By Johnny Curren
The Trojans started off fast and didn’t look back in their season-opener on Saturday night, running away from an overmatched Arkansas State team, 55-6.
Cody Kessler and the offense kicked things off on the very first drive when the senior quarterback connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster for an explosive 61-yard touchdown.
Kessler also threw touchdown passes to Steven Mitchell Jr., Taylor McNamara and Tre Madden, finishing 19-of-26 for 236 yards passing.
Madden, who rushed for 106 yards on 12 carries, ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter, while freshman Ronald Jones II showed off his big play ability, scoring on a 44-yard touchdown run, and another freshman, Aca’Cedric Ware, added a late six-yard touchdown.
And Jones and Ware weren’t the only freshmen to have a successful debut, as USC head coach Steve Sarkisian played over a dozen first-year performers. Their presence was particularly noticeable on defense, where a large number of players rotated in and out of the lineup throughout the night.
One of those freshmen, inside linebacker Cameron Smith, paced the Trojans along with third-year sophomore Matt Lopes with 7 stops, while another first-year player, ‘will’ linebacker Osa Masina, returned a fumble 46 yards for a touchdown.
Among the veterans, ‘sam’ linebacker Su’a Cravens and safety Chris Hawkins also had strong performances, with both recording an interception.
The night didn’t go completely perfect for the Trojans, however. The performance of the USC offensive line was largely up-and-down, and Kessler was sacked five times in the first half. Three-way standout Adoree’ Jackson, meanwhile, went to the sideline early with an abdominal strain and did not return.
The Trojans will next square off with Idaho next Saturday, once again, in the Coliseum.
Some individual offensive stats:
Cody Kessler – 19-26, 236 Yds, 4 TD
Max Browne – 3-5, 66 Yds
Jalen Greene – 1-1, 18 Yds
Tre Madden – 12 Rush, 106 Yds, 1 TD
Ronald Jones II – 6 Rush 86 Yds, 1 TD
Aca’edric Ware – 6 Rush, 28 Yds, 1 TD
Soma Vainuku – 1 Rush, 3 Yds
Dominic Davis 1 Rush, 2 Yds
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 4 Rec, 89 Yds, 1 TD
Steven Mitchell Jr. – 4 Rec 28 Yds, 1 TD
Davis – 2 Rec, 53 Yds
Isaac Whitney – 2 Rec, 38 Yds
De’Quan Hampton – 2 Rec, 35 Yds
Greene – 2 Rec, 25 Yds
Darreus Rogers – 2 Rec, 24 Yds
Madden – 2 Rec, 15 Yds
Christian Tober – 1 Rec, 6 Yds
Tyler Pteite – 1 Rec, 5 Yds
McNamara – 1 Rec, 2 Yds, 1 TD