USC Sports

Five things we learned in USC’s 23-21 loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl

Ronald Jones II, Natrell Jamerson, T.J. Watt

USC running back Ronald Jones II tries to power past Wisconsin cornerback Natrell Jamerson (12) and linebacker T.J. Watt during the first half Wednesday night.

(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Wisconsin defeated USC, 23-21, in the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday. Here are five things we learned in the Trojans’ defeat:

Offensive line still needs work

Cody Kessler played under duress during most of the game.

He was sacked by the same player on three consecutive plays in the fourth quarter.


Toa Lobendahn is expected to return from knee surgery, but Chad Wheeler’s status as the starting left tackle could be uncertain despite Clay Helton saying that Wheeler would return in January.

Tailbacks struggled against a stout defense

Junior Justin Davis rushed for only 27 yards in 12 carries, and freshman Ronald Jones II gained 47 yards in eight carries.

Wisconsin was ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense.


Davis said after the game that the Badgers’ front seven was the best he faced this season.

Slow start continued

USC has made a habit of falling behind early in games.

The Trojans came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but did not leave themselves much time to make another comeback.

They must find a way to start faster in 2016.

Defensive adjustments

USC utilized four linemen at times on defense to try to disrupt Badgers quarterback Joel Stave.

Stave completed 18 of 27 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown.


He was not sacked.

Helton’s play-calling days are over

Helton will turn over play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Tee Martin next season.

Helton’s final game was not his best.

The Trojans were outgained, 394 yards to 286, and the offense struggled to find any rhythm.

Questions or comments about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.

Get our daily Sports Report newsletter