The USC Trojans have a long and legendary history in participating in bowl games. Usually whenever the Trojans are playing in one, it instantly becomes a must watch based off the name alone. This season the team unfortunately failed to qualify for a bowl game, going 5-7 for the first time since 2000 and missing their first bowl since 2011 (team went 10-2, but was ineligible for a bowl game due to sanctions.). We listed some of the best bowl performances in an earlier article, but now we take a turn for the worst by looking at some forgettable bowl performances in recent history.
1992 Freedom Bowl vs. Fresno State
If you ask any USC fan/alumni who was around to remember this game, you might see them with a sickish look on their face. The Trojans came into the Freedom Bowl with a 6-4-1 record coached by Larry Smith. Their opponent was the 8-4 Fresno State Bulldogs out of the WAC and led by quarterback Trent Dilfer. The game was essentially a home game for the Trojans with Anaheim being just down the freeway from Los Angeles, however that didn’t matter to Fresno State. The Bulldogs embarrassed the Trojans 24-7, rushing for 241 yards while Dilfer added 168 yards through the air . Fresno State’s defense held the Trojans to double digits on the ground and through the air while also holding them to a single touchdown which came in the second quarter. The loss to Fresno State would be the only loss to the Bulldogs in the all time series as USC would go on to win three consecutive meetings.
1998 Sun Bowl vs TCU
USC and El Paso don’t seem to go hand and hand. The 1998 edition of the Sun Bowl featured the USC Trojans coached by Paul Hackett taking on the TCU Horned Frogs out of the WAC. We’re sensing a trend here. The Horned Frogs jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and by halftime were leading 21-3. USC quarterback Carson Palmer attempted to lead a second half Trojans comeback, however after a USC field goal to cut it to 28-19 TCU ran most of the clock out and kept the Trojans from scoring to preserve the win. USC was held to a lowly -23 yards rushing while Carson Palmer threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns. TCU ran all over the Trojans for 314 yards while only throwing for 51. This would be the last bowl appearance for USC as they would go on to have back to back losing seasons under Paul Hackett.
2012 Sun Bowl vs Georgia Tech
Again USC and El Paso just don’t mix. The 2012 Sun Bowl summed up USC’s 2012 season. The Trojans started the season as the No. 1 team in the nation and a favorite to play in the BCS National Championship, however the last few games of the season saw the team take a nose dive which included the season ending injury to Matt Barkley during the loss to UCLA. USC and Georgia Tech were tied at halftime before the Yellow Jackets went on a 14-0 run in the second half to defeat the Trojans 21-7. Some believed that USC came into the game uninterested and uninspired with the trip to El Paso and playing in the Sun Bowl. Georgia Tech’s defense held USC to 98 yards on the ground flustered quarterback Max Wittek who threw for 107 yards and three interceptions while only completing 14 of 37 passes. To this day USC has never won the Sun Bowl.
2015 Holiday Bowl vs Wisconsin
Coming off a loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game, The USC Trojans returned to San Diego for their second straight appearance in the Holiday Bowl. This time they faced the Wisconsin Badgers out of the Big Ten Conference. USC appeared to be under prepared against the Badgers from the jump as they found themselves in a 20-7 hole by the third quarter. Late in the third quarter the Trojans trailed 20-14 and were driving to take the lead, however USC quarterback Cody Kessler was sacked three straight times by Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy. The final couple of plays would sum up the Trojans’ season. USC would get the ball back trailing 23-21, however an unsportsmanlike penalty would pin them inside the 15. The Trojans would get to midfield, but with seven seconds left and USC facing 4th and 10, Kessler would check down a Hail Mary attempt to wide receiver Darreus Rodgers which fell incomplete and was well short of the first down marker. The loss would be the second straight since Clay Helton was named full time head coach.