Even for a storied football program like USC’s, the 2017 Rose Bowl victory was truly a win for the ages.
Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, USC rallied to beat Penn State in the final seconds of the highest-scoring Rose Bowl game in history. Cue the confetti. The trophy. The roses. “Conquest.”
USC ended its season ranked No. 3 in The Associated Press poll.
Momentum remains on the Trojans’ side. Going into the 2017 season, Darnold and Coach Clay Helton are no longer untested newcomers but seasoned veterans. USC’s recruiting class is touted as one of the best in the nation. And 81 players from last year are back.
“We understand the expectations at USC are high, especially after the successful season we had last year,” says Helton, a finalist for the 2016 Bryant Coach of the Year Award. “We welcome those expectations.”
The 2017 Trojans have a few holes to fill. Standouts including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zach Banner, Adoree’ Jackson and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu are NFL-bound. The team also faces a challenging schedule. The Sept. 2 season opener against Western Michigan at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum brings an opponent that ended its season 13-1 and ranked 15th in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Through it all, though, this year’s Trojans can draw on a legacy that is greater than themselves. When they put on the cardinal and gold (and white), they’ll be the 125th team to represent the University of Southern California—and they’ll have a proud history to uphold.
After USC Football’s disappointing 1-3 start to the 2016 season, some had written off the team altogether. But newly named starting quarterback Sam Darnold, a redshirt freshman, found his stride, and the Trojans ran the table with an eight-game win streak. They headed for a tradition rich postseason destination that had once seemed so unlikely: the Rose Bowl.