No. 24 USC Football Opens 2013 Season At Hawaii
Aug 24, 2013
The No. 24-ranked USC football team begins its 2013 season with a trip to Hawaii to face former Trojan assistant Norm Chow's Rainbow Warriors. The Thursday game in 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium kicks off the long Labor Day weekend. It is the fifth time since 1999 that the teams have opened a season against each other, including the fourth time in Honolulu. It is also the fourth time that Troy begins a season with a Thursday contest (this will be the first of 3 weekday games for USC in 2013, including 2 on Thursday and a Friday outing). It is just the ninth-ever August game for USC. The Trojans have not lost an opener since 1997, they haven't dropped a non-conference road game since 2006 and they've never fallen to Hawaii in 8 encounters (USC has averaged nearly 50 points in each of those meetings). Troy also has a near spotless record against current Mountain West Conference opponents. And the Trojans have lost just once on the island of Oahu (in a bowl). USC is celebrating its 125th anniversary of athletics (dating to the first football game in 1888). Lane Kiffin's debut as USC's head coach was a 2010 road win at Hawaii. The Trojans, who have only 67 eligible scholarship players available because of NCAA sanctions and injuries, are looking to bounce back from a once-promising-turned-sour 2012 season in which the national pre-season No. 1 squad started off 6-1 before dropping 5 of the last 6 games to finish at 7-6. USC is led by 2012 unanimous All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee, who was fourth in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting. He owns or shares 22 USC records, including most receptions (118) in a season and most receiving yards in a season and game, all league standards he set last year. He is on target to break USC's career records for receptions and kickoff return yards. For the first time since 2009, USC will have a new player behind center and the down-to-the-wire competition is between QBs Max Wittek, who started the final 2 games of 2012, and Cody Kessler. Whoever wins out will have more than just Lee as aerial targets, including the talented duo of TEs Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer (combined 82 career catches with 18 TDs) and promising young WRs Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers. The running attack is deep, led by returning starting TB Silas Redd, a 2,500-yard career rusher at USC and Penn State, plus impressive youngsters like TBs Tre Madden and Justin Davis. Troy's offensive line has starters returning from 4 spots, topped by veteran OT Kevin Graf. There's a new defensive coordinator (Clancy Pendergast) and the hope is that his 5-2 scheme will help the Trojans vastly improve after allowing in 2012 nearly the most yards and points in school history. Among the key defensive returnees are OLB Morgan Breslin, a 2012 Hendricks Award finalist (his 13 sacks were the most at USC since 2003), 2012 Freshman All-American DE Leonard Williams, who was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year (he had 13.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks), 2-year starting LBs Hayes Pullard and Lamar Dawson, DE George Uko, S-CB Josh Shaw (he'll be at safety in 2013 after starting at cornerback last year), veteran OLB Devon Kennard, who sat out 2012 with an injury, and S Dion Bailey, who started the last 2 seasons at linebacker. Two-year starting PK Andre Heidari (25 career field goals) also returns. Hawaii returns 16 starters (same as USC) from a squad that went 3-9 in 2012, but finished on a 2-game winning streak. Ohio State transfer QB Taylor Graham could emerge as the starting signalcaller, as last year's starter, QB Sean Schroeder, is coming off of spring back surgery. The Rainbow Warriors feature such skill position threats as WRs Billy Ray Stutzman, who topped UH in receptions last fall and has caught a pass in the past 23 games, and Australian Scott Harding, also a dangerous punt returner, as well as beefy RB Joey Iosefa (a 1,000-yard career rusher). Sophomore C Ben Clarke anchors an offensive line that surrendered 40 sacks in 2012. On defense, Hawaii returns its leaders in tackles (DB Marrell Jackson), tackles for losses (LB Art Laurel) and interceptions (DB John Hardy-Tuliau, who will start for his fourth season). The game will be shown live on cable's CBS Sports Network, the first time that USC has appeared on that air.