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USC Wins Holiday Bowl 45-42 Over Nebraska

Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler throws a pass in USC's 45-42 victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, Dec. 27, 2014.
Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press
Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler throws a pass in USC's 45-42 victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, Dec. 27, 2014.

Adoree' Jackson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 71-yard pass from Cody Kessler, and No. 24 Southern California blew most of an 18-point, third-quarter lead before beating No. 25 Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl on Saturday night.

Kessler completed 23 of 39 yards for 321 yards and three touchdowns for USC (9-4), which was playing Nebraska (9-4) in a bowl game for the first time.

The Trojans took a 45-27 lead after Kessler threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Bryce Dixon with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

Armstrong brought the Huskers back with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp with 24 seconds left in the third quarter and then a 15-yard keeper with 6:52 left in the game. His 2-point conversion pass to Kenny Bell pulled Nebraska to 45-42.

USC held De'Mornay Pierson to a 1-yard gain on a pass from Armstrong on fourth-and-3 from the USC 31 with 2 1/2 minutes left.

Armstrong completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards and three TDs, with one interception.

USC had 515 yards of total offense and Nebraska finished with 525.

Kessler tied the USC single-season record of 39 touchdown passes set by Matt Barkley in 2011.

Barney Cotton coached Nebraska, which fired Bo Pelini on Nov. 30. New coach Mike Riley watched from a skybox.

USC's Javorius Allen gained 152 yards on 26 carries and scored on runs of 2 and 44 yards.

After Nebraska's Drew Brown kicked a 34-yard field goal early in the first quarter, Jackson caught the kickoff at the 2 and ran it up the right sideline for the longest kickoff return in Holiday Bowl history.

His 71-yard TD on a catch-and-run came on the first play from scrimmage after Nebraska punted on its first possession of the second half. He caught a short pass from Kessler and weaved through defenders to give USC a 31-17 lead.

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