(Thursday, January 1st)
Final Score: (5) Southern California 38, (6) Penn State 24
Pasadena, CA (Sports Network) - Mark Sanchez passed for a career-high 413 yards and four touchdowns, as fifth-ranked Southern California won the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive season with a 38-24 win over sixth-ranked Penn State.
Sanchez did most of his damage in the first half, when USC (12-1) posted 31 points. He completed 28-of-35 passes without an interception and also ran for a score for the Trojans, who have won nine consecutive games against Big Ten competition.
"He's had a big a night as ever," USC head coach Pete Carroll said of Sanchez. "He played the same kind of football that Carson and Booty and Leinart played. His numbers are right there and with Leinart. There's no doubt that he's just as capable as being the best player in America, given a whole other year if he does. There's nothing about his game that holds him back. He's a great player in all areas. It was great to see him come through tonight and let everybody see it one last time for the season."
Damian Williams had 10 catches for 162 yards and one TD, while Ronald Johnson had four catches -- two for scores -- and 82 yards for USC, which made its final appearance under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who will take over the head coaching position at Washington.
Daryll Clark threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Nittany Lions (11-2), who had won their last three bowl games. Clark passed for 273 yards on 21-of-36 completions, with two late interceptions.
Deon Butler had four grabs for 97 yards, while Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams caught the TDs for Penn State, whose legendary head coach Joe Paterno called the game from the press box while still recovering from hip surgery.
Penn State scored 17 fourth-quarter points, and became the first team this season to score more than seven points in the second half against USC, but still fell short in the rematch of the first Rose Bowl played at the current Pasadena stadium, back in 1923.
USC and PSU combined for 884 yards, most of that coming without two key running backs. USC's Joe McKnight was injured in the second quarter and finished with five carries for 13 yards, while PSU starter Evan Royster left with an apparent knee injury after running just six times for 34 yards.
The teams traded punts early until USC started a drive at its own 14-yard line about five minutes into the first quarter. The Trojans ran the ball for the first five plays, getting to the 42 before Aaron Maybin sacked Sanchez, causing a fumble.
Penn State recovered, but a penalty on the Nittany Lions let the Trojans retain possession. With the new life, USC continued the march, leading to Sanchez's 27-yard pass over the middle, and a diving PSU defensive back, to Damian Williams into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
The Nittany Lions answered, though, with their own scoring drive. After advancing near midfield, they had a 46-yard gain, on a pass from Clark to Butler, nullified because of another PSU penalty. Still, Clark completed passes of 15 yards, to Stephfon Green, and 28 yards to Butler to keep the chains moving. The latter pass got Penn State to the USC 9, and on the next play Clark kept the ball and barreled up the middle for a TD to tie the contest with four seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
USC, however, took over in the second quarter, seemingly moving down the field at will thanks to Sanchez's well placed passes and routes that exploited the seams in PSU's coverage.
"I think we really just maximized our potential, and all over the field the running backs took a lot of pressure off me," said Sanchez. "The O-line kept me on my feet. The receivers were clicking."
The Trojans had the ball for the last play of the first and the start of the second frame, and on the first three plays of the drive Sanchez passed for 15, 26 and 26 yards. The big gains put USC at the Penn State 13, and three plays later Sanchez ran the ball into the end zone from six yards out, putting the Trojans up 14-7 just 2 1/2 minutes into the new quarter.
Following a Penn State punt, USC drove to the Nittany Lions' 12-yard line, but was held to a 30-yard field goal from David Buehler.
Penn State was forced to punt once more, giving USC the ball at its own 34 with 5:25 left to play in the half. The nine-play, 66-yard march saw USC get to the Penn State 36 before Sanchez found Damian Williams for 17 yards on a 3rd-and-13 while being hit. On the next play he found Johnson for the score and a 24-7 lead with 1:24 on the clock.
"I think that he didn't make any mistakes, he didn't make any costly throws, and he was on time with his receivers the majority of the night," Penn State defensive back Lydell Sargeant said of Sanchez.
Green then returned the ensuing kick back to midfield, but fumbled and USC recovered. It took the Trojans just five plays to move the 58 yards for another score, with most of the yardage coming on a nine-yard pass to Williams, in which USC got an extra 15 yards because of a facemask penalty on PSU.
That brought USC to the 20, and C.J. Gable took a short pass from Sanchez and ran virtually untouched for the TD, boosting the Trojans' lead to 31-7 at halftime.
"The first half we just seemed to just do things that we have not done all year, but -- I don't want to take anything away from Southern Cal because they played a heck of a football and the quarterback played a great game and they certainly deserve to win it, but, you know, I'm a little disappointed we weren't a little bit more competitive," Paterno said. "And I think a lot of that is because we didn't -- we made so many mistakes in the first half."
Neither team scored in the third quarter, though Penn State got a touchdown back on a drive that bridged the final two stanzas. The 10-play, 80-yard drive was almost ruined when Clark fumbled inside the USC 10, but the call was overturned after a review showed he was already down when the ball was jarred loose.
As a result, PSU had a 2nd-and-goal at the five, and after a short run from Clark, the quarterback zipped a pass between defenders to Derrick Williams. The two-yard throw brought PSU within 31-14 only 1 1/2 minutes into the fourth.
However, USC tacked on a quick score to make the Nittany Lions' chances of a comeback even more unlikely.
Sanchez moved USC 82 yards in three plays, finding Damion Williams for 15 yards, Patrick Turner for 27 yards and Johnson for a 45-yard score that saw the receiver completely alone when he made the catch in the end zone.
Kevin Kelly kicked a 25-yard field goal for Penn State just past the midway point of the fourth, making it a 38-17 game. Following a USC punt, Penn State got more points, when Clark got the ball to Norwood in the end zone from nine yards out with 4 1/2 minutes to go.
The Lions held the Trojans to another punt, but on the first play of the ensuing drive, Clark threw up a wobbling pass as he was hit, and Will Harris came down with it for USC.
USC ran down the clock under a minute, and despite a bad punt snap that saw Penn State take over at the opposing 14, the Trojans' defense held on from there to seal the win.
PSU averaged 3.3 penalties per game during the regular season, but committed nine in Thursday's contest...With the USC win, the Pac-10 conference moved to 5-0 in bowl games this season, while PSU's loss dropped the Big Ten to 1-5...This season marked the seventh in a row USC has won at least 11 games, a new NCAA record...The Trojans played in their fourth consecutive Rose Bowl, and are 3-1 in that stretch. The lone loss came on January 4, 2006, a 41-38 loss to Texas in the national championship...USC is 31-16 all-time in bowl games...Penn State fell to 26-13-2 all-time in bowl games.
01/01 23:31:40 ET