USC Rallies In Fourth Quarter For Rose Bowl Victory
Published on January 3 2017 6:46 am
Last Updated on January 3 2017 6:46 am
After 98 combined points and 1,040 yards of spectacular offensive play, the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history rested on the left foot of a Southern California kicker who had already missed two field goals.
Matt Boermeester somehow blocked out the cacophonous tension in the chilly air. He focused only on securing a perfect ending to an epic evening.
"Game was on the line, but you've got to keep true to your technique and trust it," Boermeester said.
His technique was sound. His kick was true. And the Trojans got their storybook finish in Pasadena.
Boermeester hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired , and No. 9 USC rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 victory over No. 5 Penn State on Monday night in the 103rd edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.
Freshman Sam Darnold passed for 453 yards and five touchdowns while leading a stirring comeback by the Trojans (10-3), who won their ninth consecutive game and triumphed in their first Rose Bowl since 2009. USC trailed 49-35 with nine minutes to play, but persevered to win one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever played.
"It was just two really good football teams playing at the highest level and competing until the absolute, very end," USC coach Clay Helton said. "The greatest players shined brightest on the biggest stage. It's what fairy tales are made of."
Deontay Burnett, who had three TD receptions, caught a tying 27-yard scoring pass from Darnold with 1:20 left to cap an 80-yard drive in 38 seconds with no timeouts available.
Leon McQuay III then intercepted an ill-advised long pass by Trace McSorley and returned it 32 yards to the Penn State 33 with 27 seconds left. In an instant, the Trojans went from preparing for overtime to having a chance to win.
"I didn't know whether to block or celebrate" after McQuay's interception, USC defensive lineman Stevie Tu'ikolovatu said. "I kind of did both."
The Trojans set up Boermeester, and the junior confidently drilled the Rose Bowl winner , sprinting away as it went through the south uprights and set off pandemonium on the hallowed field.
"It's beautiful," McQuay said. "This is a special group of guys. Oh man, this is the time to step up. This is the time to make plays."
McSorley passed for 254 yards and threw two of his four touchdown passes to Chris Godwin for the Nittany Lions (11-3), whose nine-game winning streak ended in heartbreaking fashion.
Saquon Barkley rushed for 194 yards and two TDs as the Nittany Lions (12-2) followed up their 21-point comeback in the Big Ten title game with another ferocious rally, only to watch the Trojans rally back.
"That game doesn't really define us," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I wouldn't be any more proud tonight sitting here with a win ... after what might have been the most exciting Rose Bowl game ever."
With one jaw-dropping play after another from two talent-laden offenses, the teams obliterated the combined Rose Bowl scoring record in the third quarter, surpassing Oregon's 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in the 2012 game.
Heisman Trophy finalists Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook connected one last time for a touchdown. Joe Mixon emerged from his recent controversy with big plays that had teammates lifting him off his feet in celebration. Samaje Perine put his name in Oklahoma's record books.
Seventh-ranked Oklahoma had plenty to celebrate after a 35-19 triumph over No. 17 Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night, including a 10th-straight victory.
"We're a prideful team," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "And we're confident, regardless of the people that try to rattle the cage and shake your confidence. ... We improved as we went through the end and we fought through the outside noise."
Mayfield passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon heard boos from Auburn fans, who also shouted derisive comments regarding a recently publicized video of him punching a woman in the face in 2014. Mixon, who served a season-long suspension in 2014 and has apologized for the assault, also drew cheers from crimson-clad Oklahoma fans with his play. His two short touchdown runs were among the highlights of a performance in which he gained 180 yards from scrimmage -- 91 rushing on 19 carries and 89 receiving on five catches.
"He has a second chance and making the most of it," Stoops said. "He is a great teammate to these guys and one of the most popular guys in the locker room."
Mixon didn't answer questions about the boos or the reasons for them, saying only he wanted to celebrate with his teammates.
Perine rushed for 86 yards, three more than he needed to set Oklahoma's career rushing record.
"Our backs pound people and it wears on people," Mayfield said.
Troy Fumagalli had highlight catches for Wisconsin even before the big tight end's leaping 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and his 26-yard gain on third down that effectively wrapped up the Cotton Bowl victory.
The game's offensive MVP also had a nifty one-handed grab on third down with his left hand -- the one missing an index finger since right after his birth -- to extend the eighth-ranked Badgers' opening touchdown drive. There was another leaping two-handed catch in the first half of a 24-16 victory Monday that denied Western Michigan a perfect season.
"It's special," said Fumagalli, a junior. "It's a great feeling to come out on top."
Fumagalli had seven passes thrown his way, and the 6-foot-6 junior caught six of them. The last two clinched the third consecutive bowl victory for the Big Ten runner-up Badgers (11-3).
After his TD catch between two defenders in the back of the end zone with 12:26 left made it 24-10, Western Michigan (13-1) took 9 minutes to score. Wisconsin was able to run out the clock after Fumagalli's big play on third-and-8.
"He's unbelievable," Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck said.
With their "Row The Boat" mentality inspired by Fleck, the 12th-ranked Broncos (13-1) went from one win during his first season in Kalamazoo three years ago to the last FBS team other than No. 1 Alabama this season with a chance to be undefeated.
No. 20 Florida dominated the Outback with stingy defense and a persistent offense that did its job, too.
Chauncey Gardner, Jr., returned one of his two fourth-quarter interceptions 58 yards for a touchdown, and graduate transfer Austin Appleby threw for 222 yards and two TDs to pace Monday's 30-3 rout of No. 21 Iowa.
With Gardner grabbing game MVP honors, the Gators (9-4) held up their end of what many expected to be a day defense ruled , especially considering Florida entered ranked 115th in the nation in total offense -- five spots ahead of the sputtering Hawkeyes.
Conversely, the teams were sixth and 24th, respectively, in total defense.
"The MVP, it goes to our guys up front, the linebackers and the coaching staff because they put me in good position to make plays. ... It should be a team MVP," Gardner said. "Our motto is just go out there and have fun, and play our game."
Mark Thompson scored on an 85-yard pass play in the first half and Appleby, who spent the past four seasons at Purdue, tossed a 6-yard TD pass to DeAndre Goolsby to break the game open late in the third quarter.
Florida (9-4) rebounded from lopsided losses to archrival Florida State and No. 1 Alabama, scoring more points on Iowa (8-5) than the Hawkeyes allowed to Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska combined while ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak.
"It was a tough day for our football team," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Our team really had a good month, they practiced and prepared well. I'm not sure there's a thing I'd go back and change. Ultimately, we didn't play well enough to come up with a victory."
Iowa's C.J. Beathard led an early field goal drive and managed to get his team close to the end zone on two other occasions. Florida's defense stiffened both times, stopping the Hawkeyes on downs at the Gator 3 in the second quarter and forcing them to settle for a 30-yard field goal that sailed wide right midway through the third quarter.
Appleby, who actually began his career at Purdue against Iowa, shrugged off throwing interceptions on Florida's first two drives of the day to finish 14 of 25 passing.
"We didn't panic early. We knew Iowa would come out swinging and make some plays on us early," Appleby said. "We had some bad luck, but didn't panic, and the defense made some stops and we got on a roll."
Akrum Wadley ran for 115 yards, giving Iowa a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time. The junior finished with 1,081, and LeShun Daniels wound up with 1,058 after gaining 45 Monday.
Monday, January 9 Schedule (Time Central)
CFP National Championship Game
Clemson vs. Alabama, 7 p.m.