EL PASO, Texas — Southern California was ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, and Matt Barkley was a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. The year ended with Barkley on the sideline as the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 21-7 victory on Monday in front of a crowd of 47,922 at Sun Bowl Stadium.
“It was a really surprising day,” Southern California coach Lane Kiffin said. “Coming down and turning the ball over, and with third-down efficiency, we really found no rhythm on offense. I thought we’d play much better on offense today. The storyline really came down to our inefficiency on offense, and obviously it starts with the head coach.”
USC (7-6) became the first preseason No. 1 team to lose six games. It’s also all but assured of becoming the first school to enter the season on top of The Associated Press poll and finish unranked since Mississippi in 1964.
Washington’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third made it 14-7, and he found Orwin Smith for a 17-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
“I’m really proud of our football team,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I thought that they showed up and played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination, and I know Southern California has some really good football players. It was a hard-fought game.”
Barkley, the first three-time captain in USC history, injured his right shoulder in a loss to UCLA and was not cleared to play his final college game. He clapped as the Trojans took the field for their first bowl game after a two-year NCAA ban.
Max Wittek tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Silas Redd in the second quarter, but also threw three interceptions. Redd added 88 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Talented receiver Robert Woods was limited to three receptions for 33 yards in what was likely his final college game. The junior said after the loss he plans to enter the NFL draft.
Kiffin said he took responsibility for the lost season.
“All of it,” he said. “We can’t be 7-6. That’s not USC, and that’s not our expectations. That’s not why we came here. Obviously, we have some work here to get that fixed.
“Even if we’d won this game, we’d still be very disappointed in this season. It’s well below our standards.”
Asked if he thought the loss could cost him his job, Kiffin answered flatly, “No.”
The Trojans struggled to contain Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack. The Yellow Jackets (7-7) rushed for 294 yards on 63 carries while stopping a seven-bowl losing streak.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” Washington said.
Tech’s David Sims had 99 yards on 17 carries, but he got plenty of help. Zach Laskey added 60 yards on six carries, Vad Lee had 52 on 10 carries and Washington had 16 attempts for 46 yards for the No. 4 rushing team in the nation.
Sims also caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Lee in the first quarter.
Lee and Washington combined to go just 5-for-10 passing, but two completions went for TDs passes and two more covered 26 and 49 yards, keying two of the team’s scoring drives.
Tech used its two-quarterback attack masterfully, working them in and out of the lineup and playing to their strengths.
“I think both guys did some good things,” Johnson said. “Vad hit some big plays and played well, and then in the second half we got kind of more geared into the run game and Tevin has a lot of experience and handled it really well.”
High-powered USC finished with 10 first downs and eight punts as Georgia Tech shut down the Trojans’ big-play threats all afternoon.
USC receiver Marqise Lee, who finished fourth in this year’s Heisman voting, was held to six catches for 41 yards.
“To go out and perform the way we did today was a great feeling,” said Yellow Jackets cornerback Rod Sweeting, who had an interception and was the game’s MVP.
Wittek had four passes deflected at the line. His second interception came in the Tech end zone with 6:22 to go and the last came inside the Tech 10-yard line in the game’s final minute. He was 14 for 37 for 107 yards.
“It was definitely our best game of the year (defensively),” said Johnson, whose team finished the regular season 6-7 after losing the ACC title game and needed an NCAA waiver to be eligible for bowl play.
Tulsa 31, Iowa State 17
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tulsa made the most of its second chance.
Trey Watts rushed for 149 yards, Alex Singleton ran for three scores and Tulsa avenged a season-opening loss to Iowa State with a victory in the rainy Liberty Bowl on Monday.
The Golden Hurricane (11-3) posted the second 11-win season in school history.
Tulsa, which has the smallest enrollment of any Football Bowl Subdivision program, also finished 11-3 in 2008.
Iowa State (6-7) rallied to beat Tulsa 38-23 on Sept. 1, but the Golden Hurricane put together the comeback in the rematch. Tulsa trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams had changed quite a bit since that regular-season opener.
Iowa State’s Steele Jantz, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score in the season opener, lost his starting job to redshirt freshman Sam Richardson. The Cyclones’ leading rusher (Shontrelle Johnson) and top tackler (Jake Knott) from the Sept. 1 game missed the Liberty Bowl with injuries.
Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson, a three-year starter, was serving a three-game suspension during the last meeting with Iowa State. Jackson sacked Richardson on consecutive plays late in the first quarter Monday and forced a fumble in the game’s closing minutes.
After going 6 for 7 for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, Richardson was 4 of 14 for 15 yards with an interception the rest of the game. Iowa State didn’t pick up its initial first down of the second half until after Jantz replaced Richardson with under 13 minutes left in the game.
Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt 38, N.C. State 24
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southeastern Conference is so strong that even Vanderbilt, yes Vandy, is winning like the Commodores haven’t in nearly a century.
And coach James Franklin says everyone better get used to it.
Jordan Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Commodores capped their best season since 1915 by defeating North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl on Monday.
“We’re not going anywhere,” a smiling and teary Franklin said.
The Commodores finished 9-4 for their best record since going 9-1 in 1915, and it’s only the third time the smallest and only private university in the SEC has won as many as nine games in a season.
Vandy closed the season with seven straight wins for its longest streak since an eight-game run in 1948, and its 15 wins over the past two seasons is the program’s best total since 1926 and 1927.
No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 9 LSU 24
ATLANTA — Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 14 Clemson a wild win over No. 9 Louisiana State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night.
Trailing 24-22, Clemson (11-2) took possession on its 20 with 1:39 remaining. Tajh Boyd completed a pass for 26 yards to DeAndre Hopkins on a fourth-and-16 play during the decisive 10-play drive.
Catanzaro’s kick set off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands.
Some players collapsed on the field in apparent disbelief, while most of Clemson’s orange jerseys met in a midfield circle.
Hopkins, who had 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns, also had receptions for 7 and 13 yards in the final drive. LSU safety Greg Reid was flagged for pass interference while defending Hopkins.