LOS ANGELES — Those “Fire Kiffin” chants were nowhere to be heard Saturday. But Southern California coach Lane Kiffin realizes they could return at any time.
Cody Kessler passed for 237 yards and two touchdowns, Tre Madden became the first USC player to open a season with three straight 100-yard rushing games in 32 years and the Trojans bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Pac-12 doormat Washington State to beat Boston College 35-7.
The game was Kessler’s first since he was designated USC’s first-string quarterback by Kiffin, and the redshirt sophomore responded by completing 14 straight passes after misfiring on his first attempt. Kessler wound up going 15-of-17 without being intercepted before being relieved by Max Wittek early in the fourth quarter.
Kessler and Wittek shared QB duties in USC’s first two games and combined to pass for just 54 yards — the Trojans’ lowest single-game total since 1998 — in a 10-7 setback to the Cougars last weekend, prompting local fans to chant for Kiffin’s ouster.
“We have to live with what happened last week,” Kiffin said. “I’m really happy for our players and our fans. We had to win today.”
Kessler knew he was going to share his position with Wittek in the first two games. That wasn’t the case against Boston College after Kiffin’s announcement last Monday, and Kessler said that made a big difference.
“That gave me the whole week to get prepared the way I can, a whole new confidence, I guess,” Kessler said. “It was just very exciting to get that rhythm. It was really unfortunate we got booed last week. At the same time, we deserved it.”
The Trojans (2-1) rolled up 521 yards in total offense while holding the Eagles (2-1) to just 184 yards. USC has allowed just 30 points in its three games.
“Our first-team defense was lights out,” Kiffin said.
The Coliseum crowd of 62,006 roared its approval when Kessler just missed connecting with Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee on a deep pass over the middle on the game’s first play. The Trojans seldom threw the ball downfield in the loss to Washington State.
Kessler put USC ahead for good by capping an 86-yard drive on the Trojans’ second possession with a 5-yard pass to Madden, who gained 102 yards on 16 carries in becoming the first USC player to surpass 100 yards rushing in the first three games of a season since Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen accomplished the feat in 1981.
Kessler and Lee teamed up on an 80-yard pass play early in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead, giving USC enough points to win the game. By that time, Kessler had thrown for 152 yards — more than his previous total this season.
The Eagles reached the USC 46-yard line midway through the third quarter before Andre Williams was thrown for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 play.
The Trojans needed only four plays to make it 21-0, scoring on a 30-yard run by Madden. Justin Davis, who gained 96 yards on 10 carries, scored on a 17-yard run early in the final period to extend USC’s lead to 28-0.
The Eagles didn’t pose a serious scoring threat until Tyler Rouse’s 29-yard touchdown run with 10:40 left. Wittek completed both of his passes for 22 yards, and his 2-yard TD run with 4:22 to play completed the scoring.
Andre Williams, who rushed for 318 yards in Boston College’s first two games, was held to 38 yards on 17 carries.
Chase Rettig, starting his 35th straight game for the Eagles, completed 11 of 23 passes for 83 yards. Rettig, who grew up in nearby Sierra Madre, passed for 408 yards and four TDs in wins over Villanova and Wake Forest earlier this month.
“We didn’t do much on either side of the ball,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “We played a very talented team, didn’t get field position and our offense stalled. (But) this one loss will not knock out the progress we’ve made.”
The Eagles have already matched their win total from last season.
“We had too many second-and-10s and didn’t convert on third down,” Rettig said. “It was nice to see family, but I wish I would have played better.”