Inside the Locker Room: Hyundai Sun Bowl

EL PASO, Texas -- Notes, quotes, and anecdotes from the Hyundai Sun Bowl after the Trojans' (7-6) 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech (7-7).

USC coach Lane Kiffin comments:

On the Game:

Turnovers and efficiency: “Obviously very disappointing day, coming down to turning the ball over and third-down efficiency really nullifying anything on offense. I thought our defense did a good job today. I thought they played very hard, obviously wore down a bit there late, but that’s to be expected when we turn the ball over that many times.”

Taking responsibility: How much is Kiffin taking the blame for the Trojans season? The coach said, "All of it, we can’t be 7-6 -- not at SC -- and that’s not our expectations and not why we came here and obviously we have some work to do to get that fixed. We are a young team, we started one senior on offense today, so we got to continue to recruit, continue to get better and obviously coach better.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson comments:

The defensive key: “Well, I think we stayed away from giving up the big play and we did well on third down. We created some turnovers and it was just one of those things where we were able to make some big plays. We played pretty consistently. It became a field position game.”

More notes and anecdotes

Key to victory: A 56-yard punt return by Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden early in the third quarter set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington to help put Tech up 14-7.

The puzzle: Commenting on why the Trojans had such good bowl practices but came out flat, junior offensive tackle Kevin Graf said, “I don’t know why we played this way. We had a great week of practice. We’re a lot better team. I promise you this team will work hard to get back to where we belong.”

The offensive scoring average: The Trojans scored seven points against Georgia Tech. Prior to the game with the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans were averaging 34.2 points per game.

Out of the Woods: Junior wide receiver Robert Woods (33 yards on three catches) announced he was declaring for the 2013 NFL draft. Woods said, “Today is a sad day. I had my mind set that I was leaving, so I came into today’s game on a good note. The wind had an impact. Balls were sailing and curving. I was not frustrated with Max [Wittek]. It was the wind. I knew he could get the ball out there.”

Rush to defend: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans defense was allowing a net total of 156.4 yards rushing per game. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans allowed 294 rushing yards.

It’s offensive: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were averaging 451.9 yards per game in total offense. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans had 205 total yards.

Max on Max: Trojans quarterback Max Wittek, who threw for just 107 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, said, “They played a great game. Our defense got pressure when they needed to get pressure, they covered well, and I don’t think there was anything particularly different from the Notre Dame game. I think they had a plan for us and they executed that plan well.”

The stare down: Regarding Wittek, GT corner Rod Sweeting said, “The quarterback was staring down a lot of his receivers. We saw on film that the zone caused them a lot of havoc. Jamal (Golden) and I were moving around disguising the coverage’s. He (Wittek) was rattled the whole game and we knew we had him. It was a good job by the safeties on disguising the coverage.”

Rush-less hour: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were averaging 155.0 yards per game rushing. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans rushed for 98 yards.

I’ll be back: Junior tailback Silas Redd (88 yards rushing on 17 carries) announced after the game he’ll be returning for his senior season. Redd said, “I will be back next season. The defense played great today, but it was on the offense today. Our offense just has to get meaner and more physical for next season.”

The defensive scoring average: The Trojans defense allowed 21 points to Georgia Tech. Prior to the Yellow Jackets game, the Trojans were allowing 24.6 points per game.

Disappointment: On the shock of the 7-6 season, Trojans defensive end Wes Horton said, “No, based on the talent we had coming into this season, I didn’t see it coming. With the talent mixed with the coaches that we have by position I thought we were going to have a much better run than we did this year, but situations come up and we just had too many close games where we didn’t come through.”

Getting defensive: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were allowing an average of 396.1 total yards on defense. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Men of Troy allowed 369 total yards.

Giving thanks: Junior corner Nickell Robey said he is still undecided whether to turn pro, but said he will probably know by next week. Regarding the departure of defensive strategist Monte Kiffin, Robey said, “I love Coach Kiffin as a person and as a coach in helping me when my mom passed away. He was like a dad.”

Pass defense: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were allowing 239.7 passing yards per game. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans allowed 75 yards.

Tackling the issue: The Trojans defense was led by linebacker Hayes Pullard’s 16 tackles, followed by defensive tackle Leonard Williams and safety T.J. McDonald with 14 and 13 tackles, respectively.

The meat wagon: Defensive end J.R. Tavai was carted off the field in the first quarter with what appeared to be a left leg injury.

Passing fancy: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were averaging 296.9 passing yards per game. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans passed for a total of 107 yards.

Lee speaks: Speaking of his knee injury, consensus All-America wide receiver Marqise Lee (41 yards on six receptions) said, “I knew I was going to play no matter what coach or the doctors said. I just rehabbed (my knee) to play. We just made some mistakes here and there. Max is a good quarterback, and we have to have him. It’s just that the wind was there. We didn’t practice in this kind of wind.”

Down on third: The Trojans were just 3 of 15 in third-down conversions.

It’s cold, baby: Temperature at kickoff was 44 degrees with gusts of wind at 35 miles per hour.

Flag time: Prior to the Georgia Tech game, the Trojans were averaging 66.5 penalty yards per game. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Trojans were penalized two times for 10 yards.

Up next: The Trojans open the 2013 season at Hawaii on Aug. 29.