Big plays highlight USC's comeback win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl

Sporting News
Penn State and USC matched one big play after another in the Rose Bowl, with the Trojans coming out on top in the end.

Big plays highlight USC's comeback win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl

Penn State and USC matched one big play after another in the Rose Bowl, with the Trojans coming out on top in the end.

The Rose Bowl was first played in 1902, but there may not have ever been one quite like Monday's contest. 

Penn State and USC pulled off one big play after another, with the Trojans outscoring Penn State 17-0 in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 victory in what was the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history.

The statistics alone are something out of a video game. The teams combined for a record 101 points, breaking the old record of 83 points set in Oregon's 45-38 win over Wisconsin in 2012. Penn State and USC combined for 1,040 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdown passes.

Many football fans argued that both USC (10-3) and Penn State (11-3) were more deserving of a spot in the College Football Playoff than Ohio State. Instead, the two teams found themselves matched up in a Jan. 2 bowl. With apologies to the Rose Bowl's prestigious name, it's the equivalent of an off-Broadway play in the NCAA's new playoff landscape.

Many people expected a high-scoring affair. Few predicted this offensive explosion. Trojans freshman quarterback Sam Darnold completed 33-of-53 passes for 453 yards and a Rose Bowl-record five touchdowns.

"We were just really excited to get this win for the whole Trojan family," Darnold told ESPN afterward. "It's been a long time coming."

"(Darnold is) just truly special and poised, he played well beyond his years," head coach Clay Helton told ESPN.

The Penn State trio of quarterback Trace McSorley (254 yards passing and four touchdowns), running back Saquon Barkley (249 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns) and receiver Chris Godwin (9-187 and two touchdowns) all had great nights for the Nitanny Lions.

While USC held a 27-21 halftime lead, Penn State owned the third quarter, outscoring the Trojans 28-8. Two of those plays covered more than 70 yards: a 79-yard run by Barkley, followed less than two minutes later by a 72-yard pass from McSorley to Godwin.

But USC fought back in the fourth, scoring two touchdowns, including a beautiful 27-yard touchdown pass from Darnold to receiver Deontay Burnett to tie the game at 49. Burnett finished with 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

As Penn State tried to get into field goal range, defensive back Leon McQuay III picked off a McSorley pass on third down and returned it 32 yards into Penn State territory.

That set the stage for Trojans kicker Matt Boermeester to knock home the game-winning 46-yard field goal as time expired.

Finally, the scoring had ended. And the Trojans, winners of nine straight to end the year, strengthened their argument that they belonged in the College Football Playoff.

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