Rose Bowl 2017: Best in the Decade?

Penn State vs. USC (103rd Rose Bowl Game)
January 2, 2017 at 2:12pm
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: 95,128
Total Time: 4 hours 12 minutes

The USC season began with 52 points being scored on them in a soul-crushing loss. It ended with the Trojans scoring 52 points in one of the most exciting victories in half a decade. The difference four months can make.

The 103rd Rose Bowl was the stage for USC’s 25th Rose Bowl win on its 34th appearance. This is perhaps the biggest win since their last Rose Bowl back in 2009. I actually can’t think of a single win in the past decade that has been more meaningful, exciting, and impactful as this Rose Bowl.

Even Pete Carroll chimed in:

The grey clouds hovering over the Arroyo Seco could’ve been taken as a dark omen—like it could rain at any moment. However, just like it almost rained, USC almost lost.

Dark clouds and a black bird! Not to be confused with the SR-71 Blackbird.

Dark clouds and a black bird! Not to be confused with the SR-71 Blackbird.

The former 1-3 team was still down 14 points with about 8 minutes to go, as if a microcosm of the entire season. Against all odds they accomplished something that was considered to be an old memory or distant future. They ended Penn State’s nine game winning streak while extending their own to nine in the long, grueling, and highest scoring Rose Bowl in history in come-from-behind fashion.

Much like their winning streaks, both teams had their moments and scoring streaks. They traded scores for a while in the interim.

  1. USC: 13 points (13-0)
  2. Penn State: 7 points (13-7)
  3. USC: 7 points (20-7)
  4. Penn State: 7 points (20-14)
  5. USC: 7 points (27-14)
  6. Penn State: 28 points (27-42)
  7. USC: 7 points (35-42)
  8. Penn State: 7 points (35-49)
  9. USC: 17 points (52-49)

Penn State ended up being unable to score in the first and fourth quarter (four drives in each quarter)

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
USC 13 14 8 17 52
PSU 0 21 28 0 49

The Trojans started well with the Nittany Lions at their own 3-yard line before throwing an interception. And then another. It’s unfortunate that USC was unable to capitalize and get points off of turnovers. With an extremely short field on each of their first four possessions, they could’ve easily gone up 28-0. Instead they had 13-0 after missing one out of three field goals and coming away with only a single touchdown.

I had told a friend that USC needed to pad their lead to 30-0 because the Nittany Lions would score and would make a comeback. It happened earlier and harder than I expected.

Penn State scored on their next seven possessions, including a 28-0 run. The biggest morale destroyer was their 21 points off three offensive plays in 33 seconds of possession. USC was only down 15 points (two possessions), but it felt like so much more.

Because USC doesn’t do comeback wins anymore…until they did

At a time when we only dared to hope for overtime so that they had a fighting chance, the Trojans managed to pull out a victory.

The first Penn State play called a run on the first play after Deontay Burnett’s last touchdown catch in triple coverage. It seemed to signal that James Franklin wanted to play for an overtime period, but thenTrace McSorley throws a floating deep pass after the cornerback slipped. Luckily the deep safety got into position to intercept it—but dropped it. Leon McQuay probably thought he lost the opportunity and the play would haunt him forever.

McQuay got something much better than that. His interception and ensuing 32-yard return set up the game-winning field goal. As the kick sailed through the uprights, I held my celebration, unsure of what I was seeing. I only started after the official signal from the referees. Even then, I kept checking the clock to make sure the game as actually over. Absolute disbelief.

The rough season start and the Penn State comeback weren’t enough to set the stage for the wild narrative. The Trojans had to get shafted in the throughout the game to truly add enough adversity™ to make the payoff of a comeback win worthwhile.

Let’s start with that “late hit.” Both Chris Hawkins and Uchenna Nwosu arrive just as McSorley is sliding. Both of them don’t even have time to make half a step before colliding with the Penn State QB. Yet a flag is thrown for the hit. Doesn’t that give you flashbacks of when that teacher or parent in your life that said “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late.”

Relive the trauma

Relive the trauma

Apparently, the ACC took that old phrase to a whole new level. If McSorley wants to avoid getting hit like that, slide before the dudes are in your face.

  • Uncalled pass interference(s?) on JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • The center at the same depth as the wide receivers and no ineligible receiver downfield call. The rule is that the ineligible players cannot be more than 3 yards away from the line of scrimmage (1 yard in the NFL). The center is clearly about 5 yards deep.
Ball clearly just left QB's hand. The Center is about half a yard vertically away from the receiver that catches the eventual TD pass.

Ball clearly just left QB’s hand. The Center is about half a yard vertically away from the receiver that catches the eventual TD pass.

