USC Trojans: Hawaii Warriors
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That was a team ranked as low as 110th in the country by some preseason publications. That was a group expected to be your basic opening-game punching bag.
The fact it didn’t turn out that way -- that USC struggled to sustain blocks on the smaller, less-talented Rainbow Warriors, that it managed to score only one offensive touchdown in the first 30 minutes, that it actually fell behind by the baseball score of 5-3 at one wobbly point in that strange first half -- doesn’t exactly bode well for the immediate future.
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1. USC defensive front seven
Clancy Pendergast’s attacking 5-2 defense quickly emerged as the story of the game, thanks in large part to the performance of a relentless Trojans front seven. Getting after Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham early and often, the unit paced a defense that collected seven sacks -- including two each by defensive ends Leonard Williams and George Uko -- while forcing the inexperienced passer to throw four interceptions. They also helped limit the Rainbow Warriors to just 23 yards on the ground.
2. USC safety play
With the USC defense running primarily out of its nickel package, Josh Shaw, Su'a Cravens and Dion Bailey all played extensively and had impressive outings. Bailey had arguably the best night, amassing seven tackles, one sack and one interception. Shaw and Cravens also made picks of their own, with Shaw taking his back for a touchdown.
3. USC tailbacks
While it wasn’t necessarily the best showing by the USC offense, one unit that did stand out was the tailback corps. Tre Madden led the group with 109 yards on 18 carries, but it was freshman Justin Davis who really caught everyone’s attention, running with confidence on his way to 74 yards and one touchdown.
1. USC offensive line
The Trojans' offensive line had its struggles for much of the game, particularly against the Hawaii pass rush. They gave up three sacks -- including one that resulted in a safety -- and it seemed as if the Rainbow Warriors were in the USC offensive backfield on just about every passing situation. The play of the offensive line was also a major reason why the Trojans finished just 3-for-14 on third-down conversions.
2. USC quarterback production
It’s hard to fault USC quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek too much when they were running for their lives at times. It also didn’t help matters that their star wideout -- Marqise Lee -- had a couple of uncharacteristic drops. Still, while neither performed particularly badly, they also didn’t exactly shine, with Kessler completing 10-of-19 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and Wittek connecting on 5-of-10 attempts for 77 yards.
3. The situation at cornerback
The USC secondary was dealt a blow when both starting cornerbacks -- Kevon Seymour and Anthony Brown -- went down with undisclosed injuries. If they return this week, there might not be a problem. But if not, can Devian Shelton and Torin Harris -- who were both victimized at times by Hawaii -- raise their level of play? Will Shaw, who started seven games at cornerback last season, be moved back over? Only time will tell.
Who starts at quarterback?
Garry Paskwietz: Cody Kessler. Throughout fall camp it has been Kessler going with the first unit more often than not. Even with the status of a starter up in the air, the choice here says that Kessler will get the first shot at showing that he is the man for the full-time job.
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“I think they’re looking forward to playing a game, just like everybody around the country,” Kiffin said shortly before the players boarded buses to LAX for their flight to Honolulu. “Camp gets long ... you hit the same people. They’ve been hitting each other a lot, especially with not a lot of depth there, so I think they’re just excited to play on the same side.”
Coming off a 2012 campaign that saw the Trojans stumble to a disappointing 7-6 record, Kiffin and Co. have a lot to prove this fall, and it all starts with the impending season opener. USC is heavily favored in the contest, not a surprise considering Hawaii's 3-9 record -- which included a 49-10 loss to the Trojans -- while also fielding an offense that ranked No. 118 in yards per game (297.4).
Still, it’s a new season, and Kiffin has made a concerted effort to ensure that his team doesn’t take Hawaii -- led by former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow -- for granted.
“I don’t know what we’re favored by, but every game is the same,” Kiffin said. “You have to come ready to play every Saturday, Thursday, Friday or whatever day it is. We’ve seen over the years on both sides that those [point spreads] don’t mean very much. You better come ready to play in college football or you’re going to lose the game.”
