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2017 Rose Bowl: USC Trojans defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions 52-49 in a wild game

One of the best Rose Bowls ever.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State started the 2017 Rose Bowl pinned deep. Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley still attempted to throw out of his own end zone but Iman Marshall snagged an interception giving the ball to USC inside Penn State territory. Unfortunately the Trojans were unable to convert the turnover into points after a missed field goal opportunity.

On the next Penn State possession running back Saquon Barkley found some initial success rushing to the outside. In our preview we said one of the biggest keys for USC was to be able to seal the edge and force Penn State back into the middle. Penn State attempted to go back to the pass butt McSorley once again was intercepted this time by Adoree’ Jackson returning the ball to midfield.

On the second possession, however, Darnold was able to create some space and hit a couple of passes downfield including a touchdown pass to Deontay Burnett. The Trojans would lead 7-0. USC was struggling to get the running game going early on but Darnold was able to make plays.

USC would force a punt and on the ensuing possession USC would continue to struggle running the ball. Sam Darnold would continue to improvise and make plays with his arm but the Trojans offense was unbalanced. This allowed the Penn State defense to key in on the pass and force a field goal. With roughly 10 minutes gone by in the first quarter the Trojans held a 10 point lead but would need to figure out the rushing attack.

After the Trojans’ defense forced yet another punt the Nittany Lions decided to kick it to Adoree’ who broke open a huge return that was called back on a highly questionable block in the back call. The Trojans would set to work trying to establish the run. They would find marginally more success but once again it would be Sam Darnold’s arm that moved the ball down the field. The drive featured a nifty trick play to Jalen Greene who would move the ball into field goal position. The Trojans’ offense would flounder once again and settle for another field.

USC would lead 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

McSorley and the Penn State offense finally found their rhythm at the start of the second quarter as the Nittany Lions marched 70 yards down the field on a drive capped off by a 24-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley cutting the Trojans lead to 13-7 with 11:44 left in the first half.

Sam Darnold led his offense right back down the field and scored a touchdown giving USC a 20-7 lead. The play, however, was initially called back for offensive pass interference. In an interesting turn of events the officials reviewed the the OPI call and ruled it a touchdown. USC would lead 20-7 but McSorley and the Penn State offense would not be denied. Penn State would mark back down the field for a touchdown on a gorgeous pass by McSorley. USC lead 20-14. Sam Darnold, however, came right back out and started to sling the ball all over the field including a deep pass and beautiful catch to Juju Smith - Schuster. Darnold would cap off the drive with a touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers giving the Trojans a 27-14 lead.

Penn State would continue to hit number 12 Chris Godwin, who was almost the entirety of the Nittany Lion’s offense in the first half. The Nittany Lions drained the clock down on the drive and scored another touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half. Tight End Mike Gesicki made a great catch and brought the Nittany Lions to within 6. The score was 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. 35 points later the score was 27-21.

Second Half

USC would open the second half with a 3 and out for -1 yard. USC’s complete inability to run the ball was already beginning to haunt the Trojans. Barkley would open the second half for Penn State with a huge 79-yard touchdown giving the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game 28-27. The Trojans were now getting thumped in a shootout after taking a 13-0 lead Penn State had outscored the Trojans 28-14.

At halftime Biggie Marshall was ruled out for the remainder of the game with vertigo according to the USC radio broadcast. On the first play of Penn State’s second possession Marhsall was back on the field. McSorley threw to his direction. Biggie was able to tip the ball but once again Godwin was able to come up with the catch and took it 79 yards to the house. Penn State would lead 35-27.

On the next USC possession Darnold threw a laser to Juju Smith-Schuster that was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Brandon Bell who returned it to the USC 3-yard line. On the first play McSorley ran the ball into the end zone. Penn State had run all of 3 plays on offense in the second half and all three plays went for touchdowns. USC had found themselves down 42-27 on 28 unanswered points for Penn State.

The USC Trojans then settled down and found a bit of a running game marching the ball down the field. Sam Darnold from the Nittany Lion 13 found Juju Smith-Shuster in the end zone. Penn State had single coverage on Juju who beat his man for an easy touchdown.

Trailing 42-33 the Trojans went for two. USC ran a severely unbalanced formation with most of the linemen on the left hash. Darnold would roll to the right away from the protection. Penn State sniffed it out in what appeared to be a designed QB run. Darnold slipped but did not go down. He then popped back up and threw the ball to Taylor McNamara for the conversion. Penn State led 42-35 but the drive helped USC settle down in a game that was coming off the rails for the Trojans.

Up by 7 Penn State went back to work and the officials started letting the laundry fly in a bit of a one sided affair.

Linebacker Cam Smith hit Penn State Quarterback Trace McSorley and was flagged for targeting after a review the call was confirmed and one of USC’s best players had to leave the game.

Backup ILB Olajuwon Tucker was ineligible for the Rose Bowl because of academic issues which left linebacker Quinton Powell to fill in. On the very next play Penn State went right after Powell for a big gain. The Nittany Lions would follow up the next play with a touchdown extending the Penn State lead to 49-35.

On the ensuing Kickoff Adoree’ Jackson would leave the game with a nasty looking injury. Justin Davis would also then take a nasty hit and leave the game. Adoree had to be helped off the field unable to put any weight on his injured leg. The Trojans would punt the ball away. On the Next drive without Cam Smith or Adoree’ the Trojans defense were able to force a fumble and recover. But upon further review the officiating crew decided that Penn State had managed to recover. This was at best a questionable decision but USC was able to force the punt anyway.

Down 49-35 Sam Darnold led his offense down the field on a ten play 83-yard drive that was capped off by Ronald Jones II on a 3-yard run for the touchdown. Rojo wearing number 4 in honor of Joe McKnight had been quiet along with the rest of the USC rushing attack. Penn State still led 49-42 but USC still had life. The Trojans, however, were running out of time.

The USC Trojans defense would continue to force stops late in the game which left the ball in the hands of Sam Darnold from his own 20 with 1:59 left in regulation and no timeouts.

Darnold would hit Juju for a first down on the first play. The next play he hit Daniel Imatorbhebhe for another first down. The officials finally started calling penalties on Penn State and two straight pass interference call against the Nittany Lions gave the Trojans a free 30 yards. On the next play Darnold would find Deontay Burnett for his third touchdown catch (Darnold 5th td). The Trojans would tie the game but there was 1:09 left after the kickoff and the two missed field goals earlier still haunting.

Penn State would attempt a few down field shots to try and get into field goal range. USC Trojan Leon McQuay III jumped the route on second down but dropped a sure fire interception. On third and 9 Penn State took another shot down the field and once again McQuay timed the route perfectly but this time he did intercept the ball and returned it back to the Penn State 33 yard line with 27 seconds left in regulation.

Darnold would hand the ball off to rojo before spiking the ball. Matt Booermeister who was two for four on the day with field goal kicking. Helton put his faith in his young kicker who put the ball just inside the uprights as time expired for a 52-49 victory.

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