Holiday Bowl 2015: Who Were the Studs and Duds?

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Dec 30, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second quarter in the 2015 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Who were the duds?

Cody Kessler: Cody Kessler’s career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. With an opportunity to heave a last-gasp Hail Mary with seconds remaining, Kessler instead chose to check down for a few extra yards. The problem was that it was fourth down and the throw, which fell incomplete anyways, was short of the sticks. USC turned the ball over on downs and with that it was all over. Since Kessler had thrown an interception on the previous drive as the Trojans sought a game-winning score, the quarterback’s final moments as the USC quarterback were disappointing to say the least.

Clay Helton: It’s not fair to pin a loss on Kessler when USC’s level of preparation was woefully low in general. Helton moved to 0-2 in his career as a permanent head coach thanks in large part to a lack of practice time and Helton’s own questionable play-calling. The Trojans held just seven of the available 15 bowl practices allotted. Many of those practices were shortened and out of pads. And it showed. Perhaps even more concerning were the familiar problems with Helton’s offense going back weeks. The offensive line was porous, trick plays were sniffed out, Adoree’ Jackson touches were forced and Ronald Jones sightings were inexplicably rare.

Offensive Line: USC’s offensive line has undergone a number of changes due to injury and circumstance throughout the 2015 season, so it is no surprise that their inconsistency has been one of the Trojans biggest issues this year. That does not let them off the hook for yet another dismal performance in San Diego though. Zach Banner had a holding penalty negate a touchdown. Khaliel Rodgers also contributed to USC’s six penalties. The line also gave up three consecutive sacks in the third quarter, conceded nine tackles for loss in total and failed to establish a rhythm at any point in the game.

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The Sideline: If USC had been able to generate a go-ahead field goal at the end there would have been a certain amount of injustice in the outcome of the game. That’s because Wisconsin’s Tanner McEvoy raced down the sidelines for a touchdown which would have put the Badger’s ahead by six points…but it was called back. The side judge whistled the play dead because he though McEvoy had stepped out of bounds, but replay showed the wildcat quarterback had remained on the green. However, plays whistled dead are not reviewable by rule, so Wisconsin was denied vital points.

Who were your studs and duds from USC vs. Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl? Sound off in the comments below.