One Hawaii player that appears to have caught Kiffin’s attention in particular is junior quarterback Taylor Graham. An Ohio State transfer who takes over the starting job held last season by senior Sean Schroeder, he has yet to throw a pass in a live college game, but with a 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame and a strong arm, he’s created a fair amount of buzz this month during workouts.
“It sounds like their quarterback has been doing a good job, and doing well in scrimmages,” Kiffin said.
Defensively, the Rainbow Warriors are coming off a season in which they allowed just 182.8 passing yards per game -- the No. 11 mark nationally. Led by a front seven featuring defensive end Tavita Woodard, tackle Siasau Matagiese and linebacker Art Laurel, Kiffin expects them to try to come after USC’s starting quarterback -- whether that’s Max Wittek or Cody Kessler -- early and often.
“I’m sure that they’ll pressure us a lot with a new quarterback, a new center and a lot of new players,” Kiffin said. “I would expect them to be very aggressive.”
And while the Trojans will be playing on an island more noted for its weather and beaches than for its football, the USC coaching staff has worked hard to hammer home the idea that the team is travelling with the sole objective of coming away with a victory.
“This is a business trip,” Kiffin said. “I think our players understand that this really isn’t a vacation.”
Kiffin knows who will start at QB
Kiffin has stated on more than one occasion that he anticipates playing both Wittek and Kessler at quarterback in the Trojans’ opener, and on Tuesday he revealed that he has now picked a starter, but he wouldn’t go so far as to name him.
“I’m not going to tell you the end of the movie before you go into the movie, right? -- You’re going to have to watch,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin also hasn’t explained how he might substitute or rotate the two quarterbacks in during the course of the game, but regardless of who is in at any point in time, he’s confident that he can go with the same gameplan.
“We’re at the point now where we feel great about both quarterbacks, that we would not have to call different plays or have a different play-chart for both guys,” Kiffin said. “We’re going to call it the same regardless of which guy is in there.”
Injuries could have impact
The topic of injuries has been a constant throughout August at USC, with over 20 players sitting out a number of recent practices, and there is a large collection whose status still appears to be questionable going into Hawaii.
“Well, I feel confident in the guys that are going to play, but at the same time it is unusual to be shuffling around so much this last week,” Kiffin said. “I feel more like we’re in week 9 or week 10 where you’ve really got to kind of figure things out because of injuries. It is what it is. I’m sure other people have problems too. All of these injuries have given other people opportunities to step up.”
Tight end Randall Telfer, outside linebacker Morgan Breslin and safety Dion Bailey are three key players who have missed extensive time this month. When asked on Tuesday if the three would be travelling with the team to Hawaii, Kiffin gave the same answer in each instance -- “I hope so” -- before adding “We’ll be in a lot of trouble if we don’t have those three guys.”
• Kiffin said that Josh Shaw and Su'a Cravens will start at the two safety spots.
• Kiffin confirmed that tailbacks Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan would not travel due to injury.
Led by second-year head coach Norm Chow -- who worked alongside USC head coach Lane Kiffin under Pete Carroll -- the Rainbow Warriors will have to show vast improvement, particularly offensively, if they’re going to put up a fight against a Trojans team that defeated them 49-10 last season. Here’s a closer look at Hawaii:
Offense (2012 season statistics)
Scoring: 21.2 points per game (No. 9 MW, No. T-100 overall)
Rushing: 108.6 yards per game (No. 10 MW, No. 111 overall)
Passing: 188.8 yards per game (No. 7 MW, No. 98 overall)
Total: 297.4 yards per game (No. 10 MW, No. 118 overall)
With Schroeder at the helm in 2012 the Hawaii offense wasn’t exactly Norm Chow-esque, averaging just 188.8 passing yards per game. Enter Graham -- the son of former NFL quarterback Kent Graham -- who sat out last season after transferring in from Ohio State and now stands as the team’s No. 1 signal-caller. Possessing a live arm, he impressed onlookers this past spring, but he also has yet to throw a pass in a live college game.
