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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

No. 22 Trojans Corral Buffaloes

USC QB Cody Kessler sets school record in a dominating 56-28 homecoming victory over Colorado Saturday.

QB Cody Kessler set a USC single-game record with seven touchdown passes against Colorado (Getty Images | Stephen Dunn)
QB Cody Kessler set a USC single-game record with seven touchdown passes against Colorado (Getty Images | Stephen Dunn)

A week after the No. 22 USC football team (5-2, 4-1) escaped the desert with a final-minute win over No. 16 Arizona, the Trojans homecoming contest against the Colorado Buffaloes was never in doubt, as the Cardinal and Gold had a record-setting day en route to capturing a dominating 58-26 victory at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday.

Redshirt junior quarterback Cody Kessler made easy work of the Colorado secondary, as the Bakersfield, California native tallied seven passing touchdowns in the contest, setting a USC record. Starting with the opening possession, Kessler set himself up for a special game.

After marching the ball down to the Buffaloes 16 yard line, Kessler avoided the pass rush by rolling outside of the pocket and unleashed a rocket that was corralled by junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor at the goal line to open the scoring flood gates. The duo was not finished for the half, as just over two minutes later following a sophomore safety Su'a Cravens' interception the two connected for an 18-yd touchdown pass to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead just six minutes into the game.

"The quarterback looked and pumped and I didn't think he was going to throw it, but luckily he did," Cravens said. "I should have scored, but I got tripped up."

Following a tough defensive showing by USC that forced a punt, the Trojan offense returned to the gridiron and Kessler continued his smooth stroke. With the veteran Agholor already recording two scores in the first quarter, the USC play-caller turned to the true freshman to make big plays. USC advanced the ball deep into Colorado territory with the help of a 45-yd reception by freshman Juju Smith before Smith squirted free in the endzone and captured a 7-yd touchdown from Kessler.

Quickly falling behind by 21, the Buffaloes looked to utilize the long ball to get back into the game; unfortunately for quarterback Sefo Liufao, Cravens had other plans. Liufao unleashed a pass that traveled down the sideline, and as soon as a Colorado receiver touched it, Cravens delivered a bone-crunching hit that jarred the ball into the air and was intercepted by junior defensive back Kevon Seymour.

Set up with the short field, Kessler found another true freshman in tight end Bryce Dixon open in the endzone for a 15-yd touchdown to give the Trojans a first quarter 28-0 lead.

"If it's one-on-one, we trust our guys here to make plays," Kessler said. "That's why we recruit guys here: to trust them. If it's one-on-one and I put it up that they're going to make a play for me."

The Buffaloes were finally able to make their way onto the scoreboard by means of an 18 play, 75 yard touchdown drive that culminated with a Michael Adkins II 1-yd touchdown rush, but the Trojans offense would not let up. After another 40-yd reception by Smith, Kessler and Dixon connected for a 9-yd touchdown pass and catch to round out the first half of scoring at 35-7 and tying Kessler for the most touchdown passes in a half in USC history.

The halftime intermission failed to bring about any improvements from the Colorado sideline and certainly did not cool down Kessler's dominating performance. 

After the Buffaloes opened the half with a quick three-and-out, it took just two plays for Kessler to find Agholor for a 75-yd touchdown reception, the receiver's longest career touchdown and tying Kessler for the most aerial scores in a single game in school history.

Later in the quarter after Liufao responded with a 2-yd touchdown pass that made the score 42-14, it was the Trojan running game that moved them into striking distance. Sophomore running back Justin Davis busted through the line and broke free for a 47-yd gain to set up Kessler's school-record setting seventh touchdown pass. The slinger moved to his left and connected with a diving redshirt freshman Stevie Mitchell for the 24-yd score to put the Trojans up 49-14.

"The most meaningful thing for me was that I got to watch the guy before me set the record," said Kessler, talking about former teammate Matt Barkley. "He taught me so much while he was here, he is pretty much a big brother to me."

Liufao pieced together a 75-yd drive that ended with a 5-yd touchdown pass to receiver Nelson Spruce in response to the Trojan attack, but the Buffaloes deficit would regrow quickly. Relying on the throwing attack for majority of the game, USC turned to redshirt junior running back Javorius "Buck" Allen to take over on the ensuing drive.

Allen strung together a series of four rushes that moved the ball into Colorado territory before springing a run 39 yards for the score to finish out the Trojans scoring. With many starters, on both teams, being sidelined for the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes were able to gather one final touchdown on a 9-yd quarterback run by backup Jordan Gehrke, finishing off a 56-28 victory for the Trojans.

USC will head on the road to Salt Lake City, Utah for a matchup with No. 20 Utah Saturday in a battle of the PAC-12 South. Kickoff for the divisional showdown is slated for 7:00 p.m.

Final Stats:


Sefo Liufao: 23/35, 143 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Nelson Spruce: 9 catches, 69 yds, 1 TD


Cody Kessler: 19/26, 319 yds, 7 TDs

Javorius Allen: 15 carries, 128 yds, 1 TD

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