USC Football To Face Nebraska In Holiday Bowl|
Dec. 7, 2014
The No. 24-ranked USC football team has been selected to play in its first-ever National University Holiday Bowl when it faces No. 25 Nebraska in San Diego on Saturday, Dec. 27. The 37th Holiday Bowl will kick off at 5 p.m. PT in Qualcomm Stadium and the Pac-12-versus-Big Ten matchup will be shown live nationally on ESPN.
The Trojans are 8-4 overall and finished tied for second in the Pac-12 South Division at 6-3 under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. The Cornhuskers went 9-3 and tied for second in the Big Ten West Division at 5-3, but head coach Bo Pelini was dismissed after the conclusion of the regular season and he was replaced by former Oregon State head coach (and one-time USC assistant) Mike Riley. Interim head coach Barney Cotton will coach Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
“We are excited to go play in the Holiday Bowl and be the first USC team to do so,” said Sarkisian, who previously guided Washington to the 2010 Holiday Bowl, where his Huskies beat Nebraska, 19-7. “We get to play close to home and our fans will show up in force. They’ll get to see a pair of Top 25 teams with storied football heritages. Having been to the Holiday Bowl when I was at Washington, I know this bowl experience will be a good one for our players and fans.
“We are hungry and determined to finish our season off well. We hope to use the momentum we have coming off our win over Notre Dame. But we’ll face a real challenge against a very good Nebraska team. Although they have made a coaching change, teams in transition like that usually band together and play well, as we saw last year here at USC and at Washington.
“I know our players are excited about this opportunity. We’re looking forward to starting the process of game planning and getting ready to play another game.”
This will be just the fifth meeting between USC and Nebraska. Troy holds a 3-0-1 lead in the series. The teams last met in 2007, a 49-31 Trojan victory in Lincoln. This season, both teams faced Fresno State and posted near-identical victories (USC won 52-13 and Nebraska won 55-19).
USC, whose first 3 losses of 2014 were by a total of 13 points, including 2 that came on the opponents’ last play of the game, features an up-tempo offense that is highly ranked nationally in a number of passing categories and a strong defense that is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense.
QB Cody Kessler, a finalist for the Unitas Golden Arm Award and Manning Award, is among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes, completions and passing yards while hitting over 70% of his throws with 36 TDs and just 4 interceptions. All-Pac-12 first team TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner who has 8 100-yard rushing outings this year, leads the league in all-purpose yards and is the only player in the nation with 12 games of 100-plus yards from scrimmage. WR Nelson Agholor, also an All-Pac-12 first teamer, is on the verge of 100 catches this year while ranking in the national Top 11 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs and he also has a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns. The young Trojan offensive line, with 3 true freshman starters, is led by All-Pac-12 first team C Max Tuerk. USC’s defense is headlined by All-American DE Leonard Williams, a Hendricks Award finalist, along with ILB Hayes Pullard, who could be the first Trojan in 35 years to lead USC in tackles for 3 seasons, and All-Pac-12 first team S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens, who has 16 tackles for a loss this year and 6 career picks.
USC has had to rely on numerous true freshmen because of depth issues (11 have played significantly, including 8 who have combined for 52 starts) and several are Freshman All-American candidates: Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (he has played 3 ways in 7 games this year and is among the nation’s leading kickoff returners), WR JuJu Smith (he has 51 receptions in 2014), OG-now-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao. No more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans have suited up for any game in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations.
The Trojans are among the nation’s premier bowl teams, with an overall post-season record of 32-16 (not including 1 win and 1 loss later vacated due to NCAA penalty). USC has lost just twice in its past 10 bowl games. Last year, Troy defeated Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, 45-20.
This will be the 14th different bowl for the Trojans, who have played in the Rose Bowl 32 times (not including 2 appearances later vacated). USC has the nation’s fourth highest bowl winning percentage (.667) among the 83 schools that have made at least 10 bowl appearances. Its 32 bowl victories are second behind Alabama’s 34 for most in the nation (not including 1 win for both teams vacated due to NCAA penalty). Troy’s 48 bowl appearances are sixth most.
Nebraska, which will be appearing in its 51st bowl game (25 wins) and its fourth Holiday Bowl, features an offense that is in the national Top 20 in rushing and scoring and a defense that is especially stingy against the pass. I-Back Ameer Abdullah, who has 1,523 rushing yards with 18 TDs this year, is in the national Top 15 in rushing, rushing TDs, all-purpose yards and scoring. Elusive QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. directs the offensive attack, throwing for 2,314 yards with 19 TDs and running for 664 yards with another 5 scores. WR Kenny Bell earned All-Big Ten first team honors with 40 receptions and 5 TDs. Abdullah and Bell also both average about 24.0 yards returning kicks. The Cornhusker defense is led by All-Big Ten first team DE Randy Gregory, who has 10 tackles for loss (with 7 sacks) among his 50 tackles, along with leading tackler LB Zaire Anderson (95 tackles, 12 for losses) and S Nate Gerry, who has 5 interceptions to go with his 85 tackles. WR De’Mornay Pierson-El has returned 3 punts for touchdowns this season.
USC fans can go to USCTrojans.com/bowlcentral for ticket and travel information for the Holiday Bowl. Current USC football season ticketholders will receive an email regarding Holiday Bowl tickets on Sunday evening.
Season tickets for USC’s 2015 football season, which includes 7 home games (including against UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, Washington and Utah), are available for current and new season ticket holders online by visiting HERE .