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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

USC Vandalizes The Vandals In 59-9 Win

With 737 total yards, the eighth-ranked Trojans excelled in their 59-9 victory against the Idaho Vandals. 

Redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler had a career-high performance of 410 yards in the Trojans' 59-9 win. On the night, he went 26-for-31 and had three touchdowns. His longest throw of the night was to sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a deep 50-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. 

Smith-Schuster had a career night himself. He had 10 receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns. From the first pass of the game, it was obvious that the chemistry struggles that existed last weekend between Kessler and him were long gone. The connection they had tonight was reminiscent of the one that Kessler and Nelson Agholor shared. 

“Dude, I want that chemistry,” Smith-Schuster joked about watching Nelson and Kessler last season. Based on his numbers today, he definitely has “that.”

Kessler’s other touchdown pass was a 28-yarder to redshirt junior wide receiver Issac Whitney early in the third quarter. 

Kessler also connected well with sophomore wide receiver cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. He had three catches for 62 yards on the night. 

“I’m a more confident player,” Jackson said. “Being more relaxed, being myself, having fun.”

USC displayed their arsenal of running backs throughout the game. Freshman Ronald Jones led the charge with eight carries for 83 yards and one touchdown. His longest of the night was a 44-yard run, which was stopped just short of the touchdown after the review. Jones picked up the 1-yard touchdown on the play right afterwards. 

“Ronald is gonna be special, he’s gonna be really, really good,” junior linebacker Su’a Cravens said. “I like him because he doesn’t know that.”

After his success tonight, praise for Jones is universal throughout the team. 

“He’s a unique guy,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s explosive and longer than you think.”

The offensive line’s play was better this week. They didn’t give up a sack and Kessler had plenty of time and space in the pocket most of the game. Sarkisian noted that their play was cleaner and much improved.

“Our offensive line is a key ingredient to running our offense,” Kessler said. 

One of the more unique takeaways from the game was that everyone had a chance to step out on the field.

“It’s one thing to wear the uniform and come down the tunnel,” Sarkisian said. “It’s another to go out in the game and be on the stat sheet.”

Sarkisian made it a point to play every eligible player on the roster. 

“It’s great to see,” Jackson said. “They’re going to be hungry to be out there again.”

Even in their victory, the Trojans still have a couple aspects of their game to work on this upcoming week of practice. Most notably, the Trojans were only one of six on their third down conversions. 

Both Sarkisian and Kessler emphasized that they will need to clean up on third downs because it keeps the defense alive and off of the field. 

“When we get third and long,” Kessler said. “We need to convert.”

Another aspect that the Trojans need to work on is how Idaho marched down the field and scored a touchdown to open up the third quarter. The same thing happened against Arkansas State. And, weirdly enough, the teams’ extra points failed both times. 

“We got to finish better,” redshirt senior linebacker Anthony Sarao said. “Especially coming out in the first drive of the second half.”

With two big victories under their belt, the Trojans understand what lies ahead. Next Saturday, they kickoff Pac-12 play at home against Stanford. In their last two meetings, the game was decided by a field goal. 

“They always come to play,” Kessler said. “You can't look at how they did earlier in the season.”

Everyone echoed Kessler’s thoughts on the Cardinal.

“We got to go out there and be ready to play,” Jackson said. 

The Trojans (2-0) will kickoff against the Cardinal (1-1) at the Coliseum at 5pm

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