Defense Powers USC to 30-13 Victory Over Hawai’i
A final score will reveal a winner and a loser, without saying much of anything else. Such is the case in Southern California’s season opener, where a 30-point performance may give the illusion that all is right on the offensive front, when in fact it was continuity of the late season struggles of a year ago.
Lane Kiffin extended his quarterback competition into the season’s first game. And just as it was in fall camp, there is still no clear winner. Cody Kessler received the start, and played the entire first half, but the Trojan offense struggled to find rhythm in the passing game. The first time started was limited to conservative handoffs in his half of play, and Max Wittek didn’t fair any better, entering the game in the third quarter, and playing to similar circumstances and results.
USC’s two-headed snake combined for just 172 passing yards in its season debut, with Kessler finishing 10 of 19 for 95 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and Wittek adding 5 of 10, 77 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. Much of the struggle came up front, where an offensive line that failed to protect Matt Barkley down the stretch displayed the same pattern in Honolulu. It’s a front that is more experienced than a year ago, but missing the senior leadership of the now departed Khaled Holmes in the middle. Hawaii held its own against the Trojan bigs, with Norm Chow seemingly in Kiffin’s playbook before the coach could deliver his call to the field.
Defense was the theme of the opening quarter, and it was defense that carried the Trojans throughout the game. 17 of USC’s 20 first half points came off Hawaii turnovers, which included an interception returned for a touchdown by Josh Shaw. The Trojans would record 5 sacks and 3 interceptions in the first 30 minutes, as they built a 20-5 lead.
The third quarter struggles continue. The Warriors held the Trojans scoreless in the period, as the teams spent the next 15 minutes exchanging punts and turnovers. USC would hang 10 on the board in the final period, with the last coming with 42 seconds remaining and the game well in hand. Hawaii would also tack on a late score, to give us our 30-13 final.
Marqise Lee began his Heisman campaign with a quiet 8 receptions for 104 yards. Most of the damage came late, as Kiffin decided to open up the offense, and Chow already conceding defeat. USC rushed for 192 yards, with Madden delivering a game-high 109 yards on 14 carries, playing in place of the injured Silas Redd.
The Warriors managed just 231 total yards against a stout Trojan defense, with the team gaining just 23 yards on the ground. USC finished with 8 sacks and 4 interceptions on the night, as it wreaked havoc in the opposing backfield from beginning to end.
Game ball: Clancy Pendergast for game preparation and his aggressive defensive approach.