Big Plays Give Penn State 35-21 Rose Bowl Victory Over Utah

Rose Bowl - Utah v Penn State

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PASADENA (CNS) - Freshman Nicholas Singleton ran 87 yards for the tie- breaking touchdown in the third quarter and Sean Clifford threw the longest touchdown pass in Rose Bowl history in the fourth quarter to give Penn State a 35-21 victory over Utah Monday in the 109th edition of college football's oldest bowl game.

Clifford, a sixth-year senior, was selected as the Offensive Player of the Game, completing 16 of 21 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Nittany Lions safety Ji'Ayir Brown was selected as the Defensive Player of the Game for making a game-high-equaling eight tackles, including 1 1/2 quarterback sacks, and a third-quarter interception.

The Penn State defense made five of its six sacks in the second half, including four of backup quarterback Bryson Barnes, who replaced injured starter Cameron Rising midway through the third quarter.

"In the second half we had to take a look at ourselves," Brown said. "A lot of emotions happened in this game when guys start to get out of their way of the scheme.

"Second half we went in the locker room and everybody got their jitters out and we just played together, trusted each other a little more and we was able to execute more on more plays."

Rising was injured when he was tackled on a 9-yard run.

Rising suffered a leg injury coach Kyle Whittingham said "doesn't look good."

"We'll wait for confirmation from the medical people at a later date, either tonight or tomorrow," Whittingham said. "Looks like it could be something that takes a while to recover from."

This is the second consecutive year Rising has been injured in the Rose Bowl. The graduate of Newbury Park High School in Ventura County missed nearly the final 10 minutes of the Jan. 1, 2022 game when he was sacked and his helmet hit the ground hard as he fell. He stayed down for a few minutes while receiving attention from trainers and eventually walked off the field and to the medical tent under his own power.

Clifford's 88-yard touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith 11 seconds into the fourth quarter broke the record of 76 yards set by Michigan's Rick Leach to Curt Stephenson in 1978.

"It was up for debate whether we wanted to take a shot," Clifford said. "It was third down and 4 and I'd been seeing the same look all game so I was definitely a proponent for taking that shot and I knew KeAndre wanted it too."

Lambert-Smith out-ran the defense to catch Clifford's pass just past the 50-yard line and sprinted into the end zone.

Freshman Kaytron Allen ran 1 yard for the final touchdown for the Nittany Lions (11-2) with 10 minutes, 36 seconds remaining.

The loss was the Utes' (10-4) second in the Rose Bowl in two appearances over two seasons. Utah lost to Ohio State, 48-45, on New Year's Day, 2022, in their Rose Bowl debut, unable to hold a 35-21 halftime lead, with C.J. Stroud throwing three of his six touchdown passes in the second half and Noah Ruggles kicking the tie-breaking 19-yard field goal with nine seconds left.

Utah was scoreless on its first five drives Monday without Rising before Barnes threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Dixon with 25 seconds to play.

Penn State outgained the Utes, 448 yards to 391, but trailed 23-14 in first downs and 35:13-24:47 in time of possession.

Rising completed eight of 21 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Barnes completed 10 of 19 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

"When you look at us and our issues in this game, didn't throw the ball efficiently enough, not nearly as efficiently as we've been throwing it all season long," Whittingham said.

The victory was the Nittany Lions' second in their five Rose Bowl appearances and first in two under James Franklin. Franklin was Penn State's coach in its most recent Rose Bowl appearance before Monday, a 52-49 loss to USC on Jan. 2, 2017.

The Nittany Lions opened the scoring with seven seconds left in the first quarter on Singleton's 5-yard run culminating a 13-play, 82-yard drive that began when Kalen King intercepted a pass by Rising at Penn State's 18-yard line.

Singleton ran for a game-high 120 yards and two touchdowns in seven carries.

The next three drives also resulted in touchdowns.

Utah drove 75 yards on 13 plays, with Rising throwing a 1-yard pass to tight end Thomas Yassmin for the score. Yassmin began his football career as a freshman in 2018 after playing rugby at The Scots College, a primary and secondary boys' school in New South Wales, Australia.

The Nittany Lions responded with a six-play, 70-yard drive with Clifford throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Tinsley with 4:47 left in the first half.

The Utes re-tied the score on redshirt freshman Ja'Quinden Jackson's 19-yard touchdown run 2:38 before halftime.

The temperature was 54 degrees at kickoff, the coldest since 1960 and fifth coldest all-time. The skies were overcast, the first time a Rose Bowl opening kickoff occurred without sunshine since 2017.

Utah earned its second consecutive Rose Bowl berth with a 47-24 victory over USC in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game Dec. 2.

Penn State received its berth after Michigan and Ohio State both finished in the top four in the final College Football Playoff rankings, putting both in the playoff. Penn State was the only other Big Ten team in the College Football Playoff rankings,

Because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, the game was played one day later than usual because of the Tournament of Roses Association's ``Never on Sunday" rule. This was the 15th time the Rose Bowl was played on Jan. 2 and the first since 2017.

This was likely be the last time the Rose Bowl is guaranteed its traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup. The next game will be a College Football Playoff semifinal. Beginning with the 2024 season, the Rose Bowl will be a playoff quarterfinal in the years it is not a playoff semifinal in the expanded 12-team playoff. Each of the New Year's Six bowl games will continue to be playoff semifinals once every three years.

The Rose Bowl annually matched teams from what are now the Big Ten and Pac-12 from Jan. 1, 1947 through Jan. 1, 2001. The Rose Bowl served as the Bowl Championship Series national championship game on Jan. 3, 2002, the first of five nontraditional matchups through 2011, including the Jan. 4, 2006, BCS national championship game.

The Rose Bowl has annually matched Big Ten and Pac-12 teams since 2012, except in 2018 and 2021 when the game served as a College Football Playoff semifinal.

The Nittany Lions' victory narrowed the Pac-12's lead over the Big Ten to 39-33.

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