The USC Trojans took care of business against the Hawaii Warriors on Thursday, winning handily 30-13 to kick off the 2013 season. Lane Kiffin brought a physically superior team to the contest that physically dominated Hawaii on defense. The offense, however, was another story. After a horrendous showing against one of the worst 2012 defenses in the country, USC should be very concerned about the offensive side of the ball.
Last season, USC rolled Hawaii thanks to the strength of the offense as they put up 35 unanswered points in the first half with a star quarterback and dominant wide receiver leading the way. This year, with the same dominant receiver on the field, the Trojans couldn’t do much of anything on the offensive side of the ball. Marqise Lee still looked good, catching eight passes for 104 yards and Tre Madden looked strong rushing for 109 yards, but the rest left a lot to be desired.
The quarterback race between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek that lasted through fall camp and ended “too close to call” spilled over into the season opener where neither QB looked ready to take control of this offense. Kessler got the nod to take the first snaps of the game and looked overwhelmed. He completed just 10 of 19 passes for only 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He failed to hit open receivers and even struggled to throw screen passes.
Wittek came in sporadically throughout the game and did not fare much better. He completed just five of his 10 pass attempts for 77 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The offense looked jumbled and confused with Wittek in charge and the Trojans had to burn through several timeouts to avoid delay of game penalties with Wittek trying to get a handle on what was happening.
The Trojans were so disjointed and out of sorts, especially early on, that Hawaii actually held a 5-2 lead deep into the second quarter as USC converted just one of its first 10 third down attempts. A touchdown pass late in the first half to Nelson Agholor and an interception returned for a touchdown by Josh Shaw helped the Trojans build a 20-5 lead at halftime. They didn’t find the endzone again until the fourth quarter with under a minute to go and the game was already well decided.
Without the dominant performance of the defense, this could have been a major disaster for Kiffin and the Trojans. For a coach already on the hot seat this season, Kiffin needs to find some answers for his offense and fast. If he doesn’t, he risks having the 2013 season fall apart even faster than his 2012 campaign and seeing his tenure as Trojans’ head coach end with a resounding thud.