Kessler gets starting nod for reasons only known to Kiffin
The USC quarterback battle began in the spring, resumed in the summer, and extended into the first two games of the season. From the beginning, it was a race said to be “too close to call”, resulting in the Trojans opening the 2013 season with a two quarterback rotation. Two games, one loss, and a Coliseum chorus of boos later, Lane Kiffin brings the battle to an end, by choosing Cody Kessler to lead his offense this weekend.
The sophomore will start for USC against visiting BostonCollege. It will be his third start of the season, after leading the offense in the first half of each of the first two games, but the first without having to look over his shoulder for a substitute arm trotting in. It took 120 minutes of game time assessment for Kessler to defeat the challenging Max Wittek. And based on the performance of both quarterbacks, I’m not sure how or why.
Kessler produced the lone touchdown for USC in its loss to WashingtonState, which came after a defensive takeaway gave him a shorter field to work. He also produced the game’s only touchdown for the Cougars, after serving a pick-six before the end of the first half. Though he has thrown for more yards than Wittek, and a greater completion percentage, Kessler’s longest toss gained 19 yards, which is the same as his competitor.
Pass attempts are nearly doubled in the first half of the opening games, in comparison to the plays called for Wittek in the final thirty minutes. Kessler has been sacked just once, while Wittek has been pinned three times. But that single sack scored 2-points for the opponent, after trapping the confused Kessler in his own end zone.
What I’m basically saying is that neither of the competing quarterbacks has stood out more than the other. And in a competition “too close to call” for many months, how does one finally choose with little to base the decision on? Quarterback play has been just as awful in the second half of ballgames as it is in the first. And a run heavy attack does even less to simplify the decision and crown a starter, when it disallows a show of potential in a steady “handoff” system.
The offensive numbers for USC through its first two games should allow every quarterback on roster into the race, instead of rewarding one based on reasons only known to the head coach. The apparent quick-fix is to have consistency under center, and it’s something only time will tell. Time is something running out on Lane Kiffin, with patience and support dwindling with each game. But the time in now for Kessler, who for the moment has been chosen to salvage the remainder of the season and keep the Trojans in the conference race.
USC will enter the third week of the college football season unranked for the first time since 2001.