USC Football: President Nikias Saves the Day On Offense

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

It all began in front of a rather tense fan base, desperately awaiting the breakout performance from their offense, which was much maligned against Washington State after accumulating only 54 yards passing in the 10-7 loss. Boy were fans impressed with the opening play drawn up by the head honcho, going deep to Marqise Lee over the middle of the field.

Head Coach Lane Kiffin opened up about his much beloved play call, thanking USC President Max Nikias for some inspiring words of confidence on offense. "He said throw it deep and they'll cheer whether or not it's complete," Kiffin said post-game. And the fans certainly responded when Kessler ran the play-action pass and just missed Lee.

That incomplete pass was one of the two total incompletions in the entire game, with Kessler and Wittek combining to go 17-19 passing against the Eagles' porous defense. The only such incompletions came on deep passes to Lee, who finished the game with two receptions for 90 yards, including a massive touchdown grab streaking down the sideline.

Kiffin, who said he was "happy for the fans," that his team played well on all cylinders, sprinted down the sideline following Marqise Lee step for step in a 20-yard process, showing palpable signs of excitement on the sideline.

Cody Kessler, making his first start knowing he had won the quarterback job, looked confident and was productive, completing 15 of 17 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns in a little more than three quarters. "He played really well and the guys played well around him," Kiffin said after the game, as the Trojans moved to 2-1 on the season.

The balance on offense was rather refreshing for the Trojans, who came out firing the football even though their opening drive resulted in a punt. That did not stop USC, however, from pounding the rock early and often, with Kessler leading the team on a 14-play, 86-yard drive which capped off with a beautiful touchdown to Tre Madden.

In spite of the negative press surrounding the poor play selection last weekend, the Trojans rushed 43 times as opposed to only 19 passing attempts but the results were rather positive. The combination of Madden and Justin Davis in the backfield ran for 199 yards, out-gaining the entire Boston College offense.

At the end of the day, the play-action pass to start the game may not have broken down the BC defense, but it opened up the Trojans' passing game. The biggest play in terms of importance may have been the very first, but the most vital for the team's success came when Xavier Grimble racked in a 20-yard catch over the middle to move the chains.

In the process, Grimble gave the Trojans their first 20-plus yard reception this season, making them the last team in all of the FBS to accomplish this task. On the next drive, Lee broke open the offense by taking a post route to the house, giving the Trojans an impressive highlight to bring the announced crowd of 62,006 anxious Trojan fans to their feet.

Taking a closer look at the stats, eight Trojans caught passes including Nelson Agholor who led the conference with four receptions for 55 yards. While also handing the ball off to their four main options in Madden, Davis, Buck Allen and Ty Isaac (3 rushes for 18 yards) bringing a bevy of strengths to the USC offense in a much-needed victory.

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