3-Points: USC 64, Vermont 56

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The Trojans finish non-conference play at 8-4 as the Pac-12 opener looms Friday at Utah.

Click here for the recap and box score.

Ups and Downs

The Trojans dominated the first half tonight taking a 43-26 lead into the break, but never found their stroke in the final 20 minutes leading to some nervy moments down the stretch. "We are a work in progress," said head coach Andy Enfield about his extremely young team. "If we play like we did in the first half, we can compete with anyone on our schedule. If we play like we did in the second, it's going to be a long season." While the offense disappeared in the second half, the defense was consistent all night holding Vermont to 30.2% shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.

Ins and Outs

USC accounted for 59 of its 64 points by scoring 42 in the paint and 17 more at the free throw line. The good news is that the big men were effective inside, but the guards could not get a jumper to drop. "A lot of our guys are young and they're streaky and they're figuring it out," Enfield explained. "Our interior play really carried us most of the game." In particular, Strahinja Gavrilovic bullied his way to a career-high 15 points thanks to 9/12 from the free throw line. "That's what it takes to win games," Gavrilovic said about his physical style. He also knows the entire team will have to bring that same intensity to pickup road wins in conference play, saying, "Effort has to be 100% all the time."

Highs and Lows

The Trojans emerged 8-4 from non-conference with quality road wins at New Mexico and Boston College. "I'm proud of our guys. We won six out of seven games," said Enfield about the latest stretch. While he joked that he wants his team to "make my job a little easier" in Pac-12 play, he knows that is unlikely as the opponents and atmospheres only get tougher.  USC will travel to No. 10 Utah (Friday at 7 p.m. PT) and Colorado (Sunday at 11 a.m. PT) which is perhaps the most difficult road pair in the Pac-12 this season. The young Trojans will be keen to avoid the lulls that cost them games against Portland State and Army, while continuing to show the improvement that set them on this hot streak.

Here are tonight's highlights:

UNFILTERED: Holiday Bowl

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USC football does not tee it up again until September 5, 2015. Until then, savor these epic Holiday Bowl highlights from the final UNFILTERED of the season.

2014 NFL Week 17

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The Best

Clay Matthews, OLB, Packers - 3 solo tackles including two for loss and a sack plus a pass defended

Matthews-Lions.jpgAlong with Cowboys OT Tyron Smith, Matthews was one of two Trojans named to the NFL Pro Bowl this past week, although look for Vikings DE Everson Griffen to join them soon.  Matthews closed out the regular season with another strong performance as the Packers secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC.  He finished the year with 61 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception.

Best of the Rest

Mark Sanchez, QB, Eagles - 23/36 for 292 yards and 2 TDs plus 7 rushes for 22 yards

Robert Woods, WR, Bills - 4 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown

T.J. McDonald, S, Rams - 7 tackles (3 solo) and a fumble recovery

Rhett Ellison, FB, Vikings - 3 catches for 23 yards

Jurrell Casey, DT, Titans - 3 solo tackles including one for loss

Nickell Robey, CB, Bills - 5 tackles (4 solo)

Wes Horton, DE, Panthers - Fifth career sack

Rey Maualuga, LB, Bengals - 6 tackles (5 solo) including one for loss and a pass defended

Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings - 4 tackles including one for loss

Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns - 3 catches for 41 yards

Mike Patterson, DT, Giants - 4 tackles (2 solo)

The 2006 Rose Bowl: A Football Life

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The 2006 BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl featuring USC and Texas is on the short list of the greatest college football games ever played.  While most Trojans would like to erase the final six minutes from their memories, the spectacle is unforgettable. Now, NFL Films is revisiting the game and all its surrounding components in a new documentary debuting this Friday, January 2, at 6 p.m. PT on NFL Network.

Click here for more.

The one-hour show profiles the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll and then checks in with Matt Leinart and Vince Young, who failed to match their college success in the NFL.  Plus, Snoop Dogg and Matthew McConaughey add the celebrity fan perspective to a list of interviews with all-star alums who played in the game like Rey Maualuga, Steve Smith and Ryan Kalil.

Hoops Double Dip

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Basketball season kicks into high gear Tuesday night as the Women of Troy host UCLA (6 p.m. tip) and the Trojans welcome Vermont (8:30 p.m. tip) as part of a Galen Center doubleheader.

Click here for tickets.

USC women's basketball carries an 8-3 record out of non-conference play starting Pac-12 action with a rivalry contest against the Bruins. Cynthia Cooper-Dyke's team has developed an offensive identity topping the 85-point mark six times in 11 games.

Andy Enfield's group has displayed some firepower of its own in recent games. Sitting at 7-4 going into the final non-conference match-up, the Trojans have scored 75 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time since 2003 led by Jordan McLaughlin who is averaging 18.5 points per game in that stretch.


