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A More Perfect College Football Playoff - Rose bowl

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Chapter from "A More Perfect College Football Playoff (2017-18 Season)"

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A More Perfect College Football Playoff - Rose bowl

  1. 1. Rose Bowl Dec. 31, 2017 – First Semifinal: USC Trojans vs. Oklahoma Soon- ers After a terrible first quarter, USC has gradually taken control of the game and beats Oklahoma 38-36 because of a failed two-point attempt. USC Trojans marched on to the College Football Playoff champion- ship game with a close victory over the Oklahoma Sooners on New Year’s Eve. The loss dropped the Sooners to a season record of 13-2. In the first quarter, Oklahoma jumped to a 14-0 lead thanks in part to a costly turnover by USC star quarterback Sam Darnold. However, a big play on special teams brought the Trojans back into contention, and the shoot-out was on. Trailing 38-30 on the final drive of the game, the Sooners scored a touchdown, but failed to convert a two-point at- tempt. USC recovered the onside kick and escaped with a narrow win. Sam Darnold started badly again, but finished with 19 completions on 31 pass attempts for 271 yards, one touchdown, and one intercep- tion. Wide receiver Deontay Burnett led the Trojans receiving corps with six catches that totaled 57 yards. Wide-out Jaleen Green recorded the longest catch of the day for 48 yards, while his colleague Steven Mitchell caught Darnold’s sole touchdown pass and ran for another touchdown. Running back Ronald Jones II picked up 102 rushing yards on 18 carries. Fellow running backs Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai each had a touchdown run, with Malepeai’s going for a massive 98 yards.
  2. 2. 74 A More Perfect College Football Playoff Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield couldn’t be contained as he threw for 368 yards on 22 completions out of 36 pass attempts and three touchdowns. Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews caught five passes for 83 yards, while wide receiver Jeff Badet had four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Wide-out Marquise Brown hauled in the other touchdown pass. Running back Trey Sermon rushed 15 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, while Mayfield was also productive on the ground with 11 runs for 31 yards. Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu came up big with nine tackles and a sack, while defensive tackle Rasheem Green also recorded a sack. The Sooners defense forced two turnovers: defensive back Will John- son intercepted a pass early in the game, and defensive lineman Ken- neth Murray recovered a fumble. Defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo led his team with ten tackles and also had a sack. *** Ogbonnia Okoronkwo gets an early sack The Sooners won the coin toss and elected to defer. After a touch- back, Trojans’ opening drive began promisingly. Quarterback Sam Darnold completed a pass to wide receiver Tyler Vaughns for 11 yards and a first down. But following a quick 8-yard toss to wide receiver Deontay Burnett, an incompletion, a false start penalty (for a loss of five yards), and a 5-yard sack by defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo,
  3. 3. Rose Bowl 75 it was fourth down. The USC punting unit entered the field, and Reid Budrovich’s punt was returned by CeeDee Lamb to the 29-yard line of Oklahoma. Ronald Jones II is the best Trojan in the first quarter The first drive by the Sooners was a disaster as quarterback Baker Mayfield couldn’t connect on any of his three pass attempts, while a false start penalty was called on left guard Chris Brown. Austin Seibert’s 41-yard punt was returned 11 yards by Ajene Harris to Tro- jans’ 46-yard line. Although USC had a great field position, Okla- homa’s defense excelled again, allowing two runs by running back Ronald Jones II for a total of eight yards and deflecting Darnold’s pass on third down. A very well-placed punt by Budrovich was downed at the Sooners 3-yard line with 11:34 left in the first quarter. Despite very little room to maneuver, Mayfield caught fire and com- pleted a bomb to tight end Mark Andrews for 29 yards, which he fol- lowed up with another throw to Andrews for 24 yards. After the quar- terback ran for eight more yards, running back Najee Bissoon fumbled the ball, but right guard Dru Samia recovered it for a 2-yard loss. On third down, head coach Lincoln Riley called a reverse play, and run- ning back Trey Sermon took off for a 38-yard run into the end zone.
