USC vs. Fresno State: Trojans come up aces in 45-20 Las Vegas Bowl victory


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It took 14 games and three head coaches for USC to at last reach the 10-win mark.

Behind a strong team performance, No. 25 USC soundly defeated No. 20 Fresno State 45-20, to take home the Las Vegas Bowl trophy.

The Trojans got off to a hot start as they scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the game.

On the Trojans’ first drive, Cody Kessler completed five of six pass attempts for 59 yards and one touchdown.  The drive was complete with a successful fourth-down conversion.

The aggressive play continued as the Trojans recovered an onside kick, but were flagged for kick catch interference, thus giving the ball to the Bulldogs.

The gamble gave the Bulldogs great field position and Derek Carr quickly went to work.  Carr found Isaiah Burse on his third pass attempt for an 8-yard touchdown reception.

Not completely deflated by the turn of events, the Trojans blocked the extra-point attempt and held an early 7-6 lead.

After the Trojans took a 14-6 lead, the two teams exchanged punts before Kessler got the Trojans back on the scoreboard again with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.

Through the first half, Kessler was 14 of 18 for 243 yards and four touchdowns. Kessler finished the game 22 of 31 for 344 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

His performance earned him game MVP honors and his four touchdowns set a Las Vegas Bowl record.  The 344 passing yards set a personal record for Kessler.

Agholor and Lee were the primary beneficiaries as they finished with five and seven receptions, respectively.

Lee had 118 receiving yards, and Agholor finished with 94 yards.  Each added a pair of touchdown receptions.

With a 35-6 lead coming out of halftime, the second half was about the Trojan defense continuing to

Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr threw for 217 yards, which is well off his per-game average of 405.5 yards.  Carr never found his rhythm as he routinely overthrew open receivers or was inaccurate on some of his attempts.

Leonard Williams landed a hit on Carr in the first quarter, which left the quarterback in some discomfort and rubbing his throwing shoulder.

Carr’s struggles had the Bulldogs in several third-and-long situations, which likely played a role in them managing to convert on only two of 14 third downs.

The Bulldogs slowed the Trojans down enough in the second half to keep the game within earshot, but Carr’s inconsistency coupled with stellar play from the Trojan secondary, proved too much to overcome.

The Trojans dominated nearly every aspect of the game — out gaining the Bulldogs 499-254 in total yards, and in time of possession, 41:27 to 18:33.

The win was the Trojans first in a bowl game since 2009.