USC Trojans: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

#BlueChipBattles: ESPN 150 release edition

April, 19, 2013
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#BlueChipBattles Insider: RecruitingNation summoned its writers from around the country to outline the recruiting battles for the ESPN 150's top 10 prospects.

Plus, rank the battles in SportsNation.

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Coveted OLB names a top five 

March, 14, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Outside linebacker Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) isn’t exactly sure of how many offers he has. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has not counted them. Once he had received over 30 offers to the top programs in the nation, there really seemed no point in doing so. Pugh is more concerned about the five that he has on top.

Taking a look at no-visit policies

February, 12, 2013
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Texas is joining the likes of Michigan, Oregon and Georgia Tech in instituting a no-visit policy for its commits. Is this hard-line stance a good idea for elite programs? RecruitingNation writer Mitch Sherman takes a look the trend.

Read the story here.
EL PASO, Texas -- Notes, quotes, and anecdotes from the Hyundai Sun Bowl after the Trojans' (7-6) 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech (7-7).

USC coach Lane Kiffin comments:

On the Game:

Turnovers and efficiency: “Obviously very disappointing day, coming down to turning the ball over and third-down efficiency really nullifying anything on offense. I thought our defense did a good job today. I thought they played very hard, obviously wore down a bit there late, but that’s to be expected when we turn the ball over that many times.”

Taking responsibility: How much is Kiffin taking the blame for the Trojans season? The coach said, "All of it, we can’t be 7-6 -- not at SC -- and that’s not our expectations and not why we came here and obviously we have some work to do to get that fixed. We are a young team, we started one senior on offense today, so we got to continue to recruit, continue to get better and obviously coach better.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson comments:

The defensive key: “Well, I think we stayed away from giving up the big play and we did well on third down. We created some turnovers and it was just one of those things where we were able to make some big plays. We played pretty consistently. It became a field position game.”

More notes and anecdotes

[+] EnlargeJamal Golden
AP Photo/Tim WarnerJamal Golden's punt return to USC's 1-yard line early in the third quarter helped put Georgia Tech up for good.
Key to victory: A 56-yard punt return by Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden early in the third quarter set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington to help put Tech up 14-7.

The puzzle: Commenting on why the Trojans had such good bowl practices but came out flat, junior offensive tackle Kevin Graf said, “I don’t know why we played this way. We had a great week of practice. We’re a lot better team. I promise you this team will work hard to get back to where we belong.”

The offensive scoring average: The Trojans scored seven points against Georgia Tech. Prior to the game with the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans were averaging 34.2 points per game.

Out of the Woods: Junior wide receiver Robert Woods (33 yards on three catches) announced he was declaring for the 2013 NFL draft. Woods said, “Today is a sad day. I had my mind set that I was leaving, so I came into today’s game on a good note. The wind had an impact. Balls were sailing and curving. I was not frustrated with Max [Wittek]. It was the wind. I knew he could get the ball out there.”

Rush to defend: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans defense was allowing a net total of 156.4 yards rushing per game. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans allowed 294 rushing yards.

It’s offensive: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were averaging 451.9 yards per game in total offense. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans had 205 total yards.

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3 up, 3 down: Hyundai Sun Bowl

January, 1, 2013
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A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the 2012 Hyundai Sun Bowl.

THREE UP

1. Hayes Pullard
The performance of Pullard, a sophomore linebacker, is one of the few positives that the Trojans can take away from the loss. Pacing the team with 16 tackles -- 10 in the first half -- he was easily the most active component of a Trojans defense that found some moderate success containing Georgia Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense.

2. Leonard Williams
Just a freshman, Williams was impressive, collecting 14 tackles -- a staggering number for a defensive tackle. Whether it was straight up the middle, going sideline to sideline, or tracking a ball carrier down from behind, he was all over the place.

3. T.J. McDonald
Just as he has throughout his entire career at USC, McDonald played with grit and determination, something that became a hallmark of his play as a Trojan long ago. On Monday, the senior safety was fast to the ball and made a number of ferocious hits, ultimately finishing with 13 stops in his final game in a cardinal and gold uniform.

THREE DOWN

1. USC team energy
Unfortunately, the Trojans came out and played exactly as many outside observers predicted -- uninspired and flat-out bored -- particularly on offense. Converting on just 3 of 15 third-downs and outgained 369-205, Lane Kiffin’s squad looked like it couldn’t wait to get home.

2. USC passing offense
To say that the Trojans’ passing game was woeful would be an understatement. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods were held to a combined nine receptions for 74 yards, and redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek was completely out of whack. Connecting on just 14 of 37 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown, he threw three crucial interceptions, including one inside the Yellow Jackets’ 10-yard line with just over a minute left that sealed the game for Georgia Tech.

