Final Thoughts: 2017 Rose Bowl

by Garry Paskwietz

It was good to be back home.

It was good to see the pre-game flyover, to see the stadium filled equally with the colors of fans from the respective teams, to see Keith Jackson walking the press box hallways, and to have Trojan legends Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen among those on the sideline.

More than anything, it was also good to be treated to one of the best Rose Bowls that any of us has ever seen.

The Rose Bowl game is more than just a patch on the jersey for the USC Trojans. It’s our bowl game “home-away-from-home”, a statement we’re able to make based upon the fact that the 52-49 victory over Penn State marked the 25th victory for USC in the Granddaddy of Them All, more victories than any other program in a single bowl game.

But it had also been a while, eight years to be exact, since the last USC appearance so there was definitely an appreciation and a bounce in the step of Trojans as they got ready for such a familiar setting. The game itself, however, was anything but normal.

There were 101 points scored, a new Rose Bowl record, and over 1,000 yards of total offense. There were dramatic swings of momentum, big plays on both sides, officiating controversies and, of course, a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Nothing represents the highs and lows of the game more than the USC defense. The first quarter belonged to the Trojans as there were a pair of early interceptions of Penn State quarterback Chase McSorley by Iman Marshall and Adoree’ Jackson, and a 13-0 USC lead as the Trojans held Penn State to 38 yards of total offense and only 4:26 time of possession. Needless to say, things were looking good at that point.

Then things turned in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when Penn State went on a run that saw them score touchdowns on seven straight possessions. It seemed like everything the Nittany Lions tried was working, and it did at one point when they score touchdowns on four consecutive plays. Not consecutive scoring drives, four consecutive plays! There was a touchdown catch by Gasecki at the end of the 2nd quarter, a long run by Barkley to open the third quarter, a long reception by Godwin and finally a short McSorley run.

It wasn’t something we’d seen happen to a Clancy Pendergast defense and it was stunning. It also put Penn State up 49-35 heading into the fourth quarter with some very worried looks on Cardinal and Gold faces.

But then things turned, and the Nittany Lions couldn’t do a thing in the final quarter against the Trojan defense. The final four possessions for Penn State included 3 three-and-outs and only 14 total yards. Michael Hutchings (who had a key late stop) said after the game that it was a pride thing, that Clay Helton had pleaded with the defense to make one play, to give the offense a chance, and that’s exactly what they did.

After the Trojans had tied the score at 49, the Penn State coaches elected to have McSorley trying to throw deep in a last-ditch effort to get a regulation win. McSorley is an impressive quarterback, very elusive, but downfield passing isn’t his strength and his first throw floated toward the middle of the field and Leon McQuay was almost able to make a critical pick but the ball was dropped. Fortunately for the Trojans, McSorley tried to come back to a similar play and this time McQuay wasn’t going to miss, he brought the ball in (the 3rd pick of the day against a QB who had only thrown 5 coming into the game) and ran it back far enough to give placekicker Matt Boermeester a chance to etch his name into USC Rose Bowl lore with a game-winning kick.

Boermeester, who had missed a pair of kicks earlier in the game, nailed it straight through the uprights and the Trojan celebration ensued. After the game, Boermeester was asked if he was worried about the length of the 46-yard attempt, he said “I knew I was going to get the opportunity to kick that field goal so it didn’t matter how long it was, wherever it was I was going to kick it”.

It was also somewhat of an up-and-down day for USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Don’t get me wrong, Sam won Offensive Player of the Game honors and deserved them with his Rose Bowl-record 5 touchdown passes and 453 yards on 33-53 passing. But for those who have watched Sam all year it wasn’t his most complete game by any stretch. There were a few shorted passes and some throws he normally makes, but he also had plenty of typical Sam moments including the 2-pt conversion throw to McNamara after he had slipped on his rollout, and his final scoring pass to Deontay Burnett was the kind of throw that has the NFL written all over it. And the two-minute drive to tie the game is the kind of moment that will bring a new generation of Sam Darnold fans who watched it unfold.

Speaking of Burnett, what a game for that young man, and he was just the latest in a string of USC “role” players who have stepped up through the year to help deliver USC wins. Against UCLA it was De’Quan Hampton and against ASU it was Jonathan Lockett with a huge interception. In this game Burnett had 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns, while the duo of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers combined for 12 catches, 175 yards and two scores.

Burnett certainly wasn’t the only one to step up and make a play. There was Stevie Tu’ikolovatu leading the team in tackles (8) and taking home Defensive Player of the Game honors, there was Rogers showing his strong hands again on a key catch, there was a 24-yard run by Justin Davis to get the Trojans near the goal line, and so much more.