Williams Headed to NFL

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Two-time All-American DE Leonard Williams has announced that he is making himself eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft. The junior is projected to be a Top 10 pick.

Here is Leonard Williams' official statement:

"This was a very hard decision for me.  I love USC, Coach Sark and the coaching staff, my teammates and the fans, and I love the game of college football.  It's hard to leave all of that.  I know life is never the same once you leave college.

"But I feel like it's the right time for me to go.  I feel like I'm ready.  I'm looking forward to the new challenge that the NFL presents.

"I had a great experience at USC and enjoyed all three of my years here.  I was coached by outstanding coaches and I played with great teammates.  I'm thankful to all of them, as well as to the support I got from the fans.  I'm proud and happy to have been a part of the Trojan Family.  I'll always be a Trojan.  Now, I get to be part of the great tradition of USC alums in the NFL.  I'm excited to see what's coming next for me."

Head coach Steve Sarkisian:

"We wish Leonard the best of luck.  We know he will represent USC well in his professional career.  He was a great player here for all three of his years.  Just like all of our players, Leonard is a Trojan for life and we will always support him."


McGillen Galleries: USC 45, Nebraska 42

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On a San Diego night filled with fireworks, literally and figuratively, John McGillen provided the memorable pictures in four different galleries.

6-Points: USC 45, Nebraska 42

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The Trojans finish the 2014 season at 9-4 after winning the Holiday Bowl for the first time in school history.

Click here for the recap and final stats.

Click here for the post-game press conference.

FINAL-HOLIDAY-score.jpgClassic Holiday Bowl

The Holiday Bowl has a long reputation for luring teams into shootouts, and USC and Nebraska played right along highlighted by the two offenses combining for 38 third quarter points (Holiday Bowl record). Head coach Steve Sarkisian was impressed by the Cornhuskers' "firepower," which included QB Tommy Armstrong (381 yards passing) and RB Ameer Abdullah (269 all-purpose yards), but the Trojans responded with horses of their own, including RB Buck Allen (152 yards rushing and 2 TDs). "That's our job to score," said Allen, who praised the coaches' game plan. "It's my job to execute and make it look good."


USC QB Cody Kessler and DE Leonard Williams were named the Holiday Bowl Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, but three-way threat Adoree' Jackson stole the show. The electrifying freshman returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and then later took a catch-and-run 71 yards to the house. Sarkisian called Jackson "uniquely special" and noted that the celebratory flip in the end zone "was reminiscent of another guy I have seen wearing our uniform before."

One More Year

"I am absolutely coming back," QB Cody Kessler stated plainly after the game. He will return for his senior season having already tied Matt Barkley's Pac-12 single-season touchdown pass record (39), and Sarkisian is equally excited about it. "Let's see if we can go break some more records together," he said. Kessler finished the Holiday Bowl 23/39 for 321 yards and 3 TDs.

Building the Foundation...

The USC seniors and departing juniors went out as winners, but their greatest legacy will be the example they set for the next generation of Trojans. "We just watched how they really worked all the way through the season," said true freshman S John Plattenburg. "Those were guys that came to USC in its darkest time and persevered through everything without making excuses." Senior captain Hayes Pullard is looking forward to watching this young team grow into champions. "It's going to feel good," said Pullard. "Even though we didn't win a national championship this year, it's laying down the foundation for these guys, so they know what to expect for the future and are able to finish what we started."

...For a Bright Future

"I can't wait to get going in 2015 quite honestly," said Sarkisian. "Our future is ridiculously bright. We're going to compete for championships." The head coach pointed at the young offensive line, which started three true freshmen, and held up nicely against Nebraska's talented front,  as "symbolic of the whole program." Jackson, JuJu Smith (66 yards receiving and 3 special teams tackles), sophomore OLB Su'a Cravens (interception) and a host of others are more than enough reason to be optimistic about 2015 and beyond.

Fitting Ending

The Holiday Bowl went according to the script of the season. In need of catharsis, the Trojan Family got to see an opponent's fourth quarter comeback thwarted by a batted down Hail Mary bringing full circle the season's craziness. "Believe me. That was not the intent of any of this," Sarkisian joked about righting the wrong from the ASU game. "We've been through it. At the end of the day, you can only get burned so many times I guess. Let's just get the ball on the ground. That's what I was hoping for." Plattenburg noted that the young team "learned from its mistakes" as WR Nelson Agholor was the man to aggressively swat the ball to safety and set off the celebration.

Here are the USC highlights:

Rapid Reaction: USC 45, Nebraska 42

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Right after the Holiday Bowl victory, our David Foley interviewed Leon McQuay, Cody Temple, Bryce Dixon, Adoree' Jackson, Randall Telfer, JuJu Smith and Gerald Bowman on the field.

Infographic: USC 45, Nebraska 42

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