In a night filled with spectacular performances, some unheralded names emerged as standout players in USC's dominant 52-13 thrashing of Fresno State. Cody Kessler and Buck Allen put together strong showings, especially in the quarterback's record-setting fashion, other names were worth discussing from Saturday.
John "JuJu" Smith
An emergent pass-catching threat, JuJu Smith turned what would be normal five-yard gains into explosive exhibitions of size, power and strength down the sideline. Smith finished the night with four catches for 123 yards, surpassing Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor (combined) for most yards in their collegiate debut.
Smith was both fast and explosive in and out of his routes, clearing real estate for Cody Kessler to fit the football with ease. Despite having enough speed to blow past defenders, Smith was technical in the way he followed blockers down the field. USC has to be impressed with the high-impact contribution the Long Beach Poly grad showcased.
One thing we for sure know about Darreus Rogers is that he has developed quite the rapport with his starting quarterback. That trust went a long way towards fueling Rogers' five-catch performance against Fresno State, including some crucial third-down conversions on USC's opening two drives.
The Darreus Rogers we saw in the season opener vastly resembled the player who single handedly carried USC's passing attack notching six receptions for 60 yards against Notre Dame. If USC wants to continue playing at an elite level, Rogers has to continue to blossom as Kessler's go-to option in crucial third-and-long situations.
Fifth-year senior Gerald Bowman collected the second interception of his Trojan career, perfectly following the eyes of backup quarterback Brandon Connette, who gift wrapped an easy pass for the turnover. Props to a guy like Bowman taking full advantage of an extra year of eligibility on USC's young defense.
Gerald Bowman sprinted down the sideline, resting high on his five tackle performance, but couldn't keep his feet on the mark stumbling out of bounds in what could've been a pick-six. All jokes aside, and his defensive teammates dished out plenty of them, Bowman was all over the field deflecting passes against the pass-happy Fresno State Bulldogs.
With the departure of Josh Shaw from USC's cornerback rotation, Kevon Seymour was assigned the task of slowing down Fresno State's top wideout Josh Harper. Harper finished the night with six catches for 56 yards, but Seymour did an excellent job limiting the Biletnikoff candidate to zero first-half receptions.
Kevon Seymour was active with his hands, roamed the defense with exact precision and never got beat deep in coverage. Fresno State did face an enormous USC pass rush, but Seymour anchored a strong secondary that did enough damage early in the game to assure the Bulldogs could never must a fighters chance in the season opener.
Greg Townsend Jr.
Struggling to stay healthy last season, Greg Townsend Jr. made the most of his opportunity in the second half. Replacing All-American Leonard Williams (7 tackles, 1 INT) for much of the fourth quarter, Townsend was equally aggressive wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Confidence is always key for Townsend, who always can look back to the stands and find his legendary NFL pops, and his hard work was rewarded with a deflection leading to a Michael Hutchings interception. Townsend finished the night with two tackles, the deflected pass and a couple of quarterback pressures.
Bonus: Bryce Dixon
We know how much of an impact Bryce Dixon made catching a 22-yard touchdown from Cody Kessler, but what most caught our eye was the way in which the freshman tight end cleared space as a blocker. Fueling multiple bubble screens for big gains, Dixon utilized his 240-pound frame to punish opposing cornerbacks in the open field.