Cody Kessler excited about playing at Oregon for first time

Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler unleashes a pass against the Buffaloes in the first half on Nov. 13.

Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler unleashes a pass against the Buffaloes in the first half on Nov. 13.

(Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

Cody Kessler did not play in USC’s last visit to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

He was a freshman on the sideline in 2011 as quarterback Matt Barkley helped lead the Trojans to a victory that ended the Ducks’ 21-game home winning streak.

“It was crazy,” Kessler said this week about the raucous atmosphere. “It was kind of my first huge road game, I guess.

“I saw a couple that year — Notre Dame. But Oregon’s definitely one that sticks out.”

Kessler is now a fifth-year senior and a third-year starter who Saturday will play against Oregon for the first time.

USC would win the Pac-12 Conference South if the Trojans defeat Oregon and UCLA.

“It’s set up perfect for us,” Kessler said. “It’s right where we want to be.”

Oregon is coming off a victory over Stanford that kept alive the Ducks’ hopes for a shot at the Pac-12 North title.


“It’s going to be loud,” Kessler said, adding, “It’s a huge game for both teams and there’s a lot riding on this game, so it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere.”

USC has fallen behind in each of the last two games. The Trojans came back for victories against Arizona and Colorado.

Kessler said avoiding another slow start “all starts with me too, just getting the ball where it needs to go and getting that momentum going that first drive.”

Kessler is completing 69% of his passes, 23 for touchdowns, with six interceptions.

Interim Coach Clay Helton wants Kessler to continue playing the way he has the last four games.

“Kind of being the calm in the eye of the hurricane,” Helton said Thursday. “And that will be a hurricane up there.

“It’s a great venue. It’s a fun place to play, and his calmness and his poise and his demeanor and his leadership will carry over for us.”

For starters


Sophomore linebacker Olajuwon Tucker is expected to start for USC for the first time.

Helton said that if the game was played Thursday, senior Anthony Sarao and Tucker would have started at the inside spots.

Freshman Osa Masina, junior Michael Hutchings and sophomore Uchenna Nwosu also could play.

Su’a Cravens and Scott Felix start at the outside spots.

Tucker will play in place of injured freshman Cameron Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Colorado. Backup Lamar Dawson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Tucker, who came to USC from Gardena Serra High, had not played in the previous five games before coming on to make a career-best four tackles against Colorado.

Helton said he had no concerns about playing Tucker or other young players. He spoke of freshman receiver Deontay Burnett, who emerged as contributor after joining the Trojans during training camp.

“We signed them, we brought them here, we’ve trained them and they’re ready to go,” Helton said. “Just like Deontay Burnett, you never know what he’s going to do until you put him out and there and let him play.”

Quick hits

Offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao (knee) worked some during practice, Helton said. But sophomore Chris Brown is expected to start for the first time at right guard…. Adoree’ Jackson is among four finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, presented annually to college football’s “most versatile” player…. Cravens and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster are among five finalists for the Polynesian college football player of the year. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won the inaugural award last year.

Twitter: @latimesklein