 Outback Bowl, a contest the Nittany Lions dropped against Arkansas. Heading into the 2022 season, Penn State coach James Franklin said team captains established early expectations regarding the upcoming season.
“That was a big part of our conversation before the season started with our captains and what their expectations were and what their standards were, and what mine were, as well,” Franklin said. “Really, in my mind, the way we’ve built it at Penn State, there’s really no reason to opt out. We will be flexible with all of our guys. I want our guys to be as successful as they possibly can. I want the bowl experience to be a great experience, and we’ll work with our guys, so there’s really no reason to opt out.”
Nittany Lions defensive end Adisa Isaac missed the Outback Bowl after sustaining a preseason injury. He echoed Franklin’s observation about the team’s mentality this season and said it also includes seeing it all the way through.
“It’s been that steady course throughout the season,” Isaac said. “Everybody just being locked in on being 1-0. I feel like this game is no different. You have to handle business the same way. (Utah) is a tough opponent.”
Like Isaac, Penn State defensive tackle and team captain PJ Mustipher missed the Outback Bowl with an injury. After five years with the program, Mustipher said not playing in the Rose Bowl wasn’t an option for him.
“Five years of working hard for opportunities like this don’t come around a lot,” he said, “so I’m playing in this bowl. This team has worked too hard for me to leave at this point. I want to finish this thing off right with my brothers.”
A bowl win would be Penn State’s first since defeating Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. Penn State opted out of the postseason during a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season before its 14-point loss to the Razorbacks to conclude the 2021 season in Tampa, Florida.
For Penn State center Juice Scruggs, who has yet to announce his intentions about returning next season, the motivation to play in the Rose Bowl comes from a sense of pride he and his teammates have in the program and seeing it return to the win column in the postseason.
“I think we just want to leave a legacy,” said Scruggs, a team captain. “All of us, we’ve been through some hard times here at Penn State, some rough years, and I just think we want to go out on top.”
Franklin optimistic about trio’s return: Penn State could see a pair of starters on the offensive line and a key piece in the running back rotation return from injury when the Nittany Lions take the field again in the Rose Bowl.
Franklin updated the status of offensive tackles Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace. Fashanu hasn’t played since Oct. 29 (Ohio State), while Wallace has been sidelined since Oct. 22 (Minnesota). Earlier this month, Fashanu announced he will return to the program in 2023. Earlier this month, Fashanu received recognition as a second-team all-Big Ten player by conference coaches.
Franklin added that running back Keyvone Lee could return to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 15. Lee tallied 94 rushing yards on 25 carries in five contests.
“I’ll even throw a bonus one in there,” Franklin said of Lee when updating the players’ statuses. “Olu, Caedan and Keyvone, we’re expecting to have all three of those. We’ll see how it plays out.”
“There’s still some time, and there’s no reason to rush these guys, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk with them and where we’re at, but right now, we are planning for Olu and Caedan to be available,” Franklin said of the pair’s status for the Rose Bowl. “That could change. We’ll see how this thing goes. We’re not going to rush either of them back. It will be based on where the medical staff feels they are and where these guys feel they are both physically and mentally.”
{em style=”color: #000000; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 400; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: #ffffff; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial;”}Elton Hayes is a veteran sports writer who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at ehayes@cnhi.com or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
Elton Hayes is a veteran sports writer who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at ehayes@cnhi.com or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

The previous time Penn State faced a Pac-12 member, the matchup sent the Nittany Lions West to play Washington in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl.
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