USC is 1-0 following Thursday's 30-13 win over Hawaii in Honolulu, but the conversation after the win has been focused on the Trojans' lackluster offense rather than the team's dominant defensive performance on the road.
Despite Clancy Pendergast's new-look defense forcing four Hawaii turnovers and holding the Warriors to just 231 yards, inconsistent quarterback play and some uncharacteristic moments from superstar wide receiver Marqise Lee stole the show for Lane Kiffin's Trojans in the opener.
Here, we'll break down the biggest concerns for USC in the wake of Thursday's shaky win over Hawaii.
The post-Matt Barkley era at USC began rather disappointingly on Thursday as both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek struggled under center for the Trojans against Hawaii.
Kessler, a sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., completed 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards and a score, but also tossed a pick, was sacked in the end zone for a safety, and finished with a quarterback rating of 19.4.
Wittek, a sophomore who attempted 69 passes a season ago, completed just five of 10 throws for 77 yards after coming into the game in the third quarter. He would finish with a quarterback rating of 24.0. After the game, head coach Lane Kiffin addressed the team's quarterback situation, per ESPN.com:
I was hoping that a long time ago it would be settled, but that's not my job to just do what makes me feel good. I've got to make sure that I'm doing what's in the best interest of the team and I think that showed today. There was not an obvious No. 1 out there today.
Neither of them separated themselves, and we didn't help them very much. We didn't help them, and obviously that falls on me.
USC's defense is talented enough to power the Trojans to home victories against Washington State, Boston College and Utah State in the coming weeks, but if the program is going to contend for the Pac-12 and a berth in a BCS bowl this winter, it must find consistency in the passing game.
Marqise Lee's Early Struggles
Despite finishing fourth in last season's Heisman voting, USC's game-breaking wide receiver Marqise Lee struggled against Hawaii in the team's opener, lacking focus in several big moments and failing to help out his inexperienced quarterbacks.
Lee finished with eight receptions for 104 yards but committed several inexcusable mistakes.
He dropped a pass on fourth down that would have set the Trojans up with a first-and-goal in the first quarter and then went on to fumble a punt return that turned the ball over to Hawaii. Surprisingly, Lee dropped another catchable pass from Wittek late in the game. It wasn't a perfect throw, but the ball was right there, per ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay on Twitter:
Marqise Lee can't seem to haul in a Max Witteck deep ball. Bizarre.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) August 30, 2013
Having racked up over 2,800 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns through his first two seasons in Los Angeles, it's likely only a matter of time before Lee rights the ship. But after Thursday night's head-scratching performance, his mindset and focus have to be a concern moving forward.
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