Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Despite reverting back to the traditional combination of white socks with black cleats, the USC Trojans’ 2013 season got off to an unceremonious start as they defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors 30-13 Thursday evening.
Cody Kessler earned his first career start, though the majority of his time spent on the field he appeared to be a quarterback who was named the starter by default and not based off merit.
The Trojans didn’t score their first touchdown until 4:18 was remaining in the second quarter when Kessler completed a perfectly placed touch-pass to Nelson Agholor in the corner of the end zone, giving the Trojans a 10-5 lead.
Kessler finished with 95 yards on 10-of-19, with one touchdown and one interception, and played one series into the second half before being pulled in favor of Max Wittek. The change at quarterback initially failed to improve the offensive production, as Wittek’s first two drives stalled with consecutive three-and outs.
It was a rough night for the Trojan offense the majority of the evening as they struggled to generate any sort of sustained momentum for much of the game. In particular, wide receiver Marqise Lee was not his normal self, managing to pull down eight receptions for 104 yards, but he also fumbled a punt return and dropped multiple passes.
With Silas Redd not making the trip due to injury, Tre Madden and Justin Davis formed the one-two punch for the Trojans on the ground, combining for 183 rushing yards. Madden carried the ball 18 times for 109 yards and Davis ran 14 times for 74 yards, including the Trojans’ lone rushing touchdown.
It should be noted the bulk of the success on the ground came late in the game when the Rainbows appeared to be gassed and going through the motions defensively. Outside of the late rushing yardage picked up, the offensive line struggled to consistently play well.
Fortunately for the Trojans, the defense came to play from the outset and Clancy Pendergast’s much ballyhooed defense unveiled itself with a fury. The first play of the game resulted in a sack by Devon Kennard, which was a sign of things to come from the redshirt senior linebacker.
Playing without the services of Morgan Breslin, the Trojan defense didn’t miss a beat, recording four interceptions and seven sacks. However, cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Anthony Brown were unable to make it past the first two quarters of the season, each leaving with unspecified injuries to their lower body.
As is typically the case with opening games of the season, there were numerous facets of the game the Trojans must improve on if they hope to have a successful season. For now, they are 1-0 and Trojan fans continue to wait for Lane Kiffin’s decision on a starting quarterback moving forward.