EditorsNote: changes to “8:15” in fourth graf
Ihmir Smith-Marsette scored touchdowns in three different ways, and No. 16 Iowa downed No. 22 Southern California to win the Holiday Bowl 49-24 Friday in San Diego.
Smith-Marsette’s touchdowns came rushing, receiving and returning a kickoff as the Hawkeyes (10-3) posted a season-high point total.
The Hawkeyes rolled on offense early, then capitalized on a third-quarter injury that sidelined USC quarterback Kedon Slovis for the rest of the night.
Iowa’s two initial drives lasted 6:35 and 8:15, and ended in similar fashion. The Hawkeyes used misdirection to catch USC off-balance, first with Tyrone Tracy going untouched on a reverse from 23 yards, then Smith-Marsette walking in from 6 yards out on the next drive.
USC (8-5) responded with a couple of impressive drives of its own, both resulting in Slovis touchdown passes. He found Drake London from 4 yards on the first, and delivered a 16-yard pinpoint pass through a tight window to Vavae Malepeai on the second.
The game’s first punt came with 4:35 left before halftime. Iowa did not punt until 1:25 remained in the third quarter.
Smith-Marsette’s other two touchdowns — a 98-yard kickoff return and a 12-yard reception from Nate Stanley — gave Iowa a lead it never relinquished.
USC tried to rally, scoring on possessions on each side of halftime. Chase McGrath booted a 32-yard field goal as time ran out before intermission, cutting the margin to 28-17. Stephen Carr followed up Slovis’ 55-yard rainbow pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown with a 2-yard touchdown run in the third, bringing the Trojans within four points.
St. Brown finished with 163 yards on nine receptions.
The Trojans followed up Carr’s score with an unexpected onside kick, which Michael Brown recovered near midfield. USC appeared poised to take its first lead, but Slovis sustained an apparent arm injury when he hit the turf hard on the second of A.J. Epenesa’s 2.5 sacks.
USC went scoreless after Matt Fink came on. The backup QB completed 12 of 18 passes for 74 yards and an interception. Slovis was 22 of 30 for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa slammed the door in the fourth quarter when Stanley found Brandon Smith on a 6-yard scoring pass to cap his 18-of-27, 213-yard, two-TD night. Linebacker Nick Niemann added a 25-yard pick-six to close the scoring.
—Field Level Media