USC hangs on to beat Nebraska, 45-42, in the Holiday Bowl

USC wraps up its 2014 season against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego

It's a final, USC defeats Nebraska, 45-42, to win the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Saturday night.

Cody Kessler passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns while Javorius Allen rushed for 152 yards and two scores for the Trojans.

Adoree' Jackson returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 71-yard pass play to help USC finish 9-4 this season. Nebraska also finished 9-4.

The Cornhuskers failed to convert a fourth-down play with 2 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter when defensive back Leon McQuay came across the line of scrimmage to bring down receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El, who had taken a shovel pass after going in motion. The Trojans, though, could not run out the clock.

After a 43-yard punt by Kris Albarado, a seven-yard return by Pierson-El and a 15-yard penalty for a late hit, Nebraska started at its own 32-yard line with 19 seconds left.

Following a false-start penalty, Cornhusker quarterback Tommy Armstrong threw incomplete and then connected with Ameer Abdullah for seven yards to the 34-yard line with one second left.

Armstrong unloaded a Hail Mary pass while sprinting out to his right but Nelson Agholor knocked the ball away near the 10-yard line to preserve the victory.

Nebraska trailed, 45-27, with 2:03 left in the third quarter after Kessler connected on a 20-yard scoring pass to Bryce Dixon.

Armstrong, who passed for 381 yards and ran for 41 more, answered with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp in the third quarter and a 15-yard scoring run in the fourth. Armstrong's two-point conversion pass to Kenny Bell with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter drew the Cornhuskers to within the final margin.

Here's a recap of the game:

USC 45, Nebraska 42 (2:48 left in the fourth quarter)

USC will start at its own 42-yard line. Nebraska fans are loud.

This is a game. Quarterback Cody Kessler throws deep, but is off the mark and it falls incomplete before he hands off to Javorius Allen. 

Kessler is sacked on third down and USC has to punt on fourth down. 

USC appears on the verge of collapse. 

Nebraska will start at its own 26-yard line.

The Huskers offense looks insprired as it dodges USC defenders. Tommy Armstrong completes a 11-yar pass to Jordan Westerkamp before running back Ameer Abdullah rushes for 10 yards.

USC's defense finally starts to slow the Huskers, holding  Armstrong and Abdullah to five and two yards, respectively.

Nebraska faces a third and three with 2:39 left and Armstrong misfires to bring up fourth down. The Cornhusker put De'Mornay Pierson-El in motion and Armstrong shovels a pass to him behind the line of scrimmage, with USC cornerback Leon McQuay coming across the line to make the tackle and force a turnover on downs.

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USC 45, Nebraska 42 (6:52 left in the fourth quarter)

The announced Holiday Bowl attendance is 55,789.

USC will start at its own 18-yard line.

That's the end of the fourth quarter. USC has an 11 point lead with 15 minutes remaining. Any USC fans feel comfortable with that?

The Trojans start the fourth with a lackluster offensive possession and has to punt.

Nebraska starts at its own 44-yard line.

Tommy Armstrong completes a 15-yard pass and Nebraska creeps to USC's 38-yard line. 

USC coaches are going wild on the sideline as they signal in the defensive play calls. Perhaps they are trying to avoid that Hail Mary confusion that USC fans are worry about with the Trojans' fourth quarter tendencies.

Fourth and one, the defense comes up huge, jamming Kenny Bell short of a first down.

USC takes over on downs at its own 29-yard line and is quickly in a fourth and one situation.

The punt team runs onto the field to a chorus of boos from USC fans. 

Nebraska will start at its own 23-yard line.

Su'a Cravens bats down a Tommy Armstrong pass at the line of scrimmage. Cravens continues to shine at the position. 

Armstrong completes a 33-yard pass to Ameer Abdullah, catching the USC defense taking a play off.

It's getting interesting. Armstrong completes a five-yard pass and Nebraska is at USC's 15-yard line.

Fourth and two, Armstrong keeps it and rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown.

Nebraska fans have come alive in Qualcomm, chanting "Go Big Red!" 

And the two-point conversion is good. USC fans are groaning, Nebraska fans are singing. 

This is such a familiar scene.

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USC 45, Nebraska 34 (19 seconds left in the third quarter)

USC quarterback Cody Kessler's last touchdown pass was his 39th of the season, which ties the Trojans' single-season touchdown record set by Matt Barkley in 2011.

Just when it looks like USC's defense is figuring it out, it gives up a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Jordan Westerkamp.

That drive was four plays and went 79 yards for the Huskers.

