USC wins 42-14
Kessler completed 23 of 39 yards for 321 yards and three touchdowns for USC.
Cody Kessler finished the regular season with 3,505 yards passing and 36 TDs.
USC defeats Notre Dame, 49-14
The Trojans offensive line struggled to protect Kessler against UCLA's fiery defense
NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California (USATSI)
USATSI Gallery, Football -- 11/1/14
NCAA Football: Oregon State at Southern California (USATSI)
NCAA Football: Southern California at Boston College
Second-year USC football head coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t have to be shown around the USC campus or be instructed on Trojan gridiron lore when he was hired as the school’s head football coach in December of 2013. He already was quite familiar with all things Troy, from its physical layout to its academic prestige to its football tradition and culture.
That’s because this is the 41-year-old Sarkisian’s fifth time at USC, first as a student-athlete in the early 1990s, then as a graduate assistant coach nearly a decade later, next as an assistant coach (he was the quarterbacks coach on USC’s 2003 national championship squad), then as the offensive coordinator following a foray into the NFL and now as the head coach after spending the previous 5 years guiding Washington (where he went to 4 bowl games and beat 8 AP Top 25 teams).
When Sarkisian was hired as USC’s head coach, Trojan athletic director Pat Haden said: “We are delighted to welcome Steve Sarkisian back to the Trojan Family. We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search. We kept coming back to Sark. He embodies many of the qualities for which we looked. He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players. He is a proven and successful leader. He connects with people. He has energy and passion. He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value. He is committed to academic success and rules compliance. And he understands the heritage and tradition of USC.”
Sarkisian has a 6-year head coaching record of 43-33, including 9-4 in his inaugural season at USC in 2014 (the most victories by a first-year USC coach since College Football Hall of Famer John Robinson’s 11 in 1976 and third most ever, as fellow College Hall of Famer Howard Jones also had 11 in 1925), with wins at No. 10 Arizona and No. 13 Stanford (snapping the Cardinal’s 17-game home winning streak) and versus No. 25 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. He is just the third Trojan head coach to win his debut against Notre Dame. Three of USC’s losses in 2014 were by a total of 13 points, with two coming on the opponents’ final play of the game. Sarkisian never had more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans suit up for a game in 2014 because of the NCAA sanctions-mandated scholarship limitation, plus injuries, roster departures and ineligibilities. Eleven true freshmen played significant roles for USC in 2014, including 8 who combined for 58 starts.
In 2014, Sarkisian produced a pair of All-American first teamers (defensive end Leonard Williams and wide receiver-returner Nelson Agholor), a Sophomore All-American first teamer (safety-outside linebacker Su’a Cravens), a quartet of Freshman All-American first teamers (cornerback-wide receiver-returner Adoree’ Jackson, who was the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, along with offensive guard-tackle Toa Lobendahn, wide receiver JuJu Smith and offensive guard Viane Talamaivao) and a quintet of All-Pac-12 first teamers (Williams, Agholor, Cravens, tailback Javorius Allen and center Max Tuerk). Quarterback Cody Kessler had the most efficient passing season in USC history (69.7% completions, 39 TDs, 5 interceptions), Agholor had 104 receptions (third best in USC history) and Allen rushed for 1,489 yards (the most by a Trojan since 2005). USC’s offense ranked in the national Top 25 in passing efficiency, passing offense, third down conversions and scoring offense, while the defense was in the nation’s Top 20 in turnover margin, red zone defense and third down conversion defense. Six Trojans were drafted by the NFL (including a pair of first rounders) and 4 players that Sarkisian coached at Washington were also selected (including 3 in the first round).
Sarkisian’s initial 2014 recruiting class ranked among the nation’s Top 10 (tops in the Pac-12) and his 2015 class was No. 1 nationally.
At Washington, Sarkisian inherited a program in 2009 that had won just 12 games during the previous 5 seasons, including going winless the year before he took over. Despite that challenge, he guided the Huskies to bowl games his last 4 seasons (Alamo, Holiday, Las Vegas, Fight Hunger). His 8 victories in 2013 were the most at UW since 2000.
During his time in Seattle, his teams posted 8 wins over AP Top 25 teams, including twice over the Trojans (No. 3 USC and No. 19 California in 2009, No. 18 USC, No. 18 Nebraska and No. 24 Oregon State in 2010, No. 7 Oregon State and No. 8 Stanford in 2012 and No. 19 Boise State in 2013). He won 4 of his 5 Apple Cup games against in-state rival Washington State. He produced a 1,000-yard rusher each year. His overall Washington record was 34-29.
