Kessler sets TD mark in No. 22 USC’s 56-28 win

Cody Kessler set a school single-game record with seven touchdown passes, throwing five in the first half of No. 22 Southern California’s 56-28 victory over Colorado on Saturday.

Nelson Agholor caught three TD passes from Kessler, who broke the mark previously held by Matt Barkley. He passed the record on a 24-yard TD pass to Steven Mitchell, who made a diving catch in the third quarter of a blowout victory for the Trojans (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12).

Kessler also became the first Pac-12 quarterback to throw seven TD passes in the first three quarters of a game, and the junior tied the conference record for TD passes in a non-overtime game. He finished 17 of 24 for 318 yards.

Nelson Spruce and Shay Fields each caught TD passes for Colorado (2-5, 0-4).

Sefo Liufau had 143 yards passing with two interceptions before being replaced on the final drive of the third quarter by Jordan Gehrke.

Barkley threw six TD passes in four different games, first setting the record against the Buffaloes in 2011 and matching that total in Colorado’s last visit to the Coliseum in 2012.

And while their previous two games were decided in dramatic fashion in the final seconds, the Trojans ended any doubt of a close game by racing out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter while much of the homecoming crowd was still filing into the Coliseum.

Kessler found Agholor for touchdown passes of 16 yards on USC’s opening possession. He then hit Agholor from 18 yards out, just six plays after linebacker Su’a Cravens intercepted Liufau’s first pass attempt.

Freshmen JuJu Smith and Bryce Dixon added scoring receptions from 7 and 15 yards out as Kessler went 11 of 14 for 159 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter.

With a 9-yard pass to Dixon late in the second quarter, Kessler became the third USC quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in the first half. Barkley did it on three occasions, while Mark Sanchez hit that mark in 2008.

Agholor added his third TD reception early in the third quarter, finishing with six catches for 128 yards. Running back Javorius Allen added 128 yards on 15 carries, scoring on a 39-yard run.

Spruce tied the Colorado single-season record set by Derek McCoy in 2003 with 11 TD catches. Spruce, who grew up in the north Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, caught nine passes for 69 yards and threw a 17-yard pass to Liufau to set up a second-quarter touchdown run by Michael Adkins.