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USC beats Penn State in the game of the year, with the most points in any Rose Bowl ever

The Grandaddy of Them All lived up to its billing.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

USC beat Penn State in the 103rd Rose Bowl Game on Monday in Pasadena, Calif. The final score was 52-49, and the game ended on USC kicker Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard field goal.

The Trojans finished the 2016 season on a nine-game winning streak, while the Nittany Lions saw a nine-game run snapped. USC closed with a 10-3 record, while Big Ten winner Penn State finished 11-3. The finale was an offensive exhibition, with a combined 101 points that shattered the previous Rose Bowl high of 83, between Wisconsin and Oregon in the 2012 game.

The Trojans had a halftime lead, fell behind by two touchdowns during the second half, then clawed back for victory. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold led two touchdown drives in the final eight minutes to tie the game at 49, and the Trojans’ Boermeester converted after a late interception to win.

Penn State’s day started miserably, with a botched opening kickoff return and two interceptions on Trace McSorley’s first two throws. The Trojans scored the first 13 points and looked primed for a blowout at turns in the first half, but Penn State hung around. (Two missed field goals by Boermeester helped.)

The Nittany Lions’ offense hummed almost as much as USC’s, and the Lions got into halftime down just 27-21, despite giving up nearly 11 yards per play. It looked for a while like Penn State would capitalize on a second-half charge. It wasn’t to be.

Penn State and USC entered on a combined 17-game winning streak. The Lions and Trojans both hadn’t lost since the weekend of Sept. 23-24, when USC lost at Utah and Penn State lost at Michigan. Both had been a buzzsaw ever since, and they only missed the Playoff because they got started just a little too late this season.

The Trojans capped their brilliant run in style, finishing the year 10-3 after a 1-3 start. They’ll be a popular Playoff pick heading into next season, and the emergence of Clay Helton as a really smart-looking head coach hire now has another chapter.

It’s a disappointing end for Penn State. The Lions would’ve rather been in the Playoff, and not getting a Rose Bowl win stinks. But it doesn’t change that James Franklin’s program made remarkable progress this year, or that it’ll go into 2017 as a real contender in the Big Ten East. The Lions have come a long way.

Penn State was playing in its fourth Rose, with a prior record of 1-2. USC was playing in its incredible 33rd, at 24-8 all-time. These teams forged the matchup in the 2009 game, when USC won, 38-24.

Monday brought a unique scene, with cloud cover over Pasadena making leading to a 55-degree temperature at kickoff, the coldest at a Rose Bowl since 1974.

This was the 16th Rose Bowl happening not on Jan. 1, which has to do with some 19th-century horses. If every non-New Year’s Day Rose Bowl can be this wonderful, we should probably find a way to have some more non-New Year’s Day Rose Bowls.