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Saturday, Dec 21 2013 08:50 PM

Kessler has big day as USC beats Carr, Fresno State in LV Bowl

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    By Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs after catching the ball against Fresno State in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs after catching the ball against Fresno State in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    With a huge hole to run through, USC running back Javorius Allen scores the Trojans final touchdown in their win 45-20 win against Fresno State on Dec. 21, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

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    By Southern California players celebrate on the field after receiver Nelson Agholor's 17-yard touchdown reception was ruled good against Fresno State in the second quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California players celebrate on the field after receiver Nelson Agholor's 17-yard touchdown reception was ruled good against Fresno State in the second quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State band plays in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State band plays in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State strong safety Charles Washington waits after a play against Southern California in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State strong safety Charles Washington waits after a play against Southern California in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California players celebrate on the field after receiver Nelson Agholor's 17-yard touchdown reception was ruled good, against Fresno State in the second quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California players celebrate on the field after receiver Nelson Agholor's 17-yard touchdown reception was ruled good, against Fresno State in the second quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By AP Photo/David Cleveland

    Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws the ball during the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20.

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    By In this photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Southern California interim coach Clay Helton holds the trophy after USC defeated Fresno State 45-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Brian Jones)

    In this photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Southern California interim coach Clay Helton holds the trophy after USC defeated Fresno State 45-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Brian Jones)

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    By Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs past Fresno State defensive back Jonathan Norton (37) in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs past Fresno State defensive back Jonathan Norton (37) in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State and Southern California players fight to recover a loose ball during the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State and Southern California players fight to recover a loose ball during the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California offensive tackle Kevin Graff (77) and interim head coach Clay Helton embrace after the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California offensive tackle Kevin Graff (77) and interim head coach Clay Helton embrace after the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California running back Javorius Allen (37) is brought down by Fresno State linebacker Ejiro Ederaine (31) during the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California running back Javorius Allen (37) is brought down by Fresno State linebacker Ejiro Ederaine (31) during the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr throws against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Aaron Peck (7) jumps for a ball that is overthrown in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against USC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, left, congratulates USC quarterback Cody Kessler following the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr comes off the field for the last time as a Bulldog late in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against USC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr gets a hug from offensive coordinator Dave Schramm late in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against USC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr waves to Bulldog fans as he exits the field following a 45-20 loss to USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, left, shakes hands with USC coach Clay Helton following the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Former Fresno State star David Carr, left, has a brief word with his brother, Derek Carr, at the conclusion of the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against USC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Isaiah Burse, left, checks on teammate Davante Adams after he was injured against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Charles Washington, right, tries to make a stop on USC's Nelson Agholor in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - The Fresno State band seems to be in disbelief as they watch the Bulldogs fall behind USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr puts the ball in the air against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Isaiah Burse makes it into the end zone with an 8-yard touchdown reception against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Aaron Peck is unable to hang onto the ball against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Ricky Bassman

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S - A flyover is seen during the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl between the Fresno State Bulldogs and the USC Trojans in which USC defeated Fresno State 45-20.

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    By Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs past Fresno State defensive back Jonathan Norton (37) in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California wide receiver Darreus Rogers (84) runs past Fresno State defensive back Jonathan Norton (37) in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State cheerleader looks on during the third quarter of the Royal Purple Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State cheerleader looks on during the third quarter of the Royal Purple Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6) carries the ball against Fresno State during the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6) carries the ball against Fresno State during the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By ESPN announcer Sam Ponder interviews Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6), who was named MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    ESPN announcer Sam Ponder interviews Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6), who was named MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By The National Anthem is performed before the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game between Southern California and Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    The National Anthem is performed before the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game between Southern California and Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6) looks to throw the ball during the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler (6) looks to throw the ball during the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Fresno State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State free safety Derron Smith (13) returns an interception 41-yard for a touchdown against Southern California in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State free safety Derron Smith (13) returns an interception 41-yard for a touchdown against Southern California in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, right, congratulates Southern California interim coach Clay Helton after the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, right, congratulates Southern California interim coach Clay Helton after the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California interim coach Clay Helton holds the Las Vegas Bowl trophy after the NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California interim coach Clay Helton holds the Las Vegas Bowl trophy after the NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Southern California running back Javorius Allen (37) carries against Fresno State in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California running back Javorius Allen (37) carries against Fresno State in the fourth quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Fresno State quarterback Derek Car (4) celebrates with Isaiah Burse (4) after connecting on a 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Fresno State quarterback Derek Car (4) celebrates with Isaiah Burse (4) after connecting on a 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC won 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Former Fresno State quarterback David Carr looks on during the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Former Fresno State quarterback David Carr looks on during the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr faced one of his toughest tests on Saturday -- USC's defense. The Trojans limited Carr to 217 passing yards on 30-of-54 passing with one interception.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Josh Quezada, middle, is munched between USC tacklers in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Southern California and Fresno State fans look on during the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

    Southern California and Fresno State fans look on during the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Las Vegas. USC defeated Fresno State 45-20. (AP Photo/David Cleveland)

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Aaron Peck (7) is unable to catch the ball as USC's Kevon Seymour defends in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - Fresno State's Isaiah Burse, right, jumps out of the grasp of USC's Kevon Seymour in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Craig Kohlruss

    Dec. 21, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, USA - USC fans cheer as Nelson Agholor, bottom left, runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. USC won, 45-20.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor ensures he has possession of the ball after a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Kessler during the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl. Agholor was able to secure the ball and the Trojans were awarded the touchdown.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor tries to hold on to a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Kessler during the first quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl. Agholor was able to secure the ball and the Trojans were awarded the touchdown after a replay review.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    Incoming USC head coach Steve Sarkisian waits for the team in the final moments of the Trojans 45-20 victory over Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    USC quarterback Cody Kessler accepts the MVP trophy for his performance in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Kessler, who grew up in Bakersfield, was 22-of-33 passing for 344 yards with four TDs and one interception.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    USC tight end Xavier Grimble catches a pass in the fourth quarter in USC's 45-20 victory over Fresno State at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

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    USC wide receiver Nelso Agholor makes a catch with his helmet against Fresno State. The play was initially ruled out of bounds, but a replay review overturned that decision.

