Foley Report: Cody Kessler Breaks Trojan Record in Easy Win Over Colorado


Former USC Quarterback (1986-1990) Shane Foley recaps the Trojans’ (5-2, 4-1) easy win at the Coliseum against Colorado (2-5, 0-4).


The Trojans made it clear from the get-go that they were going to put the ball up. On USC’s first drive, Cody Kessler threw the ball eight times with the finishing touch being a 16-yard touchdown strike to Nelson Agholor to start the passing barrage. Kessler finished the day 19-26 for 319 yards and a USC record seven touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named PAC-12 player of the week.

Oct 18, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass under pressure from Colorado Buffaloes defensive end Derek McCartney (95) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most important differences in the passing game was stretching the Colorado defense with 16.8 yards per completion. Seven different receivers caught passes including Agholor who finished with six catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns and Juju Smith hauled in four catches for 104 yards and one touchdown. Smith’s most impressive catch was the one-handed grab on the Trojans’ first drive on a 3rd and eight which kept the drive alive.

The tight ends also got in on the action with tight end Randall Telfer’s four catches for 19 yards and Bryce Dixon with two touchdown catches for 24 yards. On the season Kessler has thrown for 18 touchdowns against only one interception and this game was a reminder that they can go deep. However, it does not need to be feast or famine. The USC offense has an arsenal of weapons at wide receiver and tight end and backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield. As the Trojans climb into the 2nd half of the season, the mindset must be about attacking a defense for four quarters and taking whatever the defense gives them.

Oct 18, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Justin Davis (22) carries the ball as Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (4) defends at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Kessler is still flying under the radar, even after a record setting performance. The historic day did come against an overmatched Colorado team that is still in the building phase under 2nd year coach Mike McIntyre but it was a game to build on. Kessler moves very well in the pocket and he has the ability to buy time while keeping his eyes downfield. He threw the ball on the money for a touchdown rolling to his left, he stood and delivered a touchdown with pressure in his face, and he scrambled toward the line of scrimmage with his eyes downfield and drilled his first touchdown pass to Agholor for a 7-0 lead. Kessler’s ability to create and buy time in the pocket will be critical this week and his ability to make some plays with his will also be important. Max Browne was able to get some live action in the 4th quarter which has been limited this season but it is valuable for the “just in case” situation.

The offensive line continues to improve and their mettle will be tested against the Utes this Saturday. The talk about their youth is diminishing with more experience and improvement. They are becoming a more consistent, cohesive line that is playing better as a group. The true freshman, three-guard rotation of Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivo, and Damien Mama has continued to improve in execution and they have good movement off the ball. Max Tuerk anchors the line in the middle and he has very good feet getting out and pulling on the stretch play that the Trojans run regularly. The bookends at tackle with 6-9 Zach Banner and 6-7 Chad Wheeler have good feet and are pass blocking well but they must get their pad level down run blocking. Bryce Dixon did a nice job catching the football but his blocking technique and desire must improve. The Trojans gave up two sacks against Colorado but otherwise they gave Kessler exorbitant time to throw all game.

Buck Allen had a workmanlike performance playing second fiddle to the passing game for the first time since the opener. He finished with128 yards on 15 carries for an 8.5 yard average and he put the exclamation point on the scoring with a 39-yard touchdown run to end the game. Allen is the first USC running back to rush for over 100 yards in six of his first seven games since 2000. Justin Davis finished with 97 yards on 11 carries for an 8.8 yard average but he fumbled for the 2nd game in a row fighting for extra yards. He showed focus in the 2nd half holding onto the ball with two hands when he was in a crowd. With Tre Madden officially being held out this season, Davis is a critical component in the running game and he must focus on ball security the rest of the way. Winning the turnover battle will be huge in the 2nd half of the season.


USC did not look overly impressive on the defensive side of the ball. On Colorado’s first possession, the Trojans gave up 18 and 12 yards rushing before Su’a Cravens stepped in and intercepted a pass to shut down the drive. They did rotate often and Leonard Williams only played 54 snaps which gave him a break going into this week’s showdown in Salt Lake. He did finish with seven tackles and he shared a sack with J.R. Tavai who also finished with seven tackles and one and a half sacks.

Oct 18, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive end Leonard Williams (94) against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans did get good productivity in the rotation from Cody Temple for Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend made an impact at defensive end with two tackles including one for a loss and a sack. Delvon Simmons finished with seven tackles and he is getting better movement rushing the passer. Claude Pelon recorded his second sack in as many games. The Trojans did yield 172 yards rushing but they limited the Buffaloes to 3.7 yards per rush. On Colorado’s first touchdown, the Trojans gave up a methodical 18-play drive for a touchdown. USC must get a better push against the run and they must be consistent rushing the passer.

Linebacker Anthony Sarao led the team in tackles with 12 and Hayes Pullard finished with nine. Scott Felix finished with four tackles on the outside. This group was productive on Saturday but the dominant front seven that Coach Sarkisian envisioned prior to the season has not yet developed. They have been vulnerable this season in man coverage against backs out of the backfield and they have to play bigger consistently against the run.

Quinton Powell and Michael Hutchings both saw more significant action and both finished with four tackles. Coach Sarkisian has been reluctant to play Powell citing lack of size but he does look quick on the perimeter and they will be facing more pressure on the perimeter against Utah. Look for Cravens to begin playing closer to the line of scrimmage this Saturday. He does a tremendous job getting into the backfield but he must wrap up and tackle when he has the opportunity versus coming in with his shoulder only.

The secondary gave up 231 yards passing but they had two interceptions and limited the Buffaloes to 7.5 yards per completion. Colorado’s standout receiver Nelson Spruce finished with nine catches and a touchdown but he was limited to 69 yards. Freshman safety John Plattenburg got his first start and he finished with eight tackles. Both he and Leon McQuay III need to do a better job coming up, breaking down and tackling receivers in the slot. Plattenburg also got picked on goal line for a touchdown on a well thrown pass.

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Chris Hawkins finished with nine tackles including one for a loss and he also broke up two passes. He has consistently been called for holding and pass interference during the season and this must improve going forward. Adoree Jackson left the game early after a big hit on kickoff return and his presence will be a key to the game against Utah. Kevon Seymour had one of the interceptions on a vicious hit by safety Gerald Bowman that popped the ball in the air that he returned 23 yards.

Special Teams

The Trojans did not have any field goal attempts but kicker Alex Wood was 8-8 on extra points and he also had four touchbacks on kickoffs. The kickoff coverage was improved against Colorado. All-purpose special teams contributor George Katrib finished with four tackles. Punter Kris Albarado punted five times for a 36.2 average and he did place two inside the 20-yard line. He did shank a 15-yard punt that led to Colorado’s 2nd touchdown.