Running back: No. 34 Aofaga Wily (5-11, 215, Fr.), No. 4 Steven Lakalaka (5-10, 240, Fr.), No. 38 Marcus Langkilde (5-11, 225, Sr.), No. 7 Joey Iosefa (6-0, 245, Jr.)
While the ground game certainly isn’t the focus of the offense, the Rainbow Warriors will be looking for more production from a running back corps that was one of the nation’s least productive in 2012. Iosefa, who is the leading returning rusher, has been dinged up with a foot injury, so Wily, Lakalaka and Langkilde will carry the load.
Wide receiver: No. 9 Chris Gant (6-0, 185, Sr.), No. 29 Scott Harding (5-11, 200, Jr.), No. 81 Vasquez Haynes ( 6-2, 215, So.), No. 89 Keith Kirkwood (6-3, 210, Fr.), No. 14 Marcus Kemp (6-4, 185, Fr.), No. 5 Billy Ray Stutzmann (6-0, 185, Sr.)
Graham will have a talented group of receivers to throw to, and they should provide a solid test for the USC secondary. Stutzmann -- the team’s leading pass-catcher (35) a year ago -- was involved in an offseason car accident and is doubtful to participate. Hawaii still possesses a nice mix of veteran and freshman performers, led by Gant.
Tight end: No. 87 Harold Moleni (6-2, 255, So.), No. 84 Clark Evans (6-4, 220, Sr.)
A unit filled with experience, Evans is a very capable receiving threat. Moleni -- known for his aggressive brand of play -- is more of an all-around option.
Offensive line: LT No. 68 Sean Shigematsu (6-5, 290, Jr.), LG No. 54 Kody Afusia (6-2, 310, Jr.), C No. 71 Ben Clarke (6-3, 285, So.), RG No. 76 Dave Lefotu (6-3, 305, Jr.) RT No. 77 Mike Milovale (6-3, 310, Sr.)
Graham and Co. will need better protection from an offensive line that gave up 40 sacks last season, particularly against a strong USC front seven. Clarke -- a starter in all 12 games in 2012 -- anchors the unit.
Defense (2012 Season statistics)
Scoring: 35.7 points per game (No. 10 MW, No. T-104 overall)
Rushing: 190.2 yards per game (No. 5 MW, No. 86 overall)
Passing: 182.8 yards per game (No. 3 MW, No. 11 overall)
Defensive line: DE No. 11 Tavita Woodard (6-4, 260, Sr.), DE No. 92 Beau Yap (6-2, 260, Jr.), DT No. 59 Siasau Matagiese (6-2, 300, Sr.), DT No. 91 Moses Samia (6-1, 300, Jr.)
A physical group that lines up out of a 4-3 look, the defensive line was dealt a big blow when tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii -- the jewel of Hawaii’s most recent recruiting class -- went down with a knee injury in fall camp that will sideline him for this game. Still, Hawaii’s line appears to be much deeper and healthier than in 2012, with Woodard and Matagiese serving as the foundation.
Linebacker: No. 41 Art Laurel (6-0, 245, Sr.), No. 40 Jerrol Garcia-Williams (6-2, 215, So.), No. 56 Brenden Daley (6-3, 250, Sr.)
A sturdy unit marked by athleticism and toughness, the linebackers are the heart and soul of the Hawaii defense. They’re headlined by Daley, a team leader, and Laurel, a senior with 21 starts and 122 career tackles to his credit.
Cornerback: No. 1 Ne’Quan Phillips (5-9, 185, So.), No. 23 Dee Maggitt (5-10, 170, Jr.)
The Warriors were No. 11 in the nation against the pass in 2012, but gone is Mike Edwards, the team’s prolific cover corner. Phillips, who started five games last season, took Edwards’ No. 1 jersey in the offseason, and he’ll try to replicate his production this fall.
