By Tim Peterson
(Los Angeles) – Cody Kessler threw four touchdown passes and Tre Madden ran for 106 yards and a touchdown as USC cruised to a 55-6 rout of Arkansas St. Saturday night to kick off the 2015 season before 79, 809 at the Coliseum.
USC scored on its first possession on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Chris Hawkins picked off a pass but the Trojans couldn’t take advantage of the turnover. However on the next possession, Adoree Jackson returned a punt 30 yards to set up a 14-yard TD strike from Kessler to Steven Mitchell to give USC a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Tre Madden broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown romp in the second quarter to give the Trojans a three score advantage. It was Madden’s first touchdown since September 28, 2013. Meanwhile Arkansas St. was struggling to move the ball against the USC D.
Jalen Greene, the Trojans’ third string quarterback, took a pass from Kessler and then tossed a 14-yard pass to Dominic Davis down to the two-yard to set up a two-yard TD pass from Kessler to Taylor McNamara as the Trojans went up 28-0 with 4:32 left in the quarter. USC took that 28-0 advantage into the half.
Jackson suffered an abdominal strain in the first half and didn’t return. “We don’t think it’s serious,” said USC head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Kessler was 13 for 18 for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Arkansas St. put together a drive to open the second half. Michael Gordon capped it with a nine yard TD run to get the Red Wolves on the board. They went for two and failed.
Su’a Cravens intercepted a pass to set up the next Trojan score – a Madden reception of a nine-yard swing pass from Kessler for a 35-6 lead.
On the next possession freshman Ronald Jones finished a quick four-play, 72 yard drive with a 24 yard run.
In the fourth quarter USC added a couple more to eclipse the 50 mark. Osa Masina scooped up a fumbled lateral and rumbled 46 yards for the score to make it 48-6.
Aca’Cedric Ware blasted into the end zone from five yards out to cap an eight-play, 63 yard drive with 4:16 left as the Trojans hit 55.
USC racked up 509 total yards of offense.
Arkansas quarterback Fredi Knighten completed just 8 of 23 passes in addition to throwing the two picks.
“All in all a good first win. There’s going to be plenty of room for improvement,” Sarkisian said.