USC defeated Nebraska, 45-42, on Saturday in the Holiday Bowl.
Here are five things we learned in the Trojans’ victory.
Hail Mary defense
USC learned how to defend a Hail Mary.
Trojans receiver Nelson Agholor was in on defense in the final second and knocked down Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s heave toward the end zone.
USC players said after the game they thought about Arizona State’s Hail Mary as they prepared for the Cornhuskers’ final play.
In October, the Sun Devils defeated the Trojans, 38-34, in the final seconds. USC players said after the game they were confused about the play call, which resulted in multiple defenders not making a play on the ball.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said after Saturday’s game that the “Victory” play call was clearly signaled.
Late game let up
USC’s fourth quarter problems are not in the past.
The Trojans were up by 11 points with 15 minutes remaining, but it came down to the final play.
Some players said after the game that they thought “not again” as the quarter unfolded.
USC defenders appeared confused and were not in position to make a stop when Armstrong rushed for a 15-yard touchdown and then converted a two-point play to make it a three-point game with less than seven minutes left.
Leon McQuay steps up
USC safety Leon McQuay struggled in a loss at UCLA and lost his starting position to freshman John Plattenburg.
But the sophomore made two stops when his team needed him the most.
With 2:39 remaining and Nebraska facing third and three on USC’s 31-yard line, McQuay broke up Armstrong’s pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El. Armstrong went back to Pierson-El on fourth down with a shovel pass, but he was stopped by McQuay again.
Adoree’ Jackson shines
Adoree’ Jackson said after the game the 18-yard touchdown he gave up in the first quarter weighed on his mind.
But it was Jackson’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and his 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown that stood out.
The freshman two-way player needs to be utilized on both sides of the ball.
Jackson caught three passes for 73 yards and made seven tackles.
Leonard Williams leaves a hole
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams has not announced for the NFL draft, but it should only be a matter of time.
Saturday’s victory made it more apparent how much he will be missed
Williams made nine tackles, including a sack, but it was his emotional leadership that stood out most.
In the first quarter, Williams drew a personal foul for a late hit on Armstrong, but sacked him on the next play and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting Nebraska’s sideline.
The penalties showed a lack of discipline, but they also proved that he plays the game with unbridled passion.