Dec. 31, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech returns to El Paso, Texas, looking to cap off the 2012 season on a high note, when it takes on the University of Southern California Trojans in the 79th Hyundai Sun Bowl at Bank of Sun Bowl Stadium. Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. ET (noon local) and the game will be nationally televised on CBS.
The Yellow Jackets come into the game at 6-7, having lost their final two games, but are feeling good, having taken a lot of positives from their last game, a 21-15 loss in the ACC Championship Game to No. 13/12 Florida State. The Jackets spotted FSU a 21-3 halftime lead but never gave in, shutting out the Seminoles in the second half and pulling to within six on a Tevin Washington one-yard rushing touchdown with 6:27 left before falling short on their final drive.
Today's bowl berth marks the 41st bowl appearance in school history, the 16th straight season Tech is making a bowl appearance (tied for fourth among current active streaks) and the fifth in the Paul Johnson era. While they have lost their last seven bowl appearances and are 0-4 under Johnson, including the 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl, the players are locked in on USC and making history with a bowl win, not reliving the past.
"I don't know how much motivation it is because I think you're motivated to play anyway," said Johnson. "It's certainly something to talk about. The players will talk about how they want to get rid of that and as a coach you love to win. It has to do with being competitive and wanting to measure yourself against guys that are good players and a good football team. So hopefully that's what drives us motivation-wise."
Lane Kiffin's Trojans also have a lot to motivate them. They were the top-ranked team in the nation in preseason, but a Week 3 loss at Stanford dropped them from No. 1. Things unraveled following a tough 39-36 loss at Arizona in late October, which started a skid that saw USC lose four of its final five games, including decisions to crosstown rival UCLA and longtime rival Notre Dame, and fall from the top 25. In their last game, the Trojans, fell 22-13 to top-ranked Notre Dame. Playing without injured quarterback and preseason Heisman favorite, Matt Barkley, who will sit out today's game, the Trojans' managed only 295 yards (almost 157 yards below their season average), 95 on the ground (60 yards below their per game average). Today's game will be the third Sun Bowl appearance in school history. It's the 49th all-time bowl appearance for the Trojans and the school's first in three years, after serving a self-imposed two-year bowl ban.
Today's game will be both teams’ third appearance in the Hyundai Sun Bowl but the first against each other. Georgia Tech is 1-1, having beaten Texas Tech, 17-9, in 1970 before dropping last year's game to Utah. The Trojans are 0-2, having lost to Michigan State, 17-16, in 1990 and 28-19 to TCU in 1998.
Here are some numbers to get you ready for today's 79th Hyundai Sun Bowl.
The Series: USC leads, 2-1 Current Streak: USC has won two straight In Neutral Site: This is the first meeting Last Meeting: No. 1 USC 23, Georgia Tech 6, at Georgia Tech, Sept. 22, 1973
40 - The number being worn by senior linebacker Julian Burnett, who will be on the sideline today. Burnett was forced to stop playing due to a neck injury suffered in last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl and his number was worn by a different Yellow Jacket every week in tribute. It has been worn by defensive end T.J. Barnes, cornerback Rod Sweeting, quarterback Tevin Washington, long snapper Tyler Morgan, defensive end Izaan Cross, linebacker Chris Crenshaw, safety Isaiah Johnson, Barnes, again, senior A-Back Jamal Paige, junior outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, and by redshirt junior safety Jemea Thomas at the ACC Championship Game.
.733 - Quarterback Tevin Washington's completion percentage in last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl. Washington completed 11 of 15 throws. Washington moved past Shawn Jones, who completed .696 (16-of-23) against Nebraska in the 1991 Citrus Bowl.
.903 - The Yellow Jackets record under Paul Johnson when scoring at least 30 points. They are 28-3 in such games.
1.000 - The Jackets record in games when opponents score over 50 points. That win came on Nov. 10 at North Carolina, the record-setting 68-50 win.
0 - The number of points allowed by the Yellow Jackets defense in the fourth quarter of the last three games.
4 - Georgia Tech's rank in rushing yards per game. The Yellow Jackets ran for 312.5 yards per game. USC was sixth in the Pac-12, allowing 140.5 ypg.
3 - The number of games in the series where USC was ranked in the top 10 and was coached by legendary John McKay. Tech beat the ninth-ranked Trojans in the L.A. Coliseum, 27-7, on Sept. 22, 1961 in the first-ever meeting. On Oct. 25, 1969, the Jackets fell to the seventh-ranked Trojans, 29-18 in L.A., then, in 1973, the Jackets lost to No. 1 USC, 23-6, in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has had three different coaches in the series. Bobby Dodd was on the sideline for the first meeting. Bud Carson and Bill Fulcher coached the other two.
5- The number of bowl games Georgia Tech has played all-time on Dec. 31st. The Jackets are overdue for a win, as they've lost their last four games — including last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl — since winning its first such game, a 17-14 win over Michigan State in the 1985 All-American Bowl.
8.8 - The points per game total for Tevin Washington. Washington accounted for a little more than a quarter of the Yellow Jackets per-game scoring this season.
9 - The number of points scored by kicker Scott Moore in last year's Sun Bowl. That tied the school Bowl record, set previously by Scott Sisson in the '91 Citrus Bowl win over Nebraska. Moore's two field goals also tied a record, set by Luke Manget against Miami in the 2000 Gator Bowl.
10 - The number of years since a team repeated in the Sun Bowl. Purdue was the last to do so in 2001 and 2002. The Boilermakers lost to a Pac-10 school (Washington State, 33-27) in '01 then beat a Pac-10 school (Washington, 34-24) in '02.
10.4 - The number of opponent pass attempts per sack by the Georgia Tech defense over the final seven games. That number is down drastically from the 22.3 over the first six games.
