No. 15 Southern California scored 24 unanswered points to open the game and Fresno State was never able to catch back up, falling 52-13 on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Just like when the two teams met in the 2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler had a big game to lead the Trojans to the victory. The Bakersfield native threw for a career-high 394 yards and four touchdowns to lead USC to its 16th-straight victory in season openers.
The loss for the Bulldogs was just its second in their last 11 season openers. The 52 points allowed are the most in a season-opener in school history.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm not discouraged," head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "I saw some good things out there... Clearly we were not ready to play against a team like that, but we will get better and we look forward to getting our guys better."
The Trojans outgained Fresno State 701 to 317 on the evening, picking up 427 yards in the first half that saw them lead 31-7 going into the locker room. One of the telling stats in the game was USC starting out the first quarter converting all seven third-down attempts and 9-of-12 in the first half. The Trojans finished 11-of-18 on third downs while the Bulldogs were 2-of-12.
"Obviously it hurts, but at the same time I know that is not the type of defense that we are," said Bulldog captain and senior safety Derron Smith, who finished with 11 tackles for his fifth career game with double-digit tackles. "We just got to come back, watch the film and get better."
Bulldog junior running back Marteze Waller had a big game in the loss, rushing 16 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. It was Waller's third career game scoring two touchdowns and he finished just shy of registering his second career 100-yard rushing game.
Waller averaged a hefty 6.1 yards per carry and in total, the Bulldogs ran for 157 yards on the ground. The offensive line helped the Bulldogs as a team average 4.8 yards per rush and allowed just one sack.
"There were some guys that played well I thought," DeRuyter said. "Marteze Waller ran the ball really, really well and I thought at times we protected well, but clearly we weren't ready to play against one of the top teams in the country."
Fresno State used both Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette at quarterback in the opener, Burrell starting and playing in the first and third quarters with Connette taking over in the second and fourth. Each quarterback led the Bulldogs on one touchdown drive in the game.
"I think you got to go back and look at the tape, but just on the surface we got to take care of the ball better," DeRuyter said when asked about his quarterbacks.
Burrell was 11-of-19 passing for 92 yards with one interception and had 42 yards on the ground. His 32-yard run in the first quarter was the longest run by a Bulldog quarterback since 2007.
Connette was 7-of-17 passing for 68 yards and he was picked off three times. He rushed seven times for 13 yards.
"USC has a really good defense and all the credit needs to go to them," Connette said. "They played really well and have a lot of good athletes, but we should of moved the ball a lot better. We shot ourselves in the foot on multiple drives."
Fresno State was able to force USC into a pair of turnovers, coming via fumbles on back-to-back drives in the second quarter.
Kyrie Wilson forced the first, which Curtis Riley recovered. Donavon Lewis forced the second on the next drive on a tackle for a loss and he recovered it in the backfield.
Problem was the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize off the turnovers which came after Connette led the `Dogs to their first touchdown of the game on his first drive of the second.
Wilson finished with a career-high 13 tackles and one tackle for a loss to go with his forced fumble.
"Kyrie is getting more and more comfortable in our defense," DeRuyter said. "When you are out there for a hundred-something plays, you expect your linebackers to make some plays and Kyrie did. Overall, defensively we got to get much better."