Cody Kessler’s dynamic 2013 bowl-game performance foreshadowed his impressive 2014 season.
Kessler passed for four touchdowns and a then career-best 345 yards in USC’s Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State.
A year later, he is on pace for several USC season records, including highest completion percentage and most touchdown passes.
Kessler aims to have another strong bowl-game performance when the Trojans play Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
“I’d love to do that,” he said Thursday after practice, adding that he would be fine handing the ball off to tailback Javorius Allen “40 to 50 times” if that works against the Cornhuskers.
Kessler has completed 70.7% of his passes. Matt Barkley holds the record at 69.1%, set in 2011. Kessler has passed for 36 touchdowns, three shy of Barkley’s record.
Kessler will face a Nebraska defense that has given up only 12 touchdown passes.
“They do a really good job of getting to the quarterback and using their front seven to get a push and breaking down the pocket really fast,” he said. “And the guys in the secondary do a really good job.”
Kessler passed for a USC record seven touchdowns against Colorado and finished the regular season by passing for six touchdowns against Notre Dame, the most in a game against the Fighting Irish.
Kessler is among USC’s draft-eligible juniors who have said they would request evaluations from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.
Asked if he had received his evaluation, Kessler said, “I’m not talking about it until after the bowl game. I don’t want to take away from the bowl game.”
Receiver Nelson Agholor also was expected to seek an evaluation.
The junior has 97 receptions, 11 for touchdowns.
“It’s something you have to be happy about,” Agholor said of playing against an opponent ranked third nationally in passing efficiency defense. “You’re getting an opportunity to be on a stage with somebody that’s done such special things. ... You get a chance to really challenge yourself and find out what you’re made of.”
Back on track
After describing the Trojans’ practice performance on Wednesday as “extremely average,” Coach Steve Sarkisian was encouraged by Thursday’s workout.
“The guys responded well, like I knew they would,” he said.
The full-pads workout included contact periods that featured the first-team offense going full speed against the first-team defense.
“I would love to do that all the time,” Sarkisian said, adding, “As you move forward and you start to develop depth in your program, I think that allows you more opportunities for those types of practices.”
Isaac Whitney, a receiver for Riverside City College, signed a financial-aid agreement with USC. The Trojans have commitments or signed financial-aid agreements from 19 players. High school and junior college players can sign national letters of intent on Feb. 4. ... Junior tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who was academically ineligible this season, has not been practicing with the Trojans. “He’s just focused on school — that’s his primary focus,” Sarkisian said. If Cope-Fitzpatrick is eligible for the 2015 season, he and Bryce Dixon would be returning scholarship tight ends.