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USC 45, Nebraska 27 (2:03 left in the third quarter)

USC will start at its own 35-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a 45-yard pass to JuJu Smith on the first play of the drive.

The second play is a 20-yard pass to Bryce Dixon for a touchdown.

USC is wasting no time putting points on the board. 

Two plays, 65 yards in 25 seconds.

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USC 38, Nebraska 27 (2:28 left in the third quarter)

Nebraska will start at its own 32-yard line.

USC's defense shows up on this drive, forcing a three and out and Nebraska punts.

USC will start at its own 27-yard line.

Cody Kessler throws deep for Adoree' Jackson, but he's tripped up by the defener. It looks like Jackson is going to empty his tank in tonight's finale.

That was a quick three and out.

Kris Albarado out to punt and this time it is blocked. Nebraska will takeover at USC's 16-yard line. That's a huge special teams play for the Huskers.

Leon McQuay jumped offsides, moving Nebraska five yards closer to the end zone.

Tommy Armstrong pitches to Ameer Abdullah, who gains a first down.

Leonard Williams and Anthony Sarao get to Abdullah behind the line of scrimmage and drop him for an eight-yard loss.

Fourth and two, USC's defense makes the stop but Nebraska false started and was able to replay fourth down. The Huskers kick a 28-yard field goal.

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USC 38, Nebraska 24 (8:00 left in the third quarter)

USC will start at its own 32-yard line.

The Trojans' offense is starting to find a rhythm. Javorius Allen rushes for a first down before Cody Kessler throws to Darreus Rogers for another first down.

Allen break a couple of tackles and rushes for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Bye-bye, Buck. He has to announce for the NFL soon after tonight's game.

Allen has rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns in 19 carries.

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USC 31, Nebraska 24 (9:41 left in the third quarter)

Keep in mind after Adoree' Jackson's touchdown that George Farmer beat him by five yards in a 50-yard dash at the end of practice on Christmas Day. Jackson's speed is impressive, but USC has another receiver who is even faster.

Nebraska is responding to USC's quick score as the Huskers march down field after Tommy Armstrong completes passes of 11 and 17 yards before handing off for gains of 14 and three yards.

USC's defense is inconsistent. At times it stuffs Nebraska's run game at the line, other times it looks confused and lost.

Ameer Abdullah rushes for 20 yards and a Nebraska touchdown. USC's defense was nowhere near him.

The extra point is good.

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USC 31, Nebraska 17 (12:01 left in the third quarter)

The halftime show lit up the stadium like it was Fourth of July.

Nebraska will kickoff to start the second half. 

USC will start at its own 25-yard line after a 11-yard return by JuJu Smith.

Javorius Allen comes out of the locker room hot and rushes for five then 12 yards, but the drive stalls and USC punts.

Kris Albarado punts 53 yards and Nebraska will start at its own four-yard line.

Tommy Armstrong throws deep to Kenny Bell, both John Plattenburg and Adoree' Jackson in the area, but neither able to intercept the pass. 

Nebraska will punt from deep in its end zone. 

USC will start from its own 29-yard line.

Adoree' Jackson scores on a 72-yard catch-and-run play. The freshman two-way player just made the Nebraska defense look silly as it watched him run untouched through multiple defenders on his way to the end zone. He's a special talent for the Trojans.

USC 24, Nebraska 17 (Halftime)

Nebraska will start at its own 42-yard line.

USC defense doing a nice job again stopping running back Ameer Abdullah. Linebacker Su'a Cravens tackled him on his first carry, then safety John Plattenburg stopped him at the line of scrimmage.

Kevon Seymour breaks up Tommy Armstrong's third-down pass.

Nebraska punts.

USC will start at its own 18-yard line.

Who said quarterback Cody Kessler wasn't athletic? He just rushed straight ahead for 12 yards.

Kessler completes a 12-yard pass to Bryce Dixon and the sticks move down the field. 

Kessler throws deep intending for Nelson Agholor, but is intercepted by cornerback Josh Mitchell.

Nebraska takes over at its own 22. 

USC's defense is smothering Nebraska's attempts to run the ball and its perimeter passes. 

Of course as soon as I write that, Tommy Armstrong completes a 12-yard and then a 17-yard pass.

Running back Ameer Abdullah catches a nine-yard pass out of the backfield and shakes about three defenders before he's tackled.

Armstrong throws over the middle and completes a 21-yard pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El -- who makes a nice leaping grab.

USC has had multiple opportunities to intercept Tommy Armstrong and Su'a Cravens finally capitalizes. Officials are reviewing the play. 

