Rose Bowl: Game Breakdown

Check out the good, the bad and the extremely ugly from Penn State's loss to USC before a packed house in Pasadena.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Who said Penn State doesn't belong in the Big Ten?

The Nittany Lions finally embraced the conference's rich tradition of flopping in big post-season games Thursday, absorbing a 38-24 loss from Pac-10 champion USC.

With the defeat -- Penn State's first in its last four bowls -- Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions capped their campaign at 11-2. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll's Trojans improved to 12-1 with their third-straight Rose Bowl win.

“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 … made so many mistakes in the first half.”

USC did most of its damage in the second quarter, scoring 24 unanswered points to take a 31-7 lead into the locker room. In the second half, the Trojans kept Penn State at arm's length.

Here is a taste of what went on in the game.

MAN OF THE HOUR: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez toyed with the Penn State defense. He was 13 of 17 for 219 yards and two scores IN THE SECOND QUARTER. He finished 28 of 35 for 413 yards and four TDs, and was only sacked once. “I thought the Southern Cal quarterback played a great game,” Paterno said.

NOT-SO-CLOSE SECOND: Lion QB Daryll Clark did everything he could for his team, completing 21 of 36 passes for a PSU bowl-record 273 yards and two scores. He also rushed for a touchdown and was only sacked once. Both of his picks were during desperation time.

CLOSE SECOND FOR USC: The Lion secondary had no answers for USC wideout Damian Williams. He had seven catches for 127 yards and a score through two quarters. He finished with 10 catches for 162 yards.

SHOUTOUT TO THE CROWD: This may have been the greatest showing by Penn State fans in a non-championship bowl. Even when the blowout was on, the throng of Nittany Lion backers in the Rose Bowl was into it. They deserved much better from their team in the first half.

TURNING POINT: Penn State trailed 14-7 early in the second quarter and faced a third-and-1. Rather than blasting something up the gut, the staff called for a slow-developing handoff to Stephfon Green. He was stopped for no game to force a punt. The Trojans scored on their next four possessions to blow it open. The Lions were 1 of 5 on third-down conversions in the first half.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: PSU punter Jeremy Boone had four boots for 191 yards (47.8 per) in the opening half. Imagine how bad this might have been had the Trojans not had to go long distances on most of their early TD drives. Boone did not punt in the second half.

SOLID STRATEGY: Clearly USC's approach of allowing Sanchez to pick apart the Lion defense worked to perfection. He was simply too good on timing patterns.

NUMBERS GAME: The Trojans were 6 of 8 on third downs in the first half but only 1 of 6 in the second.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Sanchez has thrown at least one TD pass in every one of his 16 career starts.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• The Nittany Lions had seven penalties in the first half, many of them by the veterans. It was uncharacteristic for the least penalized team in the Big Ten.

• The Penn State defensive line pulled a no-show for much of the game. It is fair to say it was dominated by the USC offensive front.

• With USC up 31-7 in the second quarter, All-American linebacker Ray Maualuga danced on the Penn State logo in the end zone and acted as if he was kicking it. He did this while facing a large section of Nittany Lion fans. Not too classy.

• Even worse was Maualuga and safety Taylor Mays celebrating after Mays had an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on PSU wideout Jordan Norwood. Norwood was helped from the field but later came back into the game and caught a TD pass.

• PSU fans showed some classlessness of their own when they booed former USC wideout Keyshawn Johnson as he was honored between the third and fourth quarters for being inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

INJURY REPORT: Penn State lost three key contributors to injuries in the game. Tailback Evan Royster went down with a left knee injury in the first half. It is not believed to be serious. Royster's backup, Stephfon Green, sprained his right ankle late in the game. Tackle Dennis Landolt injured his left knee, as well, but the extent was not known immediately after the game. He walked off the field under his own power, though.

HIDDEN HERO: PSU wideout Deon Butler had four catches for 97 yards and a score and had a long-gainer wiped out by a motion penalty.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Lion linebacker Navorro Bowman had eight tackles, five of them (including a sack) behind the line.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Penn State All-American defensive end Aaron Maybin had a tough game. He made four tackles, but only one was behind the line. He was whistled for being offside twice.

• The Lion defensive tackles combined for five stops, none behind the line.

• Penn State was allowed to have five former players on the sideline. They were Don Abbey, Curt Warner, Ki-Jana Carter, Michael Robinson and Tamba Hali.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Is this Big Ten really this bad?


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