It was just another question to a player in a postgame press conference about the record he'd just set --- or in the case of the USC quarterback, tied. But it was more than that Saturday in San Diego. Much more.
"Cody, talk about the accomplishment of tying Matt [Barkley's] record and the season as a whole for you?"
Cody Kessler: What record?
Q. 39 touchdowns.
COACH SARKISIAN: First of all, what's awesome is he had no idea what you were talking about. That hopefully gives you a little bit of perspective of the types of kids that we work with. Go ahead, Cody, I interrupted you.
CODY KESSLER: I'm happy we won the game, and I said it all year and I hope people believe it, and my teammates know that all those stats and everyone is always talking about records, or this or that, and he's close to breaking this one, that is completely irrelevant to me. I'm not just saying that; I really do mean it. Win or loss, that's the most important thing to me, winning games for these guys, and if that happens to be breaking a record because that's what it takes to win a game, then so be it, but I've always put the team before me, and I really do mean it. I hope these guys know it.
Well, they'll have more time to know it after the next question and answer.
Q.Cody, are you coming back to USC next year, and what do you think about the future of this program whether you are a part of it or not?
CODY KESSLER:Yeah, I'm absolutely coming back. I told Sark, and I told some of the guys, and my family knew. My main thing was I didn't want to take way from the bowl game. There's a bunch of other guys that have decisions to make, and I didn't want to take way from the senior class, I didn't want to make an announcement before the game, everyone kept asking questions, that's why I kept trying to avoid the answer, but I'm coming back, I'm excited, it's going to be fun next year, and I'm going to work on getting some of these other guys, but at the end of the day I'm going to support them, no matter what, Leonard, Nelson, Buck, all those guys.
"Whatever decision they make I'm going to be happy for them, and they know I love them and if it is to leave I'm going to be their number one fan; if they come back, I'll be just as excited, but I'm definitely coming back.
BY THE NUMBERS
38The record number of points scored by both teams combined in the third quarter (USC 21, NU 17). The previous record was 37 in the 2001 Holiday Bowl when Texas (23 points) and Washington (14) combined for 37 points in the second quarter of that game.
0The record-tying fewest points in a quarter (by many, many teams in many Holiday Bowls) when USC was shut out in the final quarter at crunch time after averaging 15 points a quarter for the first three quarters Saturday. It continues the pattern of the Trojans this season taking the gas at the end of games that often start so well.
8 for 67, 4 for 30The penalty-plagued Trojans at least improved as the game went on after commiting eight for 67 yards in the first quarter as called by the doddering Big 12 crew that refused to call holding on their Nebraska neighbors. After that horrific start, USC commited just four more penalties for 30 yards the rest of the way.
3-39Kessler's three passing TD's tied him with Matt Barkley for the most in a season at USC with 39.
55,789Saturday night's crowd was right in the middle of the attendance numbers for the last five Holiday Bowls and more than the 52,930 at last year's Arizona State-Texas Tech game but nowhere near the sellout record of 65,416 when Oklahoma played Oregon in 2005. Having USC helped but the Husker fans, as enthusiastic as the ones here were, didn't quite show up in numbers you would normally see at a bowl game involving Nebraska.
203-147Those 350 yards of total yardage combined by USC freshmen Adoree Jackson (203) and Juju Smith (147) send a powerful message of the importance of that pair for this Trojan team. Jackson caught three passes for 73 yards including a 71-yard TD. He also returned three kickoffs for 130 yards including a 98-yard TD. JuJu caught three passes for 66 yards including a 45-yarder and returned five kickoffs for 81 yards.
381-3Almost as inexplicable as USC's first-quarter penalty stats were the career-high passing yards for Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong who threw the ball 51 times, completing 32 for three TDs with one interception for the run-heavy Huskers. And despite all that throwing and a rag-tag NU offensive line due to a number of injuries, the mostly play-it-safe USC defense got to him just three times for sacks.
152-2A great way to go out for Buck Allen, if he does go although he maintained he hasn't had those talks with his family or made any decision. The USC tailback carried the ball 26 times for 152 yards, a 5.8 average, didn't lose a single yard and scored two TDs, one on a 44-yard blast right up the gut.
9-9-8Great way to go out for all three of USC's leading tacklers with Josh Shaw stepping up to join Leonard Williams (who also had a sack) with a team-leading nine while Hayes Pullard finished as USC's second-leading all-time tackler with an additional eight more against Nebraska. But what does that say for the Trojans defense going forward? They'll be missed.
7-7-6Although the Trojans youngsters did step up in the secondary with John Plattenburg and Adoree (seven tackles each) and Su'a Cravens (six with a tackle for loss).
0, 167-53USC kept its streak of not allowing a single opponent to score on the opening drive this season but did allow the Huskers a 17-10 first quarter edge after coming into the game with an amazing 157-36 edge in the first quarter this season.
42 for 3Nice job by senior Andre Heidari whose last field goal had come more than six weeks ago against Cal Nov. 13. His 42-yarder in the first quarter tied this game at 10-10. He also added to his Pac-12 career records for both made extra points (now 187) and attempts (193).
1,201Saturday marked USC's 1,201st all-time football game.
NEBRASKA INTERIM COACH BARNEY COTTON On how tough it was to try to contain Adoree: "Obviously an explosive guy, and we have some explosive guys but if you don't wrap up early it's hard to wrap up late. He was able to get in some space there. Once they do that, you know, same thing with our guys when they get in space, it's hard to make a play down the field. You need to make those plays near the line of scrimmage."
STEVE SARKISIAN On what this USC team has gone through and what it means: "You know, we've been through a lot this year. These guys could probably tell you even more so, but we've been through a lot and we've had a couple just excruciating losses, and to come out tonight and win at the very end, the way we always try to make it exciting. We make it entertaining for everybody. I'm happy for these guys. I'm really happy for them because they work every day, every time we go on the field they go to work. At the end of the day, that, to me, is a really cool sign of the character on this team of where we're headed, and what we're doing. We have people in our organization that work. As hard as it can get and as tough as it gets, we're at our best, and that, to me, is just awesome."
LEONARD WILLIAMS: On what this team has gone through: "I would say that we played through a lot of adversity and a lot of up's and down's. I would say that I trust in these guys to fight through the whole game. That's our motto, 'Fight On,' and I trust my guys next to me to finish the game strong, even when it was coming tight there at the end I still believed in my teammates."
ADOREE JACKSON On what he was thinking with his penalized tumble into the end zone to finish off his 98-yard kickoff return TD: "What was going through my mind is actually my dad called me for before the game and he told me do something for him, and that's pretty much what I was doing is something for him, because he wasn't able to make the game. That's what I was going through my mind, give him something."
NEBRASKA CORNER JOSH MITCHELL On his final game against USC in the Holiday Bowl: "It was fun. It was a ride. The best roller coaster I've been on. It doesn't get any better than this, this has been the best college experience I've ever had -- the only one I've had, the best experience I've had, it can't get any better than this, it was fun."
TOA LOBENDAHN: On playing alongside and starting with two other true freshmen -- Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama: "A dream come true for us . . . next year we're going to be stacked in the O-line obviously.."
Senior Aundrey Walker said he thought he was good to go after being diagnosed with concussion after Wednesday's practice "but the doctors wouldn't clear me." . . . Greg Townsend Jr. was in a boot after spraining his right foot Thursday . . . and at game's end, George Farmer was out of his pads for an unspecified injury that did not look serious.
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