After the loss to Washington State, sportswriters everywhere had no problem concluding that USC clearly had no quarterback, and that after two weeks of splitting snaps, neither was up for the job. But after the unusual play calling against the Cougars, my response was simple: How do you know? Both showed promise against Hawaii, but they weren't allowed to do anything against the Cougars. It's like having a thoroughbred horse and drawing the conclusion that they can't race after only watching it give pony rides at a birthday party.
Well, we finally saw Lane Kiffin allow Cody Kessler to run around the track, and he ran well. He was confident and in command. He only threw two incompletions. He spread the ball around to receivers, backs and tight ends. He consistently was changing plays at the line, adjusting to the defense. He was the quarterback that people saw in spring and in fall camp.
And it's about time.
Much was made about not naming a starter sooner. I played at USC the last time a split QB was used at quarterback, and it worked. Brad Otton and Kyle Wacholtz quarterbacked our team to a Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl win in 1995. But let's be clear: In that 1995 season, we had a very senior offensive line (we started five fifth-year seniors in the Rose Bowl) and Keyshawn Johnson. That team had leadership, and we were very consistent. That offense knew who it was. Both were good QBs. Plug either one in and we clicked.
This 2013 offense doesn't seem to be the same. This offense is searching for its identity, with previous seasons so overwhelmingly defined by Matt Barkley. The offensive line is still young, the backs very new. While Marqise Lee is on the field trying to make plays, what this unit has needed is leadership and consistency. Playing two quarterbacks has seemed to just add to the growing pains, with both guys playing tight and the whole unit making assignment mistakes that have greatly hurt their productivity.
So maybe Saturday, against a clearly overmatched Boston College team, with Kessler playing with more freedom and asserting his personality onto this group, we started to see this offense turn the corner. Because of this, despite a run-first mentality and a great workhorse back in Tre Madden, this will be Kessler's offense. And the team will be better for it.
Week 3 notables:
Kudos to the offensive line. USC ran the ball well against a defense playing hard to stop it. Madden and Justin Davis have to be fun to block for as well. If the offensive line can continue to improve as a unit and cut down on mistakes (holding calls and missed assignments killed three drives that USC won't be able to afford against better teams), that unit will become a true team strength.