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    Members of the Fresno State drill team and band cheer on Fresno State during the second half of the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    USC quarterback Cody Kessler looks for an open receiver against Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2013.

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    By Louis Amestoy/The Bakersfield Californian

    Fresno State senior quarterback Derek Carr looks for a receiver downfield Saturday in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2013. Carr had a frustrating performance against the USC defense.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Bakersfield Bowl was always going to be a going-away party for Derek Carr at Fresno State.

But who knew it would be the coming-out party for Cody Kessler, too?

Kessler, a USC sophomore and Centennial graduate, set personal and bowl game records in leading the Trojans to a 45-20 rout of Fresno State at the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Kessler threw for a career-high 344 yards and a Las Vegas Bowl-record 4 touchdowns, all in the first half. He earned game MVP honors.

"It was a great game today," said Kessler, who received his MVP trophy with most of a sellout crowd of 42,178 still in the stands. "It's 100 percent due to the offensive line and ... our receivers, who are just freak athletes.

"They make plays. That is why they come to SC. My job is just to get the ball to them and let them make plays."

A bowl MVP trophy isn't bad swag for a guy who didn't even receive USC's full-time starting job until the third week of the season, only to lead the Trojans to a 10-4 record despite two coaching changes.

"When you talk about Cody Kessler, you're talking about an absolute gym rat," said Clay Helton, USC's offensive coordinator and interim coach on Saturday. "He is a student of the game; he wants to improve each and every week. I'm just really proud of his progression. If you look at him Game 1 to now ... he's making good decisions. I'm really proud, and I know great things are ahead of him."

Kessler threw touchdown passes on four of USC's eight first-half drives, two to Marqise Lee and two to Nelson Agholor. The last one, a 40-yard catch-and-run to Lee, came with 37 seconds left and gave the Trojans a commanding 35-6 lead at halftime.

Carr, meanwhile, had his worst statistical day of a superlative senior season. He completed 30 of 54 passes (the attempts were a Las Vegas Bowl record) for 217 yards and two touchdowns. After leading Fresno State (11-2) to a quick touchdown drive on its first possession, he and the Bulldogs stalled.

Carr didn't complete another pass longer than 15 yards until deep into the third quarter, and Fresno State scored just one more offensive touchdown.

"Blame me; always blame me," Carr said. "Don't blame anybody else. I've got to do a better job of leading and I've got to do a better job of getting our guys in better spots. That's my fault."

Still, much credit for Carr's rocky night must go to the USC defense, which didn't have a sack but pressured Carr and hit him all night and usually had tight coverage downfield, too.

"Derek is a great quarterback," Kessler said. "But that's what our defense has done all year. ... Our defense is so good at stopping the run, stopping the pass, confusing teams. It makes it difficult. I see it every day at practice."

Carr did throw his 50th touchdown pass this season in the third quarter, becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season. He leads the nation in both categories this year.

"He hit some guys in the hands that we had some drops," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. "They did a good job covering our receivers. It was a combination of those things, and he didn't have his best game, clearly."

Fresno State pulled within 38-20 early in the fourth quarter when Derron Smith intercepted Kessler and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown -- Kessler's fourth pick-six of the season -- but the Bulldogs didn't score again, and Kessler hit Lee for a big gain to set up the clinching touchdown.

Lee had his best performance of an injury-plagued season, making seven catches for 118 yards and two TDs, and USC generally played fast and inspired football.

That was a stark change from last year's lackluster Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech and a triumphant end to a season that saw coach Lane Kiffin fired after five games and interim coach Ed Orgeron leave when the regular season ended.

"Obviously our confidence is way up, but it was never about a lack of confidence," Kessler said. "There was a point when these guys really came together and started playing for each other. When we do that, people saw all year what happens."

Fresno State, which looked bound for a BCS bowl game before a late loss to San Jose State, will have to settle for a Mountain West Championship and a second straight disappointing bowl performance.

"I know in my heart we had a really, really fine football team," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We didn't play our best game today."

When it was over, Carr walked off the field, acknowledging a large Fresno State crowd as his college career ended. He'll prepare now for April's NFL Draft, where he is expected to be a first-round pick.

"I just wanted to acknowledge them and everything they've done for me," Carr said. "... It's hard to put into words, man. It's so emotional. It's bittersweet ... but I've got to move on."

Then, Carr found Kessler. The two Bakersfield boys, one on his way to the NFL and the other just starting to make his mark at USC, shook hands and embraced.

"He just said, 'I'm so proud of you, brother,'" Kessler said. "We're going to go get dinner back (in Bakersfield) or something. I wished him well. I know he'll do great things. ... Me and Derek are real close."

 

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