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December 15, 2023
NEPA Native Headed to the 2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
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PSU Linebacker, NEPA Native, DeLuca Preps for Third Bowl Game

On Saturday, December 30, the #10 Penn State Nittany Lions will face the #11 Ole Miss Rebels at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The evenly-matched contest, also the first time the schools are meeting, is slated as a potential instant classic. Both schools posted solid, 10-win seasons in 2023, earning the opportunity to play in the storied “New Year’s Six” bowl game.

The game will mark Penn State’s 53rd post-season bowl game appearance since 1923. Coincidentally, this will be the Lion’s first Peach Bowl. And, with a win, they’ll not only bring home the famed Dodd Trophy, but also a little bit of college football history. The Lions would be the first team in history to claim victories in all of the New Year’s Six bowl games.

And, of course, there’s a little bit of NEPA involved here.

 

 

Wyoming Area grad and West Pittston-born, Dominic DeLuca will be taking the field in Atlanta. This will be the third bowl game appearance for the redshirt sophomore who wears the iconic number zero jersey. As a veteran of several major games (including a PIAA State Championship), Dominic is no stranger to the pressure of playing on the big stage. But we are. So, we reached out in an effort to get a sense of what goes through a player’s mind as they prepare for one of the biggest moments of their careers.

We caught up with the Special Teams Captain and linebacker right before finals week. And in between practice, studying for finals, prepping for the Peach Bowl, receiving the Captain’s Award and the John Bruno Memorial Award, baking Christmas cookies (probably), he offered a little insight and a quick peek behind a player’s bowl game experience.

 

How many bowl games is this for you?

This will be my third bowl game. We played the Outback Bowl in 2022, the Rose Bowl last year and the Peach Bowl this year will be three for me… so far (laughs).

Hype-wise, excitement-wise, is there a big difference between a bowl game and a regular season game?

I think it’s bigger than a regular season game, this one especially, because it’s one of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. And we’re playing one of the great SEC teams for the first time ever. So, we have a little pressure to prove ourselves and show just how good of a Big 10 team we are. We have to show up and represent, you know?

What’s the atmosphere like at a big bowl game like this? Does it compare to a Saturday at Beaver Stadium?

It’s definitely the same feeling. We might not pack in as many as we do at Beaver Stadium, but bowl games bring great crowds, and it’s always a fun atmosphere to be a part of. It’ll be pretty awesome. I mean Penn State always pulls a big crowd wherever we go.

From the player’s perspective, is it all business, or do you get to have a little fun?

Going to bowl games is a lot of fun. We get to see all of these different cities all over the country. You get to see things you’ve never seen and play in stadiums that you might never have had the chance to play in. You get to do all of these events with the Bowl Committee throughout the week. We go to great restaurants and like amusement parks and stuff like that. It’s a real eye-opening experience.

Just getting the opportunity to be a part of one of these New Year’s Six games is a unique thing. I’m pretty sure this is Penn State’s first Peach Bowl appearance. So, that’s also really cool to be a part of that history.

Walk us through the routine for a bowl game.

Yeah, we always go like a week early for bowl games. So, we’re leaving on the 23rd. The game is on the 30th. And we’ll have the first three days to ourselves to like go out and see the city. It’s pretty exciting. I’ve driven through Atlanta before, but never actually spent time there. I’m looking forward to it. And I’m sure we’ll squeeze in a few practices here and there.

You’ve got a big family, and they certainly show up. How many are coming with you down to Georgia?

I think I’m going to have about 12 family and friends coming down to the game (give or take). They’ll be the 12 loudest people in all of Atlanta that weekend for sure. You’ll probably be able to hear my mother way up in Northeastern PA (laughs).

You’re going into SEC territory. Some might say that the Rebels have home field advantage for this one. That said, I heard that many flights to Atlanta out of PA were booked solid shortly after the Peach Bowl announcement. How do you feel about that?

I can see how you might think that Ole Miss would have a bit of a home field advantage, but I know that the Penn State alumni and fans are everywhere. They’re all over the country. And they travel to see us all season. I wouldn’t be surprised if this feels a little like a home game for us. We’ll see when we get to the stadium on game day, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if it was a sea of white.

You guys have had another great season. School’s first Peach Bowl appearance. Tough SEC contender. Are you feeling any pressure to bring this one home and close the season with a big win?

There’s always some type of pressure, but I feel like we’re just going to attack it like we have done every week of the season. I mean they’re a great team. They have a great quarterback who likes to use his legs. They have a 1,000-yard rusher at running back and three receivers with 700+ receiving yards. They’re definitely a well-rounded team and they execute at a high level. But I think we just have to play our game, match their intensity, play at that high level we played at all season long. We just have to focus on what we can control and everyone doing their job day in and day out and, like I said, continue playing high-level football – Penn State football. Really, I feel like that’s all we can do at this point.

 

Don’t miss any of the action!

Tune in to ESPN for the live Peach Bowl broadcast, or catch it on various streaming services. And keep an eye on DiscoverNEPA for more as we recap our NEPA Nittany Lions fan experience in Atlanta.

Details:

2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Saturday, December 30

#10 Penn State vs. #11 Ole Miss

At Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

Watch Live on ESPN and various streaming services

Kickoff at 12 p.m.