USC head coach Lane Kiffin confirmed Thursday that by naming Cody Kessler the starting quarterback, he expects Kessler to player the entire game on Saturday against Boston College.
"Anytime you're starting a quarterback you want him to have a great game and hopefully he will," Kiffin said after practice. "Cody has had a really good week."
Kessler split time through fall camp and the first two game weeks with Max Wittek. Since Kiffin named Kessler the starter on Monday, Kessler has taken the majority of the reps at practice. "[He's] prepared really well," Kiffin said. "I think he's meshing with all the skilled guys. I'm expecting him to play really well."
The head coach pointed out that Kessler hasn't seen meaningful game action at quarterback since his senior year of high school, since redshirting his freshman season and sitting out last year behind Matt Barkley. "Now, he finally got to play some and make some mistakes," Kiffin said. "He'll learn from those and play better."
Kessler was a 2011 four-star recruit out of Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial high school.
Max Wittek was informed during a meeting Sunday with Kiffin that he would be Kessler's backup, which didn't come as easy news to the fellow redshirt sophomore.
Kiffin says Wittek has handled himself well all week and has moved on from the disappointment. "He can only worry about what he can control and that's the reps that he gets and that's the preparation and be ready to go," Kiffin said. "I know he will be."
Offensive game plan
It's the fact that has been emphasized by Kiffin over and over again this week: he expects more from the Trojans' passing game than what was displayed in the 10-7 loss to Washington State.
Kessler and Wittek combined to finish 11-of-21 for 54 yards and two interceptions against the Cougars. The longest pass of the night was just 8 yards.
"I don't enjoy calling the game the way it was the other day," Kiffin said. "I just thought that was the best thing for us to win.
"That's not ideal. I'd love to throw the ball downfield all day long and score 50 points but I don't know that at times that is the best thing for this team."
Kiffin couldn't (or wouldn't) say after Thursday's practice if he plans to change the gameplan against Boston College. "Our goal is to win the game," he said. "We'll get a feeling for how the game is going that day… you can never really predict how the game is going to go regardless of how much work you do before the game."
He did say the number one thing he'd like to see improve is the productivity in the passing game… which must mean at some point Saturday, Kiffin will try to fix it – by throwing the ball.
Scouting Boston College
USC's defense is preparing for the run game Boston College will bring to the Coliseum on Saturday, a much different look than what is seen around the Pac-12 and the conference's spread offenses.
"We've given our guys looks over spring and over fall of multiple tight ends and multiple backs type looks," Kiffin explained. "They do see a lot of that throughout practice so I don't think it's that difficult of an adjustment.
The bounce back
From Saturday's loss to naming a starting quarterback on Monday, to the ‘players-only' meeting Twitter storm on Wednesday… it's been a long week for the USC coaches and players.
But despite the disappointment and distractions, Kiffin thinks his program is ready to bounce back. "It's not been easy," he admitted, "but you just go back to work, worry about what you can control.
"We can only get to 2-1, no matter what we do. We can't get to 3-0, it isn't possible. We need to make sure our players and coaches understand that. They cannot get that game back. So there's no use sitting around and talking about it."
Kickoff Saturday hosting Boston College is noon PT at the Coliseum.