The Penn State Nittany Lions won in a big way against Utah in the 2023 Rose Bowl. What started as a back-and-forth game, ended in a Penn State domination. Unfortunately for the Utes, once again quarterback Cam Rising had to exit the game early due to a left leg injury. The final score of this game was 35-21, Penn State. Here is what happened during the Rose Bowl, why it ended how it did, and which players had the biggest impact.
Rose Bowl Overview
The first half of this game ended 14-14 which may come as a surprise knowing Penn State dominated the entire second half. The defense on both ends of the ball showed why they are so respected around college football. The Utes’ linebackers made the Penn State run game struggle for a while, as did the Nittany Lions’ linebackers against Utah’s offense. Despite being a big defensive team, the Penn State offense had explosive plays that resulted in their win.
The Penn State Nittany Lions offense had an electric game. Quarterback Sean Clifford completed 16 out of 21 passes for 279 and two touchdowns, according to ESPN. One of Clifford’s passing touchdowns was to wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith for 88 yards. This is the longest in Rose Bowl history. The Nittany Lions also rushed for 169 total yards and three touchdowns. Clifford was able to walk off the field one final time as a Nittany Lions with two minutes remaining as a nice send-off.
Two of the touchdowns came from freshman Nicholas Singleton, one was an 87-yard touchdown. The other touchdown was by fellow runningback Kaytron Allen, who is also a freshman. The future is bright with all that these two have done this season. Credit should also be given to the playcalling. The Nittany Lions took it back to old school football, scoring two touchdowns off of a T formation.
As for the defense, the Nittany Lions had a big game in this Rose Bowl. There were a total of six sacks throughout the game. Two of the sacks came from Sophomore Linebacker Curtis Jacobs. The team also caught two interceptions. One was caught by senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown, and one by sophomore cornerback Kalen King.
Despite the score, the Utes had a great defense in the 2023 Rose Bowl. The offense was also doing very well in the first half of the game, never allowing Penn State to be ahead by more than a touchdown. It was not until early in the second half of the game that Rising suffered a left leg injury, resulting in him having to exit the game. The run game should still be highlighted, as the Utes did well when they would run to the outside.
While in the game, Rising completed just eight passes out of 21 attempts for 95 yards, according to ESPN. He did throw one interception, but also a touchdown. After he had to leave the game, Bryson Barnes came in and completed ten out of 19 passes for 112 yards. Barnes also passed for one touchdown and one interception.
The Utes actually rushed the ball for more yards than the Nittany Lions in this Rose Bowl. The team had to rely on rushing the ball once Barnes had to come in at quarterback, especially with a heavy Penn State pass rush. The Utes ended the game with 184 total rushing yards, and one touchdown coming from freshman running back Ja’Quined Jackson.
Rose Bowl Top Players
Freshman running back Nicholas Singleton has been a bright player for Penn State. During the Rose Bowl, In just seven rushing attempts he ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns. His longest was his 87-yard run for the touchdown. Singleton consistently pushed for extra yards and was a large reason for Penn State’s victory in the Rose Bowl.
Quarterback Sean Clifford has been with the Nittany Lions for six years, and in his final game he played his heart out. Clifford completed 16 out of 21 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Clifford played smart and never forced a pass that resulted in a turnover. He demonstrated pure determination and it paid off. Clifford was able to exit the game with a standing ovation playing in his last game as a Nittany Lion.
Although the Utes did not come out with a win, freshman running back Ja’Quined Jackson played very well for Utah. Jackson rushed for 81 yards from 13 carries and ran for a touchdown. His longest rush was for 30 yards. Between him, and fellow running back Micah Bernard, the Utes were able to put up a fight in their loss. As just a freshman, Jackson shows promise for a bright future.
Rose Bowl Final Thoughts
The Penn State Nittany Lions played with strict determination and it paid off for them. The defense never let up, and the offense had one of their most explosive games of the season. As for the Utes, they never gave up. With two minutes left of the game, and their opponent’s starting quarterback walking off the field saying goodbye, Utah never gave up. They scored one last touchdown in the last minute of the game to show that they would not end the game until the final whistle.
Both teams deserve respect for how they played this game, even through some heated exchanges early on. Congratulations to the Penn State Nittany Lions, the 2023 Rose Bowl Champions.
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