With an incredible performance in the most entertaining Rose Bowl in recent memory, quarterback Sam Darnold made himself a USC football legend.
Sam Darnold’s historic Rose Bowl performance will be told by grandparents to grandchildren in Trojan families for years to come.
Darnold is a cool customer, who was 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter alone. Let the hype begin because he is a skilled, poised, tenacious competitor who will not disappoint as his reputation grows.
The 2017 Heisman winner may again be a Trojan quarterback, especially if Darnold continues to do the things he did in Pasadena on January 2.
The Rose Bowl appeared to be lost when Penn State ran off 28 third-quarter points to take the lead, 49-35. USC could not stop the Nittany Lions in the third quarter but did not quit after blowing a 27-21 halftime lead.
No doubt the Trojans were shell-shocked by the third quarter barrage. Nearly every bounce and, quite frankly, almost every call went Penn State’s way. The Trojans did manage to score once in the quarter and converted a critical two-point conversion to cut the lead.
USC entered the fourth quarter trailing by 14 points with zero momentum. Also two defensive stars were out of the game. Linebacker Cam Smith was ejected for targeting and Adoree’ Jackson was out with a leg injury.
Penn State was in control and had all the momentum. An animated James Franklin, the Nittany Lion head coach, was delivering body blows to his staff and PSU appeared ready to raise the 2017 Rose Bowl trophy.
However, Darnold, who was very well-protected by his offensive line, was not quite finished for the day.
USC converted on a crazy third down deflected pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. And just like that the ball began to bounce the Trojans’ way.
Darnold led his team down the field on two long fourth quarter touchdown drives. The quarterback was like a point guard dishing dimes and also creating two huge pass interference calls.
The Nittany Lions couldn’t cover Deontay Burnett, who had 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns. His last touchdown tied it up at 49-49 with just over a minute to go.
Franklin wasn’t quite as “pumped up” at that point in the game.
The come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory was a huge team effort. True to his nature, Darnold would be the first to say it was a team victory and divert attention elsewhere.
The USC defense pitched a shutout in the fourth. Linebacker Michael Hutchings ran down Saquon Barkley for a seven-yard loss and forced a Penn State punt with two minutes left in the game. Then safety Leon McQuay III, who had a very good game with seven tackles, grabbed the last-minute interception that led to the game-winning field goal.
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Freshman corner Jack Jones stepped in for an injured Jackson. The defensive front of Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Porter Gustin and Rasheem Green pressured the PSU offensive line for most of the game and controlled the line of scrimmage in the critical final quarter.
But Darnold, as he’s done all year, was again the unassuming alpha male that keyed the comeback charge.
His game stats are now Rose Bowl records, finishing 33-of-53 for 453 yards passing, 473 yards total, five touchdowns and that gritty two-point conversion.
In total, he led the Trojans to 17-unanswered, fourth quarter points to win the Rose Bowl, 52-49.
There is just no denying that Sam Darnold is now a USC Rose Bowl legend.