Lane Kiffin era begins with victory in Hawaii
The Trojans took the field for the first time under new management and walked away with the first notch carved for a season goal of thirteen wins. The sanctioned program that is banned from postseason play leaves Honolulu with a 49-36 victory over Hawaii, but didn’t display the overall dominance expected from a 14th ranked team.
USC came out playing like a program with a chip on its shoulder. The defense applied pressure and smothered the Warriors offense, while Barkley orchestrated three drives that shredded the opponent with ease. A quick check of the scoreboard showed the Trojans leading 20-6 and in complete control, with the only misfires coming on 2 of 3 two-point conversion attempts.
Bryant Moniz and the Hawaii offense refused to submit to the Men of Troy on their way to an opening game rout. Following a couple of defensive stops, Moniz led his team on two scoring drives that narrowed the deficit to 27-16 by intermission. Only a controversial “no-touchdown” call in the closing minute of the first half kept the Trojans from entering the locker room with an uncomfortable lead of just 7 points in an atmosphere that was becoming more hostile for as long as the home team could stay in striking distance.
The second half opened with the Warriors still riding a wave of momentum. Playing with more confidence, they limited the Trojans to just six plays and a punt on the opening drive. They were unable to take advantage of the defense’s hard work, and with one punt, Ronald Johnson sucked the air out of their balloon.
Johnson, who finished with 7 receptions for 59 yards and three touchdowns, silenced the Aloha Stadium crowd with an 89 yard punt return for a score. USC had extended the lead to 34-16, but Hawaii was not done.
The Warriors racked up 588 yards of offense in this contest, coming back time and time again, and disallowing USC any room to breathe. A blow to the head from linebacker Michael Morgan knocked starting quarterback Bryant Moniz from the game late in the third, but the hits kept coming for the Hawaii offense. By the time it was all said and done, the Trojans had held off reserve slinger Shane Austin’s two touchdown passes and escaped the Island with a “W”.
Matt Barkley finished 18 of 23 for 257 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was removed from the game and reinserted when the Warriors pulled close, before finally exiting for good in favor or Mitch Mustain. Marc Tyler made good in his first career start, rushing for 154 yards on 17 carries behind an offensive line that dominated all night long. Allen Bradford added another 52 yards, and C.J. Gable contributed 39 more in a clean up role.
Keahola Pilares led the Warriors in receiving, accumulating 176 yards on 5 receptions, and three scores. In all, three Hawaii receivers went over the century mark, showing evidence of the youth and inexperience of the USC secondary, and the fearless and attacking approach of the Island offense.
USC entered this game as a 19 point favorite. The 13 point margin of victory is the narrowest in the series, and it also marks the first time since 1978 that a Trojans team didn’t score 60 or more points against the Warriors. Hawaii’s 36 points are also the most points ever allowed by the Trojans against a Warriors team, with the previous high being 32 against Pete Carroll’s defense in 2003.