Monday evening's Rose Bowl was an instant classic as USC and Penn State set a new Rose Bowl scoring record with 101 combined points in a back-and-forth shootout that saw the Trojans score 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to edge the Nittany Lions 52-49.
USC took an early 13-0 lead behind a pair of interceptions on Trace McSorley's first two pass attempts for Penn State. The Trojans looked like the dominant team in the first quarter but could only manage 13 points in the opening quarter despite having four drives end in Penn State territory.
The Nittany Lions traded touchdowns with the Trojans in the early second quarter before closing the gap to six points going into halftime after a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a tremendous grab by Mike Gesicki in the corner of the end zone to make it 27-21.
Penn State then came out and added three touchdowns in its first three plays of the third quarter to open up a 42-27 lead. Running back Saquon Barkley, who led the way for the Nittany Lions offense on Monday with 25 carries for 194 yards and two touchdowns, got the second half scoring started with a 79-yard touchdown run on their first play from scrimmage in the half. He later added a receiving touchdown to his tally, as part of a 249 total yard, three touchdown performance in the loss. In between, Chris Godwin made the play of the game by tipping a pass to himself and running 72 yards to the house for a score.
Despite the Penn State onslaught, USC was able to remain composed thanks to redshirt quarterback Sam Darnold. The freshman signal-caller completed 33-of-53 passes for 453 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in one of the best quarterbacking performances in Rose Bowl history. Darnold orchestrated the Trojans' game-tying drive with less than two minutes to play, capped off by an absolute dime to Deonta Burnett for his third touchdown catch to go along with 164 receiving yards.
Penn State had an opportunity to stage a game-winning drive, but McSorley's seemingly resolved turnover issues returned as he lobbed up an interception into double coverage that was returned to the Penn State 33. Between the interceptions, McSorley was fantastic as he threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns, but the third and final interception set the Trojans up in field position to attempt the game-winning 46-yard field goal.
Monday evening's Rose Bowl will go down as one of the best in the game's storied history, with Darnold putting together an all-time performance and making a statement that he and USC will be formidable from the opening weekend of the 2017 season. Darnold, who took over in the Trojans fourth game, led USC to a 9-1 record as the starter and, including the Rose Bowl, had three games this season with five touchdown passes.
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