USC Football: 5 Takeaways From the 2017 Rose Bowl  


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Article continues below ...Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold celebrates on the podium after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY SportsUSC football finished the 2016 season on a high, besting Penn State in the 2017 Rose Bowl game. Here five big takeaways from the instant classic..theiaPostSlider_nav._lower display none !important Must Read TeaserIt rare that bowl games actually live up to their hype, and the 2017 Rose Bowl had plenty of that going in.Featuring two of the hottest teams in college football, the Rose Bowl was a chance for both USC and Penn State to prove their worth.Both teams lived up to their end of the bargain, supplying the best game of the college football season.Here five things we learned during the 2017 Rose BowlSam Darnold Heisman Campaign Has Already BegunSam Darnold exceptional Rose Bowl performance propelled him to becoming the first ever freshman to win the Archie Griffin Award as college football MVP.It also launched his 2017 Heisman campaign .USC fans saw the same Darnold theyve seen all season the redshirt freshman with the calm of an NFL veteran coolly avoiding pressure and slinging bullets. But there was something more as well.This was the first time Darnold got to show his stuff on one of the biggest stages in college football. And he aced the test.Vince Young will go into the College Football Hall of Fame for his Rose Bowl performance in 2006 a performance surpassed by Darnold. As a freshman.Darnold tossed five touchdowns and amassed 473 total yards to surpass the Longhorn quarterback from a statistical perspective. He also pulled his team out of the gutter, willing them to the most improbable of victories.It was a performance for the ages, and it rightfully has Darnold at the top of just about every preseason Heisman list. More of that, and the trophy will be his.Next Seniors Will Be MissedJan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Darreus Rogers makes a catch over Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Grant Haley during the first quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY SportsTrojan Seniors Will Be MissedA LotLooking across the way at USC star players, it perfectly reasonable to call the Trojans a young team. Still, the successful run through the 2016 season and in the Rose Bowl specifically also featured huge contributions from seniors.On the offensive line, Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler led a front which allowed just one sack and limited Penn State to only two tackles for loss, by far their lowest total of the year.At receiver, Darreus Rogers had five catches, resulting in four first downs and a touchdown. He also drew two pass interference penalties, including one on the final USC touchdown drive.At running back, Justin Davis was USC most effective runner, setting up a touchdown with a 24-yard scamper and converting a third-and-long on a screen. His third-and-short conversion and subsequent nine-yard run also set up JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown.Tight end Taylor McNamara grabbed a two-point conversion. Defensive tackle Stevie Tuikolovatu won defensive MVP honors by leading the team with eight tackles and controlling the interior of Penn State offensive line. Linebacker Michael Hutchings had two tackles for loss and a pass break up.And safety Leon McQuay III made plays from start to finish, stuffing Saquon Barkley late, batting down two passes and giving USC the chance to kick the game-winning field goal with his interception in the final minute.None of those players will be back for USC in 2017. Those are now big shoes to fill.Next Deontay Burnett BreakoutJan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Deontay Burnett catches a pass for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsDeontay Burnett Time To ShineUSC may lose junior wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster to the 2017 NFL Draft, so it was perfect timing for sophomore Deontay Burnett to announce himself on the national stage as the next great Trojan receiver.Burnett took over for Steven Mitchell as USC starting slot receiver halfway through the season, but even before then he had emerged as a reliable option for the Trojans.On Monday, it became clear that Burnett could become even more than that, as Sam Darnold favorite receiver on the day.The under-the-radar Serra-product led all receivers with 13 catches and three touchdowns. His 164 yards receiving was second only to Penn State Chris Godwin.The brightest sign for Burnett future was on display on the game-tying 27-yard touchdown. The play actually called for Burnett to run up the seam Justin Goldberg Jersey, but he improvised when he saw a gap in the defense and ran a post instead.Darnold recognized what