Southern California and Nebraska to Meet in 37th National University Holiday Bowl

| Holiday Bowl News

SAN DIEGO – The University of Southern California Trojans and the Nebraska Cornhuskers have accepted invitations to play in the 37th annual National University Holiday Bowl, president Vincent Mudd announced today. It marks the first appearance in the San Diego bowl game for the Trojans and fourth appearance for the Cornhuskers.

The National University Holiday Bowl kicks off at 5:00 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.

This is the 17th consecutive appearance by a Pac-12 school in the National University Holiday Bowl. A Big Ten Conference team returns for the first time since 1994 and Nebraska, as a member of the Big 12, was here most recently in 2010 when the Huskers lost to Washington, 19-7. The Huskers shutout Arizona, 33-0 in 2009 and lost to the Wildcats, 23-20 in 1998.

The Huskers will head to the West Coast with a 9-3 overall record, including a 5-3 mark in Big Ten Conference play. The Trojans are 8-4 overall and finished tied for second in the Pac-12 South Division at 6-3 under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian.

“We look forward to the opportunity to take on USC in the National University Holiday Bowl and the opportunity to finish our season with a trip to San Diego,” Nebraska Interim Head Coach Barney Cotton said. “Our goal as a coaching staff is to provide a great bowl experience and put this team in position for success in the Holiday Bowl. This team has outstanding character and leadership, and we would like nothing more than to send our seniors out with a second straight bowl victory and a 10-win season.”

Nebraska capped the regular season with a 37-34 overtime victory at Iowa on the day after Thanksgiving. Nebraska is one of only three programs in the country to win nine games each of the past seven years, joining Oregon and Alabama.

Nebraska features a powerful rushing attack that averages nearly 250 yards per game to rank in the top 20 in the nation. The Husker offense ranks 13th in scoring, averaging better that 37 points per game. On defense, Nebraska is one of the nation’s best units against the pass, leading the nation in opponent passing completion percentage, while ranking third in pass efficiency defense.

Individually, senior running back Ameer Abdullah is the star of the Husker offense. A finalist for the Doak Walker Award, Abdullah ranks in the top 15 nationally in all-purpose yards per game, scoring and rushing yards per game. He is the all-time Nebraska leader in all-purpose yards and ranks second in school history in rushing. The defense is led by two-time All-Big Ten defensive end Randy Gregory, who is among the conference’s leaders in sacks and tackles for loss.

USC, whose first three losses of 2014 were by a total of just 13 points, including two that came on the opponents’ last play of the game, features an up-tempo offense that is highly ranked nationally in a number of passing categories and a strong defense that is in the national Top 25 in red zone defense, turnover margin and third down conversion defense.

QB Cody Kessler, a finalist for the Unitas Golden Arm Award and Manning Award, is among the nation’s leaders in in passing efficiency, completion percentage, TD passes, completions and passing yards while hitting over 70% of his throws with 36 TDs and just 4 interceptions. All-Pac-12 first team TB Javorius Allen, a 1,000-yard runner who has 8 100-yard rushing outings this year, leads the league in all-purpose yards and is the only player in the nation with 12 games of 100-plus yards from scrimmage. WR Nelson Agholor, also an All-Pac-12 first teamer, is on the verge of 100 catches this year while ranking in the national Top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs and he also has a school-record 4 career scoring punt returns. The young Trojan offensive line, with 3 true freshman starters, is led by All-Pac-12 first team C Max Tuerk.

USC’s defense is headlined by All-American DE Leonard Williams, a Hendricks Award finalist, along with ILB Hayes Pullard, who could be the first Trojan in 35 years to lead USC in tackles for 3 seasons, and All-Pac-12 first team S-turned-OLB Su’a Cravens, who has 16 tackles for a loss this year and 6 career picks. USC has had to rely on numerous true freshmen because of depth issues (11 have played significantly, including 8 who have combined for 52 starts) and several are Freshman All-American candidates: Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (he has played 3 ways in 7 games this year and is among the nation’s leading kickoff returners), WR JuJu Smith (he has 51 receptions in 2014), OG-now-OT Toa Lobendahn and OG Viane Talamaivao. No more than 57 recruited scholarship Trojans have suited up for any game in 2014 because of NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations.

The Trojans are among the nation’s premier bowl teams, with an overall post-season record of 32-16 (not including 1 win and 1 loss later vacated due to NCAA penalty). USC has lost just twice in its past 10 bowl games. Last year, USC defeated Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, 45-20.

Tickets for the 2014 National University Holiday Bowl can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 1-800-745-3000, or by visiting www.SanDiegoBowlGames.com. Fans can also purchase tickets at Qualcomm Stadium, Window B, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.