USC tries to end topsy-turvy season on upnote


LAS VEGAS — They played under or met four USC head coaches in less than three months.

They shed tears of elation in a frenzied post-victory celebration after beating Stanford at the Coliseum, tears of sorrow on the steps of the McKay Center as a beloved figure exited the program.

On Saturday, USC players will try to put all of that out of their minds — or use it as motivation — when they play No. 21 Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“We’ve done something remarkable in the sense of how we handled everything,” quarterback Cody Kessler said, “but we still have a game to win.”

It won’t be easy, not against a Fresno State team that was one victory from playing in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game and features quarterback Derek Carr, college football’s passing-yardage and total offense leader.

And the 9-4 Trojans must find energy after a tumultuous and draining regular season.

The players endured the firing of Lane Kiffin, reveled in the fun atmosphere created by Ed Orgeron, mourned Orgeron’s departure after Athletic Director Pat Haden hired Steve Sarkisian, and have since embraced Clay Helton as their coach for the bowl game.

Helton, USC’s offensive coordinator, has jokingly referred to himself this week as “a third-string head coach.”

But he has made finishing the season with 10 victories a mantra for himself, assistants and players.

“We want this team to be remembered,” he said. “It’s not a wasted year. … To get that 10th win would be something very special and would hopefully catapult USC to even bigger things under Coach Sarkisian.”

USC didn’t need another distraction, but it got one during the run-up to the bowl game when USC and Washington compliance officials began an investigation into allegations that an assistant on Sarkisian’s Washington staff paid for private tutoring and online classes for a recruit.

If the allegations, first reported in the Los Angeles Times, are found to be true, Sarkisian could face penalties, including a suspension.

Boise State sends

Southwick home

HONOLULU — Boise State sent home quarterback Joe Southwick on Friday and reinstated backup Nick Patti.

After the two quarterbacks were suspended from practice Friday for violating team rules, Broncos interim head coach Bob Gregory said that Southwick was sent home for his violation and that Patti was reinstated for practice and the Hawaii Bowl on Tuesday against Oregon State. Boise State declined to comment further.

Southwick returned to action Nov. 30 against New Mexico in the regular-season finale after breaking his right ankle Oct. 19. Patti has appeared in six games, completing 8 of 11 passes for 63 yards.

Grant Hedrick is expected to start against Oregon State. In 12 games this season, he completed 135 of 198 passes for 1,443 yards and 15 touchdowns.

By wire sources