USC vs. Hawaii: Rainbow Warriors’ Keys to Victory


Sept 22, 2012; Honolulu, HI, USA; Hawaii Warriors linebacker Kamalani Alo runs out on the field with a Hawaiian flag before the start of the first quarter against Nevada Wolf Pack at Aloha Stadium. Nevada defeated Hawaii 69-24. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve looked at what USC needs to do to fly home to Los Angeles with a victory. Now it is time to look at the keys to a Hawaii upset.

  • Attack the Trojan secondary

USC’s secondary is young, inexperienced and running a new scheme. Yesterday, Lane Kiffin announced that true freshman Su’a Cravens and redshirt junior Josh Shaw will start at safety. Cravens will be making his first ever start, while Shaw will be making just his second start at safety (he started seven games at corner in 2012). Redshirt junior Anthony Brown and redshirt senior Torin Harris are vying for the start at corner on one side with four and nine starts to their names respectively. On the other side, sophomore Kevon Seymour and redshirt freshman Devian Shelton are both looking for their first start at USC. That means USC’s projected starters in the secondary have a total of 14 starts between them.

This is the area Norm Chow can most effectively target. In 2010, Hawaii had great success against the USC secondary, to the tune of 459 yards and three passing touchdowns. This secondary is very different in personnel and scheme, while Hawaii has moved away from the Run and Shoot offense that torched the 2010 Trojans in favor of a more pro-style set. However, the principles of that game could still come into play. If Hawaii spreads the defense thin with multiple receiver sets and challenges USC’s young corners early, they could find success. The more success they have, the harder it will be for the Trojans to keep up.

  • Create rookie mistakes

    Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterbacks Max Wittek (13) and Cody Kessler (6) at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans have not named starters at quarterback or running back as they head to Hawaii, but those positions will certainly feature athletes with limited experience. Whether the Rainbow Warriors see Cody Kessler or Max Wittek, Justin Davis or Tre Madden they will look to capitalize on the inexperience.

Wittek is a gunslinger who is prone to interceptions. He threw five in his two starts last season. Kessler, on the other hand, tends to be more careful with the ball. However, that caution also means he is more likely to hold onto the ball too long and take a sack. If put under the right amount of pressure, both quarterbacks could potentially be forced into losing their cool.

In the backfield, veteran running backs Silas Redd and DJ Morgan are out with injury. Madden and Davis will shoulder the load, but neither have ever carried the ball in a college game. Hawaii must get under their skin to disrupt the offense.

  • Get Graham going

Hawaii QB Taylor Graham is 6’5, 235 pounds with a strong arm and surprising quickness. He was a four-star player coming out of high school and transferred from Ohio State after Urban Meyer’s arrival left him the odd man out, choosing Hawaii specifically to work with Norm Chow.

However, Graham has never started a collegiate game and had limited starts in high school due to injury. Reports out of practices have raved about his arm strength, accuracy and pocket presence. The key is translating those performances to game situations, especially against an aggressive USC defense which will look to harass him with blitzes.  Hawaii needs his debut to be a strong one to knock off the Trojans.