Penn State's Trace McSorley and Chris Godwin were in such a groove Monday at the Rose Bowl that the quarterback looked deep to his receiver once more in the fourth quarter.
After the game, sitting teary-eyed at his locker, McSorley wanted that decision back.
"I thought I could fit it into our playmaker," McSorley said. "I took too big of a chance in that situation, I kind of went off the reservation of what our read is on that play. I tried to force it too hard to one of our playmakers downfield."
USC safety Leon McQuay intercepted the McSorley-to-Godwin deep ball with 42 seconds left, setting up Matt Boermeester's 46-yard field goal with no time remaining that gave the Trojans a 52-49 victory. McSorley and Godwin were instrumental to Penn State's rally from two 13-point deficits, combining for nine completions, 187 yards and two touchdowns.
Godwin, who set Penn State bowl records for catches and yards, played the finest game of his career, with two exceptional catches that showcased both his hands and feet. The junior made a one-handed grab on a reaction to a fastball thrown behind him, then turned a spinning juggle of a catch into a 72-yard touchdown that gave Penn State a 35-27 lead.
So on the last series, McSorley looked at his primary receiver, even though he wasn't the primary read. McSorley said he was supposed to look to the other side of the field on third-and-nine, but thought he had Godwin open against a safety.
Though Godwin was open momentarily, McQuay closed quickly for the interception. Both McSorley and Godwin praised the safety while blaming themselves.
"I needed to stay to the other side of the field," said McSorley, who went 18-for-29 for 254 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. "I tried too much to force it to Chris, whose been making plays for us the whole game. So that was kind the guy in my mind.
"I can't do that. I've got to stay with the read and not try to predetermine where I'm going to because of how a guy's been playing."
Added Godwin, "I was open for a brief moment, but hat's off to [USC]. The safety did a great job coming over and making a play on the ball. He got to it before I did, and I take full responsibility for that. As a receiver, that's the position you want to be in when the game is on the line, but I wasn't able to capitalize on it."
Godwin doesn't discuss future: Godwin, a junior who has applied for an NFL draft evaluation, did not discuss his future after the game.
"I'm not worried about what's next for me right now," he said. "I'm just worried about spending this time with my guys, spending this time with this 2016 team, because it's been a great year and I feel bad for these seniors that we couldn't go out on top with them."
Two keys: Two keys for Frannklin: Penn State coach James Franklin called turnovers and the lack of sacks the pivot points of the game.
McSorley was intercepted on his first two passes of the game and also on his last. In addition, Penn State did not have a sack for the third time this season. The other games without a sack came against Pitt and Michigan, both losses.
"We have really had a lot of success this year getting pressure to people's quarterbacks and getting sacks," Franklin said. "We had a hard time getting to them, and with their skill on the perimeter, and with the talent that they have at the quarterback position, that's going to cause you problems and challenges."