No. 5 Penn State coughs up 14-point 4th-quarter lead in wild Rose Bowl loss to No. 9 USC

No. 5 Penn State coughs up 14-point 4th-quarter lead in wild Rose Bowl loss to No. 9 USC


PASADENA, Calif. — There will be a day where Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin appreciates the 103rd Rose Bowl. 

The magnificent contrast between fans clad in blue and white and those in cardinal and gold on college football’s most picturesque stage, the white-knuckle thrill ride that took 4 hours, 12 minutes to complete, the array of spectacular catches he made from a deflected 72-yard touchdown to a one-handed snag of a ball thrown behind him with three defenders around him.

But it wasn’t Monday, not moments after the No. 5 Nittany Lions came up on the wrong end of a 52-49 loss to No. 9 USC in a game that more than lived up to the Rose Bowl’s moniker as the Granddaddy of Them All (see Instant Replay).

Godwin stood stone faced with a towel draped over his head, answering questions thoughtfully but quietly about his nine-catch, 187-yard, two-touchdown performance that helped stake Penn State (11-3) a 49-35 lead with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter. He was more concerned about what followed, the inability to come up with another score or enough first downs to put the game away and deny USC (10-3) the comeback that followed.

“We’re always confident at any point in the game, but as a receiver when you’re up two touchdowns you’d like to be able to finish the game off,” Godwin said. “That’s something we need to work on. We didn’t do that this time.”

While Godwin stood, the rest of the Penn State locker room sat in stunned silence. Some players were half dressed, some still in full uniform. Some were slouched forward, some leaning back on their metal folding chairs. There was no anger, no tears, just bewilderment at how a team that relied on second-half momentum to win the Big Ten title could allow it to turn against them so cruelly. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley took the blame. Whether he deserved it was another matter.

“Three interceptions, you’re not going to win a game like that, so that’s all on me,” McSorley said. “These guys, these seniors, they worked so hard. It just hurts right now to not be able to do that for them.”   

McSorley’s last throw, a heave down the far sideline that was intercepted by USC safety Leon McQuay to set up the game-winning field goal, was a misguided effort to harness the lightning that had put Penn State ahead after falling behind by 13 points on three separate occasions in the first half. Instead of working through his progressions, McSorley decided to target Godwin even though McQuay had nearly intercepted a throw in the same vicinity for tight end Mike Gesicki on the previous play.     

“I tried too much to force it to Chris. He’d been making plays for us all game, so that was kind of the guy in my mind,” McSorley said.

Godwin took responsibility on behalf of the entire offense, ignoring all the good work that resulted in touchdowns on four consecutive plays during the second and third quarters, including Saquan Barkley’s dazzling 79-yard run and Godwin’s score plucked from the air after cornerback Iman Marshall deflected it.

That will come on another day.

“I think I’ll be able to look back and realize what a great game it was and what an atmosphere I was blessed to be a part of,” Godwin said.  
Game Grades

Offense: A-
Penn State nearly scored as many points against USC’s defense as Washington, Oregon and Stanford did combined, thanks to a willingness to attack the Trojans all over the field. Barkley was outstanding, rushing for 249 yards and scoring three touchdowns as a runner and receiver. But the reliance on big plays came back to haunt Penn State when it was trying to run out the clock, recording just one first down and 14 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.    

Defense: C-
If you grade on the Big 12 curve, both Penn State and USC turned in decent defensive performances. However, Penn State was never able to sack quarterback Sam Darnold and had just one tackle for loss. Even when Darnold was under duress, he was able to keep his eyes downfield and complete passes, finishing with 453 yards and five touchdowns.  

Special Teams: A-
For all attention lavished on USC’s versatile Adoree’ Jackson, Penn State largely outplayed the Trojans and their return ace. Miles Sanders misjudged the opening kickoff, but the defense held USC off the board after McSorley threw an interception on the first play of the game. Blake Gillikin averaged 50.8 yards per punt, and was helpful in holding Jackson and Deontay Burnett to just 19 return yards.    

What’s Next?
Penn State will be waiting on draft declarations from the likes of Godwin, who said afterward he had yet to make a decision on whether to return for his senior season or enter the 2017 NFL draft. But with a strong nucleus of returning starters, led by McSorley and Barkley, Penn State should start next season ranked in the Top 10 and an obvious candidate to reach the College Football Playoff.

