2017 Rose Bowl: Studs and Duds from USC vs. Penn State Epic

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett (80) makes a catch for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett (80) makes a catch for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 Rose Bowl provided a roller coaster of emotions, with both teams hitting highs and lows as the 52-49 thriller unfolded.

The highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever lived up to the hype as USC scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth to take the crown.

The up and down affair featured plenty of big performances and some not so great ones.

Here’s a look at who stood out in the 52-49 victory for all the right reasons and all the wrong reasons:

Who were the studs?

Matt Boermeester:

The life of a kicker can be tough. Miss the big kick and you’re the goat. Hit the big kick and you’re the hero. On Monday night at the Rose Bowl, Boermeester was the later, booting home the most important 46-yard kick of his career with no time left. On the night, Boermeester hit three kicks from 46, 44 and 22 yards out. He also missed two kicks from 51 and 49.

Sam Darnold:

The quarterback put the team on his back, tossing five touchdown passes on a night when he attempted 53 passes because of USC’s ineffectiveness on the ground.

Darnold lived up to all the hype that surrounded his tremendous run since taking over as the Trojan starter. He escaped pressure, made plays downfield and let the team to victory, tallying 453 yards.

Deontay Burnett:

Even if he hadn’t caught the game-tying touchdown pass, Burnett had a monster game as USC’s primary target in the passing game. With 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns, the sophomore was one of the few consistent presences for the Trojans from start to finish.

Saquon Barkley:

Had Penn State won the game, Barkley would have been the MVP. He burned USC for 194 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while adding five receptions for 55 yards and another touchdown. Quarterback Trace McSorley and receiver Chris Godwin were impressive as well, but Barkley was a handful.

The Seniors:

There were too many big moments from senior Trojans to count, from Stevie Tu’ikolovatu’s MVP performance to Leon McQuay’s massive interception to set up USC’s game-winning field goal. The Utah transfer and oft-maligned former five star finished their college careers on the highest of highs. Meanwhile, Darreus Rodgers provided his customary third down conversion, along with five catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Justin Davis offered six rushes for 43 yards, including a 24-yard gainer to set up a touchdown.

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) for a 16 yard gain during the second quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs against USC Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) for a 16 yard gain during the second quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Who were the duds?

Trace McSorley’s First Quarter:

The Nittany Lion quarterback completed his first two pass attempts…to guys in white jerseys. In fact, it wasn’t until the second-to-last play of the first quarter that he hit a completion to a player on his own team. Of course, he came back to throw four touchdowns, so he made up for the rough start.

Cameron Smith:

One of USC’s smartest players on defense, Smith made the boneheaded play of the game, getting ejected for targeting Trace McSorley late in the third quarter. The hit itself was unnecessary and textbook targeting. That it came on a play when the Trojans forced an incompletion made it worse.

ACC Refs:

Smith’s ejection came on the back of a string of questionable calls from the ACC refs, who had the USC contingent at the Rose Bowl fuming.

While they got the call against Smith right, they flagged Uchenna Nwosu for leaping over McSorley even though he successfully avoided contact. They also failed to flag a pass interference which led to a Penn State interception. Most outrageously, they reversed a fumble recovered by USC, apparently using their x-ray vision to determine that the Lions had possession before Stevie Tu’ikolovatu emerged from the pile with the ball.

At the very least, they called a series of pass interference penalties on USC’s game-tying touchdown drive, so there’s that.

USC’s Rushing Attack:

Part of the reason the Trojans let Penn State back into the game and then dug themselves in a hole was their inability to run the ball and control possession. USC’s vaunted running game managed just 3.6 yards per carry, though Justin Davis accounted for 43 yards on only six carries.

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