LOS ANGELES — The jury is still out on the Hawaii defense.
Chances are they could provide much stiffer competition than the USC service team.
And if that’s true and the first half of USC’s mock game on Wednesday was any indication of what next Thursday’s season opener at Hawaii is going to be like, the Trojans could be in for a long trip.
USC wore their game uniforms on Wednesday. The USC regulars put on white while the service team dressed in Cardinal.
Those guys that lined up in the Cardinal were staunch defensively in the early going. In two previous scrimmages, Cody Kessler hadn’t thrown an interception in the Coliseum. He threw two in the first half on Wednesday, both on tipped passes.
The USC regulars had to settle for three first-half field goals and led 9-0 against the service team at halftime.
There was no upset, the White Team went on to win 29-0, but there is a lesson to be learned and it was a valuable one. Slow starts happen — you have to work through it.
Was there a lack of motivation on the part of the regulars Wednesday afternoon knowing they were going up against the service team? Did that contribute to the slow start?
“It might have,” Kessler admitted. “You come out here and guys have a tendency to say ‘Oh, it’s just a mock, blah, blah, blah’ but I think the offense kind of blocked it out today.”
The slow start was definitely a talking point in the locker room at halftime.
“(Quarterbacks) Coach (Clay) Helton told me (at halftime) when we’re at Oregon State and it’s freezing cold and you come out and you’re not loose yet, you’re not warm yet, and you have a slow start, and the fans are just going crazy, the main thing you have to do is bounce back from that and start playing better,” Kessler said. “I feel like we really did that in the second half.”
The services of Andre Heidari, who connected on field goals of 21 yards, 42 yards, and 41 yards, were only needed for extra points in the second half.
The white team finally cracked the endzone with 5:28 left in the third quarter when Kessler connected on a 31-yard pass to Nelson Agholor. The sophomore wide receiver caught all three touchdown passes on the afternoon. A touchdown pass from Max Wittek was sandwiched in between two touchdown passes from Kessler.
Kessler, the redshirt sophomore from Bakersfield completed 13-of-22 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Wittek, meanwhile, showed that he may have been down in the quarterback battle but he certainly wasn’t out, completing 15-of-20 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown.
The battle continues. Marqise Lee had to leave the game after re-aggravating his right shoulder but offered his opinion on the USC quarterback battle during his meeting with the media following the mock game.
“It’ll be good to know by Friday,” Lee said. “Would ya’ll like to know by Friday?”