Spotlight is shining on an unlikely PSU pair ahead of TaxSlayer Bowl
FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — With six wins as the bare requirement, Penn State's postseason bowl appearance provided little surprise. The long shot was Ricky Rahne and Gregg Garrity sharing the media spotlight two days before the game.
Yet Thursday, both were targeted by reporters and cameras on a local high school field after the season's final practice. The Nittany Lions (7-5) play Georgia (9-3) in the TaxSlayer (formerly Gator) Bowl in nearby Jacksonville on Saturday.
Rahne has been quarterbacks coach under James Franklin for five seasons at Penn State and Vanderbilt. After John Donovan's firing in late November, he will be in the booth at EverBank Field calling plays for the first time in his career as the interim offensive coordinator.
Garrity's job description hasn't changed. A North Allegheny graduate and third-generation Nittany Lion, the junior walk-on remains a backup wide receiver and special teams player. But the confluence of coincidence and history has brought special attention.
Garrity's father, Gregg Sr., played a key role in Penn State's landmark win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl after the 1982 season. It was the first official national championship for Penn State and coach Joe Paterno. Garrity Sr., who himself started out as a walk-on and later played eight NFL seasons with the Steelers and Eagles, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Rahne (pronounced RAH-nee), said he has enjoyed his new, albeit temporary role. Joe Moorhead, hired earlier this month, is well into assuming the regular duties.
Asked if he plans to put his stamp on the game plan, Rahne replied, “It's a little too late to make significant changes, but I think every play-caller, every coach, has their own personal touch they're going to put on the game and the game plan. So, yeah, there will be a few things, minor tweaks here and there.”
He added, “I've been able to put some personal touches in there.”
There were no specifics, of course.
“I just want us to go out there and play fast, play aggressive and play with a swagger knowing that we're prepared,” he said.
Rahne said he wants to be an offensive coordinator “one day.” Not only can Penn State end its season on a high note, he acknowledged “this is an important opportunity for me.”
Garrity's impending opportunities are harder to pinpoint. Listed at 5-foot-10, 157 pounds, he has caught one pass for 4 yards and returned two punts for 9 yards this season.
“Punt returning is something I've done since I was a little kid,” he said. “It's definitely something I'm comfortable with. Hopefully, I can make an impact in that aspect of the game.”
The match-up created a happy coincidence for the family — Gregg Jr.'s grandfather, Jim, also played for Penn State — reviving memories of his dad's diving, 48-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown catch from Todd Blackledge, the decisive score in a 27-23 win by the No. 2 Nittany Lions over the Bulldogs, previously unbeaten and ranked No. 1.
The schools have not met since.
“It's funny how things kind of worked out,” Garrity Jr. said. He said he “can't even count” the number of times he has viewed his dad's catch. We have all the Sports Illustrated covers in my house, all over the place,” he said. “It's definitely something you see growing up.
“It's a cool deal.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.