Grading Clay Helton's Performance as USC Interim Head Coach vs. Fresno State

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIDecember 21, 2013

Dec 21, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans interim coach Clay Helton reacts during the second quarter against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC interim head coach Clay Helton bolstered his stock after the Trojans came away with a convincing 45-20 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs in Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl.

Over his 19-year career, this was Helton's first time overseeing a team on game day. Needless to say, he had his squad fired up.

The Trojans got off to a hot start on the arm of quarterback Cody Kessler. He threw for four first-half touchdowns, as USC jumped out to a 35-6 halftime lead. Kessler completed 22 of 31 passes for 344 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the game.

Despite a tremendous amount of yardage through the air, Helton maintained a balanced offensive attack. The Trojans rushed 44 times for 147 yards against Fresno State. As a team, USC accumulated a total of 491 yards of offense during Saturday's contest.

The Trojans were not only clicking on offense, however. They were just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball.

USC's defense got pressure on Derek Carr early in the game, which forced the hand of the Bulldogs and kept them from effectively utilizing their usual fast-paced offense.

Carr only completed 29 of his 54 passing attempts for 217 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the USC secondary.

The Trojans gave a remarkable team effort, and the man responsible was Helton.

With Steve Sarkisian already slated to serve as the Trojans head coach next season, it would not be surprising to see interest in Helton from other programs around the country.

However, it may not come to that. According to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Timessources have confirmed that Helton will stay on USC's staff as the offensive coordinator next season.

It is easy to speculate that he may not retain that position for too long, as his performance on Saturday could make him one of the most sought-after head coaching candidates in the near future.


Clay Helton's Game Grade: A+