The call stands and USC will takeover on its own 12-yard line.

Javorius Allen breaks a tackle and rushes for 18 yards. 

And USC will head into halftime.

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USC 24, Nebraska 17 (6:39 left in the second quarter)

Nebraska will start at USC's 48-yard line after another long kickoff return by Ameer Abdullah.

Tommy Armstrong is targeting Josh Shaw again, but Shaw makes a nice pass breakup in the end zone and then another on second down.

Nebraska false starts to setup a third and 15 -- John Plattenburg nearly intercepts Armstrong, but the pass skips off his arm.

Nebraska punts.

USC will start from its own 14-yard line. 

Quarterback Cody Kessler is under pressure, but completes a 14-yard pass to JuJu Smith. USC's offense is hustling to snap the ball. During bowl practices, Coach Steve Sarkisian was yelling for the offense to hurry up and move faster. 

Kessler takes a hit on second down and is sacked on third down. The hurry-up offense just hurried off the field.

Nebraska will start at its own 43-yard line.

USC's front three is doing a nice job stopping running back Ameer Abdullah on this drive. 

USC's secondary has another chance to intercept Tommy Armstrong, but Armstrong's pass bounces off the chest of John Plattenburg -- that's Plattenburg's second missed opportunity.

Nebraska punts.

USC will start at its own 20-yard line.

Kessler pitches to Adoree' Jackson, who rushes for six yards. Kessler completes a pass to Nelson Agholor and then another to Darreus Rogers, who is tackled for a loss. 

Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to Agholor. An interesting note, in a recent interview with CBS Sports radio, former USC receiver Marqise Lee said the biggest adjustment he has had to make in the NFL is his move after catching the ball -- he spent too much time deciding which way to run intead of catching and turning downfield. Agholor makes a similar move when he catches the ball and it will be interesting to see how that translates in his NFL draft stock if he announces for the NFL.

USC's offense is picking up its pace again as Kessler hands off five consecutive plays to tailbacks Javorius Allen and Justin Davis.

Allen rushes for two yards and a touchdown.

The extra point is good.

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USC 17, Nebraska 17 (13:11 left in the second quarter)

USC will start at its own 25-yard line.

Third and seven, Cody Kessler completes a 18-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.

Adoree' Jackson checks in on offense.

That's the end of the first quarter.

No discipline for USC so far. The Trojans have eight penalties for 67 yards, Nebraska has two for 10.

Checking in on social media, #USCvsNeb, Adoree' Jackson, Tommy Armstrong and Kenny Bell are all trending in the United States on Twitter.

Javorius Allen carries the ball three consecutive times to start the second quarter. Fourth and one, Kessler hands off to Allen again who picks up the first down.

Kessler mixes it up and completes a 19-yard pass to Randall Telfer. USC is on Nebraska's 17-yard line.

Kessler runs through a couple of checks before spotting Nelson Agholor streaking for the end zone. Agholor reaches to make a great catch for a touchdown.

The extra point is good.

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Nebraska 17, USC 10 (1:25 left in the first quarter)

Nebraska will start at its own 34-yard line.

Adoree' Jackson was not going to get beat a second time on a big play, Tommy Armstrong throws deep to Kenny Bell, but Jackson breaks it up.

Armstrong completes a 14-yard pass in front of Josh Shaw. 

Armstrong is nearly picked by Gerald Bowman, who had the ball in his arms before dropping it. 

Nebraska is going after Shaw, who was suspended for ten games. Armstrong completes a seven-yard pass to Kenny Bell in front of him. 

Armstrong's third down pass falls incomplete and the Cornhuskers punt. 

USC will start at its own five-yard line.

And the Trojans go nowhere. Albarado will punt from USC's own end zone.

Nebraska has great field position to start the drive at USC's 36-yard line.

Ameer Abdullah rushes for seven yards, Jackson makes the tackle.

Armstrong goes straight for Shaw again and completes a six-yard pass for a first down.

Armstrong is attempting the high-risk high-reward passes and is almost picked again - but Leonard Williams is called for a personal foul. He comes back and sacks Armstrong -- then taunts and dances in front of the Nebraska sideline and is called for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Williams going out in style tonight.

Those 30 yards of penalties hurt USC as Nebraska scores a nine-yard touchdown.

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USC 10, Nebraska 10 (6:05 left in the first quarter)

USC will start at its own 34-yard line after JuJu Smith returned the kickoff 32 yards.

