Round 3 recaps
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Though the top four seeds all advanced to the December Madness semifinals, the playoffs have not been without excitement, drama and intrigue. This game was more of the same as top-ranked USC edges fourth-seeded Ohio State in another thriller. Just a missed 54-yard field goal from the otherwise stellar John Huston will keep the Buckeyes home, the Columbus streets a little calmer and prevent a possible all-Big Ten championship game at the Rose Bowl.
Honestly, Ohio State could not have asked for a better script against the countryís best team. The Buckeyes forced USC to play at their tempo, allowing the Trojans just 283 total yards and a mere 24:02 time of possession. In some previous cases, this may mean that USC scored quickly on some big plays and coasted, but thatís not it here. In fact, Ohio State actually outgained USC on the ground and through the air. And even on special teams, OSU was dominant.
Despite missing the game winner, Huston made another three field goals, to give him ten for the playoffs. And, sophomore speedster Ted Ginn Jr. provided one of the best plays of the postseason with a 52-yard punt return touchdown in the last minute of the first half.
But one can never count out a team featuring Reggie Bush (yes, that means you next year Houston). Down 13-10 mid-way through the third quarter, Bush bested Ginnís effort with a 69-yard dash that inspired the Trojans and broke the Buckeyesí hearts. Bush finished the game with 160 yards on 13 rushed, but none prettier than this long score.
Ohio State did rebound to some extent with a fourth quarter drive down to the seven yard line, but the Buckeyes could not break through for a touchdown and settled for three. Then, they had a chance again after QB Troy Smith hit Ginn for a 38-yard gain with 30 seconds remaining and time for one last field goal attempt. It was all for naught though, as USC rejoiced and luck did not shine on the Buckeyes today.
#1 USC will now advance to the Championship Game at home in the Rose Bowl against the winner of the Penn State-Texas showdown.
Player of the Game: Reggie Bush (181 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD)
Maybe the biggest surprise of the December Madness playoffs yet, Penn State upsets Texas and those who favor the BCS to claim a spot in the national Championship Game in the Rose Bowl.
The Longhorns had shown weakness against physical, rush attacks previously in its game with West Virginia. Then, they were fortunate to survive. Today, the Nittany Lions exploited the weakness more and came out on top to ensure the Big Ten a chance at the title.
Though they faced one of their strongest all-around competitors to-date, the Penn State offense looked better than ever, rolling to 228 rushing yards on 33 carries.
Overshadowed by quarterback Michael Robinson in the first two games, Tony Hunt made sure his presence on these playoffs was felt with an impressive 164 yards rushing on 16 carries. On top of that, he took a screen pass from Robinson to the house for 30 yards and a score to break a 3-3 tie and put Penn State up for good in the second quarter.
Robinsonís day was not poor either. He finished with 51 yards rushing and 115 yards passing on just nine completions. Most notable though, was the play of the well-rounded Nittany Lions defense. Nagurski Award winning linebacker Paul Posluzny and company stonewalled the Longhorns vaunted rushing attack, allowing just 139 yards on 39 carries.
Had it not been for an inconsequential 29-yard touchdown run by 270-pound Henry Melton late in the fourth quarter, Penn State could have kept Texas out of the endzone for the first time since October 9th, 2004. As it was, Texas scored under 25 for the first time all season and completed failed to establish Vince Young as a threat either passing or running.
NFL scouts will definitely keep this game in mind moving forward. But, itís Penn State that is truly moving on this year as they survive to play #1 USC in the first ever December Madness Championship Game.
Player of the Game: Tony Hunt (192 total yards, 2 TDs)