We have been waiting for this type of performance from Cody Kessler since the Trojans most complete victory over Boston College back in September, and the results spoke for themselves Friday night from the very first snap on offense.
Kessler was efficient and played within himself at the "Orange Out" Reser Stadium, completing 17 of 21 passes for 247 yards including a 71-yard bomb to Marqise Lee on the Trojans opening play.
Following their 31-17 upset victory in which Ed Orgeron was carried on the backs of his players shoulders, Cody Kessler lead the USC Marching Band in its final Fight On rendition of the evening before sprinting into the locker room with a confident smile on his face.
Much in the same fashion that former USC quarterback Matt Barkley held the reigns after an equally impressive 50-0 shellacking over rival UCLA, Kessler took the stage for his time to shine in a moment he had anxiously been waiting for since taking over as the starter.
The confident feelings even circulated when matters looked worst for the Trojans starting quarterback, receiving unwavering support from his defensive teammates after throwing the only real mistake of the night resulting in a game-tying pick six late in the second quarter.
Facing a defense that has been rather opportunistic coming in, Kessler not only held his own but made the plays down the field when the opportunities presented themselves against a somewhat suspect Oregon State passing defense.
"We work very hard to play better on the road than we did the last outing and fix some of the mistakes that we made. So there was some improvement," Orgeron said, following the Trojans first road win in Corvallis since 2004.
Making what could have been a back-breaking mistake overthrowing his receiver over the middle for a pick-six in the second quarter, Kessler responded like a composed leader by posting his highest quarterback rating (185.9) since USC's bout against Boston College.
Instead of going down a similar route to the 28-0 run that cost USC any real chance of victory against Arizona State, the Trojans finished the game with a quick score to end the first half along propelling a perfect 17-0 run which continued USC's defense impressive mark of allowing zero points in three-straight second halves.
The best part was those (defensive) guys came to me on the sideline and said, `Keep your head up.' They said, `We believe in you,' " Kessler said. "Guys like (defensive tackle) George Uko and (safety) Dion Bailey."
Not only did Kessler lead the Trojans on an opening drive for points, he also kept the chains moving with the lead safely intact by converting four of eight third-down conversions during the second half.
The performance was obviously aided by a prolific one-two punch in the backfield thanks to 273 combined yard rushing from Silas Redd and Buck Allen, yet Kessler's performance was no slouch by any stretch of the imagination.
Kessler kept the defense off balance by mixing in screen passes, crucial third-down conversions and enough deep passes to punish the opposing defense for loading the box against that rabid rushing attack.
"I think you see our guys getting closer each week -- playing with enthusiasm, playing with a style," Oregon proclaimed after watching his team overcome demons in Corvallis that date back to 2004 in the legendary "Fog Bowl."
In its victorious effort, USC was able to control the clock for 36 minutes by pounding the rock early and often, and then utilizing its rather effective play-action passing game when the situation called upon a change of pace.
It may not have been the best display of passing the Trojans have come to expect over the years, and yet its exactly what they needed in hostile territory. Orgeron had been raving the past two weeks about the swagger and confidence Kessler brings to this team, and watching him control the line of scrimmage with authority certainly fit the bill for success.
The game plan was simple yet executed on point. Don't make the big mistake, and work to control the time of possession. Players stepped up when their numbers were called and the team left town with a rewarding sense of accomplishment.