The Yankees organization always envisioned the New Era Pinstripe Bowl as a major college football game on the calendar in the Bronx. On December 30, 2010, Syracuse defeated Kansas State 36-34 in the inaugural game at Yankee Stadium before 38,274 fans.
Last year the game was canceled due to COVID-19 as Yankees and bowl game officials had to abide with New York State guidelines. Rutgers, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan State have been there. Six years ago, 49,012 fans set a Pinstripe Bowl record as Penn State defeated Boston College in overtime.
Perhaps the ongoing pandemic had an impact Wednesday afternoon in the Bronx. A record low 29,653 saw a blowout as Maryland defeated Virginia Tech 54-10, then again, these two schools don’t have a following like Penn State or Rutgers. Pinstripe Bowl officials send the invites and if Notre Dame was available, the Irish supporters probably would have packed the stadium.
Regardless, this has become a major bowl game. Despite the blowout, the game has become an experience for the coaches and players who get the royal treatment of touring NYC landmarks that include the 9/11 Memorial.
Maryland played the game at Yankee Stadium, toured Monument Park and got a win in their first Pinstripe Bowl game appearance.
Wide receiver Darryl Jones will remember his day at Yankee Stadium. In four years, the Maryland Terrapin failed to score a touchdown. Wednesday his touchdown receptions of 70 and 32 yards was another example of that Pinstripe Bowl memory.
“For it being our first bowl and being my first two touchdowns scoring in Yankee Stadium is when it happened, I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Jones said. “I’m just, like, let’s keep going. Let’s keep going. Thinking about it, it really is crazy. I’ll definitely remember this. I’ll tell this story for I don’t know how many years, but it’s definitely special.”
Jones said it was his first time at Yankee Stadium. It was that Pinstripe Bowl moment as it was in that first game when Kansas State receiver Adrien Hilburn caught a 30-yard TD from quarterback Carson Coffman with 1:13 left to cut a Syracuse lead to 36-34.
Before the two-point conversion, though, Hilburn was flagged for excessive celebration and the 15-yard penalty saw the ensuing conversion go incomplete. Syracuse ran out the clock and won the game on a controversial play.
This game had no drama. It was all Maryland and their moment in the Bronx. It was also special for Maryland head coach Mike Locksley and had that Yankee Stadium moment.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time for a game like this. It’s only fitting that he (Jones) would get it in his last game as a Terrapin,” Locksley said. “I’m really happy for Darryl that he was able to finish on such a strong game.”
And this was a special Yankee Stadium and Pinstripe Bowl for Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Dolphins quarterback Tua. He completed 20 of 24 passes for 265 yards on leading his team to their first Bowl victory since 2010.
“I think it’s a great feeling,” Tagovailoa said. “Coming into this game, we knew what was at stake. We are just happy it didn’t get canceled, it means a lot for our Maryland family, our fans. They’ve been waiting a long time for us to have a winning season and make bowl games and win a lot of games.”
Tagovailoa went in the record book and tied a Maryland season record with 26 TD passes. Maryland finished their season at 7-6 and those two touchdowns from Jones in the second quarter set the tone.
The win gives Maryland confidence going into the offseason and into next year, but that moment of celebration on the Yankee Stadium turf is what also makes this bowl game special.
“The best is ahead,” Tagovaiola said. “I feel like that’s what we showed out there. We’re only going to get stronger, bigger, faster. We just feel like a family.”
And perhaps a return next year to this bowl game in the Bronx. Others have returned and now Maryland knows this special moment about the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso