Click here for the recap and final stats.
Click here for Lane Kiffin's complete post-game press conference.
The Wind Bowl
From punting to throwing to energy, the wind was the dominant factor in the game. The temperatures on the field were freezing and the gusts played with the pigskin. Georgia Tech's go-ahead score came after a punt return to the goal line that was teed up by a wind-slammed duck. "We're going into the wind that way," said Lane Kiffin. "You've got to drive the ball low or it's going to go nowhere. The wind down there...was pretty vicious." Down a score or two for most of the second half, USC needed to turn to its aerial attack, but redshirt freshman QB Max Wittek never got a handle on the conditions.
(Photos of Silas Redd and Wittek by Mark Lambie/LA Times)
After a promising debut against Notre Dame, Matt Barkley's potential successor completed 14 of 37 passes for a mere 107 yards with 1 TD and 3 interceptions. To his credit, he refused to use the wind as an excuse. "It did carry a few balls, but we knew that coming in," said Wittek. "I knew I needed to drive the ball a bit more. It was there for both teams." While Cody Kessler is expected to compete for the starting job in the spring, Kiffin did not feel comfortable swapping out his starter. "With the way the temperature was going, with the way we were running the ball, I just didn't think that was the right move at the time," Kiffin explained. "I've always had a long leash in general anyway."
The head coach made it clear that he deserves the lion's share of the blame for this season's disappointment. "All of it. We can't be 7-6 at 'SC." However, he is resolute that he can turn things around with a big offseason. In the next month, he is going to focus on hiring a defensive coordinator and "signing the best recruiting class in the country."
Sad Swan Song
This is obviously not how the 2012 senior class wanted to go out. "It's definitely not how I imagined us finishing up the season," said senior DE Wes Horton. USC finished the year losing five of its last six games, a streak which blind-sided the veterans. "Based off the talent we had coming into this season, I didn't see it coming. We had too many close games where we didn't come through," said Horton.
After the game, Robert Woods announced that he will forego his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft. He leaves USC as the school's all-time leader in catches. "I want to thank USC first for offering me a scholarship and thank Coach Kiffin for making everything possible," said Woods, who caught three balls for 33 yards in his finale. "The decision was pretty hard and I had to weigh a lot of options, but I had to do what was best for me."
With Barkley, Woods, Khaled Holmes and T.J. McDonald among the departing leadership core, Marqise Lee becomes the face of USC football. The sophomore is more than capable of handling the burden on and off the field. "All we can do is continue to work," said Lee about the plan going forward. "I'm ready to work, I'll tell you that right now."
As for the other potential early entrants, junior RB Silas Redd will return for his senior season. Nickell Robey will take another week to weigh his options before making a final decision.
The Bright Spots
From an otherwise dreary performance, LB Hayes Pullard shined as the starting middle linebacker with 16 tackles. Also, Freshman All-American DT Leonard Williams had 14 tackles and half a sack.
Here are Max Wittek and Wes Horton after the game...