The worst part about these instant classics is one team has to lose and that team happened to be the Nittany Lions.
The game followed a similar script that Penn State had followed all season, but after their second half resurgence, which included 28 points in the 3rd quarter, USC responded with a final desperation punch-the fourth quarter effort by the Trojans was heroic and deserves unquestionable praise for decades to come.
But for the Nittany Lions, it was a heartbreaking defeat. Penn State totaled only 14 offensive yards in the final stanza of play while desperately trying to drain the clock, nursing a 14-point lead. Perhaps they played not to lose, but in games like that for play-callers, there isn’t a winning solution; you know what they say about hindsight. If Penn State earns one more first down it ices the game with USC down a score. If Penn State marches down the field in the waning seconds like they have done so many times in this magical season, then they give their kicker a chance to win the game.
Instead the Trojans seized an opportunity: one final mistake from a scrappy Brett Farve-like throw from Trace McSorely, who was trying to connect with his sensational receiver, Chris Godwin. Godwin was one catch away from breaking 200 receiving yards and maybe just one more heroic reception away from cementing a Penn State victory. It was hauled in, but it was in the hands of a Trojan safety whose return set them up for the game-winning field goal.
The 2017 Rose Bowl will sting today and it will sting tomorrow for all coaches, players, fans, and lettermen. It will be in the backs of everyone’s minds for years to come. Trace McSorely may never get over it, despite a marvelous effort.
But the sting is what motivates the great teams. The sting is what ignited this inspirational season to begin with. The despair faced today, like the Pitt and Michigan game this season, has the ability to push teams to new heights.
With only three starting seniors, the heartbreak for these young players in Pasadena, can fuel a journey to Atlanta in 2018.