Georgia Tech: 21
Southern California: 7
After failing to stage a late comeback against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, Georgia Tech earned a berth in the Sun Bowl where it would face the preseason top-ranked USC Trojans. USC entered the contest at 7-5, having lost four of its last five games to finish the regular season. The Jackets entered at 6-7, needing a win to prevent from suffering their second losing season in three years.
Tech’s previous trip to the Sun Bowl occurred in 2011 when the Jackets lost to Utah 30-27 in overtime to fall to 1-1 all-time in the nation’s second oldest bowl game (tied with the Orange and Sugar bowls).
The Jackets and Trojans last met in 1973 when Pat Haden led USC to a 23-6 victory at Grant Field, giving the Trojans a 2-1 lead in the series. Tech’s lone victory came in 1961 in the form of a 27-7 victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The first quarter was dominated by the defenses early before Sean Poole set the Trojans up with great field position at Tech’s 41 with a 22 yard punt. Reserve quarterback Max Wittek, playing in place of the injured Matt Barkley, led the Trojans into scoring position, but failed to convert on third-and-seven from the 24. Andrew Heidari came on to attempt a 38 yard field goal, but missed wide left, giving the ball back to the Jackets at their own 21 yard line.
Tech returned on offense and picked up two first downs on the ground en route to midfield as the first quarter came to a close. Vad Lee then found Chris Jackson for 23 yards and a first down at the USC 27 on the first play of the second period before the Yellow Jackets utilized five backs to advance to the Trojan 3 yard line. Lee went to the air on third-and-goal and found David Sims for the touchdown with 10:41 left in the half to take a 7-0 lead.
The Trojans punted back after advancing to midfield, but quickly regained possession when Lee threw an interception to Lamar Dawson that was returned 17 yards to the Ramblin’ Wreck 33. USC returned the favor two plays later, however, when Wittek had a pass intercepted by Rod Sweeting that was returned to the Yellow Jacket 46.
The turnovers continued when Lee lost a fumble to Wes Horton at the USC 41, and the Trojans looked to tie the game with 3:24 left in the first half.
Wittek led his offense 59 yards in 8 plays with the aid of a 20 yard run by Silas Redd. The two combined to account for the touchdown when Wittek hit Redd for a 9 yard pass with just under a minute to play to knot the contest at 7-all at the break.
Tech’s defense took the field at the start of the second half and quickly forced a three-and-out. Kyle Negrete’s punt then travelled just 30 yards, and Jamal Golden fielded the ball on the run, returning it 56 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, a review that followed showed Golden to be out of bounds at the 1, and Tevin Washington came on to sneak in for a touchdown on second down to regain the lead for the Jackets at 14-7.
A series of punts consumed much of what remained of the third quarter before USC was presented with excellent field position when Golden lost a fumble to Nelson Agholor while returning a punt. But the Trojans failed to capitalize on the opportunity when Wittek’s fourth down pass fell incomplete from the Yellow Jacket 38, giving the ball back to Tech late in the third period.
Washington hooked up with Jeremy Moore for 27 yards on first down to push Tech to the USC 35, and David Sims and Zach Laskey combined to push Tech inside the Trojan 10 as the third quarter came to a close. But in addition to a false start penalty, Washington lost 4 yards on two attempts to force a third-and-goal from the 17 yard line. Tech’s senior leader then stepped up to find Orwin Smith for a 17 yard touchdown strike that put the Jackets ahead 21-7 early in the final period.
Following a USC punt, Tech would advance to the Trojan 26 on their next drive before Washington came up short fourth-and-four.
Wittek and Redd quickly drove the Trojans towards the Yellow Jacket end zone, advancing as far as the 3 yard line. But as fate would have it, Quayshawn Nealy picked off Wittek’s third down pass, and the Jackets would take back over at their own 20 with 6:22 to play.
Washington showed excellent clock management on the ensuing drive, covering 29 yards to midfield, while consuming nearly five minutes of time before punting back with 1:31 remaining.
The Trojans threatened again as time wound down, but finally fell short when Jamal Golden intercepted Wittek at the goal line with 27 seconds left to seal the victory.
The win gave the Jackets their first bowl win since defeating the Syracuse Orange 51-14 in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl. Furthermore, it evened the series with the Trojans at 2-2, and allowed the Jackets a 7-7 finish, preventing their second losing season in three years.
USC fell to 7-6 with the loss, ending the season in disappointing fashion after beginning as the favorite to win the National Championship.
GT – 18
USC – 10
GT – 294
USC – 98
GT – 5-10-75
USC – 14-37-107
GT – 1
USC – 3
GT – 2-2
USC – 1-0
GT – 8-88
USC – 2-10
– Game Highlights