Billed as the best matchup leading into the bowl season, a wild, action-packed 103rd Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State lived up to the hype.
After a strong first quarter in which USC held Penn State’s Trace McSorley to just two passing yards and intercepted him twice on their way to a 13-0 lead, the game turned on its head in the second.
The Nittany Lions’ explosive offense came alive, while 35 total points were scored between the two teams. Darnold completed touchdowns to Deontay Burnett and Darreus Rogers, while McSorley found Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki for a pair of highlight reel scores. USC took a 27-21 lead to the half.
It wouldn’t last long. Saquon Barkley went 79 yards on his first carry of the third quarter for the Nittany Lions to take their first lead. PSU then followed it up with touchdowns on their next two offensive plays, including a 72-yard pass to Godwin.
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All told, Penn State went on a 28-0 run in five minutes of game time, scoring on four-straight offensive plays to take a 42-27 lead.
After Darnold found JuJu Smith-Schuster to cut the lead to seven, USC committed a pair of back-breaking penalties including an ejection of Cam Smith for targeting. Penn State turned the help into points for their seventh-straight touchdown drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, down 49-35, USC suffered a setback with the loss of Adoree’ Jackson to an apparent high ankle sprain.
However, the Trojans surged downfield, hitting Smith-Schuster for a long gain to set up a Ronald Jones TD.
Then USC manufactured an epic drive to tie the game with just over a minute left, as Darnold hit Burnett over the middle for the touchdown.
With seconds left Leon McQuay intercepted the ball and Matt Boermeester launched the game-winning field goal, 52-49.