Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 | 12:20 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 | 4:12 p.m.
USC’s first venture to the Las Vegas Bowl in 12 years went down as a success — a smashing one.
Behind a Las Vegas Bowl-record four touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler, USC routed Fresno State 45-20. All of Kessler’s scoring tosses came in the first half.
He found both Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor in the end zone twice. Lee, who had touchdown catches of 10 and 40 yards, unofficially finished with seven catches for 118 yards. Agholor, whose scores came from 17 and 40 yards out, recorded five catches for 94 yards.
The Trojans never trailed and built a 35-6 halftime lead. Fresno State’s only scoring drive in the first half came when USC gave it a short field on an attempted onside kick.
Derek Carr fired an 8-yard strike to Isaiah Burse minutes later, but the Bulldogs missed the extra point. It was a harbinger for the rest of the afternoon as Fresno State’s sloppy play continued.
Carr’s storied college career failed to produce a positive ending. He struggled to throw downfield against the Trojans, finishing with a mediocre 217 yards on 29-for-54 passing. He had two touchdowns and one interception.
Fresno State got a glimmer of hope when Derron Smith took an interception back 44 yards on one of the first plays of the fourth quarter to make the score 38-20. But USC put an end to its opponent’s far-fetched hopes with a long drive capped by Javorious Allen’s second touchdown run of the day.
Allen finished with 27 carries for 87 yards.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for full coverage of the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and look below for our live blog of the action.
Welcome to the start of the bowl season, where Las Vegas gets to serve as a gracious host this year.
The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl is annually one of the first postseason games on the slate, but it rarely falls on the first day. In 2013, the bowl gets the best of both worlds in its 22nd year.
It’s one of the first two games of the year and also one of the best of the early lineup. No. 20 Fresno State and No. 25 USC is the only matchup between ranked teams out of the first 20 bowl games.
The tailgates, covered in different shades of red, are packing up and the seats filling. The Bulldogs and Trojans have cleared the field after warming up and headed for the locker rooms.
The Las Vegas Bowl is minutes from kickoff. The dominant storyline leading up to today’s showdown at Sam Boyd Stadium for Fresno State is Derek Carr, the gun-slinging quarterback assured to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
For USC, it’s the coaching madness the Trojans have endured all season. Interim coach Clay Helton becomes the third head coach to roam the sidelines this season against the Bulldogs.
But there are plenty more compelling angles, two of the best wide receivers in the nation not being the least of them.
USC’s Marqise Lee was a unanimous-decision All-American a year ago and holds most of the program’s receiving records. Injuries have led to Fresno State’s Davante Adams outshining him this year, however, as he leads the nation in receptions and touchdown catches.
Both juniors are expected to declare for the NFL Draft after this game, but that’s another story. Let’s enjoy the Las Vegas Bowl for now.
Follow along for the Sun’s live blog of the action.