Safety: No. 33 John Hardy-Tuliau (5-11, 180, Sr.), No. 10 Marrell Jackson (6-0, 185, So.)
Hawaii has two tried-and-tested safeties in Hardy-Tuliau -- who has started 32 games in his career -- and Jackson, the team’s leading returning tackler (56).
Kicker: No. 27 Tyler Hadden (5-11, 180, Jr.)
Hadden converted on 29 of 29 PAT attempts last season and 13 of 21 field goal tries.
Punter: No. 44 Ruben Guzman (5-8, 190, Jr.)
A lefty, Guzman averaged 42.7 yards per punt in 2012 at Riverside (Calif.) City College.
Kickoff/punt returner: No. 9 Chris Gant (6-0, 185, Sr), No. 29 Scott Harding (5-11, 200, Jr.)
Gant will get the first crack at returning kickoffs after compiling 56 yards on two returns last season. Harding is back to handle punts after averaging 12.8 yards per return in 2012 -- the No. 13 mark nationally.
• There was no starting quarterback named. It is listed as Max Wittek or Cody Kessler.
• Chad Wheeler has been named the starting left tackle. That’s a big move for a redshirt freshman who has shown a lot of promise.
• Lamar Dawson won the competition at Will linebacker in a battle against Anthony Sarao and Quinton Powell.
• Josh Shaw began the fall at strong safety but the good play of Su'a Cravens helped allow Shaw to move to free safety.
USC depth chart vs. Hawaii
QB: Max Wittek or Cody Kessler
TB: Tre Madden or Silas Redd or Justin Davis
FB: Jahleel Pinner or Soma Vainuku
WR: Marqise Lee; Darreus Rogers or Victor Blackwell
WR: Nelson Agholor; De'Von Flournoy
TE: Xavier Grimble or Randall Telfer
LT: Chad Wheeler; Nathan Guertler
LG: Max Tuerk; Giovanni Di Poalo or Jordan Simmons
C: Marcus Martin; Abe Markowitz or Cyrus Hobbi
RG: John Martinez or Aundrey Walker
RT: Kevin Graf; Zach Banner
OLB: Devon Kennard; Marquis Simmons or Scott Starr
DE: Leonard Williams; J.R. Tavai
NT: Antwaun Woods; Cody Temple or Kenny Bigelow
DE: George Uko; Greg Townsend Jr.
OLB: Morgan Breslin; Jabari Ruffin
ILB: Hayes Pullard; Michael Hutchings
ILB: Lamar Dawson; Quinton Powell or Anthony Sarao
CB: Kevon Seymour or Devian Shelton
CB: Anthony Brown or Torin Harris
FS: Josh Shaw or Dion Bailey or Demetrius Wright
SS: Su'a Cravens or Gerald Bowman or Leon McQuay III
PK: Andre Heidari
P: Kris Albarado
LS: Peter McBride (punts), Zach Smith (PAT, FG)
KR: Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor
PR: Marqise Lee or Nelson Agholor or Darreus Rogers or Su'a Cravens
The Trojans open the season in Hawaii with a road trip to the islands that is always popular with USC fans. The next three games are at home in the Coliseum against Washington State, Boston College and Utah State. For a USC team that will be breaking in a new quarterback, this initial stretch of the season offers a tremendous opportunity to get things started on a good note. Both Hawaii and WSU struggled last year with new coaches, while BC and Utah State will both be breaking in new coaches in 2013.
The Arizona schools are next -- first comes a road game in Tempe against Arizona State and then the Trojans host Arizona before the annual trip to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish. It’s safe to say that the Notre Dame rivalry game will be a high-profile matchup.
The Trojans then come home to face Utah and then hit the road for back-to-back games against Oregon State and California. The game against the Beavers will be a rare Friday night contest, while the Cal game means a continuation of the Northern California weekender experience.
Next up is Stanford at the Coliseum for Homecoming weekend, and that should be quite a setting. The Trojans will then hit the road one final time for a matchup against Colorado before returning home for the regular season finale against UCLA.
