It was not Notre Dame and Miami. Nor was it even Stanford and Oklahoma.

But it was a success.

A crowd of 47,922 -- just 2,078 shy of a sellout -- turned out on a chilly, wind-blown Monday afternoon to watch 6-7 Georgia Tech edge 7-5 Southern Cal 21-7 in this year's 79th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.

For almost eight decades now, El Pasoans have supported this game ... supported it through different conference alliances, difference corporate names, through snow and cold and sunny warmth.

For the past three years and again next year, it has been and will be known as the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Oscar Leeser, CEO of Hyundai El Paso, said earlier in the week that he hopes to keep Hyundai as the name on the logo for another four years.

Bill Knight

"That's the goal," Leeser said. "I think it's important for continuity."

The weather cooperated to a small degree this time. At least the rain stayed away. The fans, in spite of that cold wind, did not stay away.

The game was expected to be an offensive shootout. Each team had put up big offensive numbers. Each team's defense had trouble stopping other teams from putting up big numbers.

But, partially because of the wind, partially because of a terrible outing from USC's backup freshman quarterback Max Wittek and partially because of some good play by both defenses, this was a low-scoring battle.

The game was close: 0-0 after the first quarter, 7-7 at the half, 14-7 Georgia Tech after three quarters. That seemed to appease the fans who braved those chilly winds.


The majority remained in their seats until the final seconds ticked off. Then, as soon as the game ended, the old stadium emptied as if there were a bomb threat, everyone scurrying for a little warmth.

Georgia Tech, of course, was here a year ago, dropping an overtime thriller to Utah in the 78th version of this game. The Yellow Jackets, in fact, had lost seven straight bowl games ... four of those under current head coach Paul Johnson. As a result, most people -- those few who remained -- said they had never seen a Sun Bowl- winning team happier than Georgia Tech.

For his part, Johnson said, "I want to thank the people of El Paso and the Sun Bowl for a fabulous week. The second time around was probably even better than the first."

USC coach Lane Kiffin, who saw his team go from No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason poll to six losses, who saw his team tumble from 6-1 to 7-6, said, "That wind down there was pretty vicious."

When asked if this loss would affect his job status, Kiffin calmly said, "No. Even if we won this game, this season is below our standards. I thought we would play well, though. Even at our walk-through (Sunday afternoon) we had great energy ... even though it was windy and cold. We wanted to make sure we didn't come out flat. And I don't think we did."

GT celebrations
Georgia Tech players celebrate with the team after George Tech beat USC 21-7, Monday at the 79th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl. (Fernie Castillo / El Paso Times)

No, USC played with energy -- especially on the defensive end. On the offensive end, talented wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were simply unable to get catches from a struggling freshman quarterback and a Georgia Tech defensive unit played well ... putting pressure on Wittek and making it difficult for him to get the ball to either Woods or Lee.

Woods, a junior, announced he will declare for the NFL Draft this spring and will not return to USC. Lee, a sophomore who caught 111 balls and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver, will return to USC.

As for El Pasoans, well, they once again stepped up and supported their bowl game ... as they have for nearly eight decades now ... as they almost certainly will do again next New Year's Eve.

Bill Knight may be reached at; 546-6171. Follow him on Twitter @Billknightept