The turnstile that has been the defensive line played well on Saturday night considering the losses the group suffered throughout the season. Before the Trojans even played a game this year, Kenny Bigelow was lost for the year and before USC took on Nebraska, Antwaun Woods was ruled out for the contest. Those are two big pieces missing from an already thin group. Despite those setbacks, USC defensive line coach Chris Wilson was very pleased with the group’s performance in the Holiday Bowl win against Nebraska.
“They played to win,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it’s always nice to have your starting guys, but at the end of the day those guys have played a lot of snaps. They played well. They didn’t play perfect.
“You have to give Nebraska a lot of credit. They played well. I’m just grateful that our guys hung in there and found a way to win the football game. They got some rushing yards late, but overall, I thought we held them in the run game and we got pressure when we needed to. We have a lot of work to do, but it’s good to be nine and four and have a championship under your belt while we work in the offseason.”
With the losses on the defensive line, Cody Temple saw a lot of playing time not only in the bowl game, but throughout the year as well. The redshirt junior recorded one sack and two total tackles against Nebraska, but Wilson is reserving judgement on Temple’s performance for now.
“I have to watch the tape to give you an opinion on that,” Wilson said. “Just like any time, there are some things we did really, really good, and then some things we didn’t do too well. I’m proud of those guys. That’s something I can’t complain about. I’m just really proud the way they competed and they didn’t quit.”
Winning a bowl game keeps a team’s momentum on the recruiting trail going all the way into February. Coaches can use the win as a pitching point and nine wins sounds a little bit better than eight wins. A double digit win season would have been nice for the Trojans and they might have been in that territory if not for a few late game falters, but what’s done is done and Wilson is looking forward to hitting the recruiting trail after the bowl win.
“Well it’s huge,” Wilson said. “Finish in the top-25. We’re nine and four. We’re a couple plays away from possibly getting 11, winning 11 games. The future is bright here. We just got to keep demanding the standards and we’ll keep improving. This bowl win only helps us go up.”
Leonard Williams has been huge for USC over the past three years. There’s little doubt he’ll go down as one of the most talented defensive lineman in school history and should be a top draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft if he decides to forego his senior season. He recorded at least six sacks each of his three seasons at USC and if it hadn’t been for a nagging injury last year, that number probably would have been higher. He’s one of the nicest kids you’ll meet and Wilson has high praise for him when talking about what he meant to this football team.
“Everything,” Wilson said. “He’s the king in the room. He believed. He bought in and when you get your best player and best person to buy in, it makes everybody else accountable. If this is his last game, all I’d want to say to him is Fight On!”
Wilson would indeed let Williams know to keep fighting on, but he’d also give him one last little message.
“Thank you,” Wilson said. “Thank you very much. He’s a great Trojan.”