Saturday was a record-setting night for the USC Trojans.
Under the head coaching banner of Steve Sarkisian for the first time at the Coliseum, USC ran a Pac-12 record 105 plays on offense and racked up an astounding 701 yards of total offense.
That’s just part of the story the box score tells us this week. Here’s the inside look:
As already mentioned, USC ran 105 plays against the Bulldogs. To put that into perspective, consider the fact that the Trojans averaged 66 plays per game in 2013. Saturday, they executed 64 plays in the first half alone.
For good measure on the perspective front, Fresno State barely topped that first half total with 69 plays through four quarters.
Sarkisian promised a run-first offense, and the numbers show that with 64 rushes to 41 pass attempts.
Of course, numbers can be deceiving. The Trojans threw the ball nine times in the second half, compared to 33 rushes, most of which were intent on running the clock to close out the blow out.
Freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith wasted no time getting his collegiate career started, catching four passes for 123 yards. Not only is it a school record for a freshman debut, but only Reggie Bush in 2004 posted more receiving yards in an August game.
With the First Pick
Another true freshman, Adoree’ Jackson, jumped out to a fast start as a Trojan with three catches on offense for 36 yards and a touchdown. He was involved in special teams with a ten-yard punt return. He also logged a tackle as a cornerback.
Jackson featured in 52 plays for USC during the opener — 25 on defense, 13 on offense and 14 on special teams.
There had been talk of the Serra product contributing at multiple positions for the Trojans during his recruitment and that has come to fruition already with no signs of ending any time soon.
1-2-3, 1st Down, Trojans
The last time USC came away with more than 11 successful third-down conversions in a game, Mark Sanchez was leading the Trojans to victory over Arizona in 2006.
In fact, such was the Trojans’ efficiency on third (11/18) and fourth down (3/5), USC did not bring on the punt team at all against Fresno State.
Considering the men of Troy converted an average of 34.95% of third downs in 2013, the improvement is impressive and encouraging.
USC has opened the season with a four-interception game for the second year in a row. The 30-13 victory over Hawai’i in 2013 featured four picks including a Josh Shaw interception-return touchdown.
Saturday featured interceptions from lineman Leonard Williams, linebacker Anthony Sarao, safety Gerard Bowman and linebacker Michael Hutchings.
For the record, both Bowman and Hutchings could have taken their picks to the house but failed to score. Bowman just stepped out of bounds on his run down the sideline with a caravan of blockers. Hutchings went to the ground seemingly on purpose when he intercepted Brandon Connette on Fresno State’s final drive.
Keeping the Jersey Clean
The Trojans handed out three starting debuts on the offensive line, including the two true freshman Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama. Still, Fresno State were unable to get to the quarterback.
Kessler, who was sacked 34 times in 2014, will no doubt be grateful for the goose egg put up by the Bulldogs in that department.
Though the offensive line, led by center Max Tuerk, did an admirable job in pass protection, the stand out actually was Kessler, whose movement in and outside the pocket helped negate the Fresno State pass rush.