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

NBC Sports

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

Forget about Chip Kelly for a second: When you think of the University of Oregon, you probably think of their uniforms.

Each season, the Ducks push jersey and helmet designs to new heights, and their trailblazing influence has trickled down throughout college athletics. It all started in the 1990s, when Oregon decided to get crazy - and it worked.

In the second episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast series, NBC Sports Northwest takes a deep dive into how Oregon sparked a fashion transformation across college football with a mascot change, and with unique Nike uniforms that helped push the program into the national college football coversation.

The episode features in-depth interviews with former Oregon football head coach Mike Bellotti, former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, and more.

The episode releases Thursday, June 11. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To catch every episode, be sure to subscribe to "Sports Uncovered" and have every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn

Listen and subscribe to the "Sports Uncovered" podcast:

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

USA Today Images

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

It's been 12 days since Villanova's season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus crisis. Jay Wright held a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics. 

Here are the major takeaways from Wright's session with the media.  

This March is different

Villanova missed out on opportunities to win a fourth straight Big East Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Wildcats won eight of their final nine games to clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. Not having a chance to shine in the postseason stings. 

"Missing the NCAA Tournament is obviously tough for our guys," Wright said. "We felt like we were playing great basketball, coming on strong. I always say we want to play our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think we were doing that. It is what it is, our guys get it. 

"It's a great example of our mantra 'attitude'. We try to teach our guys that you don't have control over what happens in life. What you do have control of is your response to what happens to you. 

"I don't know if there's even been a March where I wasn't either in (the NCAA Tournament), watching it or recruiting during it. I'm testing myself on what else is there in me? Being a better father, being a better husband. Spending more time with the kids, watching more movies, reading more, trying to be more worldly. I'm not very good at it but I'm trying."

Will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA? 

Arguably the biggest question concerning Wright's team heading into the offseason is will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA or will he return for his junior season at Villanova? Wright mentioned that Bey was especially disappointed when this season was cut short. He realizes that he has a big decision to make on his future. Wright discussed Bey's future plans as well as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is also considered an NBA prospect. 

"The NBA is still on hold," Wright said. "They don't have a plan yet for what they're going to do with the pre-draft process or the draft yet. Saddiq and Jeremiah probably both will go through that process when we find out what it is. They're waiting on us for information, should they start working out? We're trying to get them as much information as possible. 

"If we were in a normal timeline, they would both go through the process. As we learn what the NBA is going to do there are so many possibilities. Just to take it to an extreme, there's a possibility they might not have a pre-draft process and just have the draft with no workouts, using the evaluations they had during the season. 

"We're communicating with both of them daily. Saddiq is having a tough time trying to find a place to work out in [his hometown] Washington D.C. He just got a gym to get into so he can shoot, he can't find a gym to get into to lift. Jeremiah is trying to find a place around here to get into to shoot."

2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Wright was supposed to spend a portion of his summer as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Tokyo. But with this week's announcement that the Olympics are postponed, his plans have changed. 

"It's the right decision," Wright said. "I feel bad for all of those athletes that it's once in a lifetime experience. I really feel bad for them. For basketball guys it's not as difficult. I talked with [U.S. head coach Greg Popovich] yesterday. It's postponed, obviously not cancelled, postponed until some time next spring or summer. There's a lot of questions there. They could do it late spring, when you might not have NBA players. If they did it in the summer maybe you do have NBA players. We have to wait for the IOC to make those decisions. 

"For us personally (at Villanova), it's kind of crazy because we thought we came up with this great plan. I was going to have to leave our offseason program for the Olympics. We had a plan to work around that, and now it doesn't matter. We'll be here in June and July. Now we don't even know if the players will be here. We worked so hard to put this plan in place for me being away and now it doesn't even matter."

Phillies season on hold

A Bucks County native, Wright is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. He had Phillies season tickets as a kid and is a regular at Citizens Bank Park during the summer months. Like all Phillies fans, he's disappointed the baseball season isn't starting this week.

"The end of the basketball season was always sobering," Wright said. "But what always saved us was the start of the Phillies. Opening Day and the start of baseball season in our family is a big deal. 

"We watch the spring training games, we'll even joke, 'Who do the Phillies play tonight?' It's really surreal. Spring time without baseball, especially the Phillies, is bizarre. It's really the way myself and my family get ourselves out of basketball mode. We go to Opening Day, we go to the Phillies games, we love 'Bark in the Park', we always bring the dogs. We're really going to miss it."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.