USC Football: What We Learned from the Week 1 Game vs. Hawaii
USC kicked off its 2012 season on Saturday afternoon with a dominating 49-10 win over Hawaii. Taking the field with postseason eligibility restored, the Trojans fired on most cylinders, showing the sold-out Coliseum crowd of 93,607 a glimpse of the rebuilt program.
Senior QB Matt Barkley was dominating, sophomore RB Marqise Lee was exciting and the young defense showed that while there is room for improvement, they were better than expected.
Despite the 49 points scored by USC and the electrifying plays by Marqise Lee, there were moments in the rout when fans in the stadium turned to each other and wondered if the team was asleep.
Two of USC's touchdowns came from the defense and special teams. The offense was good but not great, and it has too much talent and firepower to just be good. WR Marqise Lee dropped two passes. Robert Woods dropped one. New Trojan transfer Silas Redd fumbled. The O-Line was sufficient but not amazing.
The lack of a running game and the relatively quiet game of Robert Woods may have something to do with the feeling that, while prolific on Saturday night, the offense was not firing on all its available cylinders.
Hawaii and Syracuse, the first two teams on the Trojans’ 2012 schedule, are a warm-up exercise for the meat of their schedule. In week 3, the Trojans face an Andrew Luck-less Stanford team.
Sure, the Trojans looked good, but how good? Let’s take a look at five things we learned from the week 1 game versus Hawaii.
Marqise Lee Is the Real Deal
Fun fact: WR Marqise Lee is only the second player since 2000 in the FBS to have 10 catches, 150 receiving yards, a receiving TD and a kickoff TD in one game.
Lee is the real deal.
He had a phenomenal freshman season with over 1,000 yards and kicked off his second year in Troy with an explosive and electrifying performance. As Lee sprinted down field, he drew comparisons to a former USC RB who put on breathtaking displays week after week (he who shall no longer be named).
On the very first play of the season, Barkley threw to Lee, and he ran with it, turning it into a 75-yard touchdown play. He was athletic (duh), versatile and fun to watch. Lee is only the second Trojan in the history of the program to field a kick return and run 100 yards for the touchdown.
Lee had 292 total yards in the rout of Hawaii, a career high for the sophomore. He had 10 receptions for 197 yards with an average yards per catch of 19.7.
A few more games like this, and Lee could find himself on Heisman short lists.
The Defense Isn’t as Shaky as We Thought It Would Be
Heading into the season, many questions surrounded the Trojan defense. Most notably, they were young and without many starts under their belts.
On Saturday, many worries were alleviated when the defense stepped up and limited the Warriors to just 10 points.
Of course, the Hawaii offense is not on par with future conference opponent Oregon, but for a first outing, the signs were encouraging. Of the starting D-line on Saturday, only DT George Uko had experience.
DE Morgan Breslin held his own opposite veteran senior Wes Horton, who did not play due to injury. Horton is the lone veteran on the line, making the defensive performance on Saturday all the more impressive.
Leonard Williams, a freshman, had a sack on the Hawaii QB, as did Anthony Sarao and Greg Townsend Jr.
The USC defense only gave up 56 yards on the ground and 244 during the whole game, not a bad start.
Of course, again, Hawaii is not Oregon, but they have time to develop and improve before the 11/3 showdown with the Ducks.
Where Is the Running Game?
So much preseason talk was dedicated to the Trojan running game. First, it was concern over lack of depth. Then, it was debate on how Kiffin would dole out the duties between senior Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd.
So imagine the collective surprise when the running game was mostly absent Saturday night in the Coliseum.
McNeal only had five carries for a meager 10 yards versus Hawaii, a surprise for a player that last season was an every-down running back. Redd had the Trojans’ only rushing TD, but he also had a fumble that they Warriors turned into a 30-yard gain for their offense.
With superstar receivers like Lee and Robert Woods, it’s easy to enjoy the passing game, but USC has to have a balanced attack to truly make a run for the National Championship.
Matt Barkley Looks Every Bit the Heisman Candidate
Four-year starting quarterback Matt Barkley showed why he is on every Heisman short list. He was 23-for-38 on the night with 377 yards and four touchdowns from three different players.
He runs the Trojan offense with maturity and intelligence, instinctively knowing how to spread the ball out to his weapons. Every pass of Barkley’s that connected with a receiver earned the Trojans a first down.
Barkley is fortunate he has many weapons to utilize from his wideouts Woods and Lee to tailbacks McNeal and Redd to tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer to fullback Soma Vainuku.
It is this diversity of options on offense that make USC such a powerful opponent to contend with.
Robert Woods Is Healthy
Junior receiver Robert Woods was hampered by an ankle injury for most of last season and missed all of spring ball and most of fall camp healing.
From Woods’ performance on Saturday, the Trojan faithful can rest easy as there was no trace of the ankle issue. Woods had six receptions for 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as he shared the catches with Lee.
He was speedy and able to dive, leap and sprint sideline to sideline in pursuit of the ball. The combination of Woods and Lee is formidable. Expect to see more of Woods as the Trojans get into the meat of their conference schedule.