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 just 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. USC scored three touchdowns in a nine-minute burst in the second quarter, and Allen clinched it with his second TD run with 4:44 to play.
The Trojans even put on a show off the Strip: The entire USC bench twice bounced onto the field during spontaneous group dances after touchdowns, displaying the excitement and confidence so common during the Trojans’ halcyon years under Pete Carroll.
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. But Carr leaves Fresno State without a bowl victory, never getting the Bulldogs moving against one of the nation’s best pass defenses.