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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.

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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."

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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.

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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."

Showstopper

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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Friday Night Video: Holiday Bowl

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The hard work has been done and the reward is almost here. Just about 24 hours to the Holiday Bowl kickoff, enjoy the final Friday Night Video of the season...


2014 Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Nebraska

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Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3) vs. No. 24 USC Trojans (8-4)

Qualcomm Stadium at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN and WatchESPN

Husker to Watch: Senior RB Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah.jpgThe Huskers possess a formidable and diverse rushing attack centered around versatile tailback Ameer Abudullah. The senior has run for 1,523 yards (12th in the nation) and 18 TDs this season plus he contributes as a receiver (208 yards) and kick returner (272 yards) making him the No. 5 ranked all-purpose threat in the country.  For the most part, the Trojans have fared well against star running backs in 2014, but this will be the toughest back they face, according to head coach Steve Sarkisian.

3 Keys

That Old Chestnut

After Tyler Murphy torched the Trojans in Chestnut Hill, any mobile quarterback strikes fear into the heart of USC fans, but Justin Wilcox's defense has contained the quarterback fairly well since that Boston College loss. However, in this day and age, the dual threats never end, so Tommy Armstrong provides the latest challenge. The sophomore is an average passer (seventh in the Big Ten at 192.8 yards per game), but he uses his feet to gain an extra 55.3 yards per game, which makes him a dangerous complement to Abdullah. The Huskers will look to make some big plays over the top in the passing game, but they are a running team with one of the nation's best 1-2 punches at QB and RB.

Scouts Honor

Theoretically, Nebraska DE Randy Gregory and USC DE Leonard Williams could return to school for their senior seasons, but more likely, they will be lured to the NFL thanks to their Top 10 projections. Depending on team needs, Gregory and Williams could be competing to be the No. 1 overall pick. The Holiday Bowl will provide a national stage for both players to show off their wares. Williams should thrive working inside against a makeshift Nebraska line, but Gregory will find Freshman All-American OT Toa Lobendahn a worthy adversary albeit a young one. If USC's young line can protect QB Cody Kessler, he can take aim at becoming the first Pac-12 quarterback to reach 40 touchdown passes in a season.

Beware the Blackshirts

"This is the best football team we've played all year," Sarkisian stated plainly at the final press conference before the Holiday Bowl. The head coach is certainly not underestimating the Cornhuskers even without their head coach Bo Pelini. Interim head coach Barney Cotton has his troops inspired, and they are a talented bunch, including PR De'Mornay Pierson-El, the nation's leader in punt return yardage, and DB Nate Gerry, who has five interceptions this season. The Trojans have enjoyed perfect preparation for this game, but they will need to execute at a high level to finish the season with a Holiday Bowl victory.

Here is the head coaches' press conference on the day before the Holiday Bowl:


Christmas at Sea World

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The USC football team spent Christmas with its Trojan Family at Sea World in San Diego.


Holiday Bowl Practice #13: Sarkisian Presser

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The Trojans are ready to rock with just about 48 hours to go until the Holiday Bowl. They finished their final full practice today with only a stadium walk-thru on the docket tomorrow.

Here is head coach Steve Sarkisian's press conference on this Christmas morning with an impromptu 50-yard dash in the background, which WR George Farmer impressively won: