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USC Weapons Stepping Up Their Game Just At The Right Time

The Trojans offense opened up the playbook last week and the results were infectious, allowing eight playmakers to get their hands on the football. A formula that could prove Kessler and co. well moving forward this season.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

From the lowest of lows, to the pinnacle of peak performance in a span on seven days, the USC offense transformed itself, at least for a week, into a unit much more formidable and positively recognizable for success thanks to the ever growing confidence of their starting quarterback Cody Kessler.

"Everything is just flowing right now," said Kessler preparing to duplicate a career-best performance against a surprisingly well ranked Utah State defense, one that presents "unique schemes" in which "guys move around a lot" to disguise the look," according to the starting quarterback.

This sudden rise in confidence can certainly be attested to the Trojans continued success on the ground, pounding the football to the tune of 43 carries for 257 yards on the ground last. That being said, the redshirt sophomore quarterback is building off this facet, exploring play-action options throughout practice this week following a near-perfect stat line.

Finishing the contest passing an impressive 15-17, numbers more typical with his Fall Camp and Spring Practice performance, Kessler averaged 13.9 yards per attempt utilizing on his friendly openings down field in the play-action game. "We are pleased with how hard they are working," Kiffin said of the entire team, but especially his offense after coming out hot from the start. "It has made us a more physical team by the way we are practicing."

Looking back over the film from last week, Kessler got the likes of Randall Telfer, Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner going early with short passes to the perimeter. This total contribution from a unit in desperate need to spread the rock, resulting in a time-possession offense that dominated the scoreboard and the line of scrimmage from opening kick.

This dominant display far outweighed the pass/rush splits from the first two weeks, but playing with an effective lead gave the offense flexibility to lean on their rushing attack to ground out the clock for a convincing home victory.

The only slight cause for pause comes from the injury suffered to WR Darreus Rogers against Boston College, but that means the door has been opened for plenty of other weapons to make their namesake in the Trojans receiving corp.

Senior WR De'Von Flournoy is in the midst of his fifth season on the job as one of the last recruits brought in under the direction of Pete Carroll. Following his best performance of his career, filling in for the injured Rogers on the outside, the highly respected Flourney continues to flourish on the field backed by glorified praise from his teammates.

"D-Flo always played an important role as a team player," Marqise Lee told after practice. "D-Flo knows the playbook left to right like the back of his hand. Now, he's in and doing what he's supposed to. Now, he's stepping up." Flourney finished with two receptions (22 yards), adding to the variety of options contributing this past week.

That being said, the most notable accomplishment from the offense last week was when Marqise Lee opened up deep on a 20-yard post route taking the pass to the house brightening up the Coliseum. None more pumped than head coach Lane Kiffin, who exuberantly chased Lee down the sideline for his most legitimate display of emotion this year.

"Its difficult to stay positive," Kiffin says about the scrutiny before Washington State from fans, media and outsiders criticizing the much-maligned USC offense. "When they start performing well, I just really start feeling great for them."

Now gaining some confidence in the passing game, along with a historic performance from Tre Madden breaking records in the backfield, the offense is on par to fire on all cylinders this week against Utah State.

The Aggies may be riding in to the Coliseum filled with confidence that they can outscore the Trojans, but the proof is somewhat in the pudding that when Lane Kiffin commits to the run and dishes out short, manageable passes from their quarterback; this offense will be formidable in the weeks to come.