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2017 Rose Bowl: Studs and Duds from USC vs. Penn State Epic

Jan 2, 2017, 12:22 PM PST
Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett (80) makes a catch for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett (80) makes a catch for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) for a 16 yard gain during the second quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) for a 16 yard gain during the second quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Who were the duds?

Trace McSorley’s First Quarter:

The Nittany Lion quarterback completed his first two pass attempts…to guys in white jerseys. In fact, it wasn’t until the second-to-last play of the first quarter that he hit a completion to a player on his own team. Of course, he came back to throw four touchdowns, so he made up for the rough start.

Cameron Smith:

One of USC’s smartest players on defense, Smith made the boneheaded play of the game, getting ejected for targeting Trace McSorley late in the third quarter. The hit itself was unnecessary and textbook targeting. That it came on a play when the Trojans forced an incompletion made it worse.

ACC Refs:

Smith’s ejection came on the back of a string of questionable calls from the ACC refs, who had the USC contingent at the Rose Bowl fuming.

More from Reign of Troy

While they got the call against Smith right, they flagged Uchenna Nwosu for leaping over McSorley even though he successfully avoided contact. They also failed to flag a pass interference which led to a Penn State interception. Most outrageously, they reversed a fumble recovered by USC, apparently using their x-ray vision to determine that the Lions had possession before Stevie Tu’ikolovatu emerged from the pile with the ball.

At the very least, they called a series of pass interference penalties on USC’s game-tying touchdown drive, so there’s that.

USC’s Rushing Attack:

Part of the reason the Trojans let Penn State back into the game and then dug themselves in a hole was their inability to run the ball and control possession. USC’s vaunted running game managed just 3.6 yards per carry, though Justin Davis accounted for 43 yards on only six carries.

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