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The Injury That Never Was: The Cody Kessler Experience

Cody Kessler saw USC's season flash right before his eyes.

Kessler is ready to lead the charge on offense.
Kessler is ready to lead the charge on offense.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Kessler dodged a bullet, and will live to tell about it down the road. During Wednesday night's scrimmage at the Coliseum, something shocking, embarrassing and somewhat terrifying happened on offense.

Backed up near their own end zone, battling against the first-team defense, Cody Kessler attempted to snag a low snap from Max Tuerk. It was a slippery football, which deflected off his fingers and rolled around near the starter's toes.

"It scared me more than anything," Kessler said Friday morning, nearly 36 hours after that play occurred during the fully-padded scrimmage. "I was very lucky."

Pushing from the outside, Greg Townsend Jr. was first on the scene trying to recover the loose football. Diving to the ground, Zach Banner leaned against Townsend who came sliding into the Coliseum grass just feet from recovering the turnover.

As Cody Kessler finally grabbed the sloppy snap, his wobbled footing came out from under him pressured by the 275-pound defensive end right on top of his planting left knee.

"You see knee injuries all the time. You never think it's going to happen to you. It was that close to happening," Kessler said.

Injuries in Fall Camp are nothing new, but losses to possible starters always attract major headlines.

Mark Sanchez missed most of training camp back in 2008 before returning for the season opener, while Aaron Corp's injury in 2009 opened the door for Matt Barkley, an eventual four-year starter, to take over the reigns in Pete Carroll's last season with the Trojans.

Following the play, Kessler laid flat on the ground for a minute contemplating what could've been. Laying his face flat in the ground to avoid long-standing embarrassment, the redshirt junior looked extremely relieved. He returned for the next series, even scrambling for a few yards on one play, but all eyes were on his left leg.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian largely shook off any concern after the scrimmage, but position coach Clay Helton put the Trojan quarterback group through what they call the "bad ball drill."

Helton rapidly flips off-target footballs to the quarterbacks, forcing them off their spot while still focusing on delivering the rock with quick precision.

"You always try to put your players in the most adverse conditions to make sure, if something like that does happen in a game, that it's not the first time they've seen it," Helton said. "It's our job to catch the ball and get it out to the right people."

The Trojans learned their lesson from Wednesday night's scrimmage, realizing that high-tempo shotgun snaps have unique strengths and inherent weaknesses. The team plays fast, the ball gets out quickly, but every snap matters; quite literally.