Lunes, 2 de Enero de 2017 a las 20:08 hrs.
Alberto García Ramos
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When teams square off in Pasadena, California, in the first day of January, entertainment is basically guaranteed. It didn't matter to USC and Penn State that today was the second day of 2017, both teams exceeded expectations in a historic 103th edition of the Rose Bowl.
With 1 minute to go in the third quarter, it was already the highest-scoring edition of the new year's classic, with 84 combined points between the #9 ranked Trojans and the #5 ranked Nittany Lions.
It was crazy from start to finish, but it was a rather sloppy first quarter for James Franklin's squad. A muffed kickoff in the first play on the game gave Penn State a start from their own 2-yard line. Back-to-back interceptions to quarterback Trace McSorley gave USC short field position in following possessions.
These early miscues and a red-hot USC quarterback were key for the Trojans to jump to a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter. A pair of Sam Darnold touchdown passes plus two field goals put USC on the board.
But cue the awakening of Penn State's offensive unit, just ask the Wisconsin Badgers, the team beaten by Penn State in the Big 10 Championship.
The Nittany Lion's offense scored a touchdown on seven straight offensive drives. The first five minutes of the third quarter were the cusp of this offensive explosion.
Coming off halftime trailing 27-21, it took three plays for PSU to score three times. A 79-yard touchdown run from Saquon Barkley, a Chris Goodwin 72-yard touchdown reception, and a Trace McSorley 3-yard quarterbackg touchdown run. The clock was yet to hit the 10:00 minute mark when Penn State was leading 42-27. Momentum was riding the Big Ten Champ's sideline.
These two offenses didn't back down from trading punches. Down 15, USC assertively responded to that last touchdown with a 10 play, 65-yard drive culminating with a touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to star reciever JuJu Smith-Schuster. The two point conversion made it 42-35.
Nonetheless, Penn State responded with the fifth touchdown of McSorley, and the third of Saquon Barkley. A 26-yard pass from McSorley to the sophomore running back gave PSU back the 14 point lead entering the fourth quarter.
This is when the Sam Darnold show reached its highest point. The Trojan defense stopped the Nittany Lions for the first time since the second quarter. Already into opponent territory, Darnold threw a rainbow to Smith-Schuster that was first ruled incomplete, but the call was reversed and gave USC first and goal from the 3-yard line. Reggie Jones III completed the drive with the rushing touchdown. Cut down to a 49-42 seven point deficit with 8 minutes left.
Being torched by Barkley (who ended up with 194 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns) all night long, USC's defense gained its momentum and delivered when it mattered most. Another defensive stop by the Trojans that could've ended with a fumble recovery in PSU's 30 yard line but was reversed by the officiating crew, still limited the Nittany Lions once more.
With 1:59 left in the game, Darnold's offense only needed 5 plays to reach the endzone. A beauty of a throw off Darnold's arm into double coverage connected with Deontay Burnett for a 27-yard score. It was all even after 59 minutes, 49-49.
The Penn State offense had 80 seconds on the clock to try make something happen, after a scoreless fourth quarter. Instead, came the third and defining interception from Trace McSorley. Leon McQuay picked off McSorley's pass to put the ball in Penn State's 33 yard line.
A game that featured 13 touchdowns was won by a field goal. Matt Boermeester hit a 33-yard field goal in the final seconds of the game to complete the Trojans comeback, wrapping up a historic, instant Rose Bowl classic, 52-49 in favor of USC.
Nittany Lions' 28-point rally in the 3rd quarter was followed by a scoreless fourth quarter. The highest-scoring game in the long history of the Rose Bowl included a pair of quarterbacks with 5 total touchdowns each. Darnold, a true freshman, and McSorley, a sophomore, alongside with star running back Saquon Barkley, represent the future of both programs who were hit by NCAA Sanctions in recent years.
After a fantastic, 101-point showdown, 2017 could not have started a better way.