The 95th Rose Bowl Game on Thursday was over before the first-half clock had expired. Doomed by 62 yards in penalties, a turnover, and an inability to lock down USC’s receivers, Penn State was licked when Stephfon Green fumbled at the tail end of a 30-yard gain with 1:24 remaining in the second quarter.

USC capitalized on the turnover within 36 seconds, moving the ball 58 yards in five plays to push the scoreboard to 31-7 in its favor.

Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez turned in an MVP-caliber performance in the first half alone behind solid front-line protection, hitting a wide-open receiving corps 18 times out of 23 attempts for three touchdown passes and 276 yards. He added 14 yards and another score on the ground. Sanchez’s most productive targets were wide receivers Damian Williams (10 receptions, 162 yards, 1 TD) and Ronald Johnson (4 grabs, 82 yards, 2 TDs).

Sanchez added another TD pass in the fourth quarter to finish with a passing line of 28 of 35 for 413 yards and four TD passes and one rushing score. Sanchez became one of only three quarterbacks to throw for over 400 yards in the history of the Rose Bowl Game on his way to securing offensive MVP honors.

As a consolation, and to their credit, the Nittany Lions managed to outscore USC 17-7 in the second half. They also committed just 10 yards in penalties in the final 30 minutes. After closing their deficit to 14 points in the fourth quarter, they still had a slim chance with the ball on their own 37-yard line with three minutes remaining in the game. However, quarterback Darryl Clark was intercepted on the first play of that possession when he forced a wobbly pass while fighting off a sack attempt.

Then with 45 seconds to go, the Penn State faithful came alive one last time when the snap to USC punter Greg Woldneck sailed over his head, which resulted in a 37-yard loss and a Nittany Lion first down on the USC 14.

With seven seconds remaining and a fourth-and-8 from the Trojan 12, Clark tossed another interception to crystallize the final score of 38-24. Penn State finished with three turnovers in the game.

Head coach Joe Paterno attributed the Nittany Lion defeat to turnovers, penalties, and the USC passing game. He also called upon the Big Ten Conference to modify their scheduling so its teams could finish out the season the same weekend rival conferences do. The Big Ten traditionally wraps its conference schedule prior to the Thanksgiving weekend and Penn State had not competed on the playing field since November 22. USC closed out its season two weeks later on December 6.

The Nittany Lions were only the third USC opponent this season to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. They also amassed the most total yards (409) of all 13 Trojan foes.

Penn State’s record in the Rose Bowl Game dropped to 1-2. USC, meantime, pushed its record-leading Rose Bowl Game record to 24-9. They also set another record as the only program to win three consecutive Rose Bowl Games.

Coupled with Michigan State’s loss to Georgia and Iowa’s win over South Carolina, the Nittany Lion loss pushed the Big Ten’s overall 2008-2009 bowl record to 1-5. The Pac-10 finished the bowl season undefeated at 5-0.