3. USC special teams
Andre Heidari's missed 38-yard field goal didn’t help the Trojans’ cause, but that wasn’t the low point for John Baxter’s special-teams unit. That came in the third quarter, when the punt coverage unit overran a line drive Kyle Negrete boot that Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden ultimately returned to the USC 1-yard line. Tevin Washington punched it into the end zone a few plays later, giving the Yellow Jackets a 14-7 lead.

Instant Analysis: Ga. Tech 21, USC 7

December, 31, 2012
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Georgia Tech scored a 21-7 upset victory over the USC Trojans in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Yellow Jackets got good production from the quarterback spot -- Tevin Washington and Vad Lee both threw touchdown passes and Washington added a scoring run -- and a strong defense to get the win.

Game was over when: Jamal Golden intercepted a Max Wittek pass at the goal line with just over a minute left. The score was 21-7 in favor of Georgia Tech, but the Trojans had driven the ball for a late scoring attempt before the Wittek pass was tipped by Quayshawn Nealy into the arms of Golden. Golden also had a key punt return in the third quarter while Nealy had an end-zone interception of his own earlier in the fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: Georgia Tech's defense, a unit that gave up 30 points per game and was facing a USC offense that came in averaging over 34 points per game. The Yellow Jackets held the Trojans to a touchdown, and the only opponent to score fewer points this year against Georgia Tech was the Presbyterian Blue Hose, who scored a field goal. USC came into game averaging over 450 total yards per game and was held to 205. The Yellow Jackets limited 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee to six catches for 41 yards.

Stat of the game: USC's inability to convert. The Trojans were 3-of-16 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts. That includes a stretch of six consecutive drives to begin the second half that were either three-and-out or turned over on downs.

What Georgia Tech learned: What it feels like to win a bowl game for the first time in eight years. The Yellow Jackets had lost seven straight bowl games prior to Monday's win.

What USC learned: That the 2012 season was disappointing to the end.

Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC keys 

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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[+] EnlargeMax Wittek
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokRedshirt freshman Max Wittek has a chance to solidify his hold on the starting quarterback spot with a good performance in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
1. Defending the option: Don’t look now, USC defense, but another variation of an option offense is on the way. After giving up big numbers against spread option teams in 2012 – most notably 730 total yards and 61 points against Oregon – the Trojans now must contend with the “flexbone” triple option attack from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets won’t be throwing the ball as much as some of the other offenses that USC has faced, but the Yellow Jackets are very good at running the ball, currently No. 4 in the nation at more than 312 yards per game. The Trojans will be looking to play well in the final game under defensive coach Monte Kiffin, who has announced his resignation following the bowl game.

2. Moving on with Max: With the news that Matt Barkley will not be able to play in the game because of an injured shoulder, it means that redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get his second start at quarterback for the Trojans. Wittek showed a strong arm in his starting debut against Notre Dame and this game will be a big opportunity for him to cement his spot as Barkley’s full-time replacement in 2013. It could also be a chance for Lane Kiffin to get some reps for Cody Kessler in game conditions.

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Hyundai Sun Bowl primer

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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Who to watch: This could be another national showcase for USC wide receiver Marqise Lee to prove that he is the most dynamic player in the country. Lee won the Biletnikoff Award winner and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after a season which saw him set a conference mark for catches (112 -- the leading total nationally) and receiving yards (1,680). He also led the conference in kickoff return yardage. Lee left USC practice early on Saturday with an undisclosed leg injury and did not return but is expected to play in the game.

What to watch: The most compelling matchup should be the USC defense against the Georgia Tech “flexbone” triple-option offense. The Trojans have struggled in 2012 against various versions of the option, and Tech executes its run-based version at a very high level -- it was No. 4 in the nation with more than 312 rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets have a talented senior at quarterback in Tevin Washington, and he has an impressive 19 touchdowns on the ground. Look for USC senior safety T.J. McDonald to be very aggressive near the line of scrimmage in run support.

Why to watch: There have been a lot of questions about how motivated the Trojans would be for the Sun Bowl after a disappointing 7-5 season following their preseason No. 1 ranking. That perception was helped by some disparaging player tweets toward the host city of El Paso, Texas, and a late arrival to a bowl dinner. USC coach Lane Kiffin has preached to his team for the need to stay focused on the game, and the performance of his team will show how well that message was received. Georgia Tech is certainly an opponent that is capable of taking advantage of any lack of game readiness.