UW’s school record-setting 2013 Washington offense was in the national Top 20 in total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency offense and scoring offense, while the defense was in the Pac-12’s Top 6 in every category. The 2013 Husky squad featured Doak Walker Award finalist tailback Bishop Sankey (No. 4 nationally in rushing), quarterback Keith Price (UW’s recordholder in career TD passes, passing efficiency and completion percentage), 2013 Mackey Award-winning tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and safety Sean Parker (11 career interceptions).
Among the UW players Sarkisian coached were 9 NFL draftees, including quarterback Jake Locker, cornerback Desmond Trufant, linebackers Donald Butler and All-American Mason Foster, defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and tailback Bishop Sankey, plus All-Pac-12 tailback Chris Polk.
At USC, Sarkisian coached Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, along with NFL signalcallers Mark Sanchez, John David Booty and Matt Cassel. The Trojans went 23-3 when he was the offensive coordinator.
Sarkisian originally joined the USC staff as an offensive assistant in January of 2001. Then, after going to San Diego State briefly as the quarterbacks coach in January of 2002, he returned to USC in March of 2002 to handle the quarterbacks fulltime for 2 seasons (2002-03).
In 2002, Palmer won the Heisman and Unitas Award en route to setting the Pac-10 career records for passing yards and total offense (he was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NFL draft), plus he was an All-American first teamer.
In 2003, Leinart was an All-American first teamer and was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year (he finished sixth in the Heisman voting) while setting Pac-10 season records for TD passes (35) and consecutive passes without an interception (212). He also had the highest passing efficiency rating of any USC quarterback (163.2). USC won its first national championship since 1978.
Sarkisian spent the 2004 season as the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders. His quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards in 2004 as Oakland ranked eighth in passing in the NFL.
He returned to the Trojan staff in February of 2005 as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for 4 seasons (2005-08). He added the offensive coordinator role in 2007 and 2008.
In 2005, Leinart won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, finished third in the Heisman voting, was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards and was an All-American first teamer. He set 16 USC records (11 were Pac-10 marks and 2 were NCAA records). He was the 10th pick of the 2006 NFL draft. USC’s 4,157 passing yards in 2005 was a school record and the Trojans were fifth nationally in passing (319.8).
In 2006, Booty made the All-Pac-10 first team as he led the league in passing efficiency and total offense. He was a fifth round pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
In 2008, Sanchez made the All-Pac-10 first team while leading the conference in passing efficiency and total offense. He then was the fifth pick of the 2009 NFL draft. USC was in the national Top 20 in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense.
While Sarkisian was at USC, the Trojans played in 5 Rose Bowls—2004, 2006 (BCS Championship Game), 2007, 2008 and 2009—as well as the 2003 Orange Bowl and 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.
Sarkisian spent the 2000 season as the quarterbacks coach at El Camino Junior College in Torrance (Calif.). His quarterback, Robert Hodge, earned All-American honors. El Camino played in the CHIPs For Kids Bowl.
Sarkisian starred at the quarterback position at the prep, collegiate and pro levels. He was with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League for 3 seasons (1997-99). He started in 1999 and threw 16 touchdowns.
He had a record-setting 2-year (1995-96) career at BYU, where he was coached by former USC assistant Norm Chow. He completed 549-of-824 passes (66.6%) for 7,755 yards and 55 TDs in his career. His 162.0 career passing efficiency rating was third on the all-time NCAA list. As a senior in 1996, he led the nation in passing efficiency (173.6, then the fourth best mark ever) as the Western Athletic Conference champion Cougars went 14-1 and won the 1997 Cotton Bowl. He was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1996, won All-American second team honors and played in the East-West Shrine Game and Hula Bowl. As a 1995 junior, he made the All-WAC team and led BYU to the WAC title. Against Fresno State that season, he set an NCAA game completion percentage record when he hit 31-of-34 passes (91.2%).
He came to BYU from El Camino Junior College, where he starred for 2 seasons (1993-94). He was a J.C. All-American first teamer as a 1994 sophomore and won All-Mission Conference honors in 1993 as a freshman. He also played baseball (shortstop) at El Camino in 1993.
He actually began his college career at USC, spending the fall of 1992 on the Trojan baseball team before transferring to El Camino.
He was a standout football and baseball player at West Torrance (Calif.) High.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from BYU in 1997 after getting his associate’s degree in general studies from El Camino in 1994.
He was born March 8, 1974. He has 2 daughters, Ashley, 13, and Taylor, 7, and a son, Brady, 10.