PASADENA—Penn State seems to have made New Year’s Resolutions to be bold and take risks, as a pair of big plays helped the Nittany Lions smash the Utah Utes 35-21, on Monday, January 2 at the 109th Rose Bowl.
Over 94,000 fans sat in the chilly rain to watch No. 11 Penn State run away in the second half, that was even at 14 apiece before Penn State went big.
Utah Quarterback Cameron Rising walked off in pain, with a brace on his knee and a noticeable limp. For the second straight year, Rising exited the Rose Bowl game with an injury and did not return.
Nick Singleton found paydirt after accelerating for an 87-yard touchdown run on third-and-2. The stadium shook a little bit on that score. Penn State scored 21 straight after halftime, and Utah never recovered.
Singleton had 120 yards on the ground, while his 87-yard backbreaking TD run was the third longest run in Rose Bowl history. Penn State Quarterback Sean Clifford earned Offensive MVP, Clifford ended his career, throwing for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The second transcendent moment of the game occurred on the first play of the 4th quarter. Clifford found an absolutely wide-open KeAndre Lambert-Smith for an 88-yard touchdown pass. R.J. Hubert got beat there. Penn State was firmly in control at this point.
Utah’s season ended in a defeat for the second straight year, as the Utes’ struggled to find any rhythm in the second half due to Penn State’s pass rush.
Sophomore Bryson Barnes entered the game after Rising’s departure and ended his first four drives with an interception and three punts.
This is the second Nittany Lions Rose Bowl victory in program history since 1995. As for Utah, they put together one of the best two-year runs in program history with consecutive 10-win seasons and Pac-12 championships. The Utes fell short in the “Granddaddy of Them All” to end the year on a sour note.
As the rain started to fall on this Pasadena evening, it seemed to dampen any hope for a Utah victory as well. Their starting quarterback was knocked out and they simply did not respond to the challenge.
With an outstanding defense, and basically shutting out Utah in the second half except for a touchdown in the final seconds, Penn State certainly earned the victory.