The Pac-12 title game will be held on Saturday, December 7 at the stadium of the division winner with the best conference record.
2013 USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 29 (Thurs.): at Hawaii
Sept. 7: Washington State
Sept. 14: Boston College
Sept. 21: Utah State
Sept. 28: at Arizona State
Oct. 10 (Thurs.): Arizona
Oct. 19: at Notre Dame
Oct. 26: Utah
Nov. 1 (Fri.): at Oregon State
Nov. 9: at California
Nov. 16: Stanford
Nov. 23: at Colorado
Nov. 30: UCLA
The Trojans came out on the first play and hit a 75-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee. Things haven’t gone quite as smooth through the rest of the half but they have still dominated the offensive production with 354 yards compared to 83 for the Warriors.
Player of the Half: Matt Barkley
It’s been a Heisman-worthy start for Barkley who completed nine of his first 13 passes for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He slowed down a bit and is now 16 of 28 for 309 yards and three touchdowns.
What’s working: USC controlling defensive line of scrimmage
One of the biggest concerns for the Trojans coming into the game was the youth and inexperience on the defensive line, a situation that wasn’t helped by the fact that senior defensive end Wes Horton was held out of the game due to injury.
The Trojans have held the Warriors to minus-4 yards rushing while junior college transfer Morgan Breslin, playing his first game at USC in place of Horton, has two tackles, one tackle for loss, and two pass breakups. George Uko had a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, Greg Townsend Jr. added a sack and Leonard Williams had a fumble recovery.
Saturday, Sept. 1, 4:30 p.m. PT
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Radio: ESPNLA 710am (pre-game show starts at noon)
Scouting Hawaii: New Mountain West Conference member Hawaii, which went 6-7 in 2011 in its 33rd and final season in the Western Athletic Conference, is guided by Norm Chow, the one-time Trojan assistant who is in his first year as a head coach after 40 years in the profession. UH returns 10 starters (6 on offense). Although the Warriors will be breaking in a new quarterback and will no longer employ the run-and-shoot offense, they return their leading rusher -- powerful RB Joey Iosefa (110 carries, 548 yards, 5.0 ypc, 7 TD in 2011, plus 20 receptions, 122 yds, 6.1 ypc, 1 TD receiving) -- and 4 of their top 5 pass catchers: WRs Billy Ray Stutzmann (78 rec, 910 yds, 11.7 avg, 4 TD in 2011), who led the team, along with Jeremiah Ostrowski (65 rec, 687 yds, 10.6 avg, 5 TD in 2011), Justin Clapp (38 rec, 356 yds, 9.4 avg, 4 TD in 2011) and Trevor Davis (28 rec, 366 yds, 13.1 avg, 3 TD in 2011). Hawaii’s top defenders include returning starters LB Art Laurel (61 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 9 sacks, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed, 1 fumble recovery, 3 forced fumbles in 2011), DL Paipai Falemalu (50 tkl, 6 for loss, 4.5 sack, 1 dfl in 2011) and DBs John Hardy-Tuliau (73 tkl, 1 sack, 3 int, 11 dfl, 3 FF, 4 blocked kicks in 2011) and ex-Tennessee Vol Mike Edwards (43 tkl, 1.5 for loss, 1 int, 11 dfl in 2011, plus 44 kickoff returns, 1086 yds, 24.7 ypr). WR Scott Harding (6 rec, 67 yds, 11.2 avg in 2011, plus 19 punt returns, 141 yds, 7.4 avg and 12 KOR, 253 yds, 21.1 avg), a onetime professional Australian Rules Football player, was a Freshman All-American as a punt returner.
courtesy USC sports information
Sept. 1 -- USC vs. Hawaii on Fox Network at 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 -- USC at Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.) on ABC at 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 -- USC at Stanford on Fox at 4:30 p.m.
