USC staggers to loss in Sun Bowl | College football
USC was inept on offense in a 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. in El Paso, Texas.
EL PASO, Texas — USC was ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, and quarterback Matt Barkley was considered a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. The year ended with Barkley on the sideline as the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 21-7 victory Monday in front of a crowd of 47,922 at Sun Bowl Stadium.
USC (7-6) became the first preseason No. 1 team in the Associated Press media poll to lose six games. It is also all but assured of becoming the first school to enter the season on top of the poll and finish unranked since Mississippi in 1964.
"It was a really surprising day," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said after the team's fifth loss in six games. "Coming down and turning the ball over, and with third-down efficiency, we really found no rhythm on offense. I thought we'd play much better on offense today. The storyline really came down to our inefficiency on offense, and obviously it starts with the head coach."
Washington's 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter made the score 14-7, and he found Orwin Smith for a 17-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth.
"I'm really proud of our football team," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "I thought that they showed up and played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination, and I know Southern California has some really good football players. It was a hard-fought game."
Barkley, the first three-time captain in USC history, injured his right shoulder in a loss to UCLA and was not cleared to play his final college game. He clapped as the Trojans took the field for their first bowl after a two-year NCAA ban.
USC's Max Wittek tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Silas Redd in the second quarter, but also was intercepted three times. He was 14 of 37 for 107 yards and had four passes deflected at the line.
Redd had 88 yards rushing on 17 carries for the Trojans, who finished with 10 first downs and eight punts.
USC receiver Robert Woods was limited to three receptions for 33 yards in what was likely his final college game. After the game, the junior said he intends to enter the NFL draft.
"I never could have imagined that this could happen," Woods said after the loss. "But it was a frustrating year and you could see the frustration today, how it ended. It has been like this all year."
Kiffin said he took responsibility for the lost season.
"All of it," he said. "We can't be 7-6. That's not USC, and that's not our expectations. That's not why we came here. Obviously, we have some work here to get that fixed.
"Even if we'd won this game, we'd still be very disappointed in this season. It's well below our standards."
Asked if he thought the loss could cost him his job, Kiffin answered flatly, "No."
The Trojans struggled to contain the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech, the No. 4 rushing team in the country. The Yellow Jackets (7-7) ran for 294 yards on 63 carries while stopping a seven-bowl losing streak.
"I'm just glad we got the win," Washington said.
Washington and Vad Lee combined to go 5 for 10 passing, but two completions went for touchdowns and two others covered 26 and 49 yards.
Tech used its two-quarterback attack masterfully, working them in and out of the lineup and playing to their strengths.
"I think both guys did some good things," Johnson said. "Vad hit some big plays and played well, and then in the second half we got kind of more geared into the run game and Tevin has a lot of experience and handled it really well."