And the Trojans needed every play, every yard to come away with this win because for a while there it seemed like one of those games where the breaks just weren’t going to go our way. There was a personal foul called against Uchenna Nwosu where it didn’t even look like he touched the quarterback, a fumble recovery by Stevie T was reversed, there was an ejection on Cameron Smith, Adoree’ left the game early with an injury and Marshall missed time with an ear infection/vertigo.

In the end, none of it mattered. The Trojans overcame it all. Helton said after the game that the university has a very unique motto, Fight On, and this team exemplified that. Did it ever. It’s been an amazing wild ride this year and it’s hard to imagine a better and more fitting ending than the one we saw in this game. USC Trojans, 2017 Rose Bowl champions. Enjoy it Trojan Family.



Garry Paskwietz

Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

11 Replies to "Final Thoughts: 2017 Rose Bowl"

  • USCBorn January 3, 2017 (6:12 pm)


  • AB January 3, 2017 (7:35 pm)

    Great win! Great that the team came from behind to win, unlike having a lead only to lose in the end (like the recent past).

  • Ken January 3, 2017 (8:17 pm)

    Still in shock…

    As you said, everything seemed to be going Penn States way. Midway through the 4th quarter I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off, especially with Cam Smith and Adoree’ Jackson out of the lineup. It felt like if anyone was going to make a play, it would be Adoree’ or Cam. What an amazing ending to an improbable season. I love you all.

  • E January 3, 2017 (10:42 pm)

    Showed much ability to endure hardship and come on strong Very happy for the squad – but it’s over now and time to move on to making 17 even better – makes you wonder if Sam had been the choice from the word Go – Still much work to be done on the D side of the ball – no way that kind of D gets you to playoff – missed tackles and assignments and the secondary is a complete mess – it’s like those guys have never seen a ball thrown to them – Really need to get D linemen even more so now – just gashed up the middle and around the edge –

  • Drew January 4, 2017 (5:48 am)

    I dont think there was ever another Div 1 game where 7 TDs in a row didnt deliver a knockout blow. For USC to recover from that is unmatched and will stand for a century or more.

  • Shooter January 4, 2017 (7:50 am)

    E, you really need to learn to enjoy things a little. Your response to this amazing victory is very good nusual.

    Garry, the rest of us will continue to enjoy this game for a long time. Thanks!

  • Fred Vlasuk January 4, 2017 (5:49 pm)

    I agree with you Shooter about E. Relax and enjoy and savor an epic Rose Bowl victory. A game and 4th quarter comeback for the ages. One of the best turnarounds in SC’s long and storied history. This is only the beginning I guarantee it. Great job by coach Helton , his staff and every single player. Too overcome everything that happened to them this year starting with the Bama debacle to this thrilling win over Penn St, I truly can’t wait for next year!! Sam Darnold is truly a special talent. Can’t wait to see him next year and hopefully for two more years.. And two predictions for next year…. 1) we WILL beat Stanford!! And 2) we will see Bama again,either semis or hopefully the National Title game… Won’t be 52-6 this time… Fight On!!!

  • E January 4, 2017 (9:42 pm)

    Look Fella’s I did and will continue to be very happy with this splendid victory – However this team and coaching staff needs to concentrate on 17 and improving the many areas that need immediate attention – Trojans should not be giving up 13 point leads that should have been 28 – missed opportunities galore let the Lions hang around early and eventually take the lead and just horrible tacking caused the Trojans to have to mount a ferocious comeback that will not happen more times than not – Anybody who thinks this team could even hang with Clemson or Bama is completely off their rocker – Both those Defenses would eat the Trojans alive – esp up front – and no way the D I saw played at the Bowl would slow either of those teams down at all – Trojans would lose by 20 plus easily to both squads – Lots and lots of work to be done for Trojans to be even close to Natl champ caliber –

  • ALL SOLUTIONS January 5, 2017 (10:04 pm)

    SC will never win a national championship with Pendergast as DC.

  • Steve B. January 6, 2017 (9:03 am)

    You are so right about Clancy although he did improve from the 62 pts. at ASU a few years ago costing Kiffin his job.

  • Fight On. January 6, 2017 (9:32 pm)

    I saw a truly masterful 4th Qtr by our defense, 4 three and out’s, and total 14 yards by Penn St., then Sam became the MVP and took total control of the offense, leading us to 17 points and a Historic win. If anyone can find fault with the results of 52 to 49 for USC , maybe you need to see a shrink..Fight On

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