12 - The number of wins in 17 games decided by five-or-fewer points in the Paul Johnson era.
13 - The number of career bowl-game tackles by linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, which leads the team with Isaiah Johnson's absence (he has 14).
22 - The number of wins by Georgia Tech in 40 previous bowl games. The 22 wins are tied for 10th most of any bowl victories. The .550 winning percentage also is 10th.
29.0 - Sophomore Jamal Golden's yards per kickoff return. That ranks ninth in the country. He really displayed his explosiveness on Nov. 10 at North Carolina, when he gained 230 yards in kickoff returns, 100 of them coming on his second kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
32:43 - Georgia Tech's average time of possession per game this season. That's ninth in the country.
35 - The number of Yellow Jackets players to make the Dean's List in 2012.
40 - The percentage of Georgia Tech touchdown drives requiring five-or-fewer plays. The Jackets have 24 such touchdowns out of 60.
54 - The school-record number of career games for senior defensive tackle T.J. Barnes and corner Rod Sweeting once they take the field for today's game. Barnes and Sweeting are tied with former safety Rashaad Reid (2008-11) and former kicker Scott Blair (2008-11).
79/64.5 - Georgia Tech's success rate and touchdown percentage in the red zone. The Jackets have scored on 49 of 62 trips, with 40 touchdowns. Opponents have converted on 81.1 percent (43-of-53), with 34 touchdowns (64.2 percent).
87/4.5 - The number of tackles and tackles for loss unavailable to Tech today with the absence of injured junior safety Isaiah Johnson, the team's leading tackler. Johnson had appeared in 26 straight games.
50 - The combined number of tackles by Jamal Golden (20), Chris Milton (19) and Demond Smith (11), candidates to replace Johnson.
60 - The number of years since Georgia Tech's 1952 National Championship. Tech defeated No. 7 Ole Miss, 24-7, in the Sugar Bowl to earn a share of the national championship, the school's third title.
141 - The number of rushing yards Tech needs to break the school single-season rushing record. The Jackets come into today's game with 4,063 yards on the ground.
159 - The number of yards of total offense the Yellow Jackets need set a school record for total yards in a season. Tech has gained 5,806 yards this season.
194 - The number of yards of total offense the Yellow Jackets need to reach the 6,000-yard plateau for the first time in school history.
390 - The number of combined consecutive games in which the Yellow Jackets and Trojans have scored a point. Georgia Tech has scored in 197 straight games, while USC has lit up the scoreboard 193 straight times.
10 Things To Know About USC (plus one golden nugget)
.667 - USC's all-time record in bowl games. The Trojans are 32-16 in 48 bowl appearances. Only Utah (.765), Miami of Ohio (.700), are better than 'SC, which is tied with Boise State and Toledo. The 32 wins are second only to Alabama's 34 (both schools have had one bowl win vacated).
.769 - The Trojan's proficiency in the red zone. USC has scored on 40 of 52 trips (32 touchdowns, eight field goals). Opponents have an .800 percent success rate, scoring on 40 of 50 tries (26 TDs and 14 FGs).
4 - The number of times this season USC scored at least 20 unanswered points. It's become something of a habit for the Trojans, who had done it five times in each of the last two years and have done 77 times since 2002. USC had a remarkable run where they scored 85 straight points, beginning with 50 in the 2011 season finale against UCLA (a 50-0 win) and 35 in the first half of the 2012 opener against Hawaii (they led 35-0 at the half).
5 - The number of times a team started the year ranked AP Preseason No. 1 but finished out of the top 25. USC is looking to avoid being No. 6. They would be the second USC team to do so (joining the '63 Trojans) and the first team to do so since Mississippi in 1964. The others to suffer this precipitous fall were 1950 Notre Dame, 1961 Iowa, and 1962 Ohio State.
10 - The number of catches each by sophomore Marqise Lee and Robert Woods in the Nov. 26, 2011 game against UCLA. They were the first Trojan tandem ever to catch 10 passes each in a game. They had an encore performance this Sept. 8 in the win over Syracuse (Lee had 11 catches for 66 yards and three touchdowns, while Woods had 10 catches for 93 yards and two scores). Lee (112 catches for 1,680 yards, with 14 TDs, and a 15.0 yard-per-catch average) and Woods (73, 813, 11, 11.1), the school's all-time pass-catching leader, combined for 438 yards at Arizona on Oct. 27.
10.4 - The number touches-per-touchdown for Lee in 2012. The dynamic Lee touched the ball 345 times and scored 33 touchdowns. He had 4,571 all-purpose yards with a 13.2 yards per play average.
20.3 - The difference in points per game allowed by the Trojans defense in USC wins and losses. In Southern Cal's seven victories they allowed an average of 16.1 points. In the five losses they surrendered 36.4 ppg. The Trojans won all seven games by double-digits in 2012, with an average margin of victory of 22.1 ppg. Pumping that total up was a 49-10 win over Hawaii in the season opener and a 50-6 shellacking of Colorado.
62 - The number of Trojans wins in 66 games since 2001 when holding opposing teams under 300 yards of total offense. Those losses came on Dec. 2, 2006 against UCLA, Oct. 6, 2007 against Stanford, Nov. 14, 2009 against Washington and Nov. 27, 2010 against Notre Dame.
96/101 - The number of points by which USC has outscored opponents in the first half of games (244-148) and in the second half (154-53).
221 - The number of touchdowns of at least 20 yards that USC has scored since 2003.
100 - The number of years the University of Southern California's sports teams have carried the moniker "Trojans." The origin dates back to Feb. 24, 1912 and credit belongs to Los Angeles Times
sports editor Owen R. Bird. Bird used Trojans to refer to the USC Track team in teasing an upcoming USC meet against Occidental.