The University of South Carolina Trojans beat the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions 52-49 Monday night at the Rose Bowl with a last-minute field goal scored by kicker Matt Boermeester.
USC scored their first bowl victory since 2009 that night, shocking 95,000 viewers and the sports world in what Fox Sports described as an “epic, emotional” game and College Football News described as one of the greatest Rose Bowl games in history. With strong offensive positions and defensive moves from both USC and Penn State during the Rose Bowl, football fans were kept in their seats, in shock and in awe.
The game featured not one but two comebacks from both teams throughout the nearly-five hour memorable competition. The 103rd game in Rose Bowl history began with a jump start by the Trojans, who ended the Rose Bowl half-time with a 27-14 lead according to ESPN Sports. The Penn State Lions surged in the second half, switching the game’s apparent winner by earning themselves a 49-35 second-half lead.
With less than two minutes on the clock, USC Trojan quarterback Sam Darnold made a three-play drive that allowed striker Deontay Burnett to earn the team a 49-49 tie. “I love the quiet confidence about (Darnold). You never saw his demeanor tonight change, whether he was throwing for a touchdown or we got stopped on offense,” said USC coach Clay Helton according to the New York Times.
The game threatened to go into overtime, with seconds left on the clock. Rather than extend the Rose Bowl game even further, however, kicker Boermeester sailed a final-second kick that sent the football over the goal as the timer blared, earning the Trojans a stunning 52-49 victory.
The USC team has made a massive comeback from its early season performance, when the team made a number of fumbles. “To be honest, I don’t even remember the beginning of the season,” Defensive back Leon McQuay said to Fox Sports after the Rose Bowl win. “No one in our locker room does. We’re living in the moment.”
“This is what college football is all about,” USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin told Fox Sports. “It’s not about being perfect. It’s about fighting through adversity and getting better and coming together as a team.”
USC athletic director Lynn Swann said the Rose Bowl win doesn’t mean the Trojans have made a come-back. “No, if we were back, we’d be playing Monday night,” Swann said. “It’s a building process. (Helton) has upped the ante.”
Penn State felt the hit that night after a successful season that seemed to guarantee a win against the fumbling USC. “It sucks,” Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley said according to Fox Sports. “This is a tough way for our season to end. It hurts, but really I’m more proud that anything. I’m so proud of our guys and the way we keep battling and keep fighting.”
Penn state head coach James Franklin said after the game that he still had a lot of pride for his team. “Tonight obviously was a small sample in what may have been the most exciting Rose Bowl game ever,” Franklin said according to Fox Sports. “But that game tonight really doesn’t define us. It’s the whole season. It’s what these guys did. It’s how they persevered. It’s how they love one another. It’s how they care for one another. I couldn’t be more proud. I know this probably sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be any more proud sitting here tonight with a win. I couldn’t be any more proud of our guys.”
The Rose Bowl game reflected the values, excitement, and thrills that can be found even in playoffs. USC may not be headed to competition, but the players are basking in the thrill of a hard-won game.
[Featured Image by Harry How/Getty Images]