Georgia Tech's defense held USC to just 208 total yards as the Yellow Jackets beat the Trojans 21-7 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Monday afternoon.
It was a surprising performance for a Yellow Jacket defense that had a trying year, giving up 29.9 points per game. That ranked them No. 77 nationally in scoring defense. Georgia Tech (7-7) allowed six opponents to score more than 40 points over the course of the regular season.
However, the Yellow Jackets eventually turned it around, especially in the last six quarters. Georgia Tech shut out Florida State in the second half of the ACC Championship, and that performance carried over into the Sun Bowl.
USC (7-6) struggled offensively without starting QB Matt Barkley, who missed the game due to a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman QB Max Wittek filled in for the second consecutive game, and he had a long afternoon in windy weather conditions.
Wittek completed 14 of 37 passes for 107 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
The Georgia Tech spread option offense eventually wore down the Trojan defense. For the game, the Yellow Jackets amassed 295 rushing yards.
Senior QB Tevin Washington finished his collegiate career on a high note, playing a role in both of Georgia Tech's second half touchdowns. Washington ran in a score from a yard out early in the third quarter to give Georgia Tech a 14-7 lead.
Then, with 13:12 to go in the fourth quarter, Washington hit A-back Orwin Smith for a 17-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to put the Yellow Jackets firmly in control.
When the game turned: Georgia Tech DB Jamal Golden returned a punt 56 yards to the USC 1-yard line after the Yellow Jackets forced the USC offense into a three-and-out on its first possession of the second half. Washington ran it in two plays later to give Georgia Tech a 14-7 lead, and the Yellow Jackets were on their way to victory.
Highlight moments: A Georgia Tech cheerleader struggled mightily with the wind as he led the Yellow Jackets on the field before the game, but he got through it. ... USC appeared to strike first with a 38-yard field goal in the opening quarter, but the referees were mistaken when they ruled the kick good. The play was reviewed, and the call was overturned after replay showed the kick sailing wide left. ... Late in the first half, Wittek threw a swing pass in the right flat to RB Silas Redd on third-and-goal. The pass was bobbled by Redd, but without breaking stride, he still managed to haul it in. Redd went 9 yards, diving for the pylon and a 7-7 tie. ... Washington's touchdown pass to Smith in the fourth quarter. It prevented Georgia Tech from having to try a field goal, which would have been difficult in the wind.
Significance of Georgia Tech's win: The Yellow Jackets needed a waiver to even qualify for a bowl because they ended the season 6-7 after their loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship. Now, Georgia Tech gets to .500 and moves into the offseason with a little momentum, beating a big-name program in USC. Coach Paul Johnson has some things he needs to figure out, specifically the defense after firing defensive coordinator Al Groh in the middle of the season.
Significance of USC's loss: This was the culmination of a supremely disappointing season for the Trojans. USC began the season ranked No. 1 in the country, and it finishes with a 7-6 record that seemed unthinkable back in August. Athletic director Pat Haden has said he would not fire coach Lane Kiffin. Assuming that holds true, Kiffin will begin his fourth season as the head coach in Los Angeles with a lot of question marks. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has already resigned, effective after this Sun Bowl, and the Trojans will presumably move into the Wittek QB era.
Georgia Tech QB Washington: 3-for-5, 49 yards, TD; 16 rushes, 46 yards, TD.Top shelf performances:
- Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee: 2-for-5, 26 yards, TD, 1 interception; 10 carries, 52 yards.
- Georgia Tech B-back David Sims: 17 carries, 99 yards; 1 reception, 3 yards, TD.
- USC RB Redd: 17 carries, 88 yards; 3 receptions, 14 yards, TD.
What they said:
- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson to Tracy Wolfson on the defense: “I thought the defense played great. Just tremendous. We turned the ball over, put them in a hole. They played their hearts out.”
- USC coach Lane Kiffin, according to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News: "We can't be 7-6. Not at SC."
Proud to be a Trojan, even when life doesn't go as planned #FightOnForever— Matthew Barkley (@MattBarkley) December 31, 2012
Numbers you should know: 20. Washington's rushing touchdown gave him 20 for the year… 6. USC is the first team to lose six games after being ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll… 74. USC WRs Marqise Lee and Robert Woods combined for 74 receiving yards. They came into the game averaging 207.8 receiving yards per game.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from ACC bloggers Shawn Krest and Sean Bielawski, follow @CBSSportsACC.