The No. 15 USC Trojans cruised to a 52-13 blowout win against the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Steve Sarkisian’s head couching debut.
Trojans’ Quarterback Cody Kessler threw four touchdowns and ran in another from the 1-yard line. He finished his day with 394 yards completing 25 of 37 passes. USC ran a School-and Pac-12 record 105 plays which resulted in 701 yards of total offense.
USC set the tone early with a 17-play 90-yard drive that culminated with the Kessler one-yard touchdown run. The Trojans scored on their next three possessions as USC led 24-0 with 10:56 still remaining in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs struggled on offense all night. Before the game head coach Tim DeRuyter announced that he was going to play both Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette at quarterback against USC. Neither QB proved himself worthy of taking the bulk of the reps during the game.
Burrell started the game and played the first quarter and Connette took over in the second quarter as both would continue to alternate throughout the game. Burrell’s line was 11/19 with 92 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and Connette was 7/17 with 68 yards, three picks and no touchdowns.
Connette entered the game for the Bulldogs with the team trailing 24-0 and the Duke transfer provided a spark as he was able to sustain a scoring drive with his arm and legs. On fourth-and-two at USC’s 38-yard line he put his legs to work and ran for 15 yards to the Trojan 23 to keep the drive alive, eventually setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Marteze Waller making it 24-7.
Waller was the most productive Bulldog with 97 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He also added 25 yards on three receptions.
USC turned the ball over on their next two possesions, but Fresno State was unable to capitalize on USC’s miscues.
Kessler completed the scoring before halftime with an 18-yard touchdown pass to two-way player Adoree’ Jackson with under a minute to play. USC led 31-7 at the half.
The Bulldogs received the ball to open the second half and marched 65 yards on eight plays as Waller ran for another score from two-yards out to make it 31-13 (missed PAT) early in the third quarter.
The Trojans wouldn’t allow the Bulldogs to get any closer as they shut them down the rest of the way.
USC running back Javorius Allen finished the game with 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The lack of stability at the quarterback position not only hurt the offense, but it did the defense no favors as well. Fresno State was unable to convert on third down early in the game, leading to multiple three-and-outs with the defense having to be on the field early and often.
Despite the tough loss, coach DeRuyter was optimistic about his team moving forward. “Clearly we’re not ready at this point of the season to compete against a team like that but we will get better and I look forward to getting our guys better,” said DeRuyter.
Fresno State faces another Pac-12 opponent next Saturday when they travel to Rice-Eccles Stadium to face the Utah Utes.
Scott Johnston also contributed to this story.