USC: Sun Bowl 2012

Sun Bowl: Postgame notebook

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
9:00
PM PT
EL PASO, Texas -- The USC Trojans ended 2012 with the opposite of a bang -- a 21-7 upset loss to under-.500 Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

The same Trojans offense that started off the season as hyped as any team in the country failed to produce even double-digit points against a squad that had been giving up 30 a game beforehand.

Here are notes and quotes from USC's loss on New Year's Eve, not including the news that receiver Robert Woods is foregoing his senior season and declaring for the 2013 NFL draft.

Initial responses

USC coach Lane Kiffin began his postgame press conference by taking "all" the blame for the loss and stating, shortly, that he knew the Trojans' 2012 performance was unacceptable.

"We can't be 7-6," Kiffin said. "Not at 'SC."

Kiffin also called it a "very surprising game." Based on what his team had shown him over five previous days in El Paso and recent weeks in L.A., he expected a different outcome.

"I thought we would play much better on offense today," he said. "I thought we had two good weeks of practice."

But as he did after every game this season, he praised the Trojans' overall effort.

His players also said they thought the bowl practices would translate into a better bowl performance. A few also offered their own theories for what went wrong -- both Monday and over the last four months.

"We failed to execute, be disciplined, at times, when it was critical," senior safety Jawanza Starling said. "That's pretty much it -- we failed to execute at critical times."

Junior running back Silas Redd said it came down to physicality.

"I think we just gotta be meaner, more physical, more nasty up front in every way," he said. "Even running backs running harder."

All Wittek, no Kessler

[+] EnlargeMatt Kartozian
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsUSC quarterback Max Wittek completed just 14 of 37 attempts for 107 yards and had three interceptions against the Sun Bowl's harsh winds.
Max Wittek, making his second career start in place of the injured Matt Barkley, struggled mightily to make headway on the Georgia Tech defense.

He said afterward he never lost confidence but admitted to feeling out of rhythm for most of the game.

In all, Wittek attempted 37 throws and completed only 14 of them for 107 yards, adding three interceptions and one touchdown. Yet Cody Kessler, Wittek's backup, a fellow redshirt freshman and a competitor for next year's open quarterback job, did not replace him at any point.

Asked after the game why he kept Wittek on the field throughout, Kiffin said the weather discouraged him from making a switch.

"I just didn't think that, the way the temperature was and the way the wind was going, the way we were running the ball, I don't think that was really the right move at the time," Kiffin said.

Kessler noted that he had played in cold-weather conditions before. He did warm up on the sideline briefly in the second half but said that was just to maintain warmth, not due to any coaching instructions.

"I just kept staying prepared," Kessler said. "I had no idea what was gonna happen. No matter what, I'm still gonna support Max, I'm still gonna support our coaches."

The wind's impact

Winds gusted up to 35 miles per hour at the Sun Bowl, as expected, and they appeared to play a role in a few of Wittek's overthrows, especially early on.

But the freshman signal caller declined to use it as an excuse for his performance.

"It did carry a few balls, but we knew that (it would) coming in," Wittek said in the postgame press conference. "I knew that I needed to drive the ball a little bit more, but the wind was there for both teams.

"Obviously they run the ball a little bit more than they throw, but we both had the wind factor."

Star receiver Marqise Lee said the wind was "shaky" -- stronger than he expected coming in.

Monte's goodbye

The 72-year-old Monte Kiffin was in relatively good spirits after his final game at USC on Monday, expressing love for Trojan traditions and the school's marching band.

Kiffin, the school's de facto defensive coordinator for the last three seasons, resigned last month, citing a desire to take an NFL job.

"You don't like to end up like this," he said. "But I'll tell you what: I've only been here three years, but I'll be a Trojan for life."

The elder Kiffin retained his sense of humor. Asked Monday if he would miss coaching alongside his son, he laughed.

"Not really," Monte Kiffin said.

He said he expected to hear from NFL teams about job opportunities in the coming days, with his season and the league's regular season now both over.

Robey's decision

Junior cornerback Nickell Robey will fly home to Florida on Tuesday and should have a decision made on whether to declare for the NFL draft by Thursday, he said.

Robey said he received a fourth-round-or-later grade on the draft evaluation he requested, meaning the NFL officials who evaluated his college tape did not find him worthy of a pick in the top three rounds.

He said he found that "pretty surprising." He had previously said he would only declare for the draft if he received a first- or second-round grade from the NFL on his pre-draft evaluation.

Final notes: Lee said he hurt his knee during Saturday's practice and received extensive treatment on it over the next 48 hours. He played the entire game Monday and said he wasn't really bothered by the injury. He finished with six catches for 41 yards. ... USC was missing two normal contributors due to academic ineligibility. Offensive lineman Abe Markowitz and cornerback Torin Harris were not with the team because of grade issues, Kiffin said. ... Robey said Georgia's Tech fourth-quarter touchdown -- a 17-yard catch from Orwin Smith, who broke Robey's tackle attempt -- came on a "busted coverage." The Trojans had not seen "those looks or that certain play" in their preparation for Georgia Tech, Robey said. ... Redd said he will return to USC for his senior season. He requested and received a draft evaluation from the NFL but declined to reveal its result. ... Monte Kiffin, on Lane's impending search for a new defensive coordinator: "I don't think he's done much on it yet, but he shouldn't have, because he's been trying to win a bowl game."

