Clay Helton the USC head coach was considered just three months ago as being a flop in his first year as the Trojans coach. Quarterback Sam Darnold at that time was a backup that nobody even knew.
However, on Monday the two helped lead USC to a victory in the 2017 Rose Bowl one of the most memorable games in the 103-year history of the bowl.
The Trojans beat Penn State 52-49 in the game. The win will be remembered for many reasons, but it likely will be considered the break through game for Darnold in becoming a national star.
Since Darnold helped to shift the course of the season for USC after becoming the starting quarterback in the team’s fourth game, he has been amongst the leading quarterbacks in the nation.
Darnold had 453 yards passing and 5 touchdowns in the game. He engineered a game-tying 80-yard drive with less than two minutes to play in Monday’s Rose Bowl.
The 473 yards Darnold accumulated in the game broke an all-time record at the Rose Bowl of 467 that was set in 2006 by former Texas star Vince Young.
USC led early 13-0, but then watched the Nittany Lions score touchdown on seven consecutive possessions, including on three straight plays that opened the second half.
During the third quarter, Cam Smith the leading tackler for USC was ejected after being called for targeting and Adoree Jackson a cornerback was lost to an injury. The two losses hurt the USC defense.
Early during the fourth quarter, USC was down 49-35 and its chances looked bleak for winning. Questionable calls from a team of officials from the ACC seemed to go against USC. However, one decision went the Trojans way and it seemed to be the turning point for them in the game.
A pass ruled incomplete at the Penn State 3-yard line was challenged by USC and overruled giving the Trojans a first and goal. USC scored a touchdown on the next play to move to within one touchdown of a tie.
After stopping Penn State on the next possession, USC had 1:59 left on the clock to tie the game but were 80 yards away. Five plays and 32 second later Darnold threw a scoring strike to Deontay Burnett to tie the score.
Penn State did not want the game to go to overtime. Passing down field cost the Nittany Lions when Leon McQuay intercepted a Trace McSorely pass then returned it to the 33 of Penn State with just 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
With two earlier missed field goals on his mind, Matt Boermeester the USC kicker came on the field and kicked the winning field goal as time ran out on the clock.