  • Overturning the turnover. Apparently two fingers enough for clear recovery and changing the call on the field. It’s one thing if you had called it a PSU recovery then let it stand. But to call it USC’s ball on the field and overturn based on this? 
Pinning it on the ground is supposed to be enough?

Pinning it on the ground is supposed to be enough?

These ACC officials further worsens my view of them after their crapshow in the previous game against Notre Dame. Could Pac-12 referees have a new challenger?

Then down to the interviews of former players, pretty much all of them were Penn State except for Mark Sanchez. Why not have a chat with Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, and/or Rodney Peete? Allen, Lott, and Peete all played in the Rose Bowl (multiple actually). They were all roaming around the sidelines.

Every time they did, it pumped up the Penn State crowd and got them cheering. SC did not get such things.

Info Dump

  • Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin are MVPs for Penn State

Good Stuff

  • Drum major stabbing the Rose Bowl field
  • Three interceptions by the defense
  • Sam Darnold breaking two of Vince Young’s Rose Bowl records (total yards and points responsible for) on top of breaking a third record (TD passes)
  • Career night for Deontay Burnett, previously a highly underrated wide receiver
  • Helton’s second top 5 win this season and third overall. (#3 Utah 2015, #4 Washington 2016, #5 Penn State duh)
  • Ronald Jones donned #4 in order to honor the late Joe McKnight
  • Sneaking a Rose Bowl for Obama’s final days in office. That extends USC’s streak for another administration
  • That crazy two point conversion play by Darnold. This is underrated and might have been lost in all the other insane plays made, but was crucial. Had the score been 48-49 from the PAT or 47-49 from failing the two point conversion, Penn State would’ve ran out the clock instead of throwing the ball. That would’ve killed it for the Trojans.
  • The game didn’t end in controversy like so many other high-profile games have in the past.

Bad Stuff

  • Rose Bowl field condition
  • Missed field goals at the beginning and end of the first half
  • Defense allowing the seconds most points in a game this season
  • Run game going nowhere
  • Cam Smith getting ejected
  • Adoree’ Jackson getting injured followed by Justin Davis shortly after

Next up is Western Michigan for the Home/Season Opener on September 2, 2017.

CommBro Breaker

I was uneasy about Helton’s decision to punt with less than four minutes and down by a touchdown. He sure showed me. He knew if he went for it and scored it would only get you overtime. He wanted to win in regulation, so he punted and got 10 points instead. The Helton mindgame strikes again. Now he’s graduated from stealing opponent timeouts (like against Arizona and UCLA) to stealing time itself.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week:

As you can see from the game information at the top, the 2017 Rose Bowl lasted 4 hours and 12 minutes. To underscore how ridiculous that is, the 2011 triple overtime defeat at the hands of Stanford lasted 4 hours and 1 minute. How does a game that ended in regulation take longer than a triple OT game? Thanks ACC officials. Here’s a fake conspiracy theory of why:

Rose Bowl tickets are expensive (one of the most expensive bowl games, if not the most). The ACC officials must be economic-minded folks and wanted to give you more game for your money.

The average USC game in 2016 was 3 hours and 22 minutes. That means we got 25% more game, courtesy of the ACC. Thanks indeed!

To those watching at home? You geven got it for free, why complain?

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #2: USC won its 25th Rose Bowl game. The rest of the Pac-12 combined has won 27. Shame on USC. They need to go win three more.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #3: There were two Marcus Allen’s at the Rose Bowl. Marcus Allen (USC 1978-81) was watching Marcus Allen (PSU 2014-present) from the sideline. The two are not related…unless you trace their lineage back like hundreds of generations to a point that you can say most people are related.

Stat Dump

  • USC’s defense held opponents to an average of 24.2 points per game, the lowest since Clancy Pendergast’s last stint at USC in 2013 (21.2ppg)
  • The season-end 5.16 yards per carry is tied with 2010 for the highest since 2005 (6.4 ypc)
  • The offensive line allowed 12 sacks this season (T-6th in nation), down from 38 last year (T-109th)
    • That’s the best since 2011 when they allowed only 8 (T-1st)
  • USC’s 47.75% 3rd down conversion rate (11th) is also the highest since 2011’s 48% (11th)
  • USC ended the season with a turnover margin of 0

Last thing—I make a lot of jokes about Dragon Ball Z, but this one almost makes itself

Defensive Backs for life or Dragon Ball Z for life? Let the debate rage.

Sorry I couldn’t cover everything folks, but there was just too much to talk about in this game and I’ve already written the longest post of the season.


  1. ajohnny101 · January 5, 2017

    Always fun and informative to read every season. Keep it up! Fight On!


    • commbro · January 5, 2017

      Thanks for the support! Fight On, man!


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