One second left on the clock felt like an eternity, but junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor didn't want to leave the National University Holiday Bowl up to chance, swatting away Nebraska's Hail Mary attempt with sheer force. The USC Trojans won the game, 45-42, and the final score spoke volumes about what to expect from the Trojans both now and in the future.
"We've been through a lot this year, and we've had a couple excruciating losses this season," head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "I'm happy for these guys."
Thanks to the explosive all-around effort from Adoree' Jackson, the Trojans jumped out to a 45-27 lead and looked like things were comfortably in hand. But as this season would have it, Nebraska came storming back and cut the lead to three driving down the field with a chance to tie or win the game in the final three minutes.
Rather than attempt a potential game-tying long-range field goal with just over two minutes remaining, Nebraska went for it on a short fourth down attempt. Tommy Armstrong Jr. chose to throw the ball on fourth down and Leon McQuay III deflected away the football shortly after making a huge tackle on the previous third down run.
Holiday Bowl offensive MVP Cody Kessler finished the night 23-of-39 passing with three touchdowns and one interception, just his fifth of the year. Kessler also tied Matt Barkley's school touchdown record (39) for a single season, and also said he will return next season for his redshirt senior season rather than enter the NFL Draft.
Led by a balanced attack that actually struggled to move the football in both the first and fourth quarters, the Trojans combined for 515 yards of total offense thanks to an impressive close-out display from Buck Allen. He was among the big four that could be leaving after the season, and showcased great speed, toughness and versatility on the ground for 152 yards rushing on 26 powerful carries, the biggest of which came on a 44-yard score in the third quarter.
Following the dramatic victory, USC closes out the 2014 season with a 9-4 record, which was very indicative of the up and down play on both sides of the ball. As Nebraska found a second gear late in the game, marching down the field on multiple drives, USC found a way to make the big play to win the National University Holiday Bowl.
What a night for Adoree' Jackson, JuJu Smith, Bryce Dixon and John Plattenburg, freshmen that were thrown right into the fire and expected to contribute right from day one. All of these guys have shown great promise, along with the young offensive line, that could compete for a Pac-12 Championship.
At the same time, some sloppy fourth quarter play calling left fans wondering "could this really happen again," especially after the agony of watching yet another team creep right back into the football game. USC slowed down Ameer Abdullah on the ground but struggled to slow down the dual-threat option of Tommy Armstrong Jr. The Cornhuskers finished the night with 144 yards on the ground but it was the elusive options that left everyone scared in the second half.
Props to Adoree' Jackson for balling out, and I mean that in the literal sense. Jackson made seven tackles on defense, roamed the field with a huge 98-yard kickoff return and caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.
It wasn't the best game overall for USC, but the Trojans found a way to win the football game and close out 2014 on a good note.
Here are the highlights from USC's Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska including 2 TDs from freshman Adoree' Jackson. http://t.co/gvfhf0BNzg— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) December 28, 2014