When USC needed a game-winning drive to try to salvage the mess that was taking place on the field against Washington State on Saturday night, Lane Kiffin turned to Max Wittek at quarterback.
It was only fitting, right?
Kiffin stuck to the plan. Cody Kessler in the first half. Wittek in the second half.
Or so, that’s the way it appeared.
Actually, according to the head coach, Kessler in the first and Wittek in the second wasn’t the plan at all.
“That was dictated by the game,” Kiffin said following Saturday’s loss.
When the Trojans return to the Coliseum this Saturday to host Boston College, it will be Kessler starting and finishing the game. Or at least that’s what’s believed to be the plan.
Kessler, who’s completed 56 percent of his passes for 136 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, has been named the team’s starting quarterback, the athletic department announced, presumably putting an end to the quarterback shuffle that has taken place over the first two games.
Regardless of who’s at quarterback, a bigger issue with this USC team is how the struggles in the passing game can be corrected.
The Trojans are currently 112th in the country in pass offense, averaging 113 yards per game.
Can Kiffin find enough confidence in the quarterback to take off the training wheels and allow him to be able to play like a Division I quarterback? Reversely, can that quarterback regain his confidence following two putrid performances by the USC offense in the passing game?
At this point, it’s mental on both ends. USC fans were disgusted with the team’s inability to go down the field on Saturday night. However, there were multiple times when there were open receivers downfield, but both quarterbacks displayed a case of being gun shy. And, perhaps, for that reason, Kiffin has showed little confidence in allowing his quarterbacks to go vertical.
It was Kiffin’s plan to rely on the defense and the offense not “screw up.” On Saturday that left very little room for error. Obvious passing situations resulted in obvious turnovers.
With one quarterback, Kiffin says he will now be able to effectively game plan around that guy. That guy, as of Monday, is Kessler who since last spring has had the look and appearance of a guy ready to lead USC in 2013.
Even in defeat, Kessler showed that on Saturday night.
“I personally take 100 percent of the blame and that’s how you have to be when you have a loss and you’re the quarterback,” Kessler said following the loss. “You won’t see that side of the Trojans again. You won’t see us playing like that on offense. You won’t see that negative energy. That’s not who we are.”