EL PASO, Texas — Southern California was ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, and Matt Barkley was a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. The year ended with Barkley on the sideline as the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 21-7 victory on Monday in front of a crowd of 47,922 at Sun Bowl Stadium.
“It was a really surprising day,” Southern California coach Lane Kiffin said. “Coming down and turning the ball over, and with third-down efficiency, we really found no rhythm on offense. I thought we’d play much better on offense today. The storyline really came down to our inefficiency on offense, and obviously it starts with the head coach.”
USC (7-6) became the first preseason No. 1 team to lose six games. It’s also all but assured of becoming the school to enter the season on top of The Associated Press poll and finish unranked since Mississippi in 1964.
Washington’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third made it 14-7, and he found Orwin Smith for a 17-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
“I’m really proud of our football team,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I thought that they showed up and played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination, and I know Southern California has some really good football players. It was a hard-fought game.”
Barkley, the first three-time captain in USC history, injured his right shoulder in a loss to UCLA and was not cleared to play his final college game. He clapped as the Trojans took the field for their first bowl game after a two-year NCAA ban.
Max Wittek tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Silas Redd in the second quarter, but also threw three interceptions. Redd added 88 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Talented receiver Robert Woods was limited to three receptions for 33 yards in what was likely his final college game. The junior said after the loss he plans to enter the NFL draft.
Kiffin said he took responsibility for the lost season.
“All of it,” he said. “We can’t be 7-6. That’s not USC, and that’s not our expectations. That’s not why we came here. Obviously, we have some work here to get that fixed.
“Even if we’d won this game, we’d still be very disappointed in this season. It’s well below our standards.”
Asked if he thought the loss could cost him his job, Kiffin answered flatly, “No.”
The Trojans struggled to contain Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack. The Yellow Jackets (7-7) rushed for 294 yards on 63 carries while stopping a seven-bowl losing streak.
“I’m just glad we got the win,” Washington said.