Quarterback Cody Kessler completes a seven-yard pass to Bryce Dixon before handing off to Javorius Allen, who rushed for 16 yards.

Kessler rolled out to his right and completed a 16-yard pass to Nelson Agholor. USC's offense is starting to pick up its pace.

But... it comes to a halt when George Farmer drops a pass and Kessler makes a throw at Randall Telfer's feet.

Fourth down and here comes kicker Andre Heidari. We haven't seen him kick a field goal in awhile, but it's good from 42 yards.

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Nebraska 10, USC 7 (8:23 left in the first quarter)

Nebraska will start from its own 47-yard line.

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong completes a 13-yard pass to Kenny Bell and then quickly completes a 17-yard pass to Cethan Carter.

Nebraska is on USC's 14-yard line. 

Armstrong completes a eight-yard pass to offensive tackle Alex Lewis for a touchdown but he is ruled an ineligible receiver and it is called back.

The play was reviewed and the call stands - ineligible receiver.

Third and nine on USC's 14, Hayes Pullard is bouncing around and an offensive lineman false starts. Nebraska backs up five yards.

Armonstrong throws to the corner of the end zone and Bell makes an incredible catch over the top of cornerback Adoree' Jackson for a touchdown.

The extra point is good. 

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USC 7, Nebraska 3 (10:54 left in the first quarter)

See ya Adoree' Jackson! 

The freshman fields the kickoff and runs 98 yards before flipping into the end zone. 

That is the longest kickoff return in Holiday Bowl history.

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Nebraska 3, USC 0 (11:05 left in the first quarter)

Nebraska with a huge 48-yard kickoff return.

The Cornhuskers will start on their own 50-yard line.

J.R. Tavai makes an agressive tackle for a loss on running back Ameer Abdullah on second down and Gerald Bowman makes a nice pass breakup on third down to force Nebraska to punt. 

USC will start on its own 10-yard line.

Freshman receiver JuJu Smith is called for a false start the first play of the series. 

Receiver Steven Mitchell takes a brutal hit on third down and USC will punt.

Punter Kris Albarado's punt appeared to be partially blocked and Albarado is down on the play. After laying on the turf for a couple of minutes, he walks off with trainers.

Nebraska will start at USC's 46-yard line.

Running back Ameer Abdullah is carrying Nebraska's offense so far, he rushes for seven yards and Nebraska is given a first down after Su'a Cravens is called for a personal foul. John Plattenburg was walked off the field by trainers on the same play.

USC keeps Nebraska out of the end zone, but the Cornhuskers kick a 34-yard field goal.

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Nebraska has won the toss and will receive.

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Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker is sidelined because of a concussion and defensive lineman Greg Townsend, Jr. because of a foot injury. 

USC nose tackle Antwaun Woods is also sidelined since having surgery.  

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In case you missed it, here's a great read from Gary Klein on Hayes Pullard and Randall Telfer - both fifth-year seniors who saw it all in their time at USC. This is their final game.

Could it also be the final game for draft-eligible juniors Leonard Williams, Javorius Allen and Nelson Agholor?

I think Williams and Allen will certainly declare for the draft. Agholor is a wild card. 

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Former Oregon State Coach Mike Riley, who has been hired to coach Nebraska, helped the Cornhuskers prepare for USC -- though he will not coach the game tonight.

"I told them, 'Don't let 'em throw a Hail Mary right before halftime,'" Riley told reporters in the press box. 

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The game start time has been pushed back to 5:10 p.m. PT. 

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USC announced its starting lineups.

The offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, tight end Randall Telfer, fullback Jahleel Pinner, tailback Javorius Allen, receivers Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith, and offensive linemen Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama, Max Tuerk, Viane Talamaivao and Zach Banner.

The defense: Defensive linemen Leonard Williams, Delvon Simmons and Claude Pelon, outside linebackers Su'a Cravens and J.R. Tavai, inside linebackers Anthony Sarao and Hayes Pullard, cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Kevon Seymour and safeties John Plattenburg and Gerald Bowman.

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Senior offensive lineman Aundrey Walker did not dress for Thursday's practice and is not suited for the game, but was throwing the ball around with teammates during pregame. 

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USC players have arrived at Qualcomm Stadium with kickoff at the Holiday Bowl just less than two hours away.

It is sunny and clear in San Diego, with the current temperature 61 degrees. The forecast says it will be about 50 by the end of the game.

By the look of the parking lots, it appears most USC fans will outnumber Nebraska fans at the game, many Trojans telling me they made the two-hour drive from Los Angeles today.

 

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