After 98 combined points, the Rose Bowl outcome rested on the left foot of a USC kicker who had already missed two field goals. But Matt Boermeester made the one that counted most — a 46-yarder as time expired — and the Trojans beat Penn State.
PASADENA, Calif. – 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 USC 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.
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Boermeester made a 46-yard field goal as time expired, and ninth-ranked USC rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 victory over No. 5 Penn State on Monday 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 appearance since 2009. USC trailed 49-35 with nine minutes to play, but persevered to win one of the greatest Rose Bowls of all time.
“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 touchdowns 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.
USC’s 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, Trojans defensive lineman Stevie Tu’ikolovatu said. “I kind of did both.”
The Trojans set up Boermeester and the junior — who had missed from 51 and 49 yards — confidently drilled the Rose Bowl winner, sprinting away as it went through the uprights and set off pandemonium on the hallowed field.
Boermeester’s father, Peter, was a record-setting kicker at UCLA, the Trojans’ crosstown rival.
“It’s beautiful,” McQuay said. “This is a special group of guys. Oh, man, this is the time to step up.”
Tu’ikolovatu, who spent last summer living in his car around Los Angeles before officially joining the team as a graduate transfer from Utah, was voted the game’s defensive most valuable player.
Could he have visualized such success when he first joined USC?
“No way, man,” Tu’ikolovatu said. “Not in a million years.”
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 touchdowns as the Nittany Lions followed up their 21-point comeback in the Big Ten Conference title game with another ferocious rally, only to watch the Trojans rally back.
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, the teams obliterated the combined Rose Bowl scoring record in the third quarter, surpassing Oregon’s 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in 2012.
The Nittany Lions’ offensive stars put together a highlight reel for the ages during a 28-point third quarter. After trailing 27-21 at the break, Penn State scored three touchdowns on its first three snaps of the second half: a stunning 72-yard run by Barkley, a bobbled 79-yard catch by Godwin and a 3-yard touchdown run by McSorley after an interception return.
McSorley went 18 for 29, throwing interceptions on his first pass and his last pass. He was left lamenting that final throw in an aggressive attempt to win.
“I tried too much to force it to Chris (Godwin),” McSorley said.