On Saturday Penn State and UCF played in the first ever Croke Park Classic and it truly was a classic. It was the first American football game I had actually attended in person and it was great. We arrived at 10 in the morning so as to soak up the atmosphere. It soon became apparent that there were far more Penn State than UCF fans after making the trip. When we reached the tailgate party in Temple Bar there were already plenty of people around with a mix of Penn State and UCF and plenty of Irish fans as well. With the Irish fans most were wearing their favourite NFL team’s jersey with a wide mix with everything from Dan Marino to Randy Moss to Johnny Manziel. With the pre-game festivities over it time to head to the game. The free bus service from Temple Bar to Croke Park was exceptionally handy and it made the journey a lot easier for us. When we got there it was twenty minutes before the game and even though the UCF announcer was trying to get the crowd excited to be honest tge atmosphere wasn’t great before the game because the crowd was late arriving before the game. Even when they did arrive, the stadium wasn’t very full with only 55,000 of the 82,000 tickets sold out and the stadium wasn’t really suited to the game either as the pitch was far smaller than a GAA pitch is.
The game itself got off to slow start with Penn State leading 10-3 as both teams looked lethargic with UCF QB Pete DiNovo looking particularly bad before being replaced in the second drive of the second half by Justin Holman. DiNovo finished the game 3/8 for 18 yards as Blake Bortles presence was missed sourly in the first half as was Storm Johnson’s as the team had 24 yards on 29 attempts and had negative rushing yards at half time. Holman was a breath of fresh air when he did come on going 9/14 and TD in the air with 2 TDs on the ground as well. With 3:30 left on the clock and Penn State up 23-17 Holman lead Penn State down the and converted a 31 yard pass on 4th and 10 thanks to a great pass by Josh Reese. Holman then ran it in on a QB draw on the play to put UCF 24-23 with 1:13 up.
With 1:13 left in the game Penn State came back on the field. Hackenberg who had lead Penn State on a similar drive last year to tie the game against Michigan lead Penn State down the field even tucking and running on a crucial 4th and 3 for 8 yards. Then kicker Sam Ficken kicked the game winning filed goal as time expired. The Penn State bench then ran onto the bench before the Dan Rooney trophy was awarded to the Penn State. The trophy is named after former US ambassador to Ireland and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and is made out of Irish Bog Oak. Mr Rooney was there himself to present the award. Although the crowd turned out to be a little disappointing it was still a great game.