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Nebraska vs. USC: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2014 Holiday Bowl

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 28 Dec 2014

They may call it the Holiday Bowl, but it was no vacation for the two teams involved.USC earned a hard-fought, 45-42, win over Nebraska in the 2014 National University Holiday Bowl on Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.The Cornhuskers made interim head coach Barney Cotton proud with their indelible performance. Cotton, coaching in place of Bo Pelini, whom Nebraska fired on Nov. 30, was temporarily in charge of the team before former Oregon State head coach Mike Reilly takes over the squad.Freshman cornerback Adoree' Jackson put in a superlative performance for the Trojans. He made plays in all three phases of the game, scoring on a 98-yard kickoff return on special teams, reeling in three catches for 73 yards and another score on offense, while alsoputting in a strong night on defense.Nebraska sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. played the game of his life, racking up 371 yards passing, another 41 on the ground and four total touchdowns against just one interception.Rivals.com's Sean Callahan noted Armstrong hit an important career milestone in this game:Despite the state of flux in the coaching ranks, Cotton was impressed with the way the Nebraska players prepped for this game."The way they attacked this bowl preparation, I couldn't ask for anything more," Cotton said Friday, via the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein. "They've been first-class. They've been high energy. I hope we play that way."Players on both squads came out with plenty of energy and emotion, and the game was an enthralling back-and-forth affair right from the start.Nebraska drove for a field goal on its second possession of the game. Jackson followed that up with his first highlight of the game, a searing kickoff return complete with a front flip into the end zone that fired up the USC fans who made the trek down to San Diego. InsideUSC noted his return set a Holiday Bowl record:Armstrong had a bit of a wild first half where he was lucky to not get picked off on a smattering of errant throws. He was mostly effective, however, and drove the Cornhuskers down the field on a 53-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass to a diving Kenny Bell in the back corner of the end zone.USC signal-caller Cody Kessler, who had thrown for 36 touchdowns and four interceptions coming into the game, did well enough on the next drive to get the Trojans into field-goal range, and Andre Heidari knocked the ball through the uprights from 42 yards out to tie the game at 10 points apiece.After an exchange of punts, Nebraska recaptured the lead with an Armstrong pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El from nine yards out, but USC came roaring back on the next possession and tied up the game at 17-17 on a TD pass from Kessler to Nelson Agholor just under two minutes into the second quarter. Agholor, who finished with seven receptions for 90 yards, was a difference-maker in the first half, per theOmaha World-Herald's Samuel McKewon:The USC defense shone brightly on the next couple of possessions, as Cornhuskers running back Ameer Abdullah struggled to gain much traction on the ground at times and Armstrong lost his touch for a bit.Despite Abdullah's difficulties in the second quarter, the newly hired Reilly couldn't help but wish the senior had another year in him, via BTN.com's Brent Yarina:The Trojans capitalized during Nebraska's lull, mixing passes from Kessler and runs from Justin Davis and Javorius Allen on the next drive, with the latter back giving USC a 24-17 lead on a two-yard scoring plunge.Neither team had made many costly errors up to this point, but the half ended with an exchange of interceptions instead of punts. Nebraska corner Josh Mitchell snatched up a rareKessler picknear midfield and set up his team with excellent field position and plenty of time to put points on the board before halftime.Alas, Armstrong's gunslinger mentality doomed the Cornhuskers' chances, as he threw a costly pick deep in the red zone to Su'a Cravens. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had seen enough of Armstrong's shenanigans:Jackson kicked off the second-half scoring with a blazing run on a 71-yard scoring reception. It was a stunning display of his versatility, as he lined up in the backfield on the play. ESPN College Football provided a look at Jackson's speed:USC was in the driver's seat with a 31-17 lead, but Nebraska would prove to be difficult to shake in this one. Abdullah answered right back with a 20-yard touchdown run, only to have USC's Allen trump him on the ensuing drive with a 44-yard burst up the middle of his own for another Trojans score.After a Nebraska field goal cut the Trojans' lead to 38-27, Kessler came right back with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Dixon to extend the advantage to 45-27.TheOrange County Register's Michael Lev noted USC's underclassmenwere thriving in this contest:With the way the Cornhuskers defense was playing, that lead might have been insurmountable heading into the fourth quarter, but Armstrong dialed up some magic and hit Jordan Westerkamp for a 65-yard touchdown just before the end of the third quarter.ESPN provided a look at the play, showing Westerkamp doing an incredible job of stepping in front of a pair of USC defenders to snatch the ball out of the air and turn upfield for the touchdown:USC held tough for much of the fourth quarter, but it couldn't hope to completely contain Armstrong and the shifty Abdullah. Armstrong went into hero mode on a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive, which ended with a 15-yard run from the quarterback. He then tossed a neat little pass to Bell for the two-point conversion, making it a one-score game.Nebraska got the stop it needed on USC's next drive, and the offense immediately went to work.The Cornhuskers were able to move just into field-goal range, but Cotton elected to go for it on 4th-and-3 from USC's 31-yard line. However, the Trojans would stop Pierson-El on the pitch play at the 30-yard line and take over the ball on downs.The Huskers would get one final chance at the very end of the game, but Armstrong's Hail Mary heave was well short of the end zone and fell harmlessly to the turf, securing the win for the Trojans.The Holiday Bowl victory caps a successful season for head coach Steve Sarkisian in his first season in Los Angeles. He managed to guide this team to nine wins with an abundance of underclassmen playing key roles on the team. This Trojans squad could very well be the class of the Pac-12 South next season.Nebraska's program is clearly in a state of limbo, but the game afforded Reilly an extended look at all the talent that is available to him. The Cornhuskers' fanbase demands success every year, and Reilly will have to work quickly to improve upon Nebraska's results from this campaign.
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