his receiver had planned and hit him with an perfect pass.That kind of telepathic connection is the key to all great quarterback-receiver combinations. Darnold and Burnett have it, which should make Trojan fans very happy going forward Evan Shirreffs Jersey.Next Overcoming Bad LuckJanuary 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive back Leon McQuay III runs the ball after an interception as linebacker Quinton Powell provides a block against Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Connor McGovern during the second half of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsOvercoming Bad LuckIn the lead up to the Rose Bowl, at Reign of Troy we wrote that one of USC keys to victory was to start fast and finish strong.The Trojan defense took that advice literally.They started fast, intercepting Trace McSorley first two passes and limiting the Nittany Lions to just 36 yards on their first four drives of the game.Of course, then USC gave up seven consecutive touchdown drives to Penn State. But they certainly finished strong, limiting their opponent to 14 yards in the fourth quarter, forcing three straight punts before Leon McQuay III interception helped clinch the game.On the surface, a 52-49 scoreline would indicate a shootout with MIA defenses, but the Trojan defense was more often the victim of bad luck than straight up poor play.In fact, three Penn State touchdowns in the third quarter came on three individual plays. First, USC defenders slipped and slid around bad sod trying to bring down Saquon Barkley on his 79-yard TD run. Then Iman Marshall tipped a long pass intended for Chris Godwin, but the receiver somehow managed to snag the pass anyways and jogged the rest of the way to the endzone Jared Griffith Jersey. Finally, a Sam Darnold interception set Penn State up at the three-yard line for an easy McSorley scoring run.USC bad luck didnt end their either, as Godwin first touchdown could have been ruled out of bounds or Mike Gesicki diving 11-yard score could have been flagged for a push off or Barkley touchdown catch could have been flagged for an illegal man downfield.That not to excuse the Trojan defense giving up 49 points or to suggest that the players werent ultimately responsible for the points going on the board. However, it makes their response in the final period all the more impressive, knowing that they could have lost their cool or given up after so many things going against them.Instead, they pulled together and came up with the big plays when they mattered most. That a valuable mindset to carry.Next Helton Proves Haden RightJan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton celebrates after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsClay Helton Proves Pat Haden Right, For NowWhen Pat Haden made the decision to hire Clay Helton on as USC permanent head coach, he caught plenty of flack.Helton got the Trojans to the Pac-12 Championship Game, but he was essentially a rehash of the Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian hires. He was an inside man without a proven track record of winning at a top-level program. He was a boring hire.The head coach didnt help that perception over the course of his first six games in charge. He lost to Stanford in the conference title game, lost to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, lost to Alabama, lost to Stanford again and lost to Utah. Going 1-5 didnt inspire much confidence in his hiring.Helton insisted to his team and to the outside world that the Trojans just needed to trust the process. Theyd turn the corner eventually.More from Reign of TroyUSC Sam Darnold Wins Archie Griffin Award As 2016 CFB MVP7h agoUSC Football Recruiting Breaking Down the Defensive Line7h agoUSC Football LB Cameron Smith Suspended for 1st Half of 2017 Opener9h agoSam Darnold Headlines USC Selections to 2016 AP All-Bowl Team11h agoDoes USC Football Deserve a Top 5 Ranking In Final Polls14h agoWith a Rose Bowl victory, Helton USC capped the 2016 season on a nine-game winning streak Christopher Herndon IV Jersey, proving his point and proving that Haden decision to hire the interim was far from the disaster it seemed at first.Nine Trojan coaches have won the Rose Bowl, including Ted Tollner, Larry Smith and John Robinson II in eras which werent considered particularly successful, so taking that trophy doesnt completely justify the hire, especially when it didnt accompany a conference title .However, it not so much that Helton won the Rose Bowl. It that Helton beat a quality opponent on a marquee stage under difficult circumstances. As a head coach, Helton managed the game well, keeping his team composed even when the going got tough.As far as first seasons go, it wasnt perfect, but Helton got USC to the finish line in style. And Haden deserves credit for handing him the keys.


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