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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Disappointing Season Comes to Disappointing End

The Trojans finish the season at 7-6 after being dropped by Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

If, at the start of the season, you had USC finishing 7-6, unranked, losing in the Sun Bowl to a seven-loss ACC team, you should probably make a living in Las Vegas.

Because that's exactly what happened in 2012, as preseason No. 1 USC fell 21-7 to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl to finish the season at 7-6.

"We can't be 7-6," said head coach Lane Kiffin, "not at 'SC."

The Trojan defense, object of much criticism throughout the Trojan's late-season free-fall, handled Georgia Tech's intricate triple option offense fairly well. The Yellow Jackets average 312.5 rushing yards per game, but totaled just 294 against USC.

"I thought our defense did a good job today," Kiffin said. "I thought they played very hard, but obviously wore down there a bit at the end. But that's to be expected when we turn the ball over that many times."

While the defense came to play, the offense looked completely lost. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek made his second career start in place of the injured Matt Barkley, and many expected him to impress after his showing against No. 1 Notre Dame in the final game of the regular season.

And yet against a Georgia Tech defense that ranked 78th in scoring and had given up double digit points to every opponent expect Presbyterian, who finished the season 2-9 in the Big South, the vaulted USC offense managed just 205 yards and one score.

"Turnovers and third-down efficiency really nullified anything on offense," Kiffin said. "It really came down to our inefficiency on offense and obviously that starts with the head coach."

Wittek was just 14-37 for 107 yards and one touchdown, but threw three interceptions and never found a rhythm. The criticism of Kiffin's offensive playcalling reached new heights as the Trojans managed just 10 first downs, three of which came by penalty.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden has said repeatedly that Kiffin's job status is secure for next year, and Kiffin said after the game he was not concerned. But one thing is clear: this season is not something that can be repeated.

"This is well below our standards," Kiffin said. "We are going to evaluate everything."

There will be a lot of fresh faces around the program next year. Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, father of head coach Lane, is resigning after three years. Quarterback Matt Barkley, center Khaled Holmes, defensive end Wes Horton and safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling all started their last games. Wide receiver Robert Woods announced his intent to enter the NFL Draft this spring and forgo his senior season. And cornerback Nickell Robey said he will make a decision about the draft by the end of the week.

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