  4. 4. 76 A More Perfect College Football Playoff Following a successful extra point conversion, Oklahoma had a 7-0 lead. Seibert’s kickoff sailed through the end zone, and the Trojans came out to their 25-yard line. Darnold ran for one yard, then threw a 16- yard pass to Burnett. After running back Vavae Malepeai gained 13- yards and another first down, USC hit rock-bottom as Darnold’s pass was deflected and intercepted by defensive back William Johnson. Marquise Brown races into the end zone Sooners’ next drive started at midfield with rushes by Sermon for three yards and running back Abdul Adams for seven and a first down. On the following play, wide receiver Jeff Badet found himself un- guarded, and Mayfield tossed a perfect spiral for a 27-yard gain. An- other couple of runs by Adams and Sermon for three yards each re- sulted in a 3rd-and-4 at Trojans’ 7-yard line. As calm as ever, Mayfield scooped up a botched snap, rolled to the left, and found wide receiver Marquise Brown for a touchdown. The extra point was good, and Ok- lahoma increased their lead to 14-0 with 3:48 remaining in the quarter.
  5. 5. Rose Bowl 77 Seibert’s kickoff went into the end zone, and the ball was placed at Trojans’ 25-yard line. After Darnold completed a 22-yard pass to Bur- nett, a run for one yard by Jones II and two catches by wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr as well as Joseph Lewis IV for a total of eight yards resulted in a 4th-and-1 at Sooners’ 48-yard line. USC head coach Clay Helton chose not to gamble early and sent the punting unit out. Budro- vich proved to be the most valuable USC player of the quarter when his punt was downed at the 5-yard line. Ajene Harris returns a punt for a TD On the ensuing drive, the Trojans defense finally managed to stop Mayfield whose 6-yard pass to fullback Dimitri Flowers was sand- wiched between two rushes for a total of one yard. After Oklahoma was forced to punt from the 12-yard line, punt returner Ajene Harris instantly shifted the momentum in the game by breaking several tackles en route into the end zone. The extra point was good, and with 41 sec- onds into the second quarter, USC found themselves within one score, trailing 14-7. Chase McGrath’s kick was downed by Marcelias Sutton for a touch- back. From Sooners’ 25-yard line, Mayfield tossed a pass to Andrews for three yards, then to Brown for 10 more and a first down. However,
  6. 6. 78 A More Perfect College Football Playoff the Trojans defense dug in and forced a fourth down after an incomple- tion and two runs for a total of two yards. Seibert was back on the field and made sure to punt away from Harris as far as possible. With the ball back at their 24-yard line, the pumped-up USC offense wasted a great opportunity to even the score. Defensive end D.J. Ward sacked Darnold for a 2-yard loss, running back Aca’Cedric Ware was tackled after a 5-yard run, and Darnold’s pass to wide receiver Trevon Sidney went for only six yards. Thus, it was Trojans’ turn to punt, and Lamb managed to return Budrovich’s kick all the way to the Oklahoma 47-yard line. Jeff Badet has a 38-yard catch & run for a TD The Sooners offense restored its early dominance as Adams ran for 15 yards, and after an incompletion Mayfield found Badet in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown. Seibert’s kick for the extra point was good, and Oklahoma again had a two-possession lead, 21-7 with 11:14 left in the first half. Seibert’s kickoff rolled out of the end zone, and USC began a must- score drive at the 25-yard line. Darnold immediately tossed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Jalen Greene, then Vaughns gained 11 yards on a catch & run. Next, USC switched to the ground attack as Jones II carried the ball four times for a total of 33 yards. On first down at the Sooners 23-yard line, Darnold’s laser pass reached wide receiver Ste- ven Mitchell for a 15-yard gain. Following a run for four yards by Jones