Georgia Tech: By the numbers

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
9:12
AM PT
4: Ranking of Georgia Tech’s rushing offense
Georgia Tech’s intricate spread-option offense has been incredibly productive on the ground this season, compiling an average of 312.5 yards rushing per game. Running for a total of 4,063 yards, the Yellow Jackets have hit the 300-yard plateau on eight separate occasions.

9.4: The career yards-per-carry average of Georgia Tech A-Back Orwin Smith
Smith’s mark is the highest by any active FBS player with at least 1,000 yards to his credit. He’s averaging 9.0 yards per carry in 2012, and he leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 673 yards.

16: The number of consecutive seasons where Georgia Tech has earned a berth in a bowl game
When they line up against the Trojans on Dec. 31, it will mark the sixteenth straight year that the Yellow Jackets have participated in a bowl game -- the fourth-longest current such streak in the nation. Recently, however, they haven’t had the best of luck in their postseason clashes, losing seven bowl games in a row, including all four under current head coach Paul Johnson.

19: The number of rushing touchdowns accumulated by Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Tevin Washington in 2012
Washington’s mark is a Georgia Tech and ACC single-season record for a quarterback. He’s also compiled 37 touchdowns on the ground in 35 career games, another team and conference record.

47: Ranking of Georgia Tech’s rushing defense, the highest the team ranks in any defensive statistical category
The Yellow Jackets have not been particularly stellar on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, also ranking No. 54 in total defense, No. 67 in pass defense and No. 77 in scoring defense.

Watch: Barkley won't play in Sun Bowl

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
2:39
PM PT

Mark May and Lou Holtz discuss Matt Barkley's disappointing season at USC.

Hyundai Sun Bowl

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
10:40
AM PT
USC Trojans (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7)

Dec. 31, 2 p.m., El Paso, Texas (CBS)

USC take by WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz: It wasn’t the bowl scenario USC envisioned when the 2012 season began, but it offers the Trojans a chance to end the disappointing year on a good note.

One of the big storylines will be the status of senior quarterback Matt Barkley, who sat out the regular-season finale against Notre Dame with an injured shoulder. It remains to be seen if he will be able to play in the bowl game.

Barkley is the Pac-12 career leader in passing yardage (12,327) and touchdowns (116). Max Wittek got the start against the Irish in Barkley’s place and performed well enough to have USC fans talking optimistically about his role next season.

No matter who is at quarterback, they will have Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to throw to, and the pair is as good as it gets. Lee set the Pac-12 single season receptions mark this season with 112 catches to go along with 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and the Biletnikoff Award. Woods set the USC career receptions mark this season, and currently has 249.

On the other hand, it was a season to forget for the Trojans defense. Not a single USC defender earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and the unit gave up so many points (24.6 per game) and yards (396 per game) that Monte Kiffin announced his resignation effective after the bowl game. T.J. McDonald and Wes Horton are among the seniors who will be playing their final game for the Trojans.

The Trojans finished the regular season 7-5 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12.




Georgia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Georgia Tech needed a bowl-eligibility waiver from the NCAA just to play in this bowl game. That pretty much sums up how good the Jackets were (or weren’t) this year.

Because Miami self-imposed a postseason ban, Georgia Tech backed into the Dr Pepper ACC championship game, which it lost 21-15 on Saturday to Florida State. It wasn’t for a lack of effort -- Georgia Tech was in position to actually win the game and play in the Discover Orange Bowl, as it had the ball and a chance at a game-winning scoring drive on its final possession late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tevin Washington threw an interception with about a minute remaining, though, and that sealed the Jackets’ postseason fate, dropping them to 6-7 and making that waiver of the utmost importance.

Georgia Tech dug itself into such a deep hole this season, it seemed an improbable candidate to win the Coastal Division, let alone play in a bowl game. The Jackets were 2-4, had lost a miserable home game to Middle Tennessee, and had just one ACC win heading into the bye week, when coach Paul Johnson decided to fire defensive coordinator Al Groh. While the move didn’t magically fix the Jackets’ defense, it did spark enough of a turnaround to keep the season from unraveling entirely. Georgia Tech won four of its next five games to cling to hopes of winning the division. Of course, it couldn’t have done it without the assist from Miami. Now Georgia Tech is looking for its first bowl win under Johnson (0-4), and will have to go back to El Paso, Texas, for the second straight season to try and find it. Unfortunately for the Jackets, they’ll have to do it against USC.

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2013 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler361236296820
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen1357855.814
T. Madden1387035.13
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Lee5779113.94
N. Agholor5691816.46
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense174.2218.1392.3
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring28.521.37.2