By the time USC wraps up its season, it will have had nearly half as many head coaches in 2013 as wins. The question is, will there be a nine or a 10 in the win column once all is said and done?
The Trojans second interim head coach of the season, Clay Helton, hopes it’s 10. Having a double-digit win total is very much a goal for the Trojans as they head into bowl season.
No. 25 USC (9-4) has accepted a bid to the 22nd Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and will take on No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) on Dec. 21 at 12:30 p.m. PT.
“To have the opportunity to get your 10th win, to get double-digit wins — that puts you in a realm as far as accomplishment with a football team that you can walk away from a season extremely proud of,” Helton said.
In what has been a roller coaster of a season, it’s Helton who’s been pegged to take over for the bowl game after last week’s resignation of former interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
The departure of Orgeron took a heavy emotional toll on the players as well as the coaching staff.
“Anytime you lose a figure like Coach O as a player or on that coaching staff, obviously, you’re going to be sad,” Helton said. “I think that’s a national reaction.”
Solace, Helton says, can be found on the football field. The team will return to practice on Monday after having all of the previous week off.
Under Orgeron, the Trojans won six of their eight games, including a 6-1 record in Pac-12 contests. The lone conference loss was a 35-14 defeat at the hands of crosstown rival UCLA a little over a week ago. The loss proved to be costly to Orgeron’s chances of being named the school’s permanent head coach.
There was a high level of success obtained during Orgeron’s tenure and Helton doesn’t figure to mess with it.
“We’re going to keep the same philosophy that we’ve had the last eight weeks,” Helton said. “It’s been successful for us. We’ve had a lot of fun together as a staff and as a football team and those things are going to continue.”
Waiting for the Trojans will be a Fresno State team that was one win shy of likely qualifying for a BCS bowl berth.
The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of former Fresno State quarterback and No. 1 overall pick, David Carr. The Bulldogs head coach, Tim DeRuyter, grew up in Long Beach, attended St. John Bosco, and says he wanted to be a Trojan.
This will be the second appearance for the Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl — they lost to Utah in 2001.
In Fresno State’s lone Las Vegas Bowl appearance, it was defeated by Utah as well in 1999.
This will be the third meeting between the two programs. Fresno State defeated USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl and in 2005 USC defeated the Bulldogs 50-42 in one of the greatest games ever played in the Coliseum. That win, however, was later vacated.