No. 14 USC faces Hawaii in 1st post-sanctions game

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz is doing everything possible to

get a good look at Southern California – he’s even gone

virtual.

Besides taking snaps in practice, Moniz has been taking on the

Trojans regularly on his PlayStation 3 in hopes of getting a feel

for the USC defense he’ll face in real life Thursday night. So who

wins in the video game?

”Last one, we lost by seven,” Moniz said. ”But I’m a rookie

at the game. I’m not a rookie on the field. So it’ll be

different.”

No. 14 USC opens as three-touchdown favorites in the Trojans’

first game under NCAA sanctions and new coach Lane Kiffin, who

isn’t ready to hit Waikiki just yet.

”This is not a vacation. This is not a pleasure trip,” Kiffin

said. ”We have not won one game. We don’t deserve a vacation right

now. Win a bunch of games, and then we can start talking about days

at the beach.”

Kiffin, who succeeded Pete Carroll, rejoined the program after a

year with Tennessee and 20 games with the Oakland Raiders. Before

that, he served as a USC assistant from 2001-06, the last two years

as offensive coordinator.

The game was put in question when the NCAA hit USC with

crippling penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, four years

of probation and scholarship losses. The NCAA also banned USC from

playing a 13th game this and next season, but later delayed the

penalty to avoid forcing Hawaii to cancel this game.

”It feels great to finally get going after everything that went

on this offseason,” Kiffin said. ”There are a lot of question

marks about this team, and I have a lot of questions personally,

but now is the time to go out there and start figuring out where we

are as a team.”

The Trojans have had tremendous success in the islands. They

opened the season here in 1999 and 2005, winning by a combined

score of 125-24.

In the last matchup, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush led USC to a

63-17 victory. The sanctions, in part, stemmed from improper

benefits for Bush, a Heisman Trophy-winning tailback. The NCAA said

Bush received lavish gifts from two sports marketers hoping to sign

him.

Despite the penalties and distractions, the Warriors are

expecting the Trojans to be focused.

”Even though they can’t go to a bowl, they’re not going to give

up. They want to make a name for themselves,” Moniz said.

”They’re going to bring their ‘A’ game and I don’t think the

sanctions or anything else is going to affect them really. … I’m

sure they just want to show people that ‘Hey, we still can

play.”’

USC has won its last 12 openers, 16 straight non-conference

games and is 29-1 against the Western Athletic Conference.

With the Rose Bowl out of the picture, USC has hopes of

finishing the season 13-0. Last year, USC went 9-4, the most losses

since 2001, and beat Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. The

Trojans finished fifth in the Pac-10.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who begins his highly anticipated

sophomore campaign, said the Trojans have ”prepared hard and

well.” And he’s ready to start the season.

”It seemed like the offseason was about two years long,” said

Barkley, who threw for 2,735 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14

interceptions as a freshman. ”We really need to play another team

right now. Guys are ready to hit. Guys are ready to pop some

helmets.”

Barkley has a talented running back corps to help him. Marc

Tyler was recently named the first-string tailback and fullback

Stanley Havili provides versatility. One of Barkley’s top targets

is receiver Ronald Johnson.

”Everybody is committed,” Tyler said. ”Everybody has bought

into what the coaching staff is doing. When we go out there, it’s

about everybody being committed to show that SC is still SC, no

matter what happened off the field during the offseason.”

USC’s defense is anchored by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and

defensive end Armond Armstead, who could have their way against a

young Hawaii line that lost four starters.

The Warriors are eyeing a return to a bowl game after finishing

6-7 and missing the postseason for the first time since 2005. But

they’ve also been dealing with off-field distractions with the

shake up of the WAC.

Moniz will be key for the Warriors, who ranked third in the

nation in passing last year.

”We just have to play within ourselves,” Moniz said. ”Just

throw the ball and catch. Just keep the chains moving and get down

to the red zone and put points on the board.”

The former walk-on and pizza delivery driver began deep on the

bench last season, but ended up starting eight of the final nine

games. He threw for 2,396 yards and 14 touchdowns while breaking

300 yards in three games.

Hawaii has several speedy receivers, but the biggest offensive

threat is 6-foot-2 receiver Greg Salas, who led the team with 106

catches for 1,590 yards.

Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said Salas is a more complete player

this year.

USC is 6-0 against Hawaii, but the Warriors say they are not

intimidated by the success and aura of USC.

”To me, it’s just a name,” Hawaii linebacker Corey Parades

said. ”We’re all human. We all work hard. We work just as hard as

them in the offseason. … On the field, it’s just man against man,

whoever is better.”