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No. 15 USC crushes Fresno State in Sarkisian's debut

Aug 31, 2014 - 5:27 AM Los Angeles, CA ( - The 15th-ranked USC Trojans dealt with controversy, deceit and accusations over the past week.

Cody Kessler made sure his team put those distractions behind them, leading the Trojans to a 52-13 rout of Fresno State in Saturday's season opener.

Kessler threw for 394 yards on 25-of-37 passing and accounted for a career- high five touchdowns -- four passing and one rushing -- as the Steve Sarkisian era in Southern Cal started with a blowout victory.

Sarkisian returns to the USC sideline after spending the last five years as head coach at Washington, following a seven-year stint as a Trojans assistant.

Javorius Allen finished with 133 yards with a touchdown on 22 carries for the Trojans (1-0), who have won 16 straight openers.

JuJu Smith led USC with 123 receiving yards on four catches, Nelson Agholor caught a pair of touchdown passes and Adoree Jackson and Bryce Dixon each hauled in a score from Kessler.

Marteze Waller was the lone bright spot for Fresno State (0-1), rushing for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the setback.

"I thought that they were excellent on defense," Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter said of USC.

Josh Shaw, a Trojans captain whose 67 tackles led the secondary last season, was suspended indefinitely earlier in the week after he claimed to have jumped from a second-floor balcony to save his young nephew from drowning, spraining both of his ankles. After school administration questioned the incident, the senior defensive back acknowledged that he lied and fabricated the story.

Sarkisian suspended Shaw for the deceitful tale, though he did not rule out a potential return to the team.

Soon after, Anthony Brown, a senior running back who quit the team a week ago, called Sarkisian a racist on Thursday via multiple social media sites. The posts were later deleted and Sarkisian noted that Brown never showed he was being treated unfairly.

"I maybe brought it up to them twice all week," Sarkisian said of the off- field issues. "It just wasn't going to be a focus of ours. I wasn't letting an external factor motivate us or not motivate us. That will never happen."

In a rematch of last season's Las Vegas Bowl in which USC took a 45-20 decision over Derek Carr's Bulldogs, the Trojans jumped all over the visitors from the onset with Kessler leading the way.

On the Trojans' opening series, Kessler passed across the middle to Darreus Rogers for 18 yards down to the Fresno five. Two plays later, Kessler capped the 17-play, 90-yard drive with a 1-yard scamper to give USC a 7-0 lead.

Following a three-and-out from the Bulldogs, Kessler connected with Allen for 23 yards before hooking up with Smith for a 25-yard gain to put the ball inside the Fresno 15. Kessler finished off another scoring march with a 10- yard TD pass to Agholor.

USC's signal-caller continued to move the ball down the field on the porous Bulldogs' defensive unit, connecting with Smith for 53 yards on the first play of the Trojans' third drive. After five straight running plays pushed USC inside the Fresno 10, Kessler rolled to his right and found Agholor in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score.

The Trojans made it four straight scoring possessions to open the game after Andre Heidari ended a 61-yard jaunt with a 27-yard field goal for a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Fresno State broke through midway through the second, as Waller rushed for a 1-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive in just under four minutes.

Kessler led another long drive prior to the end of the half, a 13-play, 80- yard march that culminated in an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jackson.

Trojans defensive lineman Leonard Williams dropped back into coverage on the following Fresno drive and intercepted Brandon Connette, returning the pick nine yards to the Bulldogs' 25. Heidari missed a 39-yard field goal as time expired in the half, though, with USC comfortably ahead by a 31-7 count.

Waller punched in another short touchdown on Fresno's first series of the second half, with Colin McGuire missing the extra point, before USC busted off 21 unanswered points to end the game.

Allen rushed for a 9-yard touchdown on the next Trojans possession. Anthony Sarao picked off Brian Burrell shortly after, which set up a 22-yard scoring pass from Kessler to Dixon.

Soma Vainuku ripped off an 11-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter to account for the final margin.

Game Notes

Fresno State went with two quarterbacks in the absence of Carr, who was drafted by Oakland in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Burrell started the game and threw for 92 yards with an interception on 11-of-19 passing. Connette, meanwhile, threw three interceptions in his 68-yard, 7- of-17 outing ... The Bulldogs have lost 18 straight games against Top-25 teams ... USC did not attempt a punt ... The Trojans had 10 players catch a pass ... USC travels to Stanford to open its Pac-12 schedule next Saturday, while Fresno State remains on the road at Utah.