USC’s football team played well, but there were some glitches in its 49-10 thrashing of over-matched Hawaii in the season opener for both last Saturday as a capacity crowd at the Coliseum looked on.
The Trojans built a 35-0 halftime lead as senior quarterback Matt Barkley unloaded three of his four touchdown passes, and wide receiver Marqise Lee drew rave reviews.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Barkley, the front-runner for the coveted Heisman Trophy, hit Lee with a hitch-pass, and the super-sophomore turned it into a 75-yard score.
Just like that the Trojans were on their way, and it became obvious the Warriors could do very little to halt this offensive machine.
Barkley, on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college football issue, heaved a 20-yard scoring toss to junior wide receiver Robert Woods (42 yards and six catches) about nine minutes later for a 14-0 lead, and then found Woods with a two-yard throw to make it 32-0 and five minutes left before the intermission.
One would be hard pressed to name a better receiving combo than Lee and Woods, as the pair accounted for 16 catches and 239 yards.
USC is ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll, but did have eight penalties for 74 yards, while Lee (197 yards on 10 catches) and Woods each dropped a few passes, and recent Penn State transfer Silas Redd fumbled after a 41-yard catch.
“I’ve been doing that (catching passes) in practice, and I didn’t have any problems,” said Redd, who led USC in rushing with 57 yards on nine carries.
Redd got on USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin’s good side after exploding for a 31-yard scoring run and 13:31 left in the second quarter, capping a 70-yard march as the Trojans pulled in front 26-0.
“We had some problems on offense,” said Kiffin. “We dropped too many passes, and we had too many penalties, but our defense played well.”
Barkley (23 of 38 attempts for 372 yards) closed out his night’s work with an 11-yard toss to tight end Randall Telfer early in the fourth quarter that gave USC a 39-point edge.
For much of evening, USC’s defense was all over Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder (23 of 38 and 208 yards), who was sacked five times, fumbled once, intercepted twice, including a dazzler by middle linebacker Hayes Pullard, who grabbed the ball after cornerback Nickell Robey tipped it.
Pullard ran 27 yards for a score as 3:12 remained in the second quarter, as USC forged a 20-0 lead.
Schroeder had an effective second half, directing the Warriors on a 12-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with an 18-yard pass to Scott Harding as 10:11 was left in the third quarter.
Schroeder also moved Hawaii into field goal position as Tyler Hadden booted a 36-yard kick about six minutes later.
Lee’s 100-yard kickoff return after Harding’s score made it 42-7, and he finished with 297 all-purpose yards, and is now in the Heisman conversation.
USC’s talent level is vastly superior to Hawaii’s, and it showed as the Trojans accounted for 481 total net yards, while yielding 264, but the Warriors never backed down, something many teams would have done.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.