  7. 7. Rose Bowl 79 II, running back Stephen Carr found the end zone on a 3-yard scramble for a vital touchdown. McGrath’s extra point attempt was successful, and Trojans were back in the game, trailing 21-14 with 6:02 left on the clock. McGrath’s kickoff was downed in the end zone, and Oklahoma’s final drive of the half began with Mayfield passing to Badet for one yard and to Lamb for eight yards. On 3rd-and-1, running back Rodney Anderson got a push from his offensive line to move the chains. Then Mayfield tossed a quick pass to Flowers who ran for 29 yards, but on third down at USC’s 26-yard line, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu sacked the Sooners quarterback for a 5-yard loss. The kicking team came onto the field, Seibert booted a 49-yard field goal, and the score became 24- 14 in Oklahoma’s favor with 2:31 remaining in the half. Jalen Greene’s 48-yard catch puts Trojans in the red zone Kick returner Velus Jones Jr. downed the kickoff in the end zone, and Trojans offense went back to work. After three runs by Jones II for a total of 13 yards and two incompletions, Darnold made an ingenious play when he threw a perfect spiral deep to his receiver Greene for 48 yards. With 24 seconds to go in the half, USC were at the opponent’s 14-yard line and had one timeout. Two incompletions later, Darnold found tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, but he was tackled after merely a 5-yard gain. As time expired, McGrath’s 27-yard field goal split the uprights, and the halftime score was Sooners 24, Trojans 17.
  8. 8. 80 A More Perfect College Football Playoff The second half began with a touchback, and on the first play from scrimmage Mayfield scrambled for a 10-yard gain. But after defensive tackle Rasheem Green sacked the Sooners quarterback for a 6-yard loss, an incomplete pass and a Flowers run for no gain followed, and Seibert punted the ball away. The ball was fair-caught by Harris at USC’s 37-yard line. On the ensuing drive, the Trojans wrestled the control of the game away from the Sooners. On 3rd-and-4, Darnold’s pass was caught by fullback Reuben Peters who broke a tackle for an 18-yard gain. Then Mitchell took a direct snap, and the offensive line opened a hole for a 39-yard run all the way into the end zone. McGrath kicked the extra point, and the score was tied at 24 with 10:39 left in the third quarter. Vavae Malepeai gets a great block on the way to a 98-yard TD McGrath’s kickoff bounced into the end zone, and Oklahoma started their drive from the 25-yard line. After Sermon rushed for two yards and Mayfield overthrew Lamb, a quick toss to Sermon led to a 28-yard catch & run. However, the Trojans defense tightened up and only al- lowed two runs for a total of two yards and a Mayfield completion to Lamb for no gain. Seibert’s excellent punt was fielded by his special team colleagues at USC’s 2-yard line, but the Sooners’ joy was short- lived. On the first play from scrimmage, Malepeai got a crucial block by right guard Frank Martin II and outran everyone on the field for a massive 98-yard touchdown. After a successful extra point attempt, Trojans had their first lead of the game (31-24) and all the momentum on their side.
