Report Card for Penn State in the Rose Bowl: A Signature Finish. The Lions are led by James Franklin to a coveted Rose Bowl victory and an exciting future.

Penn State

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Think about this data. Penn State has a 3-1 record in New Year’s Six bowls during the previous nine seasons. In the 2023 Rose Bowl, the Lions defeated Utah with a thrilling 35-21 triumph.

Only Alabama (6-0) and Clemson (5-1) among teams with at least four appearances during that time period had higher winning percentages in NY6 bowls than Penn State (CFP title games notwithstanding). Lions (11-2) are at your door. Maybe over the next two seasons they let the door open.

As a result of a five-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents by an average of 27.8 points, Penn State celebrated their first Rose Bowl triumph since 1995. With a memorable finish, Penn State brought an impressive run to a close. the grade report

Offense A:

Utah has not permitted an offensive play of 80 yards or more since 2018, when it possessed the top-ranked rushing and scoring defence in the Pac-12 going into the matchup. In just the second half, the Lions defeated the Utes by a score of two. Sean Clifford’s 88-yard touchdown toss to KeAndre Lambert-Smith combined timing, savviness, and speed, while Nicholas Singleton’s 87-yard touchdown run against a run-stopping front was a masterclass in execution.

The Lions produced a 12-play touchdown drive that was among Clifford’s greatest this season, becoming the first team in Rose Bowl history to score touchdowns of 80 yards or more both through the air and on the ground. Overall, a spectacular season finale.

Defense B+:

The longest play the Lions allowed was a 47-yard completion on a 3rd-and-10 blitz front that failed to reach the end zone. They missed a few tackles as well, particularly from the linebackers, which allowed Utah to gain 184 yards on the ground. Additionally, they struggled on third down; Utah converted 11 of its attempts, which is the second-highest number in bowl history.

However, Penn State had six sacks, nine tackles for loss, and two interceptions (by Kalen King and Ji’Ayir Brown). Brown remarked, “What a time,” before being hailed as the game’s defensive MVP. In place of injured Utah starter Cam Rising, linebacker Curtis Jacobs got two sacks of backup quarterback Bryson Barnes.

Special teams B: 

Barney Amor, a punter, ended his career with three inside-the-20-yard punts, including one from one yard out. The covering teams performed admirably as usual, and Chris Stoll, the national long snapper of the year (as “Mr. Consistent” Franklin refers to him), ended his career. Kicker Jake Pinegar ranks fourth in Big Ten history with 195 extra points made in his career.

Coaching A:

Minor decisions like the timeout Franklin used to start the review of a Utah touchdown catch are subject to criticism. But that’s unimportant. At Utah, Penn State utilised a fantastic offensive game plan that allowed Clifford to play controlled football, occasionally tried to run tempo, and produced two massive plays. Under the strain of the defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, Utah’s passing game went 18 for 40.

Ultimately, the Lions outscored Utah 21-0 in the third and fourth quarters to turn a 14-14 tie at halftime into a pretty easy victory. That’s a testament to their big-picture mindset beginning in November and their small-ball attention when playing the Utes.

Overall A:

Franklin’s teams have blown a few bowl games, most notably the Outback Bowl last season when the Lions played without half of their starting defence. This year’s opt-ins resonated across the team, as both veteran and young players put on excellent performances as a result.

It made for a special evening in Pasadena to do all of that while honouring Franco Harris. The Lions now want to advance and qualify for the College Football Playoff.

Following the Rose Bowl, Penn State acquires a portal receiver:

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The Lions signed former N.C. State receiver Devin Carter, who had used the transfer portal in December, shortly after their 35-21 victory over Utah. On social media, Carter made his decision public.

Carter, who played at North Carolina State for five years, started four seasons and missed three games in 2022 due to injury. Last season, he hauled in 25 passes for 406 yards and two scores. As a graduate transfer, Carter has one season of eligibility remaining.

Carter (6-3, 215 lbs.) is a playmaking receiver who caught 10 touchdown passes during his college career at North Carolina State. Carter first stated in mid-December that he would forgo the team’s bowl game and declare for the NFL Draft, but Carter swiftly disputed that and indicated he had not made up his mind.

West Virginia and Old Dominion both made portal offers to Carter, a 3-star talent in high school. On Signing Day, Penn State coach James Franklin made it obvious that he needed help filling a roster spot.

Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley, the Lions’ top two receivers, are departing for the NFL Draft. The Lions desire more output at the position, but KeAndre Lambert-Smith concluded the season with two excellent performances, including the longest touchdown reception in Rose Bowl history.

Several receivers from Penn State are active in the portal, including Dante Cephas of Kent State, who caught 48 passes for 744 yards this year.

Franklin remarked on Recruiting Day that he could “see us signing a couple more individuals at that position just to make sure that we have the competition at that position on a similar scale to what we do at tight end and running back.” “I believe that will be crucial for us going forward.”

Penn State’s Rose Bowl victory marks the “complete circle” of Sean Clifford’s career:

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The 103rd edition of the game was ended in tragic manner for the Nittany Lions by a game-winning field goal by USC in the closing seconds when Penn State coach James Franklin last stood inside the Rose Bowl in January 2017.

Franklin was able to give Sean Clifford, his current quarterback, a suitable send-off six years later. In the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, Clifford, a sixth-year senior, left the field to applause after helping Penn State avenge that defeat from a year earlier by guiding the Nittany Lions to a 35-21 victory over Utah.

Franklin remarked, “I watched someone else rejoice here in 2016, one of the better Rose Bowl games, and I wanted this for them. “I couldn’t have scripted Sean Clifford to be the game’s most offensive player any better. Being able to send these men off in the proper direction is fantastic.”

Clifford didn’t simply win and leave. With just 21 attempts and 16 completions, he had one of his more productive games throughout his college career, throwing for 279 yards and two scores. In the 109-year history of the Rose Bowl, one of those scores was unprecedented.

The Utes and the sea of red-clad fans who had descended on Pasadena were all but sent home with a second straight loss in the annual Big Ten-Pac-12 game after Penn State running back Nicholas Singleton split a throng of Utah defenders with an 87-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Clifford’s 88-yard touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith set a record for the longest passing touchdown in Rose Bowl history.In the history of the bowl, Penn State became the first team to have two touchdown plays of 80 yards or more.

The decision to take a shot was debatable, according to Clifford of the pass. I was absolutely in favour of shooting that shot since I had been noticing the same expression throughout the entire game, and I knew KeAndre felt the same way.

When asked about Clifford’s “up-and-down” career, Franklin made sure to emphasise that Clifford had “a lot of ups” rather than downs, but the perfect way to cap it off. When Clifford was in elementary school, his father surprised him with a trip to the Rose Bowl, which Clifford recalled as a key memory.

Clifford remarked of getting to end his career at the Rose Bowl, “It means a lot. “I simply recall going head over heels for football, and in particular for the quarterback position. It is truly a gift to see everything come full circle and to have the opportunity to simply play a supporting role for this team in the Rose Bowl.”

While Cameron Rising, the quarterback for Utah, left the stadium limping and with a brace on his knee, Clifford basked in joy on one end of the stadium. Rising left the Rose Bowl game with an injury for the second year in a row and did not come back.

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With the assistance of Utah trainers, Rising lay down for a little while before stumbling off the field. Then, after going into the injury tent, he went on his own to the locker room. Later, Rising returned to the sidelines in casual attire.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham stated, “The injury to Cam is a leg injury and it doesn’t look good. “At a later time, maybe tonight or tomorrow, we’ll await the medical professionals’ confirmation. It appears like it might be something that need time to heal from.”