The Norman Transcript

National Sports

September 7, 2013

USC, WSU open Pac 12

LOS ANGELES — Washington State’s first meeting with Southern California in three years is a chance for a breakthrough victory under coach Mike Leach.

It’s also a chance for one of the No. 25 Trojans’ two quarterbacks — Cody Kessler or Max Wittek — to break out as the clear starter.

Yet neither possibility seems all that probable when the Cougars (0-1) visit the Coliseum on Saturday night for both schools’ Pac-12 opener and the resumption of a rivalry that started in 1921.

Washington State looked better than many expected in a seven-point loss at Auburn last week, while USC (1-0) put on a muddled offensive performance in a comfortable win at Hawaii. But the Cougars are wary of the Trojans’ talent-loaded roster and a revamped defense that looked dominant in its first game under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Kessler and Wittek will continue their audition for the starting job, with coach Lane Kiffin declining to name a starter this week. Both quarterbacks think USC’s offense can grow without one clear leader.

“We just have to go out against Washington State and execute the game plan, no matter which one of us is in there,” Wittek said. “It’s not just about the quarterback, it’s about the whole team executing.”

No QB qualms:While plenty of people are marveling over Kiffin’s reluctance to choose one starting quarterback after months of auditions, Leach isn’t among them. In fact, the veteran coach thinks Kessler and Wittek “appear to be kind of similar,” which means the Cougars won’t need to make many defensive adjustments depending on the signal-caller. Kessler made his first collegiate start at Hawaii, and he’s expected to start against Washington State.

Running away:USC might not need to test its quarterbacks if Tre Madden and freshman Justin Davis run the ball as well as they did at Hawaii. Madden had a 109-yard game in the former linebacker’s first game at tailback, while the 17-year-old Davis had 74 yards in a promising debut. Washington State gave up 297 yards on the ground to Auburn’s no-huddle offense in its 31-24 loss.

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