Prediction: USC 31, Georgia Tech 21

At the end of the day, the Trojans will simply make more plays than the Yellow Jackets. Lee isn’t the only playmaker on the USC offense, there are guys such as Robert Woods, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal who can explode at any time. This could be the final college game for Woods, who will announce after the game if he is leaving school early for the NFL draft. The Trojans will enter the game without Matt Barkley, who will sit out with a shoulder injury, but Max Wittek can get the ball downfield with his strong arm. Georgia Tech A-back Orwin Smith will help keep things close for the Yellow Jackets. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury but is averaging over nine yards per carry this season.

Georgia Tech: By the numbers

December, 28, 2012
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4: Ranking of Georgia Tech’s rushing offense
Georgia Tech’s intricate spread-option offense has been incredibly productive on the ground this season, compiling an average of 312.5 yards rushing per game. Running for a total of 4,063 yards, the Yellow Jackets have hit the 300-yard plateau on eight separate occasions.

9.4: The career yards-per-carry average of Georgia Tech A-Back Orwin Smith
Smith’s mark is the highest by any active FBS player with at least 1,000 yards to his credit. He’s averaging 9.0 yards per carry in 2012, and he leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 673 yards.

16: The number of consecutive seasons where Georgia Tech has earned a berth in a bowl game
When they line up against the Trojans on Dec. 31, it will mark the sixteenth straight year that the Yellow Jackets have participated in a bowl game -- the fourth-longest current such streak in the nation. Recently, however, they haven’t had the best of luck in their postseason clashes, losing seven bowl games in a row, including all four under current head coach Paul Johnson.

19: The number of rushing touchdowns accumulated by Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Tevin Washington in 2012
Washington’s mark is a Georgia Tech and ACC single-season record for a quarterback. He’s also compiled 37 touchdowns on the ground in 35 career games, another team and conference record.

47: Ranking of Georgia Tech’s rushing defense, the highest the team ranks in any defensive statistical category
The Yellow Jackets have not been particularly stellar on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, also ranking No. 54 in total defense, No. 67 in pass defense and No. 77 in scoring defense.

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview 

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
8:00
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HYUNDAI SUN BOWL

USC (7-5, 5-4) versus Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3)

Where: El Paso, Texas

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USC faces interesting task in Sun Bowl 

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
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USC flies to El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday for its first bowl game in three years.

One of the big questions to be answered in the coming week is what kind of team will return to Los Angeles after the game.

[+] EnlargeMax Wittek
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokRedshirt freshman Max Wittek could get a further leg up on securing the QB job in 2013 if he starts the Sun Bowl.
On pure talent alone, there’s little question that the Trojans will be the better team in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They are established as a clear favorite in the game and it’s a chance for the Trojans to finish a disappointing season on a good note. Georgia Tech, however, is more than capable of spoiling those plans with a triple option offense that could pose some problems.

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Practice report: Wittek ready to lead

December, 21, 2012
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The Trojans continued their prep work for the Sun Bowl on Friday with a midday practice in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. After the workout, USC head coach Lane Kiffin once again emphasized just how important the Dec. 31 matchup with Georgia Tech is as the team looks to build momentum heading into the offseason.

“We just want to finish really strong and win our last game and springboard us off into a great offseason ... sign a great recruiting class and get ready for spring ball,” Kiffin said. “We’re not looking backwards. We’re looking forward, and we can’t change the past -- it is what it is. We have to accept what our record was and where that puts us. We’ve had two years of sitting around and not having bowls, not being able to practice and not being able to play football. So, we’re excited about this opportunity.”

Wittek embraces leadership role
While Matt Barkley -- still out of action after suffering a sprained AC joint in his shoulder against UCLA -- did take in his first practice in quite awhile, it was as an observer, and as Kiffin has indicated from the start, the senior signal caller won’t even attempt to suit up and go full-speed with the team until the Trojans land in El Paso.

[+] EnlargeMax Wittek and Marqise Lee
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokRedshirt freshman QB Max Wittek feels he has gained his teammates' trust and support.
That has left all of the reps at quarterback with the first- and second-team offensive units to redshirt-freshmen Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, with Wittek designated as the starter if Barkley isn’t able to go.

For Wittek, the added workload with the first teamers has resulted in not just a greater comfort level in running the offense but also an expanded role as a leader, something that has come about gradually throughout the season before reaching a new level following his first start as a Trojan against Notre Dame.

“I feel like they listen to me, they look to me as a leader, and I’m prepared to lead this team into whatever game we play in,” Wittek said. “I think my preparation all season -- they’ve been able to see the way that I’ve prepared and been able to respect that in a sense. But being able to put that into a materialized thing with game play, I think, has helped a lot.”

