As lackluster as the first quarter was for USC, the second got a little better, with the Trojan entering the half 17-5 over Hawaii.
Cody Kessler, pinned at his own one-yard line got sacked in the endzone for a Hawaii safety to open the second quarter, bringing the score to 3-2 in the early minutes. Things only got more disappointing for the Trojans, as they allowed Hawaii to get into field goal position and ultimately take the lead, 5-3 with nearly 12 minutes left in the quarter.
The Trojans did have a bright moment when running back Tre Madden broke off a huge 34-yard run, getting the first down and then some, and putting USC back in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, USC made nothing of it; Kessler dumped a screen pass on 3rd and 14 right into the hands of a Hawaii defender, handing the reigns over to the Warrior offense.
The defense continued to come up big for the Trojans, with linebacker Devon Kennard putting Hawaii’s Taylor Graham under duress, forcing him to throw a pick right into the hands of Hayes Pullard. USC took over on downs inside Hawaii’s 30-yard line, and the Trojans ground their way to the endzone, led by the impressive efforts of running back Tre Madden. From 19 yards out, Kessler hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the endzone, recording USC’s first touchdown of the season and putting them back on top, 10-5.
Then on Hawaii’s next drive, the Trojan defense came up big again: safety Josh Shaw tipped a pass from Taylor Graham, caught it and took it too the house 35 yards for a USC pick-six, giving USC a 17-5 lead. All of USC’s scores came from turnovers forced by the defense.
USC seemed to be taking control of the game, but on a punt return, Marqise Lee tried to get too fancy and fumbled, handing the ball right back over to Hawaii.
The Trojan defense contained Hawaii to get the ball back in the hands of USC’s offense, and Lee slightly redeemed himself with two first-down catches to make a push for USC to get into scoring position. Kicker Andre Heidari took the field for a 52-yard field goal kick, tying his career-high and giving USC a 20-5 lead going into the half.
For USC, the Trojans go into the half in an entirely different fashion than they did in 2012, where they were up 35-0 after two quarters. Kessler is 10-for-17 and threw one touchdown, and the Trojans have just 159 yards of total offense. Thanks to a bruising effort from the defense, USC has held Hawaii to just 75 yards of offense, and has also forced three interceptions and recored an incredible five sacks.
In the second half, expect to see Max Wittek take over the reigns, and if USC is fortunate, a more commanding hold of this game.