Fischer: Sun Bowl loss a fitting end for USC
What was supposed to be a dream season without the shackles of an NCAA bowl ban turned out to be quite the nightmare for USC. Monday's 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech, who entered the game with a losing record, was a fitting end.
An offense featuring a Biletnikoff Award winner, two very good tailbacks and more than a month to prepare had just 205 total yards against a defense that was carved by ACC offenses all season. USC scored only seven points in the game, or fewer than a linebacker-turned-quarterback (for Maryland) did against the same Yellow Jackets unit earlier in the year.
Presbyterian rolled up more yardage against Georgia Tech than USC did in the Sun Bowl. Ouch.
[Related video: USC vs. Georgia Tech highlights]
Young starting quarterback Max Wittek, filling in once again for an injured Matt Barkley, looked less poised than he did against one of the best defenses in the country when USC played Notre Dame in late November. He finished 14-of-37 for 107 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Backup Cody Kessler didn't see any action.
Re-watch the game or look down the stat sheet - it's hard to see many, if any, positives for USC. Marqise Lee was held to only 41 yards on six catches, and fellow receiver Robert Woods had just three catches for 33 yards.
The defense did what it could, staying on the field for more than 36 minutes while the USC offense picked up only four first downs the entire day. The Trojans did force three turnovers from Georgia Tech, including a muffed punt that gave the offense great field position. Otherwise, there were not a ton of good things to note.
USC finishes with its worst record since 2001, losing five of the season's last six games, and becomes the first team ever to have six losses after being ranked atop the preseason polls. The Trojans set an FBS record for most turnovers for a team with a winning record (33).
When Barkley stood up proudly nearly a year ago in Heritage Hall to announce that he was returning for his senior season, few could imagine how the year would end for the Trojans. They were coming off a 10-2 season with plenty of returning starters and a host of talented recruits.
Now USC ends the year in a tailspin.
Where does USC go from here? The Trojans still will be limited by scholarship numbers next year, and though they have a number of talented players returning - including Marqise Lee - several key contributors will be moving on. Trips to Notre Dame and Oregon State loom large on the 2013 schedule.
Of course, next year also will bring a welcome fresh start. For now there's only Monday's disappointing end to a disappointing season.