USC routs No. 21 Fresno St 45-20 in Las Vegas Bowl

  • By Gary Klein Los Angeles Times
  • Saturday, December 21, 2013 4:28pm
  • Sports

LAS VEGAS — The most tumultuous season in USC history ended Saturday with a show of resolve and celebration in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Trojans danced joyously on the sideline and the field during the second quarter against Fresno State.

Receiver Marqise Lee exulted in the end zone after catching two of Cody Kessler’s game-record four touchdown passes, and defensive players leaped high for chest bumps after making key stops against the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense.

And USC players and coaches celebrated en masse after a 45-20 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium that capped an improbable 10-4 season for a team that endured multiple coaching changes.

“A team,” Kessler said of the Trojans, “that hopefully will be remembered forever.”

When time expired, many Trojans players rushed onto the field to animatedly pose for a group photo, moving their hands and arms into various renderings of the letter “O.”

The players were saluting Ed Orgeron, one of four coaches they played under or met during a three-month span.

Orgeron energized the Trojans for eight games after taking over for the fired Lane Kiffin. He left the program when Athletic Director Pat Haden hired Steve Sarkisian, leaving offensive coordinator Clay Helton to take over as interim coach and lead the Trojans to victory.

“I remember when Coach O left, linebacker Hayes Pullard said, “He said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose your energy. Still go in there like I’m still your head coach.’ We just took that initiative and kept the train rolling.”

Lee, who might have played his final game for USC, said the Trojans also won for Kiffin.

“Coach Kiffin is the one who brought us together,” he said. “Coach O is the one who kept us together, so at the end of the day we did this for the both of them.”

And coaches and players said the victory was also for seniors, who endured coaching changes and NCAA sanctions during their careers.

The Trojans, junior safety Dion Bailey said, were “a definition of our school’s motto,” Fight on.

“I don’t think any other program in the country could produce under circumstances that we’ve been under,” he said. “You win 10 games, you’ve got to respect that team.”

Saturday’s performance was a marked contrast to last season’s Sun Bowl debacle in El Paso, where the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech to complete a historic collapse from a No. 1 preseason ranking to a 7-6 finish, including losses in five of their last six games.

“We came into this game wanting to make the Trojan family proud,” said Helton, who will remain on Sarkisian’s staff.

Kessler made plays in and out of the pocket, connecting with Lee for two touchdowns and receiver Nelson Agholor for two more as the Trojans built a 35-6 halftime lead.

USC’s defense stifled Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who entered the game as the national leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.

Fresno State pulled to within 38-20 early in the fourth quarter when safety Derron Smith returned an interception for a touchdown, but tailback Javorius Allen rushed for his second touchdown to clinch the victory.

The Trojans outgained the Bulldogs, 487-254.

“Physically, they were the most impressive team we’ve played the last two years,” said Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter, whose team finished 11-2. “They play inspired.”

Sarkisian agreed.

He watched most of the game from a suite with Haden, but he was on the field for the end of the game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said.

Tight end Xavier Grimble said the Trojans’ finish was a testament to their mental toughness.

“We lost some games, but I think we kept hope alive,” he said. “A lot of people lost hope in us and that’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to keep fighting.”

More in Sports

Archbishop Murphy’s Ray Pimentel, right, attempts a stiff arm on North Kitsap’s Kyle Green Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Snohomish on November 17, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Archbishop Murphy fends off North Kitsap in state matchup

Top-ranked Wildcats ride big plays, timely defense to beat Vikings 28-21 in football playoff. (Video)

Seahawks’ aging ‘Legion of Boom’ missing key parts

Richard Sherman returns to headquarters following season-ending surgery; Kam Chancellor likely out Monday.

Utah’s dynamic quarterback has UW’s attention

Sophomore Tyler Huntley will provide the Huskies with a big challenge with his ability to run and pass.

Virginia Tech routs Washington 103-79 in 2K Classic

Jaylen Nowell scores 21 points to lead the Huskies, which lost their second straight.

Vitelli’s 3rd-period goal lifts Silvertips past T-birds

The 16-year-old rookie breaks a 1-1 tie and Everett hangs on to beat rival Seattle 3-2.

King’s girls soccer to play for 1A state title

Katie Stella and Callie Wright scored for the Knights in the 2-0 win over Seattle Academy.

REFLECTIONS: A big night for milestones, streaks and goalies

The Game The Everett Silvertips started slowly. Very slowly. They had just… Continue reading

Members of the offensive line look over a play during practice Wednesday afternoon at Monroe High in Monroe on November 15, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After historic win, Monroe football sets sights on Sumner

The Bearcats advanced to the quarterfinals after their first-ever state-playoff win last week.

Return of goalie Hart boosts Silvertips’ confidence

Everett has gone 3-1-0-1 since Hart returned to the lineup after an illness earlier this season.

Most Read