Southern California offensive tackle Kevin Graff (77) and interim head coach Clay Helton embrace after winning the Las Vegas Bowl 45-20 against Fresno State on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)
LAS VEGAS — Southern California wrapped up its rocky season by rolling over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Cody Kessler passed for 344 yards and a bowl-record four touchdowns in the Trojans’ 45-20 victory over the 21st-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday under Clay Helton, their third head coach in less than three months.
Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor had two touchdown catches apiece, Javorius Allen rushed two more scores, and the Trojans (10-4) answered every question about their motivation by dancing on the sideline while routing a BCS contender for the storied program’s first postseason victory since 2009.
Derek Carr passed for 217 yards and two TDs in his final game at Fresno State (11-2), which fell behind 35-6 at halftime and failed to secure the first 12-win season in school history.
From Kessler’s smooth offense to a dynamic defensive effort against Fresno State’s FBS-best passing game, USC was uniformly outstanding in its only game under Helton. The offensive coordinator filled the one-game gap between coaches Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisian on the Trojans’ coaching carousel, but USC picked up right where Orgeron left off after its desultory start to the season under Lane Kiffin.
Kessler even outdid Carr, his fellow Bakersfield native and friend, setting the Las Vegas Bowl record for TD passes before halftime and finishing 22 for 30. Carr, the nation’s leader in yards passing and total offense, became the fourth player in NCAA history to surpass 5,000 yards passing and 50 TD passes during the game. He went 30 for 54 under constant pressure.
Colorado State 48, Washington State 45
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jared Roberts made a 41-yard field goal as time expired and Colorado State overcame a 22-point deficit to beat Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.
With less than 2 minutes left, Colorado State’s Shaquil Barrett forced Cougars running back Jeremiah Laufasa to fumble at the Cougars 33. That set up Kapri Bibbs’ 1-yard run scoring and Donnell Alexander’s two-point conversion run that tied it with 33 seconds left. Then, Teondray Caldwell fumbled a kickoff return at the 24, setting up the winning field goal.
Garrett Grayson threw for 369 yards and Bibbs ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns for Colorado State (8-6). The Rams overcame three early turnovers.
Connor Halliday threw touchdown passes to six receivers and finished with 410 yards for Washington State (6-7). Washington State rushed for minus-10 yards total.
San Diego St 49, Buffalo 24
BOISE, Idaho — Adam Muema rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns and Quinn Kaehler threw two scoring passes in San Diego State’s victory over Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Aztecs pulled away early, scoring three touchdowns in a 5:24 span stretching from the end of the first half into the third quarter. The scoring spree was fueled by two costly Buffalo turnovers, the first an interception just before halftime that set up Kaehler’s 25-yard touchdown toss to Dylan Denso.
The Bulls then fumbled on the opening kick in third quarter. The Aztecs (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West) scored five plays later when Kaehler fired an 11-yard TD to Adam Roberts to go up 35-10.
Not much went right for the Bulls (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American Conference), playing in the second bowl game in the team’s 100-year history. Buffalo had three turnovers and just 309 total yards.