No. 21 Fresno State loses Las Vegas Bowl to USC
Just a few weeks after Fresno State appeared poised for a BCS
trip and a breakthrough season, the Bulldogs ended up busted in
Derek Carr didn’t attempt to hide his disappointment when his
college career ended with a 45-20 loss to Southern California in
the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
The record-setting quarterback also wouldn’t allow one loss to
erase every good memory from a landmark season in Fresno State
”I thought our guys were ready to go,” Carr said. ”There
wasn’t any lack of focus on any side of the ball. USC just beat
Carr passed for just 217 yards and two TDs under constant
pressure in his final game at Fresno State (11-2), which fell
behind 35-6 at halftime. With their fifth straight bowl defeat, the
Bulldogs failed to secure the first 12-win season in school
Right down to the script ”Bulldogs” on the helmet, Fresno
State wore the same uniform combination sported by the team that
beat USC in the 1992 Freedom Bowl, one of the biggest wins in
school history. But the Mountain West champions still haven’t won a
bowl game since 2007, losing six of their last seven.
”I think if you look at the body of work, this team won 11
ballgames and won a second straight conference championship,”
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. ”There’s critics out there.
Everyone has got an opinion. I know in my heart we had a really,
really fine football team. We didn’t play our best game today, and
that goes on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys
Cody Kessler passed for a career-high 344 yards and a
bowl-record four touchdowns for the Trojans and interim coach Clay
Helton, the third of USC’s four head coaches in less than three
Kessler outdid Carr, his fellow Bakersfield native and friend,
setting the Las Vegas Bowl record for TD passes before halftime and
finishing 22 for 30. USC scored three touchdowns in a nine-minute
burst in the second quarter, and Javorius Allen clinched it with
his second TD run with 4:44 to play.
Carr went 30 for 54 under constant pressure from the blitzing
Trojans, who eliminated Fresno State’s running game and twice
stopped the Bulldogs on fourth downs in the first half. Fresno
State’s two TD catches by Isaiah Burse and Davante Adams both came
on short drives resulting from USC mistakes on special teams, and
Derron Smith returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown.
Carr, the nation’s leader in yards passing and total offense,
became the fourth player in NCAA history to surpass 5,000 yards
passing and 50 TD passes during the game. But Carr leaves Fresno
State without a bowl victory, never getting the Bulldogs moving
against one of the nation’s best pass defenses.
”Blame me. Blame me always,” Carr said. ”I’ve got to do a
better job of leading, and I’ve got to do a better job of getting
our guys in better spots. That’s my fault.”
Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor had two touchdown catches apiece,
Allen rushed two more scores, and the Trojans (10-4) answered every
question about their own motivation by repeatedly dancing on the
sideline during the storied program’s first postseason victory
From Kessler’s smooth offense to a dynamic defensive effort
against Fresno State’s FBS-best passing game, USC was uniformly
outstanding in its only game under Helton.
The offensive coordinator filled the one-game gap between
coaches Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisian on the Trojans’ coaching
carousel, but USC picked up right where Orgeron left off after its
desultory start to the season under Lane Kiffin. The Trojans ended
up celebrating under confetti in the north end zone, joining
friends and family on a chilly desert night in front of a sellout
crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium.
After the teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives, the
Trojans blocked Fresno State’s extra point attempt – and it started
Agholor caught TD passes of 40 and 17 yards for the Trojans’
next two scores. Allen made a 24-yard TD run through bad tackling
midway through the second quarter, and Lee turned a short pass into
a 40-yard TD with 37 seconds left in the half.