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.
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.