Lane Kiffin, Cody Kessler

No clarity yet in USC’s QB situation


Going into Thursday’s opener against Hawaii, USC head coach Lane Kiffin declined to name a starter between a pair of sophomores, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler (pictured).  Responding in kind, the quarterbacks declined to give Kiffin a reason coming out of it either.

Kessler started what turned out to be a 30-13 win for the No. 24 Trojans in the first game of the post-Matt Barkley era, giving way to Wittek after the first series of the third quarter.  To say there was no separation between the two following a pair of uneven performances would be putting it mildly.

Obviously, it’s a big question,” Kiffin said of the quarterback position. “There was not an obvious No. 1 out there today.”

Kessler completed just 10-of-19 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and an interception.  Wittek completed half of his 10 passes for 77 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception on the stat sheet.  All told, USC signal callers combined to throw for a measely 172 yards, or what Barkley had called a good half over the past four years.

The offense managed just two touchdowns — one more than the defense scored — and three field goals against a defense that was ranked 107th in scoring at just under 36 points per game.

Kiffin, though, wasn’t about to throw just his quarterbacks under the offensive bus, laying the blame for the offensive ineptness at the feet of, among others, himself.

“I didn’t think we played real well there,” Kiffin, who is USC’s playcaller, said. “We didn’t do real well around them, including myself.”

As USC heads into the Pac-12 opener against Washington State next Saturday, it appears likely they’ll take the same tack as this past week: play both quarterbacks, and pray that one turns into something more than they were in the opener.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah