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 on Monday.
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 the QB, who received standing ovation.
TULANE 46, USC 45: Tulane tight end Alex Bauman caught a 6-yard touchdown from Michael Pratt with nine seconds left to cap a frantic finish by the 14th-ranked Green Wave in a win over Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and No. 8 Southern California in Arlington, Texas.
Bauman’s contested catch, with linebacker Eric Gentry draped over him, was initially ruled an incompletion, but a replay review showed the ball never touched the ground as the players rolled over in the end zone.
The Green Wave scored 16 points in the final 4:07, the game-winning touchdown coming after they got the ball back following a safety.
“I might have had a heart attack,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said moments after the game ended.
Williams was 37-for-52 passing for 462 yards and a Cotton Bowl-record five touchdowns, exactly one month after the quarterback suffered a hamstring injury in USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game that kept the Trojans from making the four-team College Football Playoff.
Tyjae Spears ran for 205 yards and his career-best fourth touchdown started the final scoring surge for the American Athletic Conference champion Green Wave (12-2), who completed an FBS-record 10-win turnaround after going 2-10 last season. They were in the New Year’s Six game as the highest-ranked Group of Five team.
The Green Wave played in their most significant bowl since the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1940, when they were still in the Southeastern Conference, and it was their biggest bowl win since the 1935 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, where their campus is located.
After Spears’ 4-yard TD run with 4:07 left, the Green Wave opted to kick deep instead of trying an onside kick. Mario Williams signaled for a fair catch, but fumbled the ball out of bounds at the 1. Two plays later, defensive tackle Patrick Jenkins met Austin Jones in the end zone and smothered him for a safety.
Pratt completed only 8 of 17 passes for 234 yards, but had two 24-yard completions on the final drive.
LSU 63, PURDUE 7: LSU has had plenty of talent come through its receiver room in recent years: Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. For most of this season it was Kayshon Boutte.
Malik Nabers made a bid to join those names when he threw for a touchdown, caught one and had 163 yards receiving in the No. 16 Tigers’ 63-7 rout of Purdue in Orlando, Fla.
“That’s kind of the mantle of LSU wide receivers,” Tigers coach Brian Kelly said of Nabers, who was the game’s MVP. “It’s his opportunity now, and you can see that he wanted to make sure that he made a statement out there today.”
LSU never trailed, recording 594 yards of offense and concluding the scoring with Quad Wilson’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Tigers (10-4) finished with at least 10 wins for the first time since the 2019 season, when Joe Burrow, Chase and Jefferson led undefeated LSU to a national title.
The Boilermakers (8-6) were led by interim coach Brian Brohm after his brother, Jeff, left at the end of the regular season to take Louisville’s head coaching job. Ryan Walters will now take over as Purdue’s coach.
Nabers, LSU’s leading receiver this season, had season highs in yards and catches (nine).
MISSISSIPPI ST. 19, ILLINOIS 10: Massimo Biscardi made a 27-yard tiebreaking field goal with four seconds left, Marcus Banks returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown on the game’s last play and No. 24 Mississippi State rallied in Tampa, Fla., to beat Illinois 19-10 in the Bulldogs’ first game since coach Mike Leach’s death.
“Obviously, Mike Leach has been leading this program for three years, and he was out there leading us today,” said Zach Arnett, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach three days after Leach’s death. “Emotional game, obviously.”
Banks’ score came on Illinois’ fifth lateral following a completed pass after the Fighting Ilini got the ball at their own 29. There was a scrum on the field as the game ended, but order was restored after a couple of minutes.
Will Rogers was 29 of 44 yards for 261 yards and one touchdown for Mississippi State (9-4). Simeon Price had 68 rushing yards.
“Football isn’t always a pretty game,” Rogers said. “I know Coach Leach would probably be a little upset at some of the decisions, but we fought hard and stayed together as a team. He was with us all the way. He’s been with me all the way. I really, really miss him.”
Tommy DeVito completed 23 of 34 passes for 253 yards for Illinois (8-5).