USC and Stanford do not lack experience at quarterback
Experience at quarterback won’t be an issue for either team when sixth-ranked USC plays Stanford in its Pac-12 Conference opener on Saturday at the Coliseum.
USC’s Cody Kessler and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan are fifth-year seniors who have been starters for multiple years. And both are coming off career-best passing yardage performances.
Kessler passed for three touchdowns and 410 yards in the Trojans’ 59-9 victory over Idaho as the Trojans improved their record to 2-0. He completed 26 of 31 passes, including touchdowns of 50 and 41 yards to receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and 28 yards to receiver Isaac Whitney.
Kessler had worked the previous week on improving his footwork and deep-ball accuracy. “I think that showed in the game,” he said.
Kessler ranks second nationally in passing efficiency. He has completed 45 of 57 passes for 650 yards, with no interceptions.
Hogan completed 17 of 29 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 victory over Central Florida that evened the Cardinal’s record at 1-1.
Hogan’s first touchdown of the season came on a 53-yard flea-flicker to receiver Michael Rector. “It was almost like breaking the ice,” Hogan told reporters after the game. “I think everyone kind of settled in after that and felt comfortable.”
Hogan also had a seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey and connected with running Bryce Love for a 93-yard touchdown.
It was comeback of sorts for Hogan, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 155 yards, with an interception, in the Cardinal’s 16-6 opening loss against Northwestern.
Last season, neither Kessler nor Hogan passed for a touchdown in the Trojans’ 13-10 victory at Stanford. Kessler completed 15 of 22 passes for 135 yards. Hogan was 22 of 30 for 285 yards.
The Trojans sealed the victory when linebacker J.R. Tavai sacked Hogan and forced him to fumble.
Take a breath
USC has only two sacks in two games, so pressuring Hogan into bad decisions will be one of the defense’s main goals Saturday.
Stanford generally huddles after each play, which could help the Trojans gear-up a pass rush that has lagged.
“Any time an offense huddles like that is rare now,” USC linebacker Scott Felix said. “So you get a little bit of a breath, instead of just running to the next play. That helps us.”
Adoree’ Jackson showed a flash of his ability to elude and escape tackles against Idaho, mesmerizing the Coliseum crowd during a zigzag across the field on a 30-yard pass reception.
“I was just out there having fun, doing what I know,” he said.
Jackson, a starting cornerback, was in for 47 plays, including six on offense. He caught four passes for 62 yards.
Jackson had only seven yards on three punt returns, but he is raising eyebrows with his daring and reluctance to call for a fair catch.
Jackson said he called for a fair catch only once in high school — and that he regretted the decision when he saw the closest defender was 10 yards from him.
“Ever since then, I’ve always caught the ball because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “All you’ve got to do is make the first guy miss. If they get a good hit or whatever, you just have to bounce back up.”
Coach Steve Sarkisian said he has no problem with that mentality.
“The guy has such belief in himself,” Sarkisian said. “He’s not thinking about not getting hurt. He’s thinking about how can he get to the end zone.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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