New Years Eve of 2012 in El Paso at the Sun Bowl seems like a distant memory when the University of Southern California Trojans (USC) offense ended last season playing as poorly as … well, as poorly as they played Thursday evening in Honolulu. Lucky for the offense, the defense came ready to play as #24 ranked USC of the Pac-12 defeated the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors from the Mountain West 30-13. What 39,058 football fans saw at Aloha Stadium wasn’t pretty … unless they liked defense.
Highly anticipated, men of Troy head coach Lane Kiffin gave the starting quarterback job to Cody Kessler who had outplayed Max Wittek during spring and again at summer training camp. However, possibly due to first game jitters, Kessler’s play looked rough during most of the first half. In the end, Kessler was 10 of 19 for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception plus he was sacked for a safety. Wittek played in the second half with the Trojans leading 20-5 and he too didn’t look exactly sharp, throwing for 77 yards on 5 of 10 passes.
The good news for USC quarterbacks is the Warriors quarterback Taylor Graham played worse. Having not played a live down of football in four years showed as Graham was 16 of 41 for 208 yards – a good chunk of that coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. The Hawaii offense did not look good, so head coach Norm Chow has a ways to go to improve this unit.
Defenses were impressive
Part of the problems of both offenses was that they were playing two very good defenses. USC’s new 5-2 hybrid defense brought in by Clancy Pendergast was dynamic at times and kept Graham off balance all game long. The Trojans kept coming after Graham from all angles which resulted in four interceptions and eight sacks with countless hurries thrown into the mix. Another result of the excellent play of the USC was that the Warrior running backs were almost non-existent. They averaged less than a yard per carry for a total of 23 yards in the game. Terrible!
Heisman Trophy hopeful Marqise Lee wasn’t particularly sharp, dropping several balls but then again, neither Trojan quarterback was doing a good job of getting him the rock. And still, Lee was able to haul in eight catches for 108 yards. Having two quarterbacks instead of one hasn’t helped Lee get a good rhythm but also the fact that Marqise was nursing a sore shoulder through much of training camp made for a sloppy effort on the star receiver’s part.
USC continued quite a streak as they haven’t lost an opening game since John Robinson was coach – yeah, a long time. Also, the Trojans have never lost to Hawaii.
If this game told either team anything it’s that both squads need a lot of help on offense but may be able to rely on their defenses until production can improve. Coaches Kiffin and Chow are suppose to be offenses geniuses but this situation should test both of them.
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors head to the mainland next week (September 7) to play another ranked Pac-12 club: the #25 Oregon State Beavers. The USC Trojans go home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and open up Pac-12 play on September 7 as well going up against the Washington State Cougars.
Both schools have much to improve on, especially on offense. They will have to live off the axiom: defense wins championships … they hope.
Sources: University of Southern California, University of Hawaii
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