USC still has no clear-cut answer at quarterback

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

According to Lane Kiffin, neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek separated themselves against Hawaii. (USATSI)
According to Lane Kiffin, neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek separated themselves against Hawaii. (USATSI)

Lane Kiffin kept the quarterback situation under wraps through preseason, finally naming redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler as the starter just before the USC kicked off the 2013 season at Hawaii.

The Trojans dominated on defense and won 30-13, but neither Kessler nor Max Wittek stood out as the obvious answer at quarterback. Kessler's early struggles were masked by three first half interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown, the other two setting up Trojans scores thanks to a short field. What could not be hidden was Kessler's interception, safety and turnover on downs at Hawaii's 26-yard-line.

Max Wittek stepped in during the third quarter, but spent most of his time handing the ball off to Tre Madden and Justin Davis as the Trojans pulled slowly pulled away in the second half.

Both quarterbacks targeted Marqise Lee often, and he predictably finished as the team's leading receiver with eight catches for 104 yards. But after the game, it was clear that Lane Kiffin is not ready to give the starting job to either quarterback.

"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," Kiffin said after the game. "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."

Just the stats

Cody Kessler: 10-19, 5.0 yards per attempt, one touchdown, one interception

Max Wittek: 5-10, 7.7 yards per attempt, no touchdowns, no interceptions

Kiffin was unhappy with the mental mistakes, assuming some of the blame for the offensive struggles. The defense looked good enough to carry the Trojans to a bowl, but if the expectation is to compete for a Pac-12 title then USC needs to clean up the mistakes before Washington State visits the Coliseum on Sept. 7.

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