USC Trojans: Jamal Golden

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
1/01/13
8:00
AM PT
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
12/31/12
3:19
PM PT
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.

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