7 Big Takeaways from the DIRECTV Holiday Bowl

Sending out the 2023 Inaugural Hometown Heroes Initiative with a bang.

We finally know what it feels like to make a bowl game. This past year marked the advent of the Hometown Heroes Initiative, which concluded right here at San Diego’s own Petco Park with USC taking on Louisville at the DIRECTV Holiday Bowl. Through the initiative, 250 free tickets were dispersed to members of the local San Diego active-duty military community, and a limited number of game tickets were offered at exclusive savings to the game to qualified GOVX members.

The result? A phenomenal mix of football, military recognition, and trophy-hoisting postgame celebrations that’ll live long in our collective memories. Now that the confetti cleared, let’s look at the highlights.

7. Barry Sanders is Still

the GOAT

Despite it being about a quarter century since the Lions’ legend last picked up the pigskin and found paydirt, the Hall-of-Famer still looks like he could add to his legacy with a couple more 1,000-yard seasons. Accolade-stacked resume aside, Sanders was kind enough to make himself accessible pre-game to the GOVX team for photo ops and handshakes. Thanks, Barry!

6. Moss is Boss

Suiting up without their starting QB turned out be no biggie for the Trojan faithful, as second-string shot caller Miller Moss filled in for star quarterback and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams to deliver a Holiday Bowl record six touchdown passes on 372 yards in the air. The backup flustered the Cardinals D and tantalized the crowd with several deep bombs and pristine passes to lead his squad to victory.

5. GOVX Gets it Done

Having the honor of serving as the Presenting Sponsor for the pre-game show and festivities, GOVX was front and center for the national anthem, American flag unfurling, and Hometown Heroes Military Tribute. From the very onset of the day’s activities starting with the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade, we took a massive amount of pride in representing San Diego and supporting the military community.

4. San Diego Showed Out

We’re firm believers that San Diego is a sports town, and the Holiday Bowl only helped to support that notion. A packed house filtered in, the weather cooperated, and Petco Park seamlessly transformed from a baseball stadium to a bowl game. From the SoCal-styled logo to the teams celebrating the sights and culture of America’s Finest City, our homebase proved to be the ideal backdrop for all the big moments. Respect to USC and Louisville for getting in on the fun.

3. Eggnog Stains Are No Joke

For those in attendance, witnessing the start of a new bowl tradition came in the form of the very first Holiday Bowl eggnog bath. USC head coach Lincoln Riley became the test subject and chosen recipient of the dousing, and we can safely say that the bucket of Gatorade was sorely missed. Sorry, coach. Thanks for being such a good sport.

2. The Game Was a Dogfight

Don't let the final score fool you. Despite Holiday Bowl Player of the Game Miller Moss going off with the help of Tahj Washington and Kyron Hudson, Number 15-ranked Louisville kept pace for the better part of the game with running back Issac Guerendo leading the way. The Cardinals nearly mounted a comeback until a failed fourth down conversion and a USC fumble recovery sealed a Trojan victory late in the final quarter.

1. The Post-Game Fireworks Show Ruled

The iconic KGB fireworks show made its grand return to San Diego. First held in 1976, the annual boom-boom-blast typically accompanied San Diego State football games until the closure of SDCCU Stadium in 2019. Hosted by the local iHeartRadio station, fans settled in for a synchronized pyrotechnics journey through musical eras. When it was all said and done, the show proved to be a spectacular finish to a banner day.

What a Game. What a Day.

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