Penn State’s big plays lead to record-setting Rose Bowl against Utah

PASADENA — The Penn State football program had a record-setting outing in its 35-21 victory over Utah in the 109th Rose Bowl game on Monday.

Penn State senior quarterback Sean Clifford, who was named the game’s Offensive MVP, threw an 88-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith early in the fourth quarter, which set a new record for the longest passing touchdown in Rose Bowl history.

“It was up for debate whether we wanted to take a shot on third down-and-4. I had been seeing the same look all game, so I was definitely a proponent for taking that shot,” said Clifford, who finished 16-of-21 passing for 279 yards and two touchdowns. “I know that KeAndre wanted it too. Great players make great plays.

“Anybody could have thrown that one. Kudos to Dre. He played a great game.”

Penn State QB Sean Clifford explains how his #RoseBowl Game record setting 88-yard TD pass to WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith happened and Penn State coach James Franklin’s shares his unfiltered opinion about Lambert-Smith’s fake hamstring injury celebration that faked out PSU coaches.

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) January 3, 2023

That score put Penn State ahead 28-14 with 14:49 left in the game. After crossing the goal line, Lambert-Smith briefly faked a hamstring injury (which even fooled his own coaches), like several soccer players have done, before celebrating the highlight reel-worthy score. Lambert-Smith finished with three receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown.

Meanwhile, Penn State freshman running back Nicholas Singleton’s 87-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter was the third-longest rushing touchdown in Rose Bowl history, which put Penn State ahead for good at 21-14. Singleton finished with a game-high 120 yards rushing and two touchdowns on only seven carries.

Penn State’s defense also recorded a pair of key interceptions, the first by sophomore cornerback Kalen King in the first quarter off Utah senior quarterback Cameron Rising. The second interception was hauled in by senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown (named the game’s Defensive MVP), who picked off backup sophomore quarterback Bryson Barnes after he replaced Rising midway through the third quarter when Rising was knocked out of the game with an apparent leg injury.

“The injury to Cam is a leg injury. It doesn’t look good, I can tell you that,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’ll wait for confirmation from the medical people at a later date … looks like it could be something that takes a while to recover from.”

Penn State (11-2) scored 21 consecutive points in the second half, thrilling their portion of the 94,873 fans on hand on a rainy evening in Pasadena.

It was the first time the programs had ever squared off.

Penn State football coach James Franklin’s opening statement after his team’s 35-21 win against Utah in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game. @PennStateFball

— Pasadena Star News (@PasStarNews) January 3, 2023


The game marked Utah’s second appearance ever in a Rose Bowl – both coming in the past 366 days. It was also their second frustrating outcome after they lost to Ohio State, 48-45, on Jan. 1, 2022.

Utah (10-4) only scored once in the second half on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to senior wide receiver Jaylen Dixson with 25 seconds left in the game. Barnes completed 10 of his 19 attempts for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

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Rising was 8 of 21 for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Meanwhile, Utah running back Micah Bernard, a Long Beach native and a 2019 graduate of Gahr High in Cerritos, finished with 59 yards rushing on 11 carries. Bernard also had three catches for 8 yards.

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham’s opening statement after losing the Rose Bowl 35-21 to Penn State.

— Pasadena Star News (@PasStarNews) January 3, 2023

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