Mar. 30, 2018
Classic Rose Bowl proves how great college football can be
I'm not going to go into my rant about how the "other" bowl games still mean something, in the wake of the CFP era. I already did that a few days ago, and this game was way too good to get bogged down in that tired debate. Rather, I'd prefer to bask in the glory that was the 2017 Rose Bowl from Pasadena, CA, easily the top college football game of the season, which saw USC outlast Penn State 52-49 in an epic encounter, that featured a little bit of everything.
When a game is this well played, especially on the offensive side of the ball, you forget all the problems that college football has, and just enjoy the sport for what it can be. Uptempo, fast paced action by elite athletes between the ages of 18-22, leaving it all on the line for the common goal of being called Rose Bowl champs for the rest of their lives. It was fantastic theater, and a game that will not soon be forgotten.
The game started out innocently enough, with Trace McSorley, the very exciting sophmore QB for Penn State, possibly due to the nerves of the moment, throwing 2 early picks, as USC raced to a 13-0 lead. About midway through the 2nd quarter, the Nittany Lions started to make their move, led by the uber athletic JR WR Chris Godwin. USC simply had no answer for him, as he made spectacular catch after spectacular catch, and finished the game with 9 catches for 187 yards and 2 td's. During one ridiculous stretch, Penn State scored TD's on 4 STRAIGHT plays. That's right. Hard to believe, isn't it? That included a mesmerizing 79 yard run from Saquon Barkley, where he made USC defenders miss left and run, reversed field, and would not go down. Just an amazing run from an amazing talent. He would amass 194 yards on 25 carries, to go along with 2 TD's.
That's when USC and their freshman QB Sam Darnold went to work. Darnold, who saved USC's season and led them on their run of 9 straight wins after replacing Max Browne as starting QB after a 1-3 start, was arguably the star of this game, which is saying a mouthful, considering all the star making performance today in Pasadena. He would throw for a whopping 453 yards and 5 TD's, tying a Rose Bowl record. As calm and cool as humanly possible, he consistently led his team from behind on the biggest stage of his life. He could not do it without the heroics of his 2 top WR'S. Deontay Burnett had a career game with 13 receptions for 164 yards and 3 TD's, while Juju Smith-Schuster had 7 catches for 133 yards, and a TD. This was made even more impressive by the fact that RB Ronald Jones II was held in check to only 55 yards on 20 carries, after being such a key cog in the offense all season. Just to see the poise of Darnold under the most intense of circumstances was so impressive. Expect to see Darnold and USC get a ridiculous amount of preseason hype, coming off this game.
The numbers are one thing. But just to see the amount of jaw dropping plays both teams kept making in such a major environment was so entertaining to watch. While Penn State may have lost, the truth is that everyone won by either being a part of, or just watching this game. It was truly college football at its best, and how often have we said that in recent years.
The duel between McSorley and Darnold was one for the ages. Seeing both QB's just make so many plays with their feet, improvising, scrambling, and making great throws on the run was very exciting to watch. Mcsorley, for his part ended up with 254 yards, and 4 TD's, but 3 INT, including a very costly one in the final minute of regulation. OC Joe Moorehead will have to work with him on his decision making, and perhaps dial back his aggressive downfield passing game some, but there is a ton of talent to work with. Terrific game, and yes the "other" bowls do indeed matter, regardless of what you have heard.