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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

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Trojan defense leads team to 30-13 victory over Hawaii

Neither quarterback impressed as USC struggled offensively against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

            USC capitalized on turnovers and relied heavily on defensive efforts en route to a 30-13 victory over Hawaii at Aloha Stadium on Thursday night.

            The defense pressured Hawaii’s offense throughout the night, holding the Rainbow Warriors to 20 rushing yards and recording four sacks against quarterback Taylor Graham. The Trojans also intercepted Graham four times, including one returned for a touchdown by Josh Shaw late in the second quarter that led the team out of what could have been an abysmal first half.

            Quarterback Cody Kessler was announced as the starter prior to kick-off and remained on the field throughout the first half, completing 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards with a touchdown and interception. Kessler’s 19-yard touchdown to wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the second quarter started the Trojans on a 17-0 run to close the half and offered a brief glimpse of the offense head coach Lane Kiffin praised in the offseason.

            Max Wittek took his place under center with the second possession in the second half. He completed a lackluster five of ten passes for 77 yards.

            “We didn’t play really well in general.” Kiffin said. “There are a couple plays that really blow a game open. We missed a couple things like missed protections, dropped balls here and there that really change the score.”

            All-American wide receiver Marqise Lee caught eight catches from both quarterbacks for 104 yards. Lee uncharacteristically dropped balls throughout the night, including one long ball from Wittek in the fourth quarter that would have sent the Trojans into the end zone.

            The Trojan offense only found the end zone only once more with a fourth quarter run by true freshman Justin Davis. He had 14 carries for 74 yards.

            Despite the offensive struggles, Kiffin said he is “happy” to leave Hawaii with a win.

            “We’re 1-0 and half of the country is not, or won’t be by Saturday,” Kiffin said. “At the end of the day we’re happy.”

            The Trojans next face Washington State on Saturday in their home opener. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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