Considering USC’s rich sports history, it would seem like a prime example of recency bias to choose Matt Boermeester’s game-winning field goal in this year’s 52-49 Rose Bowl win over Penn State as my top moment for USC athletics.
However, anyone who might think that probably didn’t watch the game, or was rooting for the Nittany Lions.
I will add a disclaimer in that my USC fandom only goes all the way back to 2011. I grew up in a primarily-Bruin household, with both parents getting their undergraduate degrees from UCLA. Up until my senior year of high school, Vince Young running for the game-winning touchdown against the Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl was one of my favorite college football highlights, as opposed to that play I’d rather forget about.
It wasn’t until a college advisor suggested USC that I gave the school a shot, which resulted in me swapping out my blue for cardinal, joining the Trojan Family.
Boermeester’s field goal, and the game that preceded it, is something that I will always remember.
The kick put the exclamation point on a game that featured a Rose Bowl-record 101 combined points, five-touchdown performances from both USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, and each team coming back from double-digit deficits.
The Trojans pitched a 30-0 shutout in the first and fourth quarters, with a 49-22 run by Penn State sandwiched in between that included 28 unanswered points and touchdowns on seven straight possessions.
As it curved right between the uprights, the Rose Bowl went from a game destined for overtime to USC fans going crazy in the stands (or if they were like me, staring at their television screens in shock).
The Trojans finished the game with 17 unanswered points, giving them the finishing touches to an incredible comeback season with their ninth straight win after a 1-3 start. The 52 points scored by the Trojans matched the 52 points given up in their season opener against the perennial powerhouse that is Alabama.
As exciting and emotionally draining as that Rose Bowl was, the field goal gave Trojan fans more than simply a great ending to a great game; It gave hope to a program that, despite being one of college football’s powerhouses, has gone through so many ups and downs in the past six years.
The last time there was this much anticipation around the program, USC was coming off a 10-2 season and a 50-0 win over UCLA in 2011, entering their first season after the postseason ban with a No. 1 ranking. Matt Barkley was returning for his senior year, and the team had plenty of lofty goals.
We all know how that turned out.
Something about this team feels different, though. With Helton at the helm and Darnold now firmly entrenched behind center, the Trojans are getting saddled with expectations that they haven’t had since the Pete Carroll days. It took a few years to rebuild the depth they were missing due to NCAA sanctions, but now USC has NFL-caliber talent at every position, and are arguably the hottest team in college football heading into next season.
The Rose Bowl generated some positive buzz for a program that has spent the past couple years generating headlines for off-the-field issues and a coaching carousel. As the sun left the Los Angeles skyline and the ball curved right through the uprights, USC showed it could push through adversity on the national stage and generated plenty of preemptive playoff hype in the process, despite having one of the nation’s toughest schedules next year.
Here’s hoping last year’s 10-win season was just a stepping stone for bigger things, and the Rose Bowl just the beginning of an exciting 2017 season for Trojan football.