USC cruised to its first victory of the year on Saturday, downing the Fresno State Bulldogs by a 52-13 score.
This week the Trojans are back on the practice field preparing for a worthy opponent in the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal.
First Game Jitters
Redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler and USC’s crop of true freshmen stole the show on Saturday. Freshman wide receiver-safety John “JuJu” Smith racked up 123 receiving yards in his debut. Freshman wide receiver-cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and freshman tight end Bryce Dixon both notched their first touchdowns as Trojans. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama became the first true freshman duo to start USC’s opener in recorded history.
“It was really cool to see not only those guys get in and actually play but also make an impact,” Kessler said following Tuesday’s practice. “You know some of those guys JuJu, Adoree’, some of the O-linemen, they made a significant impact in the game and they really helped us win. It was really cool to see coming from some guys that it was their first college game.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Browne had a special swagger in his step after taking his first-ever game reps as a Trojan on Saturday in USC’s blowout win.
“For any player it’s more of a mental barrier you kind of hurdle,” Browne said. “You get the first time jitters out, but it was awesome to get out there, throw a couple passes [and] have some success.”
Kessler underwent a procedure on his toe on Tuesday morning and missed practice.
“He had to deal with his toe that had been bothering him throughout the ballgame,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We felt like we wanted to take care of it sooner rather than later … We expect him to be full-go tomorrow and be ready to go for the game.”
The Bakersfield, California native, who was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week following his career performance, will be crucial in Saturday’s matchup against the Cardinal, and he promises he will be ready.
“I’m 100 percent,” Kessler said. “I’m fine.”
Kessler passed for a career-high 394 yards on Saturday and a career-tying four touchdowns. He also rushed for one touchdown.
Kessler assured the media that he will be able to practice again all week. When asked if he was surprised that Kessler didn’t practice, Browne simply said, “Cody’s deal is Cody’s deal.”
Junior defensive end Leonard Williams rolled an ankle in practice and Mama looked like he hurt his knee, but Sarkisian called it more of a scare than an injury.
The Trojans will open Pac-12 play this Saturday when they take on the 13th-ranked Cardinal. USC has not won a game at Stanford since 2008; however, the Trojans beat the Cardinal last year at the Coliseum. This will be Kessler’s first game against the Cardinal away from home.
“I haven’t played there before so I’m excited,” Kessler said. “It’ll be a fun game, real competitive.”
In preparation for Saturday’s game, Kessler reflected on the matchup as he remembered it from last year.
“They were tough,” Kessler said. “They were really tough. Their front seven was really physical.”
Kessler threw for 288 yards and one touchdown in last year’s 20-17 upset over Stanford.
While Sarkisian was coaching at Washington, he sparked up a bit of a rivalry of his own with Stanford and head coach David Shaw by accusing the Cardinal of faking injuries.
“Honestly, David [Shaw] and I are both highly competitive people,” Sarkisian said. “We both want to win; we both want our teams to do well … We’re gonna battle and compete this week and all day Saturday to try to win the game.”