HONOLULU - It’s usually pretty easy to figure out which team won a game. Either look for the giddy offense or the upset defense, unless, of course, they share the same sideline.
That’s the situation USC found itself in as the hours dragged on at Aloha Stadium in front of 41,776, seeing quarterback Matt Barkley and company drive down the field effortlessly, only for Hawaii to respond in kind.
But Barkley was nearly perfect, throwing for a school-record five touchdowns, three to wide receiver Ronald Johnson, as the Trojans downed the Warriors, 49-36, in Lane Kiffin’s first game as head coach.
“It’s a great start, really happy with how we started out this game on the road but it’s what we need to do every week,” Barkley said.
Kiffin appeared to de directing the Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush offense of old Thursday, as Barkley completed his first seven passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including a 46-yard catch-and-run score by David Ausberry.
Barkley ended the night with as many incomplete passes as touchdowns, throwing for 257 yards on 18 of 23 attempts. Marc Tyler added 154 yards rushing for USC (1-0), with a back-breaking 44 yard touchdown during which he reversed field several times.
Seemingly all the struggles the Trojans had on offense last season vanished. All four red zone possessions ended in touchdowns. USC converted on nine of 12 third downs, with two more negated by penalty.
“Our playcalling is back,” said fullback Stanley Havili, who caught one pass for 49 yards. “When we got Kiffin calling plays, guys are going to be scoring touchdowns.”
But where the offense improved, the defense, infamously shredded by Oregon and Stanford, seemed to actually regress against the Hawaii (0-1) run-n-shoot.
“Defensively, we didn’t play very well obviously,” Kiffin said. “I’m really disappointed with everything in general.
“We have to continue develop our back-up guys. When we put the back-up guys in, they went down the field even faster. We got a lot of work to do.”
The rebuilt secondary was ripped to shreds, allowing three Hawaii receivers to top 100 yards. When they actually managed stops, penalties or other lapses in concentration extended Warrior drives.
“Not good” was how cornerback Shareece Wright summed up the performance. “Whenever a team scores 36 points against your defense, that’s not good. The good news is we won and we can get better from this.”
Quarterback Bryant Moniz was 18 of 36 for 269 yards and one touchdown. He also added 38 yards rushing before being knocked out of the game by a Michael Morgan elbow.
Camarillo, Calif. native Shane Austin came on in relief, adding 141 yards passing and two touchdowns of his own.
“It was a long game,” Wright said. “When they pass the way they pass, it’s going to be a long game.”
Hawaii finished with 588 yards of total offense.
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