Sept 22 -- USC vs Cal on Pac-12 Network, time TBD
Oct. 4 -- USC at Utah (Thursday night) on ESPN at 6 p.m.
Nov. 24 -- USC vs Notre Dame on ABC or ESPN, time TBD
The remaining kickoff times and television networks will be announced at a later date. In some cases, the game times will not be known until 13 days prior.
He posted an impressive SPARQ Rating of 110.82, best among more than 450 players in attendance and healthy increase over his score from a year earlier of 90.27.
At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Savaiinaea (pronounce Sa-VAH-e-ni-ah) lowered his 40-yard dash time from 4.93 to 4.66 seconds, while posting a 4.14 shuttle run, 38-foot toss of the power ball and 31-inch vertical leap.
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The Trojans, coming off a 10-2 season that saw them finish first in the Pac-12 South Division and earn a No. 5 ranking in the final regular-season AP poll, will play six home games in the Coliseum in 2012. Overall, USC -- which is expected to enter the season ranked high nationally -- will face eight teams that played in a bowl this year, six teams that won at least seven games in 2011 and four squads that will be guided by new coaches.
In 2012, USC's non-conference opponents will be Hawaii, Syracuse and Notre Dame. The Trojans also will play the same Pac-12 teams that they played this past season (all but Oregon State and Washington State), but those games will be played at the sites opposite of this year’s locations.
USC football tickets are available for purchase on GetTrojanTix.com.
USC will open its 2012 slate with a Sept. 1 home contest against Norm Chow-led Hawaii, just the third time that the Warriors have played the Trojans in the Coliseum. Troy then will make its first visit to the New York City area since 2000 when it meets Syracuse on Sept. 8 in 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
USC then begins Pac-12 play by facing the Bay Area schools, traveling to Stanford on Sept. 15 (the Pac-12's first conference game of 2012) and hosting California on Sept. 22.
After a bye on Sept. 29, USC resumes league play with a Thursday game at Utah on Oct. 4, followed by a trip to Washington on Oct. 13. The Trojans return to the Coliseum for an Oct. 20 game against Colorado before going to Arizona (under new coach Rich Rodriguez) on Oct. 27.
Troy opens the month of November with home games against 3-time defending league champion Oregon on Nov. 3 and Arizona State on Nov. 10. USC then plays its traditional rivals, first facing new coach Jim L. Mora’s UCLA team in the Rose Bowl on Nov. 17 and then hosting Notre Dame on the Saturday (Nov. 24) of Thanksgiving weekend.
Game times and television plans for USC’s 2012 games will be announced at a later date, although all games will be on some form of national television thanks to the Pac-12’s new media rights agreement with ESPN and FOX and the launch of the Pac-12 Networks. The Pac-12 said that dates during the first 2 weeks of non-conference play in 2012 could be adjusted to accommodate television commitments, but the remainder of the schedule is firm.
The Pac-12 Championship Game will be played on Friday, Nov. 30, at the stadium of the division winner with the best overall conference record.
2012 USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 1 Hawaii
Sept. 8 vs. Syracuse (@ E. Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 15 at Stanford
Sept. 22 California
Oct. 4 (Th.) at Utah
Oct. 13 at Washington
Oct. 20 Colorado
Oct. 27 at Arizona
Nov. 3 Oregon
Nov. 10 Arizona State
Nov. 17 at UCLA
Nov. 24 Notre Dame
- courtesy USC sports information
“The visit was incredible,” Mickens said. “This was my first time there I really liked it a lot. The game atmosphere was awesome and there was great energy there the whole time. The players, coaches and fans all were jacked up the whole time and it was fun to be a part of that.
“Before the game, being around the players and coaches and watching how hyped up they get was a lot of fun. Coach Sark [Steve Sarkisian] is from USC, and he brings a lot of that same high energy, fast tempo stuff that USC does. I have a good relationship with the coaches, and I know a lot of the players on the team. The campus is really nice and Seattle is a big city -- a lot like Los Angeles, just a little colder.”
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