Woods showing renewed burst
USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin has been especially impressed with the play of standout receiver Robert Woods of late, particularly during the bowl game practices.

“He was always running good during the year, but I think that he’s just running like we expected him to, you know, [like] No. 13 Robert Woods,” said Martin, referring to the jersey number Woods wore as a freshman. “His attitude has always been good throughout the season, but I think that Robert has reached a point of maturity to where he see’s it, he gets it.”

Pretty soon though, Martin might have a fight on his hands to keep Woods in a Trojans’ uniform. Currently awaiting feedback from his NFL draft evaluation request, Woods is pondering a jump to the pros.

“I’ve definitely been recruiting my tail off to keep Robert,” Martin said. “I know he has a big decision. ... I know a lot of people like him on the next level, but my job here is to try to keep all of the good players here.”

Regardless of whether Woods decides to opt for the draft or to remain at USC, however, Martin said he will back him in his ultimate decision.

“I definitely will support Robert in whatever he does,” Martin said.

Martin likes what he’s seen in Rogers
Friday marked the second day that wide receiver Darreus Rogers worked out with the Trojans, wearing jersey No. 26. Originally a member of the Class of 2012, the Carson (Calif.) product was just admitted to USC recently, and he is set to begin classes in January. With two workouts under his belt now, he already has made quite an impression on Martin, both for his ability on the field, as well as his attitude off it.

"He sent me a text message last night after his first day of coming out, saying how fast things were moving, and he said, 'Coach, I want to be great. Push me. Coach me hard,' " Martin said. "And I said, 'No problem with that.' And he came out today, great attitude, he's receptive in meetings, he asks the right type of questions, and again, it's only his second day, but his retention has been good."

And while he won’t be able to travel with the team to El Paso, Martin believes the experience Rogers will have gained in three days of practice will be invaluable to his development down the line.

“Being in high school, you might come to a practice during recruiting, but you don’t know how it feels to actually go through that type of day,” Martin said. “And I think it’s a tremendous advantage to get him in here to see how it feels. So now in the spring, he’s past that.”
LOS ANGELES -- After taking part in an early evening practice on Wednesday, the Trojans went right back to the grind Thursday afternoon, impressing USC head coach Lane Kiffin with their ability to bounce back with another strong bowl game workout after such a short break.

“It’s not easy, they’re coming back after a later practice yesterday -- less than 24 hours off for back-to-back, full-padded, full-tackling practices -- that’s very unusual,” Kiffin said. “So, I thought they responded well.”

The unorthodox schedule over the last two days occurred primarily because of finals, but Kiffin believes that there is also some strategic value in it.

“One of the things about bowl games is trying to get players to buy into the [idea] that it’s not a soft, long time atmosphere -- rather than tell them, ‘Well, we still have 10 more [practices or] we still have 9 more,’ " Kiffin said. “The problem with that is then you’re finally practicing, and you’ve had a long layoff of having really physical stuff. So our plan has been to have a couple of really hard ones right now, almost as if you’re playing a game.”

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LOS ANGELES -- After more than a week away, the Trojans were back at work in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on Saturday in preparation for the team’s Hyundai Sun Bowl matchup with Georgia Tech. USC head coach Lane Kiffin was pleased in general with what he saw.

“Good to get back out here after players taking finals, and classes and coaches out recruiting,” Kiffin said. “Good to have Marqise [Lee] back out here after a while off. It didn’t look like he’s missed a beat. There were a number of big plays today and I thought the defense did a great job early on, led by Hayes Pullard.”

Kiffin glad to still have Martin

It’s safe to assume that there were some nervous moments inside the John McKay Center last week, as Tee Martin mulled over a job offer from his alma mater, Tennessee. Fortunately for Kiffin and Co., the highly regarded wide receivers coach decided to remain at USC, a move that figures to pay off for USC not just because of Martin’s ability as a coach, but because of his talents as a recruiter as well.

“It would have been tough to replace him as a coach, it would have been tough to replace him as a recruiter, and certainly we couldn’t have replaced the relationships that he’s already developed with recruits and with players,” Kiffin said. “We’re going to lose him some day because he’s going to be a head coach here pretty soon, but I’m glad we didn’t lose him quite yet.”

Barkley not ready yet

Matt Barkley did not practice on Saturday as he still recovers from a sprained AC joint suffered against UCLA on Nov. 17, but Kiffin does anticipate the senior quarterback to return to action once the team arrives in El Paso for their bowl week workouts on Dec. 26. In his place, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler once again saw extensive time running the offense.

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Video: Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
11:06
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USC's Marqise Lee squares off against Georgia Tech's triple option attack in El Paso, Texas, for the 2012 Sun Bowl.

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