SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- As new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley watched from the stands Saturday night, the team he's taking over couldn't cap a comeback against a team from his former conference. The USC Trojans held on for a 45-42 victory over Nebraska in a wild shootout in the National University Holiday Bowl. Here's how it all went down at Qualcomm Stadium:
How the game was won: On big plays -- because it was the Holiday Bowl. Defenses need not apply. The Trojans were the faster, more athletic team (though not by much), and it showed in the form of explosive plays. Adoree' Jackson scored on a kickoff return and a long touchdown reception. Buck Allen turned 4-yard runs into long touchdowns. Four of USC's touchdowns were 20 yards or longer. That's not to say Nebraska didn't have some explosive moments of its own, as the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards offense.
Turning point: Trailing 45-42 with 2:31 remaining, Nebraska went for it on fourth-and 3 at the USC 31 but was turned away. The Trojans took over and were able to milk down enough clock to preserve the three-point win. A last-second Hail Mary effort from Nebraska fell short as time expired.
Game ball goes to: Jackson, a true freshman, was the most dynamic player on the field. His 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Trojans a 7-3 lead after Nebraska jumped ahead on a field goal. Then he took a Cody Kessler pass 71 yards that stretched USC's lead to 31-17 in the third quarter. Oh yeah, he also added six tackles on defense.
Key stat: The teams combined for 38 points in the third quarter, a Holiday Bowl record. Considering the Holiday Bowl's penchant for crazy, that's pretty impressive.
Play of the game: The Jackson kickoff return takes top honors in a game with a lot of big plays.
1Q USC D. Brown kick for 63 yds,A. Jackson return for 98 yds for a TD, (A. Heidari KICK)
Drew Brown kickoff for 63 yds , Adoree' Jackson return for 98 yds for a TD (Andre Heidari KICK)