PASADENA—The USC Trojans defeated the Penn State Cougars 52-49 in a thrilling Rose Bowl victory on Monday, January 2.
The Trojans jumped out to a 13-0 lead to start the game, but Penn State rallied, and USC trailed 49-35 in the fourth quarter.
Trojans running back Ronald Jones II mounted USC’s comeback efforts with a 3-yard touchdown run, bringing the team within one score of Penn State in the final period.
After a solid stand from USC’s defense, quarterback Sam Darnold took over, driving the Trojans down the field in 32 seconds to find Deontay Burnett for the game-tying touchdown.
Penn State had a chance to win the game as they were in possession of the football with 1:20 remaining, but USC safety Leon McQuay would cut their drive short. McQuay intercepted Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley’s pass and returned it 32 yards with 27 seconds left in the game.
USC would follow the interception by setting up kicker Matt Boermeester, who completed a game-winning 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired, delivering the Trojans their 25th Rose Bowl victory.
USC head coach Clay Helton was complimentary of both teams after the game, who scored the most combined points in Rose Bowl history.
“It was just two really good football teams playing at the highest level and competing until the absolute very end,” Helton said. “The greatest players shined brightest on the biggest stage. It’s what fairy tales are made of.”
Darnold led USC with a Rose Bowl record 453 passing yards to go along with five touchdowns and an interception. Burnett finished with a game-high 13 receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Juju Smith-Schuster caught seven passes for 133 yards and one touchdown. Jones II rushed for 55 yards and scored one touchdown.
McSorley threw for 254 yards, scoring four touchdowns and giving up three interceptions in the Cougars final game of the season. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 194 yards and scored two touchdowns. Chris Goodwin caught nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
USC has won nine straight games, and with the return of Sam Darnold the Trojans are expected to be one of the nation’s top teams next season.