Big-play Penn State roars past Utah 35-21 in Rose Bowl

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Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
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PASADENA, Calif. — KeAndre Lambert-Smith had the longest touchdown reception in Rose Bowl history on an 88-yard pass from Sean Clifford, freshman Nicholas Singleton broke a tiebreaking 87-yard touchdown run, and No. 9 Penn State rallied past No. 7 Utah 35-21 in the 109th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.

Clifford passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive farewell to Penn State, and Singleton rushed for 120 yards and two more scores on a rainy day filled with spectacular big plays by the Nittany Lions (11-2).

Utah couldn’t rally with quarterback Cameron Rising sidelined by a second-half injury, and coach James Franklin’s exuberant group comfortably won the Rose Bowl for the second time in school history and the first since Jan. 2, 1995.

Singleton got the Nittany Lions rolling in a well-played game when he broke through Utah’s defensive front and outran the secondary for his second touchdown early in the third quarter. The 87-yard romp was the third-longest TD run in Rose Bowl history and the second-longest in Penn State’s bowl history.

Shortly after rain began to fall on the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997, Lambert-Smith got open deep and eluded Utah’s defensive backs on the first snap of the fourth quarter for the longest pass completion in Penn State’s bowl history. Clifford’s pass also broke the Rose Bowl record of 76 yards by Michigan’s Rick Leach to Curt Stephenson in 1978 against Washington.

Freshman Kaytron Allen added a 1-yard TD run with 10:36 to play, and Penn State’s defense got stops on the Utes’ first six drives of the second half.

The victory was a fitting finale for Clifford, the sixth-year senior who finally added a memorable bowl performance to his slew of Penn State career passing records in his 51st game. Clifford also became the winningest quarterback in school history with his 32nd victory, passing Trace McSorley.

Franklin called a timeout with 2:30 left to allow a hero’s farewell for Clifford, who waved at the standing ovation from Penn State’s white-clad fans while his teammates applauded.

“I’m just so thankful for this place,” Clifford said. “I can’t put it into words. It’s so amazing. I just love Penn State so much.”

Rising passed for 95 yards before apparently injuring his left knee in the third quarter, forcing the Utah quarterback out of his second straight Rose Bowl early due to injury. Bryson Barnes replaced Rising for the second straight year, but the two-time Pac-12 champion Utes (10-4) couldn’t rally behind their backup.

Ja'Quinden Jackson rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown for Utah. Thomas Yassmin caught an early TD pass from Rising, but Utah was shut out for 32 straight minutes before Jaylen Dixon‘s TD catch with 25 seconds to play.

Rising, one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Utah history, got hurt while being tackled after scrambling for a first down near midfield, eventually trudging to the locker room and returning later in street clothes. The Ventura County native also got hurt on a sack in the fourth quarter of last year’s 48-45 Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.

Barnes threw his first collegiate passes against the Buckeyes after Rising’s injury and led an improbable tying touchdown drive before Ohio State won it at the gun. Barnes couldn’t recapture that magic in his second Rose Bowl relief role, going 10 of 19 for 112 yards with an interception.

The unusually gloomy afternoon in Arroyo Seco marked the end of an era for the sport’s oldest active bowl: It was the final edition of the Rose Bowl guaranteed to feature its traditional matchup between Pac-12 and Big Ten teams.

The game will be a College Football Playoff semifinal next year, and the subsequent playoff expansion means the Rose Bowl won’t usually control which teams make the trip.

In contrast to several wild Rose Bowls in recent years, including the Utes’ 93-point epic with Ohio State a year ago, both teams traded touchdowns early in drives with several old-school aspects with deliberate use of the run game and solid defense. Singleton even scored the game’s first touchdown on a run out of a T formation.

Yassmin scored Utah’s first TD while filling in for tight end Dalton Kincaid, the Utes’ leading receiver. Kincaid sat out to preserve his health along with Utah’s leading rusher, Tavion Thomas, and first-team All-American cornerback Clark Phillips III.

Penn State answered with Clifford’s 10-yard TD pass to Mitchell Tinsley, but Utah evened it less than two minutes later on a 19-yard TD run by Jackson, making it 14-14 at halftime.

Singleton then made his 87-yard sprint early in the third quarter, surpassing 1,000 yards in his impressive freshman season along the way. Only Saquon Barkley‘s 92-yard run in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl was longer in the Nittany Lions’ lengthy bowl history.

RARE RAINFALL

The game began under cloudy skies after a week of uncharacteristically gray skies in Los Angeles, and in the third quarter, rain landed on the Rose Bowl Game for only the third time since 1955. The visiting fans from two hardy cities showed little concern about Southern California’s version of bad weather.

UP NEXT

Penn State: Hosts West Virginia on Sept. 2.

Utah: Begins its quest for a third straight Pac-12 title by hosting Florida on Sept. 2.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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Corey Perrine/USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.