Honolulu, HI (Sports Network) - Southern California entered Thursday's season
opener in Hawaii without officially naming a starting quarterback.
The 24th-ranked Trojans left the Aloha State with a 30-13 win, but didn't find
much clarity in the battle for the starting job.
Cody Kessler earned the nod for the opener after outperforming Max Wittek
during training camp.
Kessler went 10-for-19 for 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception before he
was pulled in favor of Wittek in the third quarter.
Wittek, who appeared in eight games and started the final two contests for USC
last season after Matt Barkley suffered a season-ending injury, finished with
a unimpressive 77 yards on 5-of-10 passing and was sacked twice.
While neither quarterback seemed to get the offense going, Tre Madden and
Justin Davis headlined a USC (1-0) rushing attack that picked up 192 yards on
the ground. Madden rushed 18 times for 109 yards and Davis added 14 carries
for 74 yards and a touchdown.
2012 Biletnikoff Award winner and 2013 Heisman Hopeful Marqise Lee caught
eight passes for 104 yards.
The Trojans' defense also shined for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast,
holding the Warriors to 231 total yards and four turnovers.
Hawaii (0-1) had quarterback woes of its own. Junior Taylor Graham, making his
first start since high school, completed just 16-of-41 passes, for 208 yards,
one touchdown and four interceptions.
After failing to convert on fourth down in Hawaii territory on its first
drive, USC got on the board with Andre Heidari's 20-yard field goal for an
Su'a Cravens gave the Trojans excellent field position after making a diving
interception on the Warriors' 38-yard line. USC picked up a quick pair of
first downs to get to the Hawaii 1, but Madden was stuffed at the goal line
and driven back three yards. Kessler's pass to Lee in the end zone was off
target and Madden was stopped on third down, forcing USC to settle for the
Art Laurel sacked Kessler in the end zone in the opening minute of the second
quarter to put the Warriors on the board. Hawaii went three-and-out, but Scott
Harding pinned the Trojans back on their 1. Laurel broke through the line on
the very next play and slammed Kessler to the turf for the safety.
Following the free kick, Tyler Hadden drilled a 42-yard field to cap a
stagnant seven-play, 17-yard drive to give the Warriors a brief 5-3 lead.
It would be all USC from there though, as Kessler hooked up with Nelson
Agholor for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Hayes Pullard picked off Graham at the
Hawaii 30 to give the Trojans excellent field position. After Kessler picked
up a first down on 4th-and-2, Kessler delivered a beautiful touchdown strike
to Agholor in the front left corner of the end zone to give USC a 10-5 lead.
Josh Shaw picked off Graham on the ensuing possession and returned it 35 yards
for a score to put the Trojans up 17-5 and Heidari drilled a 52-yarder on the
final play of the first half to send USC into the break with a 20-5 advantage.
After Kessler was unable to get the offense moving on the opening drove of the
second half, USC head coach Lane Kiffin turned to Wittek.
Heidari made a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth. Davis capped a 10-play,
80-yard march later in the quarter with a 3-yard touchdown plunge.
Graham's 60-yard touchdown strike with 30 seconds left to Keith Kirkwood, and
a two-point conversion accounted for the final difference.
USC has won 16 straight season openers ... USC star running back Silas Redd
missed the game while recovering from knee surgery ... These teams have met in
season openers five times ... Hawaii has dropped 17 of its last 20 games
against ranked opponents ... USC outgained Hawaii in total yardage, 364-231.
The Sports Network