Distractions surrounded USC all week as the Trojans prepared for Saturday's opener against Fresno State at the Coliseum, but there was no sign of trouble once the game began.
USC ran 104 plays for 702 yards and seven touchdowns as the Steve Sarkisian era opened with a 52-13 rout over a Fresno State team that is considered to be one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference.
Eight different Trojans gained yards rushing, and 10 different players caught passes.
It was the night of the freshmen.
Two started on the offensive line, Damien Mama and Toa Lobendahn at right and left guard, respectively. Viane Talamaivao also checked in on the line to relieve Mama throughout the game.
Juju Smith, Adoree Jackson and Bryce Dixon all shined on offense. Jackson and Dixon both caught their first career touchdown passes. And Jackson proved he can be an asset in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams.
If there is cause for concern for USC after the opener, it's the number of penalties -- the Trojans racked up nine for 77 yards.
They'll have to tighten that up before next week's Pac-12 Conference opener at Stanford.
As the clock ticks down in the fourth quarter, it's almost exclusively backups and walk-ons playing.
Quarterback Cody Kessler finished his night with a 24-of-37 passing performance for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
Receiver Juju Smith caught four passes for 123 yards.
Tailback Javorius "Buck" Allen rushed 133 yards in 22 carries.
USC backup quarterback Max Browne, who redshirted last year, is now making his Trojans debut.
USC 52, Fresno State 13 (2:47 left in the third quarter)
Touchdowns for everyone.
At this pace, I might get down on the field to get a touchdown, too.
Cody Kessler hands off to Soma Vainuku who scores his first touchdown of the season on an 11-yard carry.
The scoring drive: 25 yards, four plays, 1:09 off the clock.
Seven toucdowns for USC, here's the breakdown: One each for Javorius 'Buck' Allen, Cody Kessler, Soma Vainuku, Adoree Jackson and Bryce Dixon. Two touchdowns for Nelson Agholor.
USC 45, Fresno State 13 (4:21 left in the third quarter)
It's turning into the freshmen show out here.
Cody Kessler finds Bryce Dixon for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Dixon showed great catching ability for a tight end through fall camp, so it's no surprise Coach Steve Sarkisian just gave the freshman a shot at his first career touchdown there.
Kessler has thrown four touchdowns, two to freshmen.
USC has a whopping 577 yards of offense... and there's still plenty of time in the third quarter.
Remember when USC only gained 193 yards of offense a year ago when they lost to Washington State? What a difference a year makes.
The scoring drive: six plays, 60 yards, 2:31 off the clock.
I was just about to write a cause for concern for USC -- its defense, which came out lethargic to start the second half.
On cue, linebacker Anthony Sarao grabs a one-handed interception.
Fresno State has turned the ball over three times.
USC 38, Fresno State 13 (8:56 left in the third quarter)
Who said Cody Kessler isn't an athletic quarterback?
He kept the ball, scrambling for 13 yards -- but made an awkward slide at the first sight of a defender. Kessler was slow to get up.
A few plays later, Kessler completed a 32-yard pass to Victor Blackwell. Blackwell has been used sparingly the last few seasons under former Coach Lane Kiffin, but he's performed well this fall and looks like he'll get a chance here in the third quarter with USC up big.
Kessler handed off two plays later to Javorius "Buck" Allen for a nine-yard touchdown.
Four different Trojans have scored.
The scoring drive: 10 plays, 85 yards, 3:51 off the clock.
USC 31, Fresno State 13 (12:53 left in the third quarter)
In his halftime radio interview Coach Steve Sarkisian said his team needed to come out with the same energy to start the second half.
The energy looks way down.
And the defense just let Fresno State walk into the end zone on a two-yard carry. Looks like the Trojans' coaching staff is sharing a few exciting words of inspiration on the sideline.
Scoring drive: 65 yards, 2:07 off the clock
You can't accuse USC and Coach Steve Sarkisian of false advertising.
The Trojans moved fast in the first half of their season opener against Fresno State at the Coliseum.
Way too fast for Fresno State.
USC leads, 31-7, having run 62 plays for 427 yards.
Fresno State has run 35 plays.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler looks like the new hurry-up offense agrees with him. He has completed 20 of 31 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns.
Freshmen Juju Smith and Adoree' Jackson have both had been impacts.
Smith is the game's leading receiver, with four catches for 123 yards. Jackson, who has also played defense and on special teams, has three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Nelson Agholor has five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
USC led, 24-0, before Fresno State scored on a one-yard run by Marteze Waller, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
USC has lost two fumbles and has been penalized four times for 40 yards.
USC can't capitalize on a Leonard Williams interception in the final minute of the half.
(With Adoree Jackson playing offense and defense, we might as well mention here that Williams could probably be a super tight end.)
Andre Heidari missed a 39-yard field goal in the final seconds.
USC 31, Fresno State 7 (53 seconds left in second quarter)
Freshman Adoree Jackson has been rather active.
He's played offense, defense and special teams.
And now he has his first college touchdown. He was on the receiving end of an 18-yard strike from Cody Kessler.
This is turning into sloppy up-tempo-turnover football.
Then Gerald Bowman intercepts Fresno State's Brandon Connette.
USC turns it right back over when Javorius "'Buck" Allen fumbles.
