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SAN DIEGO -- During the postgame news conference at Qualcomm Stadium following USC’s 45-42 win over Nebraska in the National University Holiday Bowl, Nebraska interim head coach Barney Cotton was asked to comment on the play of USC true freshman Adoree' Jackson.

“What’s the number?” Cotton asked. “I’m not a name guy.”

After Saturday night, here’s guessing Cotton will remember the name.

Whether he was returning kicks, catching touchdowns or making plays in the secondary, Jackson was one of the most exciting and dynamic players on the field Saturday.

[+] EnlargeJackson
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesFreshman Adoree' Jackson was Mr. Excitement for USC, burning Nebraska for a 98-yard kickoff return TD and a 71-yard receiving TD in the Trojans' Holiday Bowl win.
Minutes after Cotton, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian took the podium -- along with Jackson, quarterback Cody Kessler and defensive end Leonard Williams -- and he offered this on Jackson:

“I keep battling [defensive coordinator] Justin Wilcox because I want him on offense,” Sarkisian said. “He would have had four touchdowns if he was playing on offense.”

That drew a “yep” from Kessler and a playful head shake from Williams.

USC will likely lose two of its marquee offensive players to the 2015 NFL draft. No one will be shocked when running back Buck Allen and wide receiver Nelson Agholor make their believed intentions official. If the Holiday Bowl was in fact their respective swan songs, then they exited nicely. Allen rushed for a game-high 152 yards and two touchdowns, while Agholor hauled in seven balls for 90 yards and a score.

But USC’s up-and-comers showed the offense is going to be just fine if -- or when -- those guys leave. Jackson opened the USC scoring with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter. He added three catches for 73 yards, including a jaw-dropping 71-yard touchdown from Kessler. Actually, it was a 1-yard pass from Kessler. Jackson did the other 70 on his own.

But it wasn’t just Jackson making plays. JuJu Smith had three catches for 66 yards. Bryce Dixon caught four balls for 44 yards and a touchdown. The Trojans used 11 true freshmen in significant roles this season, including eight who have combined for 58 starts. Consider that number, with the fact that USC suited up just 50 scholarship players for its bowl game, and it’s not unreasonable to think USC should contend for the Pac-12 South Division next season.

“Our future -- and I’ll say it again -- is ridiculously bright,” Sarkisian said. “We’re going to continue to get better and continue to recruit. We’re going to recruit great players. We’re going to develop the players that we have in our program. We’re going to compete for championships. That’s why you come to USC. Get ready for 2015.”

As for the game itself, it was typical Holiday Bowl: High-scoring and high on drama. Even when the Trojans went up 45-27 near the end of the third quarter, there weren’t many who felt the issue was resolved.

Sure enough, Nebraska scored at the end of the third and midway through the fourth to cut the game to 45-42. It wasn’t until Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s Hail Mary with one second left on the clock was harmlessly batted away by Agholor that the Trojans could celebrate. Some might recall Arizona State's topping USC earlier this season on a last-second Hail Mary.

“We’ve been through it,” Sarkisian said, which drew a laugh from the room. “We got JuJu and Nelson on the field. Nelson made a heck of a play to go attack the football. At the end of the day, I mean, you can only get burned so many times, I guess. You know? So let’s just get the ball on the ground. That’s kind of what I was hoping for.”

The game was accented by one big play after another, as the teams combined for 1,040 yards of offense -- including a bowl-record 38 points in the third quarter. Armstrong threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in a contest that felt more like a Pac-12 conference game than a Pac-12/Big Ten bowl.

“I was proud of them and the way they responded offensively because we didn’t totally chuck our game plan [when trailing],” Cotton said. “I’m glad we stuck with doing what we had done to get there, and we just came up a little short at the end.”
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Check out the top plays from college football's bowl season.

Instant Analysis: USC 45, Nebraska 42

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
12:20
AM PT
videoSAN DIEGO, Calif. -- As new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley watched from the stands Saturday night, the team he's taking over couldn't cap a comeback against a team from his former conference. The USC Trojans held on for a 45-42 victory over Nebraska in a wild shootout in the National University Holiday Bowl. Here's how it all went down at Qualcomm Stadium:

How the game was won: On big plays -- because it was the Holiday Bowl. Defenses need not apply. The Trojans were the faster, more athletic team (though not by much), and it showed in the form of explosive plays. Adoree' Jackson scored on a kickoff return and a long touchdown reception. Buck Allen turned 4-yard runs into long touchdowns. Four of USC's touchdowns were 20 yards or longer. That's not to say Nebraska didn't have some explosive moments of its own, as the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards offense.

Turning point: Trailing 45-42 with 2:31 remaining, Nebraska went for it on fourth-and 3 at the USC 31 but was turned away. The Trojans took over and were able to milk down enough clock to preserve the three-point win. A last-second Hail Mary effort from Nebraska fell short as time expired.

Game ball goes to: Jackson, a true freshman, was the most dynamic player on the field. His 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Trojans a 7-3 lead after Nebraska jumped ahead on a field goal. Then he took a Cody Kessler pass 71 yards that stretched USC's lead to 31-17 in the third quarter. Oh yeah, he also added six tackles on defense.

Key stat: The teams combined for 38 points in the third quarter, a Holiday Bowl record. Considering the Holiday Bowl's penchant for crazy, that's pretty impressive.

Play of the game: The Jackson kickoff return takes top honors in a game with a lot of big plays.

video What's next: Nebraska begins life anew with Riley running the show. Some Trojans -- namely, Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor and Allen -- have some decisions to make about the NFL draft.
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SAN DIEGO -- Adoree' Jackson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 71-yard pass from Cody Kessler, and No. 24 Southern California blew most of an 18-point, third-quarter lead before beating No. 25 Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl on Saturday night.

Kessler threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns for USC (9-4), which was playing Nebraska (9-4) in a bowl game for the first time.

USC stuffed De'Mornay Pierson on fourth-and-3 from the USC 31 with 2 1/2 minutes left. Nebraska had one final shot but Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s desperation pass as time ran out was knocked down inside the 10.

Armstrong had brought Nebraska back from a 45-27 deficit with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp and a 15-yard keeper and a 2-point conversion pass to Kenny Bell.

Armstrong threw for 381 yards and three TDs.

USC had 515 yards of total offense and Nebraska finished with 525.


(Read full post)


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Tommy Armstrong Jr. pass incomplete
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Tommy Armstrong Jr. pass complete to Brandon Reilly for 12 yds to the Neb 44 for a 1ST down lat. to Kenny Bell for a loss of 2 yards to the Neb 44 for a 1ST down
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De'Mornay Pierson-El run for 1 yd to the USC 30
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Ameer Abdullah run for 10 yds to the Neb 47 for a 1ST down
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Cody Kessler sacked by Kevin Williams for a loss of 9 yards to the USC 35
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(T. Armstrong Jr. pass to K. Bell for Two-Point Conversion)
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Tommy Armstrong Jr. run for 15 yds for a TD
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Tommy Armstrong Jr. pass complete to Ameer Abdullah for 33 yds to the USC 39 for a 1ST down
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Tommy Armstrong Jr. pass complete to Jordan Westerkamp for 65 yds for a TD

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