Inside the locker room: Las Vegas Bowl

LAS VEGAS -- Notes, quotes, and anecdotes from Sam Boyd Stadium after the Trojans (10-4) defeated Fresno State (11-2).

USC interim head coach Clay Helton comments:

Opening statement:

The Trojans pride and family: “I am just really proud of our football team, proud for the Trojans family. We came into this game wanting make the Trojans family proud, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the accomplishments they made.”

Defensive dominance: “(Defensive coordinator) Clancy Pendergast and the defense, to hold that offense to 254 yards when it averages 570 a game with a tremendous quarterback and receiving corps, is really something. We came into this game with a game plan to being ultra aggressive in all three phases of the game. It didn’t all work, but we wanted that mindset form the start.”

The offensive line: “I was very nervous coming in about the amount of pressure they (Fresno State defense) bring on, especially when you have two back-up linemen playing. It was just an unbelievable job by the offensive line.”

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter comments:

The evaluation: “Clearly early in the game we didn’t make enough plays to get into rhythm. Defensively, we didn’t make enough tackles. We have a lot of respect for USC. They’ve got really good players and they’re very well-coached and they played very inspired today.”

“Physically, they were the most impressive team we’ve played the last two years. They play inspired; they played very, very well. Early on we had a couple of opportunities on third down to get off the field, it could have changed the game and they converted. I think we were beaten by a better team.”

The Trojans defense: “They did a good job covering our receivers. It was a combination of things.”

More notes and anecdotes:

Key(s) to victory: Trojans sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler threw for four touchdowns and 243 yards in the first half as the Trojans won their 10th game of the season.

The thermometer: It was 55 degrees at kickoff in Sam Boyd Stadium.

The offensive above scoring average: The Trojans scored 45 points against Fresno State. Prior to the game with the Bulldogs, the Trojans were averaging 28.5 points per game.

Player of the Game, Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler said, “We want this team to be remembered forever. Hopefully, the team and the players before us will be proud of us. Even though we won 10 games, we still lost four. Next year we want to go undefeated and win the Pac-12.”

The defense at scoring average: “It was a great game today and it is 100 percent due to the offensive line. They studied film all week and worked so hard. It is due to them and our receiver who are freak athletes. They make plays. That is why they come to SC. They get the ball and make plays. That is my job just to get the ball to them and let them make plays.”

Defensively average: The Trojans defense allowed 20 points to Fresno State. Prior to the Bulldogs, they were allowing 20.2 points per game.

Defensive evaluation: Junior safety Josh Shaw said, “My hat goes off to our front seven. I have been in college football for four years now and have had a different coordinator every year. Coach Pendergast is second to none.”

Offense above average: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were averaging 392.3 yards per game in total offense. Against the Bulldogs, the Trojans had 487 total yards on offense.

More Kessler: “This season speaks for itself. The guys bought into Coach O and his one heartbeat and one-team philosophy. I will talk with him later.”

Offensive MVP: The award went to sixth-year center Abe Markowitz. Receiving the award on the podium, his teammates started chanting, “Four more years, four more years.”

Defense stars: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were allowing an average of 341.5 total yards on defense. Against the Bulldogs, the Men of Troy allowed 254 total yards.

Power of 10: Regarding how important this 10th win was for the Trojans, All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams said, “It was important to get this 10th win for Coach Orgeron. We have gone through so much adversity that this is really special.”

Below the rush: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were averaging 174.2 yards per game rushing. Against the Bulldogs, the Men of Troy rushed for 143 net yards.

The words of John: Trojans senior offensive guard John Martinez was especially introspective on the bowl victory. Martinez said, “Coming off the UCLA loss, this was our redemption. We played the way we are supposed to play. I am now satisfied with the season. We all are. ”

Rushing wall: Prior to the bowl, the Trojans defense was allowing 127.1 yards rushing per game. Against the Bulldogs, they allowed 37 net yards rushing.

Ejected: Standout defensive junior tackle George Uko was ejected in the first half for a second personal foul. Uko said, “Somebody had me by the shoulder and I sort of swayed my shoulder away and unfortunately is wasn’t another player but the ref. It was one of those things. I don’t go hitting other players and getting tossed out.”

Passing the test: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were averaging 218.1 passing yards per game. Against the Bulldogs, the Cardinal and Gold passed for 344 yards.

Tears of pride: With great emotion and tears in his eyes, senior starting offensive right tackle Kevin Graf said, “This win means a lot. Running the ball the way we did was amazing and to hold them to 20 points. I am proud of my team. I can’t believe it’s over. This last season has meant so much. The will to leave with a win meant a lot to all the seniors.”

Air contain: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were allowing 214.5 passing yards per game and allowed 217 passing yards to the Bulldogs.

The flag is up: Prior to the Fresno State game, the Trojans were averaging 54.6 penalty yards per game, but had 11 penalties for 98 yards in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Top tacklers: Corner Kevon Seymour, who was the Defensive Player of the Game, led the Trojans defense. Seymour recorded seven tackles.

Seymour speaks: “Coach Pete (Clancy Pendergast) told us it’s all about disruption. Disruption of the quarterback, disruption of the wide receivers. We had to get them out of their mindset, especially the receivers.”

Sark talk: Incoming Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian said, “I can’t wait to get with these guys. I want them to enjoy this win and stay out of the way. It was unique being up in the suites watching the team. I can’t wait to coach them.”

Second best: Game attendance was 42,178, which marks the second-largest crowd in Sam Boyd Stadium history and also the second-largest crowd in Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl history.

Next season: The Trojans open the 2014 season against Fresno State on Aug. 30 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.