We all know the story. Penn State football charged back after halftime to take a commanding lead in the second half of a Rose Bowl game that many USC Trojans fans thought they would control throughout.
Within minutes of the beginning of the 3rd Quarter, the Nittany Lions unleashed a flurry of touchdowns thanks to electric plays by Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin. A six point halftime lead became a fifteen point deficit before the ten minute mark of the 3rd quarter. The Trojan fans grew more and more restless with every Penn State score.
It felt like the air had been sucked out of our lungs. To make matters worse, USC lost Adoree Jackson to injury as well as Cameron Smith to an ejection after a questionable targeting call. USC’s defensive pillars were out of the game and the Penn State offensive barrage appeared to have no end it sight. It looked hopeless. Some fans actually left the game toward the end of the 3rd quarter (a decision I hope they regret for the rest of their lives).
Despite everything going in Penn States favor, part of me still believed. I remember thinking to myself, “There is no way USC loses this game”. I was almost positive that USC would pull off the comeback and that the Rose Bowl would be another tally on a list of incredible sports comebacks that year (Leicester Football, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Cubs). After much time, Sam Darnold finally found JuJu in the endzone. There was life among the fans again. Frustration turned into excitement and anticipation. With every successful drive, the Trojans inched closer back into the game.
Late in the fourth after a crucial stop, USC found itself down a touchdown with minutes to spare. After a few much deserved pass interference calls, USC found itself thirty yards away from tying the game. I am still grateful that I was sitting five to ten rows from the edge of the endzone. I was able to see the play clearly unfold in front of my eyes. Burnett ran a route, Sam Darnold spotted him and slung the ball. The crowd was silent as the ball spiraled through the air into heavy coverage. And then, pandemonium. The familiar faces around me became a blur of cardinal and gold as the crowd went into a frenzy.
When deciding on my favorite USC sports moment, three memories came to mind, all from the Rose Bowl. It was either, Leon McQuay’s interception, the game winning field goal, or Deontay Burnett’s touchdown to tie the game. I chose Burnett’s touchdown because I believe that that touchdown is symbolic of the Trojans season as a whole. Throughout the season and the game, USC overcame adversity and captured success. I will never forget that moment.