  9. 9. Rose Bowl 81 Midway through the third quarter, McGrath’s kickoff went for a touchback. After Sermon caught Mayfield’s 12-yard pass, the Sooners offense produced another pass for one yard to Brown and two runs for a total of seven yards. On 4th-and-1 at their 41-yard line, Riley elected to send out the punting unit. Harris returned the punt to USC’s 33-yard line. On first down, Carr carried the ball for four yards, then Jones II ran for 12 yards and moved the chains. However, the Oklahoma defense managed to prevent fur- ther damage: Darnold’s pass to tight end Tyler Petite went for four yards, a run by Jones II was stopped at the line of scrimmage, and an- other pass by Darnold was batted down by Okoronkwo. For the first time in the quarter, Budrovich entered the field and booted another great punt that pinned Sooners at the 4-yard line. Dimitri Flowers takes a short pass for 30 yards Despite a horrible field position, Mayfield tossed a 14-yard pass to Andrews, and Oklahoma’s morale picked up. Adams broke a tackle for a 20-yard run, and Flowers took a short pass for additional 30 yards to Trojans’ 29-yard line. After Sermon carried the ball within one yard of
  10. 10. 82 A More Perfect College Football Playoff a first down, an offensive holding penalty (10 yards) and two missed passes brought out the kicking unit. Faced with a 48-yard field goal attempt, Seibert was as reliable as ever and split the uprights right down the middle. The score was 31-27 in USC’s favor with 00:47 left in the third quarter. Seibert’s kickoff resulted in a touchback, and the Trojans offense began another promising drive with two runs: one by Jones II for seven yards and another as part of a wildcat play by backup quarterback Matt Fink for 13 yards. After an incompletion and a pass for nine yards to Burnett, Darnold was hit from behind and fumbled the ball that was recovered by defensive lineman Kenneth Mann. The ball was now at USC’s 49-yard line. Following two rushes by Sutton and Sermon for a total of 12 yards that moved the chains, Okla- homa appeared to back in control. However, the imposing Trojans de- fense responded by breaking up two Mayfield pass attempts and tack- ling Sermon for no gain. On 4th-and-10 from the opposing 37-yard line, Seibert’s punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback. Steven Mitchell catches a 50-yard TD pass With the clock showing 10:05 left in the game, USC’s offense was as spectacular as ever. After an 8-yard run by Jones II, Darnold covered the rest of the field on just two passes. The first was a catch & run by
  11. 11. Rose Bowl 83 Jones II who gained 22 yards; the second was a 50-yard bomb into the end zone that was caught by Mitchell. The extra point attempt was good, and the Trojans had a two-possession lead, 38-27. Oklahoma took comfort in the fact that there was plenty of time left. After the kickoff resulted in a touchback, two rushes by Adams (two yards) and Sermon (six yards) brought up a 3rd-and-2. The call from the bench was play action, and Mayfield found Lamb for a 48-yard gain all the way to USC’s 19-yard line. But again the Trojans defense was able to limit the damage by only allowing two runs for a total of four yards and pressuring Mayfield to throw the ball away. Seibert’s 33- yard field goal was good, and we had a one possession game with 5:11 left on the clock: USC 38, Oklahoma 30. Trey Sermon runs hard in the fourth quarter Seibert’s kickoff was downed in the end zone, and the Trojans of- fense tried to run out the clock. At first, Jones II had a good run for seven yards, but a false start penalty meant a loss of five yards, and two subsequent runs by Carr and Jones II yielded just seven additional yards. So Budrovich was out to punt away the ball, which was caught by Lamb and returned to Sooners’ 34-yard line. There was still 3:04 left to play, and although Oklahoma had all three timeouts, this drive was clearly do-or-die. On 2nd-and-9, Mayfield
  12. 12. 84 A More Perfect College Football Playoff completed a 13-yard pass to Andrews, then Sermon avoided a couple of tackles for a 22-yard gain on the ground. Following an incompletion, Mayfield moved the chains on a throw to Brown for 14 yards. After Sutton carried the ball for six yards, Lamb caught a pass for another six yards and a first down. Finally, on 1st-and goal from USC’s 4-yard line, Mayfield rolled to his right and found Badet for a touchdown. The score was 38-36 with just 22 seconds left in the game, and Oklahoma was set to attempt a two-point conversion. The call was a run down the middle by Anderson, but the USC defense stuffed the line of scrim- mage, and the Trojans maintained the lead. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by USC, Darnold took a knee, and Trojans’ place in the Championship Game was in the books. Final score: USC 38, Oklahoma 36. *** USC Trojans in Review Grades  Offense  Pass Offense B  Run Offense A  Defense  Pass Defense C+  Run Defense B  Special Teams B+  Coaching A- Top Performers 1. Ronald Jones II 2. Vavae Malepeai 3. Sam Darnold / Ajene Harris Oklahoma Sooners in Review Grades  Offense  Pass Offense A  Run Offense B  Defense  Pass Defense B+  Run Defense C  Special Teams B  Coaching B
  13. 13. Rose Bowl 85 Top Performers 1. Baker Mayfield 2. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 3. Jeff Badet

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