USC's offense isn't Oregon fast. But it's fast.
Nelson Agholor bobbles, Nelson Agholor catches for a 34-yard reception from Cody Kessler, who barely avoided being taken down.
The drive stalls on the next play when tailback Justin Davis fumbles the ball.
USC 24, Fresno State 7 (6:51 left in the second quarter)
Fresno State finally gets on the board on a one-yard touchdown run by Marteze Waller.
USC almost had a nice goal-line stand behind Leonard Williams, but Waller was able to find a hole in the defensive line.
The Bulldogs' scoring drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, 3:58, 1-yard touchdown.
Catching you up on Coach Steve Sarkisian's offense -- because it's going fast.
The Trojans have already run 41 plays in a balanced attack: 20 passes and 21 runs for a total 314 yards of offense.
USC 24, Fresno State 0 (10:56 left in the second quarter)
It was No. 9 who made big plays at USC the last three years in former Trojans' receiver Marqise Lee. It looks like No. 9 hasn't missed a step, except this year it's freshman Juju Smith.
Smith makes his second big play of the game, a 43-yard reception from Cody Kessler to put the Trojans on the Bulldogs 25-yard line.
The scoring drive stalls, but kicker Andre Heidari drills a 27-yard field goal.
Scoring drive: 10 plays, 61 yards, 3:25 off the clock.
USC has scored on all four of its possessions.
End of the 1st quarter at the Coliseum.
USC is putting up impressive numbers: 243 yards of offense and seven-of-seven on third-down conversions.
Coach Steve Sarkisian's offense has used eight skill players, six receivers have caught passes. That's a big change from Coach Lane Kiffin last year.
USC 21, Fresno State 0 (1:04 left in the first quarter)
I said in the USC Now mailbag this week that freshman Juju Smith was special.
He's making me look smart.
Smith on a catch and run went for 53 yards to the Fresno State 32-yard line. Keep in mind, Smith is a huge receiver, 6-foot-2 210-pounds, but also just showed his speed.
Smith made plays like that all fall. That's why it was puzzling when he wasn't listed as a starter on the game-week depth chart released last Sunday.
A few plays later, quarterback Cody Kessler finds Nelson Agholor for a five-yard touchdown, his second of the afternoon.
That scoring drive: eight plays, 85 yards, 2:14 off the clock.
A 32-yard carry by Fresno State quarteback Brian Burrell almost turned into a Bulldog touchdown if it weren't for the Trojan secondary finally forcing him out of bounds.
Bulldogs forced to punt for the second time.
Trojans' defense hasn't spent much time on the field.
USC 14, Fresno State 0 (5:17 left in the 1st quarter)
A 23-yard catch by Buck Allen out of the backfield on a third-down play, and then a sliding catch by Juju Smith, kept the scoring drive alive.
And then a great catch by Nelson Agholor, who went up to grab a 10-yard pass from Cody Kessler, put the Trojans up, 13-0.
Kicker Andre Heidari's point-after-touchdown is good.
That score drive: seven plays, 63 yards, 2:16 off the clock.
How about third down conversions? Coach Steve Sarkisian's offense is six-of-six on third down.
USC's defense just shut down Fresno State as the Bulldogs went three-and-out and were forced to punt.
The Trojans will have good field position, starting on their own 36-yard line.
USC has three penalties, costing 30 yards. Fresno State, no penalties .
USC 7, Fresno State 0 (8:45 left in 1st quarter)
The Trojans' new up-tempo offense moved steadily down the field to score on its first possession of the season.
It took quarterback Cody Kessler 17 plays to go 90 yards. Kessler scored on a one-yard keeper.
The point-after-touchdown by Andre Heidari was good, to put USC up 7-0.
Freshmen receivers Juju Smith and Adoree Jackson both caught their first career passes.
The offensive line used three freshmen in the first series, starters Damien Mama and Toa Lobendahn, and Viane Talamaivao came in to backup Mama for a couple plays.
Keep an eye on penalties - USC already has two.
USC wins the toss and will receive to start the game.
USC announced its starting lineups on the video board -- here's the offense:
Quarterback is Cody Kessler.
Receivers are Juju Smith, Nelson Agholor and George Farmer.
Offensive linemen are Zach Banner, Damien Mama, Max Tuerk, Toa Lobendahn and Chad Wheeler.
Tight end is Randall Telfer.
Tailback is Javorius "Buck" Allen; fullback is Soma Vainuku.
The announced starting defense:
Defensive linemen are Claude Pelon, Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams.
Linebackers are Scott Felix, Hayes Pullard, Anthony Sarao and J.R. Tavai
Defensive backs are Kevon Seymour, Chris Hawkins, Gerald Bowman, Leon McQuay III and Su'a Cravens.
It's almost time for USC to play football, after a week of distractions surrounding the Josh Shaw situation and the racism accusations Anthony Brown made about Coach Steve Sarkisian.
The team arrived in the Coliseum a little more than two hours before kickoff.
USC's pregame depth chart shows redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins starting in place of Shaw at cornerback. Shaw is suspended indefinitely from all team activities, so he is not on the sideline.
Be sure to keep an eye on the offensive line. For the second time in school history, two freshmen are expected to start -- Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama at left and right guard, respectively.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times