We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Tuesday, Jan. 3. Let’s get started.
A game for the ages
Some 101 points were scored in Monday’s Rose Bowl, the most in the 103-year history of that grand old game. There were almost as many momentum swings, almost as many did-you-see-that moments.
USC came away with a 52-49 victory on Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard field goal as time expired, which looked like this from two field-level views, courtesy of Philly.com’s Erin McCarthy and Statecollege.com’s Mike Poorman:
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 3, 2017
USC winning FG, 52-49 pic.twitter.com/BJhGOCR73K
— Mike Poorman (@PSUPoorman) January 3, 2017
It also elicited this reaction on the Penn State bench, per Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call:
— Mark Wogenrich (@MarkWogenrich) January 3, 2017
The Trojans were in position for the game-winning kick only because Leon McQuay III intercepted Trace McSorley and returned the ball 32 yards to the PSU 33 with 27 seconds left, moments after dropping a pick. McSorley, intercepted three times in the game — after being picked twice in the previous nine — faced the music afterward, per Mike Jensen of Philly.com:
“I saw the coverage. I think I was just trying to force a play to one of our playmakers (i.e., Chris Godwin). Chris had been hot all game. He made a ton of plays for us. I took too big of a chance in that situation, knowing the game’s tied.”
Then again, he had taken chances all game long, and really all year long. Again and again his receivers have made impossible receptions for him, and they did the same against the Trojans. Godwin walked the tightrope to haul in a 30-yard TD in the first quarter, Mike Gesicki made a diving grab for an 11-yard score in the second and Godwin turned a juggling catch into a 72-yard touchdown in the third.
The latter two receptions were part of a stretch that saw the Lions score on four consecutive offensive plays – their last one of the first half and their first three of the second – to go from a 27-14 deficit to a 42-27 lead. The other two were on an electric 79-yard run by Saquon Barkley, who went for 194 yards in the game, and McSorley’s three-yard gallop.
They were up 49-35 after three, but saw the Trojans reel off the game’s last 17 points behind their exceptional freshman quarterback, Sam Darnold. He threw for 453 yards and a Rose Bowl-record five touchdowns, including a 27-yarder to Deontay Burnett that tied the game with 1:20 left.
Feel free to wonder if PSU might have at least slowed down Darnold at the end if they had the services of two of their starting linebackers, Manny Bowen and Brandon Bell. Bowen was serving a suspension (as was wide receiver Saeed Blacknall) for “academic reasons,” the ESPN broadcast crew said on the air during the game. Bell appeared to break his right arm while returning an interception to the USC 3 early in the third quarter; he later appeared on the sideline with his arm in a sling.
And feel free to wonder if the Lions eased off the throttle too much in the fourth quarter, when they managed exactly 14 yards. Per David Jones of Pennlive.com, here was the take of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead:
“When you’re up a couple scores and it starts to get to that part of the fourth quarter, I think that’s one of the benefits of our offense — that we’re not running plays fast just for the sake of running them fast. We’re trying to drain clock.”
Instead they gave the Trojans one chance too many. And they capitalized.
A look ahead
The Lions will potentially lose only four starters from this year’s 11-3 team – Bell, center Brian Gaia, defensive end Evan Schwan and safety Malik Golden.
It is still possible, however, that Godwin and defensive end Garrett Sickels will cast their lot with the NFL. Godwin was brilliant Monday, catching nine balls for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team with 59 receptions this season.
That said, PSU is deep at wide receiver. The coaches have raved about the potential of redshirt freshman Irv Charles, who barely saw the field this year. And while Gaia was the unquestioned anchor of the line, the Lions have recruited well along the offensive front.
Moreover, injured tackles Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson will return next year. If it can be assumed they will be the unit’s anchors, Ryan Bates can return to left guard, where he spent most of this season, after starting at left tackle late in the year. Connor McGovern is set at right guard.
Maybe guard Michal Menet makes the move to center, after redshirting this year. Maybe Steven Gonzalez, who started late in the season at guard, does. But there appear to be possibilities there.
At linebacker, freshman Cam Brown figures to get the first shot at Bell’s spot in spring practice, after filling in for him Monday. Brown also saw some action earlier in the year because of injuries.