USC opened its 2013 season at Aloha Stadium, taking on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. It was a first half full of jitters on both sides of the ball, and the Trojans took a 3-0 lead going into the second quarter.
Hawaii opened the game with possession, and the Trojan defense immediately showed that they are a much tougher, hard-hitting unit than in 2012. Safety Dion Bailey and linebacker Devon Kennard–who is playing in his first game since 2011, having sat out last year due to a torn pectoral muscle–swarmed Warrior quarterback Taylor Graham, sacking him on the first play of the game. A quick three-and-out forced by USC’s suffocating defense gave way for the Trojan offense, and quarterback Cody Kessler took the field for his first ever collegiate start.
The Trojans starting things off simply, with running back Tre Madden taking the handoffs in place of the injured Silas Redd. Head coach Lane Kiffin ultimately dialed up a passing play, and Kessler hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor for a 16-yard first down. Interestingly, Kessler and phenom Marqise Lee started the first quarter out of sync; Kessler targeted Lee three times, and each time it fell incomplete.
On Hawaii’s second drive, USC freshman defensive back Su’a Cravens immediately showed his worth: he made a diving interception to give the Trojans back the ball, and with it, another chance to light up the scoreboard. USC flirted with the Warrior redzone twice, but the offense couldn’t muster up enough strength to punch it in. They settled for a 20-yard field goal, to take a 3-0 lead.
The Trojan defense continued to stifle Hawaii’s offense, thanks largely to new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s scheme which puts constant pressure on the quarterback. On Hawaii’s third drive they looked to be making progress towards USC’s endzone, but a rush from Bailey up the middle forced Graham to turn right into another sack, this time from defensive end Leonard Williams.
Freshman Justin Davis also made his debut with the Trojans, but got stuffed for a disappointing 4-yard loss.
The Rainbow Warriors almost ended the quarter on a high note, executing a reverse that picked up a first down. USC’s Williams silenced the crowd though, with another big sack on Graham.
USC is still looking to get the motor running as it heads into the second quarter, with only 63 yards of total offense and no touchdowns from the first.